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13. The Combat of Cûr with Cuchulain

By Anonymous
Translated by Joseph Dunn1914

The men of Erin discussed among themselves who of them would be fit to attack and contend with Cuchulain,
and drive him off from them on the ford at the morning-hour early on the morrow. And what they all said was that Cûr (‘the Hero’) son of Da Loth should be the one to attack him. For thus it stood with Cûr: No joy was it to be his bedfellow or to live with him. He from whom he drew blood is dead ere the ninth day. And they said: “Even should it be Cûr that falls, a trouble and care would be removed from the hosts; for it is not easy to be with him in regard to sitting, eating or sleeping. Should it be Cuchulain, it would be so much the better.”

Cûr was summoned to Medb’s tent. “For what do they want me?” Cûr asked. “To engage with Cuchulain,” replied Medb. “to do battle, and ward him off from us on the ford at the morning hour early on the morrow.” Cûr deemed it not fitting to go and contend with a beardless boy. “Little ye rate our worth. Nay, but it is wonderful how ye regard it. Too tender is the youth with whom ye compare me. Had I known I was sent against him I would not have come myself. I would have lads enough of his age from amongst my people to go meet him on a ford.”

“Indeed, it is easy to talk so,” quoth Cormac Conlongas son of Conchobar. “It would be well worth while for thyself if by thee fell Cuchulain.” “Howbeit,” said Cûr, “since on myself it falls, make ye ready a journey for me at morn’s early hour on the morrow, for a pleasure I will make of the way to this fight, a-going to meet Cuchulain. It is not this will detain you, namely the killing of yonder wildling, Cuchulain!”

There they passed the night. Then early on the morrow morn arose Cûr macDa Loth and he came to the ford of battle and combat; and however early he arose, earlier still Cuchulain arose. A cart-load of arms was taken along with him wherewith to engage with Cuchulain, and he began to ply his weapons, seeking to kill Cuchulain. Now Cuchulain had gone early that day to practice his feats of valour and prowess. These are the names of them all:

the Apple-feat,
and the Edge-feat,
and the Level Shield-feat,
and the Little Dart-feat,
and the Rope-feat,
and the Body-feat,
and the Feat of Catt,
and the Hero’s Salmon-leap,
and the Pole-cast,
and the Leap over a Blow (?),
and the Folding of a noble Chariot-fighter,
and the Gae Bulga (‘the Barbed Spear’)
and the Vantage (?) of Swiftness,
and the Wheel-feat,
and the Rimfeat,
nd the Over-Breath-feat,
and the Breaking of a Sword,
and the Champion’s Cry,
and the Measured Stroke,
and the Side Stroke,
and the Running up a Lance and Standing Erect on its Point, and Binding of the Noble Hero (around spear points).

Now this is the reason Cuchulain was wont to practice early every morning each of those feats with the agility of a single hand, as best a wild-cat may, in order that they might not depart from him through forgetfulness or lack of remembrance.

And macDa Loth waited beside his shield until the third part of the day, plying his weapons, seeking the chance to kill Cuchulain; and not the stroke of a blow reached Cuchulain, because of the intensity of his feats, nor was he aware that a warrior was thrusting at him. It was then Laeg spake to Cuchulain, “Hark! Cucuc. Attend to the warrior that seeks to kill thee.”

Then it was that Cuchulain glanced at him and then it was that he raised and threw the eight apples on high and cast the ninth apple a throw’s length from him at Cûr macDa Loth, so that it struck on the disk of his shield between the edge and the body of the shield, and on the forehead of the churl, so that it carried the size of an apple of his brains out through the back of his head. Thus fell Cûr macDa Loth also at the hand of Cuchulain. According to another version it was in Imslige Glendamnaeh that Cûr fell.

Fergus greeted each one there and this is what he said : “If your engagements and pledges bind you now,” said Fergus, “another warrior ye must send to him yonder on the ford; else, do ye keep to your camp and your quarters here till the bright hour of sunrise on the morrow, for Cûr son of Da Loth is fallen.” “We will grant that,” said Medb, “and we will not pitch tents nor take quarters here now, but we will remain where we were last night in camp. Considering why we have come,” said Medb, “it is the same to us even though we remain in those same tents.”

The four great provinces of Erin remained in that camp till Cûr son of Da Loth had fallen, and Loth son of Da Bro and Srub Darè son of Feradach [and Morc] son of Tri Aigneach. These then fell in single combat with Cuchulain. But it is tedious to recount one by one the cunning and valour of each man of them.

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