Táin Bó Cúailnge

12. The Finding of the Bull

About this Edition

  • Translated By
    Publishing Date
    • Joseph Dunn

Thereafter on the morrow Medb proceeded with a third of the host of the men of Erin about her, and she set forth by the highroad of Midluachair till she reached Dun Sobairche in the north. And Cuchulain pressed heavily on Medb that day. Medb went on to Cuib to seek the bull and Cuchulain pursued her. Now on the road to Midluachair she had gone to invade Ulster and Cruthne as far as Dûn Sobairche. There it is that Cuchulain slew all those we have mentioned in Cuib. Cuchulain killed Fer Taidle, whence cometh Taidle; and as they went northwards he killed the macBuachalla (‘the Herdsman’s sons’) at their cairn, whence cometh Carn macBuachalla; and he killed Luasce on the slopes, whence Lettre Luasc (‘the Watery Slopes of Luasc’); and he slew Bobulge in his marsh, whence Grellach (‘the Trampled Place’) of Bubulge; and he slew Murthemne on his hill, whence Delga (‘the Points’) of Murthemne; he slew Nathcoirpthe at his trees, Cruthen on his ford, Marc on his hill, Meille on his mound and Bodb in his tower.

It was afterwards then that Cuchulain turned back from the north to Mag Murthemni, to protect and defend his own borders and land, for dearer to him was his own land and inheritance and belongings than the land and territory and belongings of another.

It was then too that he came upon the Fir Crandce (‘the men of Crannach’) from whom cometh Crannach in Murthemne; to wit, the two Artinne and the two sons of Lecc, the two sons of Durcride, the two sons of Gabul, and Drucht and Delt and Dathen, Tae and Tualang and Turscur, and Torc Glaisse and Glass and Glassne, which are the same as the twenty men of Fochard. Cuchulain surprised them as they were pitching camp in advance of all others—ten cup-bearers and ten men-of-arms they were—so that they fell by his hand.

Then it was that Buide (‘the Yellow’) son of Ban Thai (‘the White’) from Sliab Culinn (‘Hollymount’), the country of Ailill and Medb, and belonging to the special followers of Medb, met Cuchulain. Four and twenty a warriors was their strength. A blue mantle enwrapping each man, the Brown Bull of Cualnge plunging and careering before them after he had been brought from Glenn na Samaisce (‘Heifers’ Glen’) to Sliab Culinn, and fifty of his heifers with him.

Cuchulain advances to meet them. “Whence bring ye the drove, ye men?” Cuchulain asks. “From yonder mountain,” Buide answers. “Where are its herdsmen?” Cuchulain asks. “One is here where we found him,” the warrior answers. Cuchulain made three leaps after them, seeking to speak with them, as far as the ford. Then it was he spoke to the leader, “What is thine own name?” said Cuchulain. “One that neither loves thee nor fears thee,” Buide made answer; “Buide son of Ban Thai am I, from the country of Ailill and Medb.” “Wella-day, O Buide,” cried Cuchulain; “haste to the ford below that we exchange a couple of throws with each other.” They came to the ford and exchanged a couple of throws there. “Lo, here for thee this short spear,” said Cuchulain, and he casts the spear at him. It struck the shield over his belly, so that it shattered three ribs in his farther side after piercing his heart in his bosom. And Buide son of Ban Thai fell on the ford. So that thence is Ath Buidi (‘Athboy’) in Crich Roiss (‘the land of Ross’).

For as long or as short a space as these bold champions and battle-warriors were engaged in this work of exchanging their two short spears—for it was not in a moment they had accomplished it—the Brown Bull of Cualnge was carried away in quick course and career by the eight great men to the camp of the men of Erin as swiftly as any bull can be brought to a camp. They opined then it would not be hard to deal with Cuchulain if only his spear were got from him. From this accordingly came the greatest shame and grief and madness that was brought on Cuchulain on that hosting.

As regards Medb: every ford and every hill whereon she stopped, Ath Medba (‘Medb’s Ford’) and Dindgna Medba (‘Medb’s Hill’) is its name. Every place wherein she pitched her tent, Pupall Medba (‘Medb’s Tent’) is its name. Every spot she rested her horselash, Bili Medba (‘Medb’s Tree’) is its name.

On this circuit Medb turned back from the north after she had remained a fortnight laying waste the province and plundering the land of the Picts and of Cualnge and the land of Conall son of Amargin, and having offered battle one night to Findmor (‘the Fair-large’) wife of Celtchar son of Uthechar at the gate of Dun Sobairche; and she slew Findmor and laid waste Dun Sobairche; and, after taking Dun Sobairche from her, she brought fifty of her women into the province of Dalriada. Then she had them hanged and crucified. Whence cometh Mas na Righna (‘Queen’s Buttock’) as the name of the hill, from their hanging.

Then came the warriors of four of the five grand provinces of Erin at the end of a long fortnight to camp and station at Fochard, together with Medb and Ailill and the company that were bringing the bull.