CELT document T301038

The Training of Cúchulainn

The Training of Cúchulainn


No less than eleven copies are mentioned in the Essai d'un catalogue de la littérature épique de l'Irlande, pp. 140, 141; two are in the British Museum, nine in the library of the Royal Irish Academy, and there is, or was lately, a twelfth in the Phillips Library at Cheltenham, no. 10, 840. They all were written in the eighteenth century, and the copy now for the first time edited is taken from the oldest, namely, Egerton 106, a paper manuscript in the Museum library, written in the year 1715.

The story, though obviously defective in many places, is of some importance as making Tochmarc Emire more intelligible, as and tending to prove that the current belief that Cúchulainn received his training in the Isle of Skye merely rests on the similarity of the Gaelic names for that island and for Scythia. See Mrs. Hutton's The Táin, Dublin, 1907, p. 492. Of interest as bearing on the great epic tale so admirably edited by Windisch (Leipzig, 1905), are the convenant which the amazon Scáthach causes Cúchulainn, and his fellow-pupils to enter into (section 58): the jealous hatred aroused in Ferdiad (section 70), which may have influenced him in accepting his fatal duel with Cúchulainn, Windisch, op. cit., pp. 437 et seq.; and the non-existence of sexual morality in the case of the hero and his female teachers.

The rarer words found in the tale are collected in the Glossarial Index. Special attention may be called to the homonyms alt 'leap' and alt 'breadth', to car 'the whole', and to imh-aes 'of like age'.



Do fogluim Chonculainn

Edited by Whitley Stokes


Of Cúchulainn's Training, here below.


When Cúchulainn was a young lad, with the palm of shape and form and goodly make, of speech and wisdom and eloquence, of bulk and beauty and mind, pride of spirit came to him, so that he was fain to go throughout the great world to get his training.


Well, this is where the beginning of his training took place, in Glenn na hUathaige, with Uathach of the Glen, in the great fierce province of Munster. Not long was he therein when he fared across it to the province of Ulster, and formed a design to get training in the eastern world. He took with him two of his comrades, namely, Loegaire the Victorious and Conall the Triumphant; and they launched the Engach, Conall's ship, on the bitter-blue brine, and on the green-sided, strong-rough sea, and across the swift, whirling-waved streams, and across the mounded (?), foam-stormy wave troughs, till they reached the blue-edged districts of Alba. And in that country was a woman-warrior for them, namely, Dordmair 1 daughter of Domnall Maeltemel 2.


When they came to visit her, a truly beautiful welcome was given them, and service of footwashing and bathing was provided for them. There they remained that night, and (on the morrow) the damsel asked them why they had come.

“We have come to thee” they say, “to learn warfare and feats of knighthood.”


The damsel went forth before them, that day, and began performing in their presence her feats of valour and warfare. For 'tis often with the teachers to go on like that, with the secret of their feats of valour and warfare in presence of the pupils who repair to them from distant countries. This is the feat  p.113 which the damsel on that day shewed the youths: a five-barbed spear was brought to her, and she thrust its shaft into the earth, with its sharp, razorlike point straight above it. The druidess then leapt aloft into the air, and came down again, so that she left her breast and her bosom on the point of the sharp-edged spear. And she brought no tear in her dress nor in her raiment, and she was a long time resting thus on the point of the spear 3.


Thereafter she began to converse with Conall and Loegaire the Victorious, and she said: “Let some one of you come to perform yon feat, O youths.”

“Which of us shall go to perform it?” they ask.

“He that is noblest of the trio that ye are”, she answers. And they said that Conall Cernach son of Amergen was the noblest and boldest of them, and they told him to go first and attempt the feat. However, though strong was his hand, and hardy was his heart, and straight was his casting, and though at foes he was mangling and swift-striking, he was unable to perform the feat.


And Loegaire endeavoured to perform it, and he could not.


Said Cúchulainn: “It were a shame to us three Ultonians if the feat were not performed by one of us.” And he stood up, and went to the feat, and leapt aloft hoveringly, so that he left his breast and bosom on the sharp point of the spear; and he deemed it a trifling matter if that were his place of rest for the whole of the fair day.


Thereafter the damsel came to them, and this she said: “O you other twain, keep, so long as ye shall live, that from which ye have hitherto got fame and distinction; for your blood has dried up, and your sinews have hardened; and henceforward your honour (?) is not with feats of knighthood nor with study of warfare; but if ye like attendance or war-service, that can be obtained with me.”

“We need it not”, says Conall.


“Well”, she says, “let yon young lad stay with me, even Cúchulainn.”

And that is agreed.


That pair (Conall and Loegaire) bade farewell to Cúchulainn and to the damsel, and they came across to Ireland; but Cúchulainn remained in Alba, learning the feats of knighthood.


