Táin Bó Cúailnge

29. The Account of the Brown Bull of Cualnge

About this Edition

  • Translated By
    Publishing Date
    • Joseph Dunn

A Journey of a day and a night the Brown Bull carried the remains of the Whitehorned till he came to the loch that is by Cruachan. And he came thereout with the loin and the shoulder-blade and the liver of the other on his horns. It was not long before the men of Erin, as they were there in the company of Ailill and Medb early on the morrow, saw coming over Cruachan from the west the Brown Bull of Cualnge with the Whitehorned of Ai in torn fragments hanging about his ears and horns. The men of Erin arose, and they knew not which of the bulls it was. “Come, ye men!” cried Fergus “leave him alone if it be the Whitehorned that is there and if it be the Brown of Cualnge, leave him his trophy with him!”

Then it was that the seven Manè arose to take vengeance on the Brown Bull of Cualnge for his violence and his valour. “Whither go yonder men?” asked Fergus. “They go to kill the Brown of Cualnge,” said all, “because of his evil deeds.” “I pledge my word,” shouted Fergus: “what has already been done in regard to the bulls is a small thing in compare with that which will now take place, unless with his spoils and victory ye let the Brown of Cualnge go from you into his own land.”

Then the Brown Bull of Cualnge gave forth the three chiefest bellowings of his throat in boast of his triumph and fear of Fergus held back the men of Erin from attacking the Brown Bull of Cualuge.

Then went the Brown Bull of Cualnge to the west of Cruachan. He turned his right side towards Cruachan, and he left there a heap of the liver of the Whitehorned, so that thence is named Cruachan Ai (‘Liver-reeks’).

Next he came to his own land and reached the river Finnglas (‘Whitewater’), and, on coming, he drank a draught from the river, and, so long as he drank the draught he let not one drop of the river flow by him. Then he raised his head, and the shoulder-blades of the Whitehorned fell from him in that place. Hence, Sruthair Finnlethe (‘Stream of the White Shoulder-blade’) is the name given to it.

He pursued his way to the river Shannon, to the brink of Ath Mor (‘the Great Ford’), and he drank a draught from it, and, as long as he drank the draught, he let not one drop of the river flow past him. Then he raised his head, so that the two haunches of the Whitehorned fell from him there; and he left behind the loin of the Whitehorned in that place, so that thence cometh Athlone (‘Loinford’).

He continued eastwards into the land of Meath to Ath Truim. He sent forth his roar at Iraird Cuillinn; he was heard over the entire province. And he drank in Tromma. As long as he drank the draught, he let not one drop of the river flow past him. And he left behind there the liver (tromm) of the Whitehorned. Some learned men say, it is from the liver of the Whitehorned which fell from the Brown of Cualnge, that Ath Truim (‘Liverford’) is called.

He raised his head haughtily and shook the remains of the Whitehorned from him over Erin. He sent its hind leg away from him to Port Largè (‘Port of the Hind Leg’). He sent its ribs from him to Dublin, which is called Ath Cliath (‘Ford of the Ribs’ or ‘of the Hurdles’).

He turned his face northwards then, and went on thence to the summit of Sliab Breg, and he saw the peaks and he knew the land of Cualnge, and a great agitation came over him at the sight of his own land and country, and he went his way towards it. In that place were women and youths and children lamenting the Brown Bull of Cualnge. They saw the Brown of Cualnge’s forehead approaching them. “The forehead of a bull cometh towards us!” they shouted. Hence is Taul Tairb (‘Bull’s Brow’)ever since. Then he went on the road of Midluachar to Cuib, where he was wont to be with the yeld cow of Darè, and he tore up the earth there. Hence cometh Gort Buraig (‘Field of the Trench’).

Then turned the Brown of Cualnge on the women and youths and children of the land of Cualnge, and with the greatness of his fury and rage he effected a great slaughter amongst them. He turned his back to the hill then and his heart broke in his breast, even as a nut breaks, and he belched out his heart like a black stone of dark blood. He went then and died between Ulster and Ui Echach at Druim Tairb. Druim Tairb (‘Bull’s Back’) is the name of that place.

Such, then, is the account and the fate of the Brown Bull of Cualnge and the end of the Táin by Medb of Cruachan daughter of Eocho Fedlech, and by Ailill son of Maga, and by all the men of Ulster up to this point. Ailill and Medb made peace with the men of Ulster and with Cuchulain. For seven years there was no killing of men amongst them in Erin. Finnabair remained with Cuchulain, and the Connachtmen went to their own land, and the men of Ulster returned to Emain Macha with their great triumph. Finit. Amen.

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A blessing be upon all such as shall faithfully keep the Táin in memory as it stands here and shall not add any other form to it.

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I, however, who have copied this history, or more truly legend, give no credence to various incidents narrated in it. For, some things herein are the feats of jugglery of demons, sundry others poetic figments, a few are probable, others improbable, and even more invented for the delectation of fools.