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The Mythological Cycle
THE TWINS OF MACHA | THE TAIN

An Táin by Colmán Ó Raghallaigh Tain bo Cuailgne - The Cattle Raid of Cooley
T he Táin Bó Cúailnge, “The Cattle Raid of Cooley”, is generally considered to be the greatest epic of not only the Ulster Cycle, but of all Irish history. The Táin is essentially the story of a contest of wills between King Ailill and Queen Maeve of Connaught, and the consequences that can occur when there is competition between the king and the queen over who is truly the ruler. The story begins with a simple argument between Ailill and Maeve over who was the richest. While engaging in this “pillow talk”, they began to compare each other’s properties horse for horse, cow for cow, and goat for goat, until they realized that they were exactly equal in wealth, with one important exception. There was one exceptionally large and strong bull named Finnbennach (“the Whitehorned”), of which there was no match in all the herds of Connaught. Finnbennach had originally belonged to Maeve, but the proud bull had decided that he did not want the dishonor of being part of a woman’s herd, so he went over to dwell in Ailill’s herd instead. So great was this loss to Maeve that it was as if she had nothing at all, and she purposed to find a bull that was better than Finnbennach so her wealth would be greater than that of Ailill’s.

Desperate to best her husband, Maeve searched far and wide for a bull that was better, and found that the only bull in Ireland that was mightier than her husband’s was Donn Cuailnge, “The Brown Bull of Cooley”, in Ulster province. After a failed attempt to bargain with the King of Ulster for the bull, she decided to take it by force, her quest to acquire The Brown Bull of Cooley forming the basis of a saga that is one of the most celebrated in Irish history.

Though we provide a complete summary of The Táin in our book, Mysterious World: Ireland, we have decided to publish the complete text of The Táin here for your enjoyment. The epic in its entirety will be published serially, one-fourth published quarterly for the next four quarters (Winter 2006 – Autumn 2007). To be alerted when the next installment becomes available, click here to sign up for our email newsletter, which will be published quarterly. If you have not done so already, we recommend that you read The Twins of Macha first, as it is the story of the founding of Emain Macha, the capitol of ancient Ulster province that provides important background information for The Táin.

The Táin

Table of Contents

Part 1. The Pillow-Talk
Part 2. The Occasion of the Táin
Part 3. The Rising-Out of the Men of Connacht at Cruachan Ai
Part 4. The Foretelling
Part 5. The Route of the Táin
Part 6. The March of the Host
Part 7. The Youthful Exploits of Cuchulain
Part 7a. The Slaying of the Smith's Hound by Cuchulain
Part 7b. The Taking of Arms by Cuchulain and the Slaying of the Three Sons of Necht Scenè
Part 8. The Slaying of Orlam
Part 8a. The Slaying of the Three MacArach
Part 8b. The Combat of Lethan and Cuchulain
Part 8c. The Killing of the Squirrel and of the Tame Bird
Part 8d. The Slaying of Lochè
Part 8e. The Killing of Uala
Part 8f. The Harrying of Cualnge
Part 9. The Proposals
Part 10. The Violent Death of Etarcumul
Part 11. The Slaying of Nathcrantail
Part 12. The Finding of the Bull
Part 12a. The Death of Forgemen
Part 12b. The Slaying of Redg the Satirist
Part 12c. The Meeting of Cuchulain and Finnabair
Part 12d. The Combat of Munremar and Curoi
Part 12e. The Slaughter of the Boy-Troop
Part 12f. The Slaughter of the King's Bodyguard
Part 13. The Combat of Cûr with Cuchulain
Part 14. The Slaying of Ferbaeth
Part 14a. The Combat of Larinè MacNois
Part 15. The Slaying of Loch Son of Mofemis
Part 16. The Violation of the Agreement
Part 16a. The Healing of the Morrigan
Part 17. The Great-rout on the Plain of Murthemne
Part 17a. The Slaughter of the Youths of Ulster
Part 17b. The Scythed Chariot
Part 17c. The Appearance of Cuchulain
Part 17d. Dubthach's Jealousy
Part 18. The Slaying of Oengus Son of Oenlam
Part 18a. The Misthrow at Belach Eoin
Part 18b. The Disguising of Tamon
Part 19. The Battle of Fergus and Cuchulain
Part 19a. The Head-Place of Ferchu
Part 19b. Mann's Fight
Part 19c. The Combat of Calatin's Children
Part 20. The Combat of Ferdiad and Cuchulain
Part 21. Cuchulain and the Rivers
Part 22. Cethern's Strait-Fight
Part 22a. Cethern's Bloody Wounds
Part 23. The Tooth-Fight of Fintan
Part 23a. The Red-Shame of Menn
Part 23b. The Accoutrement of the Charioteers
Part 23c. The White-Fight of Rochad
Part 23d. Iliach's Clump-Fight
Part 23e. The Deer-Stalking of Amargin in Taltiu
Part 24. The Repeated Warning of Sualtaim
Part 24a. The Order of the Men of Ulster
Part 24b. The Agitation of Celtchar
Part 25. The Array of the Host
Part 26. The Decision of the Battle
Part 27. The Battle of Garech
Part 27a. The Muster of the Men of Erin
Part 28. The Battle of the Bulls
Part 29. The Account of the Brown Bull of Cualnge







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