One day at the end of the year Cúchulainn began to perform every feat which he had learnt in the space of that year; and while he was these he saw a solitary huge man, on the edge of the sea, approaching him. Black as coal was every joint of him from sole to crown 4.


“What is it that thou art doing?” says the big man.

Says Cúchulainn: “I am performing my feats (?) of valour and warfare, which I learnt in the course of the past year.”

“What is that, my lad? For where the feats of knighthood are learnt, there those feats (of yours) are not counted (?) among them.”

“Is that true?” asks Cúchulainn.

“'Tis true assuredly”, says the big man. “Is there in the world a woman-knight who is better than the woman-knight with whom I am now?” asks Cúchulainn. “There is”, answers the big man: “for Scáthach daughter of Buanuinne, king of Scythia, in the east of the world, is better than she.”

“We have hitherto heard talk of her”, says Cúchulainn.

“'Tis likely thou hast heard”, says the big man; “and great are the countries and lands and grounds now between thee, O little man, and Scythia.”


“Wouldst thou give me guidance, O big man?” says Cúchulainn.

“I will never give thee guidance”, says the big man.

“On thee (be) thine evil” says Cúchulainn, “and thy sorrowful sin, O spectral, shrivelled phantom! Without thy kindly help and thy guidance I have ever come.”


Thereafter the big man left him, and Cúchulainn went to the quite strange fort, and no ease to him was sleeping or resting that night. On the morrow, at the beginning of day and full light, he arose and took his feats of valour and warfare 5 round about him. Few of the guides know the road that Cúchulainn took to Scythia; but he made neither stop nor stay till he came to (the place) wherein was Scáthach daughter of Buanuine, king of Scythia.


And Cúchulainn saw the beautiful, bright youths playing hurley and games; and though he was fatigued after his march and travel, he went to their hurley, and if one of the youths was exulting, he held no converse with him until he had taken the ball from him over the border of the goal.

And one of the two leaders of the youths came to him and said: “My boy”, says he, “why hast thou taken the goal from me?”

“If I have taken the goal from thee”, says Cúchulainn, “I will take it again with thee.”

“By our word”, say the youths, “thou wouldst not have taken the goal that thou tookest from us if we had perceived thee from the beginning.”

“Ye know it now”, says Cúchulainn, “and I will take the goal from you.”


And Cúchulainn took that goal from them; and he took it thrice, without any one else assisting or helping him.


Then four Irishmen who were in the steading to be trained came to him, and gave him many kisses, and were asking him news of their own country and land; and he asked them news in the same way.


“Well, O youths”, says Cúchulainn “what training in feats of valour and warfare have ye got in the year?”

“We have got”, they answer, “the Bridge of the Leaps.”

“How long were ye learning it?” asks Cúchulainn.

“A training of a quarter and a month and a year and three days and three nights.”

“Well then, O youths”, says Cúchulainn, “will ye give me guidance to it?”

“Alas, O boy”, they say, “what profit were that to thee until Scáthach comes to teach thyself like every one else?”

“I wish to see it”, quoth he.


So they fared forward to the bridge. Then all the youths who were with Scáthach were on the edge of the bridge. And thus then was the Bridge of the Leaps, to wit, when one leapt upon it it was narrowed till it was as narrow as a hair, and it was as sharp as a {}, and as slippery as an eel's tail. And at another time it would rise so that it was as high as a mast. And thereafter Cúchulainn leapt on the bridge, and began sliding and filling on its back.


From the bower where Scáthach was, Cúchulainn was seen in that plight, and thus was that bower; with seven huge doors, to it, and seven windows between every two of the doors, and seven rooms between every two windows, and thrice fifty girls in each of those rooms, with purple mantles and blue. And there were thrice fifty like-aged boys, and thrice fifty great-deeded boys, and thrice fifty champions, hardy and bold, opposite each of those doors, outside and inside, learning valour and feats of knighthood with Scáthach.


And thus was Scáthach herself at that time, with her daughter named Uathach in her presence. And that girl was  p.121 white-fingered, modest, black-eyebrowed. And thus was her head from one ear to the other, with the hue of burnished gold upon every hair of her, and a curch curled, round-plaited, covering her head and her crown, and a beautiful fringe of golden thread in her hand, and a fair bright bordered (weaver's) beam pressing a woof upon it.


When that girl saw the unique youth on the back of the bridge, she gave him in the space of that hour the love of her soul; and her nature was deluded greatly from the love of the youth seen in that strait.

And when it was meet for her to put a thread of gold to the fringe in her hand she used to put a thread of silver. 6. And many colours used to come to the girl, for (at one time) she was as white as a white flower, and at another time she was purple, blood-red.


Her mother's heed and mind chanced upon her, and she said: “My daughter, what is it that has changed thy form and thy make?”

