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12B. The Slaying of Redg the Lampoonist

By Anonymous
Translated by Joseph Dunn1914

When the men of Erin had come together in one place, both Medb and Ailill and the force that was bringing the bull to the camp and enclosure, they all declared Cuchulain would be no more valiant than another of the men of Erin were it not for the wonderful little trick he possessed, the spearlet of Cuchulain. Accordingly the men of Erin despatched from them Redg, Medb’s jester, to demand the light javelin of Cuchulain.

So Redg came forward to where Cuchulain was and asked for the little javelin, but Cuchulain did not give him the little javelin at once; he did not deem it good and proper to yield it. “Give me thy spear,” said the jester. “Nay then, I will not,” answered Cuchulain; “but I will give thee treasure.” “I will not take it,” said the jester. Then he wounded the jester because he would not accept from him what he had offered him. Redg declared he would deprive Cuchulain of his honour unless he got the little javelin. Thereupon Cuchulain hurled the javelin at him, so that it struck him in the nape of the neck and fell out through his mouth on the ground. And the only words Redg uttered were these, “This precious gift is readily ours,” and his soul separated from his body at the ford. Therefrom that ford is ever since called Ath Solom Shet (‘Ford of the Ready Treasure’). And the copper of the javelin was thrown into the river. Hence is Uman-Sruth (‘Copperstream’) ever after.

“Let us ask for a sword-truce from Cuchulain,” says Ailill. “Let Lugaid go to him,” one and all answer. Then Lugaid goes to parley with him. “How now do I stand with the host?” Cuchulain asks. “Disgraceful indeed is the thing thou hast demanded of them,” Lugaid answers, “even this, that thou shouldst have thy women and maidens and half of thy kine. But more grievous than all do they hold it that they themselves should be killed and thou provisioned.”

Every day there fell a man by Cuchulain till the end of a week. Then faith is broken with Cuchulain. Twenty are despatched at one time to attack him and he destroys them all. “Go to him, O Fergus,” says Ailill, “that he may vouchsafe us a change of place.” A while after this they proceed to Cronech. These are they that fell in single combat with him in that place, to wit: the two Roth, the two Luan, two women-thieves, ten fools, ten cup-bearers, the ten Fergus, the six Fedelm, the six Fiachu. Now these were all killed by him in single combat.

When their tents were pitched by them in Cronech they discussed what they had best do with Cuchulain. “I know,” quoth Medb, “what is best here. Let some one go to him from us for a sword-pact from him in respect of the host, and he shall have half the cattle that are here.” This message they bring to him. “I will do it,” said Cuchulain, “provided the bond is not broken by you to-morrow.”

Táin Bó Cúailnge
By Anonymous
English translation by Joseph Dunn (1914)
Cover: Táin Bó Cúailnge trans. Joseph Dunn (1914)