14A. The Combat of Larinè MacNois

By Mythopedia Staff
Translated by Joseph Dunn1914

Lugaid spake: “Let one of you be ready on the morrow to go against that other.” “There shall not any one at all be found to go,” quoth Ailill, “unless guile be used. Whatever man comes to you, give him wine, so that his soul may be glad, and let him be told that that is all the wine that has been brought to Cruachan: ‘It would grieve us that thou shouldst drink water in our camp.’ And let Finnabair be placed on his right hand and let him be told, ‘She shall go with thee if thou bring us the head of the Contorted.’” So a summons was sent to each warrior, one on each night, and those words used to be told him. Cuchulain killed every man of them in turn. At length no one could be got to attack him.

“Good, my master Laeg,” said Cuchulain, “go for me to the camp of the men of Erin to hold converse with Lugaid macNois, my friend, my companion and my foster-brother, and bear him a greeting from me and bear him my blessing, for he is the one man that keeps amity and friendship with me on the great hosting of the Cattle-raid of Cualnge. And discover in what way they are in the camp, whether or no anything has happened to Ferbaeth, whether Ferbaeth has reached the camp; and inquire for me if the cast I made a while ago reached Ferbaeth or did not reach, and if it did reach him, ask who of the men of Erin comes to meet me to fight and do battle with me at the morning hour early on the morrow.”

Laeg proceeds to Lugaid’s tent. Lugaid bids him welcome. “Welcome to thy coming and arrival, O Laeg,” said Lugaid. “I take that welcome as truly meant,” Laeg replied. “It is truly meant for thee,” quoth Lugaid, “and thou shalt have entertainment here to-night.” “Victory and blessing shalt thou have,” said Laeg; “but not for entertainment am I come, but to hold converse with thee am I come from thine own friend and companion and foster-brother, from Cuchulain, that thou mayest tell me whether Ferbaeth was smitten.” “He was,” answered Lugaid, “and a blessing on the hand that smote him, for he fell dead in the glen a while ago.”

“Tell me who of the men of Erin comes to-morrow to combat and fight with Cuchulain at the morning hour early on the morrow?” “They are persuading a brother of mine own to go meet him, a foolish, haughty arrogant youth, yet dealing stout blows and stubborn. And he has agreed to do the battle and combat. And it is to this end they will send him to fight Cuchulain, that he, my brother, may fall at his hands, so that I myself must then go to avenge him upon Cuchulain. But I will not go there till the very day of doom. Larinè great-grandson of Blathmac is that brother. And do thou tell Cuchtilain to come to Ferbaeth’s Glen and I will go thither to speak with Cuchulain about him,” said Lugaid.

Laeg betook him to where Cuchulain was. Lugaid’s two horses were taken and his chariot was yoked to them and he came to Glen Ferbaeth to his tryst with Cuchulain, so that a parley was had between them. The two champions and battle-warriors gave each other welcome. Then it was that Lugaid spake: “There is no condition that could be promised to me for fighting and combating with thee,” said Lugaid, “and there is no condition on which I would undertake it, but they are persuading a brother of mine to come fight thee on the morrow, to-wit, a foolish, dull, uncouth youth, dealing stout blows. They brought him into the tent of Ailill and Medb and he has engaged to do the battle and combat with thee. He is befooled about the same maiden. And it is for this reason they are to send him to fight thee, that he may fall at thy hands, so that we two may quarrel, and to see if I myself will come to avenge him upon thee. But I will not, till the very day of doom. And by the fellowship that is between us, and by the rearing and nurture I bestowed on thee and thou didst bestow on me, bear me no grudge because of Larinè. Slay not my brother lest thou shouldst leave me brotherless.”

“By my conscience, truly,” cried Cuchulain, kill him I will not, but the next thing to death will I inflict on him. No worse would it be for him to die than what I will give him.” “I give thee leave. It would please me well shouldst thou beat him sorely, for to my dishonour he comes to attack thee.” Thereupon Cuchulain went back and Lugaid returned to the camp lest the men of Erin should say it was betraying them or forsaking them he was if he remained longer parleying with Cuchulain.

Then on the next day it was that Larinè son of Nos, brother of Lugaid king of Munster, was summoned to the tent of Ailill and Medb, and Finnabair was placed by his side. It was she that filled up the drinking horns for him and gave him a kiss with each draught that he took and served him his food. “Not to every one with Medb is given the drink that is poured out for Ferbaeth or for Larinè,” quoth Finnabair; “only the load of fifty wagons of it was brought to the camp.”

Medb looked at the pair. “Yonder pair rejoiceth my heart,” said she. “Whom wouldst thou say?” asked Ailill. “The man yonder, in truth,” said she. “What of him?” asked Ailill. “It is thy wont to set the mind on that which is far from the purpose (Medb answered). It were more becoming for thee to bestow thy thought on the couple in whom are united the greatest distinction and beauty to be found on any road in Erin, namely Finnabair, my daughter, and Larinè macNois. ’Twould be fitting to bring them together.” “I regard them as thou dost," answered Ailill; " I will not oppose thee herein. He shall have her if only he brings me the head of Cuchtdain." " Aye, bring it I will,” said Larinè. It was then that Larinè shook and tossed himself with joy, so that the sewings of the flock bed burst under him and the mead of the camp was speckled with its feathers.

They passed the night there. Larinè longed for day with its full light to go to attack Cuchulain. At the early day-dawn on the morrow he came, and the maiden came too to embolden him, and he brought a wagon-load of arms with him, and he came on to the ford to encounter Cuchulain. The mighty warriors of the camp and station considered it not a goodly enough sight to view the combat of Larinè; only the women and boys and girls, thrice fifty of them, went to scoff and to jeer at his battle.

Cuchulain went to meet him at the ford and he deemed it unbecoming to bring along arm, or to ply weapons upon him, so Cuchulain came to the encounter unarmed except for the weapons he wrested from his opponent. And when Larine reached the ford, Cuchulain saw him and made a rush at him. Cuchulain knocked all of Larinè’s weapons out of his hand as one might knock toys out of the hand of an infant. Cuchulain ground and bruised him between his arms, he lashed him and clasped him, he squeezed him and shook him, so that he spilled all the dirt out of him, so that the ford was defiled with his dung and the air was fouled with his dust and an unclean, filthy wrack of cloud arose in the four airts wherein he was.

Then from the middle of the ford Cuchulain hurled Larinè far from him across through the camp till he fell into Lugaid’s two hands at the door of the tent of his brother. Howbeit from that time forth for the remainder of his life he never got up without a sigh and a groan, and he never lay down without hurt, and he never stood up without a moan and as long as he lived he never ate a meal without plaint, and never thenceforward was he free from weakness of the loins and oppression of the chest and without cramps and the frequent need which obliged him to go out. Still he is the only man that made escape, yea though a bad escape, after combat with Cuchulain on the Cualnge Cattle-raid. Nevertheless that maiming took effect upon him, so that it afterwards brought him his death. Such then is the Combat of Larinè on the Táin Bó Cúalnge.

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