17C. The Appearance of Cuchulain

By Mythopedia Staff
Translated by Joseph Dunn1914

Early the next morning Cuchulain came to observe the host and to display his comely, beautiful form to the matrons and dames and girls and maidens and poets and men of art, for he did not consider it an honour nor becoming, the wild, proud shape of magic which had been manifested to them the night before. It was for that then that he came to exhibit his comely, beautiful form on that day.

Truly fair was the youth that came there to display his form to the hosts, Cuchulain, to wit son of Sualtaim son of Becfoltach (‘Of little possessions’) son of Morfoltach (‘Of great possessions’) son of Red Neil macRudhraidi. Three heads of hair he wore; brown at the skin, blood-red in the middle, a golden-yellow crown what thatched it. Beautiful was the arrangement of the hair, with three coils of hair wound round the nape of his neck, so that like to a strand of thread of gold was each thread-like, loose-flowing, deep-golden, magnificent, long-tressed, splendid, beauteous-hued hair as it fell down over his shoulders. A hundred bright-purple windings of gold-flaming red gold at his neck.

A hundred salmon-coloured (?) cords strung with carbuncles as a covering round his head. Four spots on either of his two cheeks, even a yellow spot, and a green spot, and a blue spot, and a purple spot. Seven jewels of the eye’s brilliance was either of his kingly eyes. Seven toes to either of his two feet. Seven fingers to either of his two hands, with the clutch of hawk’s claw, with the grip of hedgehog’s talon in every separate one of them.

He also put on him that day his fair-day dress. To this apparel about him belonged, namely, a beautiful, well-fitting, purple, fringed, five-folded mantle. A white brooch of silvered bronze or of white silver incrusted with burnished gold over his fair white breast, as if it were a full-fulgent lantern that eyes of men could not behold for its resplendence and crystal shining. A striped chest-jacket of silk on his skin, fairly adorned with borders and braidings and trimmings of gold and silver and silvered bronze; it reached to the upper hem of his dark, brown-red warlike breeches of royal silk.

A magnificent, brown-purple buckler he bore, with five wheels of gold on it, with a rim of pure white silver around it. A gold-hilted hammered sword with ivory guards, raised high at his girdle at his left side. A long grey-edged spear together with a trenchant bye-spear for defence, with thongs for throwing and with rivets of whitened bronze, alongside him in the chariot. Nine heads he bore in one of his hands and ten in the other, and these he brandished before the hosts in token of his prowess and cunning. This then was a night’s attack for Cuchulain on the hosts of four of the five provinces of Erin. Medb hid her face beneath a shelter of shields lest Cuchulain should cast at her that day.

Then it was that the maidens of Connacht besought the men of Erin to lift them up on the flat of the shields above the warriors’ shoulders; and the women of Munster clomb on the men to behold the aspect of Cuchulain. For they marvelled at the beautiful, comely appearance he showed them that day compared with the low, arrogant shape of magic in which they had seen him the night before.

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