“A unique youth whom I see on the bridge; and 'tis sad for me to be watching him in the state in which he is; and when his feet and his hands slip from the back of the bridge, this is what causes this misshapement upon me; and when his feet and his hands get a hold on the bridge my spirit is glad. And I deem it a danger that he will not again safely reach his own father and his mother; and it is certain that he has many who will be grieved at his being (in peril) like yon.”


“Good indeed”, says Scáthach: “look well at that youth, for it was shewn to me a short time ago, that a young, childlike, unold youth was coming to me from the west, out of the lands of Erin, and that he would gain the victory of the Bridge of the Leaps, in one hour, although for every other person it requires a training for a quarter and a month and a year and three days and three nights, and  p.123 do it in one day, and that his deeds of valour and bravery would be related till the end of the world, and that he would be the Prophesied Son.”


Touching Cúchulainn; he began slipping and falling on the back of the bridge, so that he afterwards leapt to earth and full ground. And the three chief scholars of the world uttered a shout and many cries of scorn and mockery at him for the greatness of his folly in going to practise that lesson without having been taught by Scáthach. Thereby Cúchulainn was enraged, and he leapt aloft hoveringly, accompanying the wind, so that from that mad leap he came standing on the floor of the bridge, that is, on the middle pillar of the bridge. And the bridge was not narrowed or sharpened or made slippery under him.


And the Irish youths gave a great shout on high, praising the feat that was performed by him and because they deemed it excellent that out of Ireland some one had come who had achieved a performance like that. So then the girl said to Scáthach that the boy had succeeded in performing the lesson of the Bridge of the Leaps.


“Well then, my soul”, says Scáthach, “go to meet him, and give him a welcome from me and from thyself; and give him guidance to a lodging tonight, namely, to the house of the barbers.”


So the girl went to meet him, and never had she gone on a journey that she deemed prouder or more joyous than that journey. And she gave the youth a welcome from Scáthach and from herself; and she put a hand over his neck, and gave him a kiss lovingly and loyally, and this she said: “Well, thou youth,” says she, “come with me that I may give thee guidance to a lodging tonight.”


So they fared forward to the door of the house of the barbers, and she said: “Well, ye youths”, quoth she, “call this lad to you, and deal gently with him tonight, for he is a young Irish lad.”



When Cúchulainn came among them, they said to him: “O youngster”, they say, “be not angered by whatsoever we shall do to thee tonight. Thrice nine men are we here, and seven and twenty spears of smelted iron each of us hath, and whoever reaches the Bridge of the Leaps must afterwards get our permission.”


“What do ye do to him?” asks Cúchulainn.

“We cast up at him on the ridgepole and the very top of the house, and set our spears and darts upon him, so that his {} will come, and that there may be no place of a dart in his whole body without his heart's blood, and that (all) the blood of his body be let out of him.”


“What is the reason for doing that to him?” says Cúchulainn.

“It is done”, they answer, “so that, although there be many armies and multitudes, (and much) hardship and hurt before thee, there would not be fury or excitement (?) on thee before them, considering the hurt thou wilt receive in this house tonight.”


“'Tis a word of mine”, says Cúchulainn, “that there is not on the surface of the earth anyone whom I should allow to pierce my body after an offer of compulsory fighting, unless I should allow it to a warrior standing against me in battle or conflict.”

“That is right”, says one of them, “if thou art left (depending) on thy own power.”


“By my word”, says the second man, “that (word) will not be taken from thee.” And he seized Cúchulainn by the ankle, and threw him up on the top of their house. And all the spears and darts were set against him.

But Cúchulainn came down slowly, cunningly, lightly, and made stay and rest on the end of the dart that was next him, and afterwards came to the second dart, and reached the third dart, and so from dart to dart, till he came to the last dart.



Touching the dart-feat, it was found neither with Uathach, nor with Scáthach, nor Aife, nor Ablach, nor the queen of the Land of Snow, nor Eisin chinne 7, nor with knight or lady who had received instruction how to perform the dart-feat, until Cúchulainn came; and in that wise he was thrown thrice (to the top of the house). Thereafter anger with the barbers came to Cúchulainn, and he seized his arms and began killing and deranging them; and he cut off all their heads and put them on the gates of the fort under the feet of the hosts, so that fear of him might be the greater. And the thrice fifty hardy and valiant champions who were opposite Scáthach's door 8 fell by him in like manner.


And he himself remained in the house that night, and on the morrow in the morning he fared forward to the door of the bower wherein was Scáthach, and asked if Scáthach was there.

“What is it, my lad?” says Scáthach.

“I am now demanding of thee the mass of jewels and treasures and wealth of the youths of the world, which thou hast (kept) without giving to them.”

“O young lad”, quoth she, “there are many warriors here fitter than thou to ask that and to avenge.”

“They have not been able to do it”, says Cúchulainn; “and I am able to avenge it and demand it.”


“What is the vengeance that thou wouldst inflict on me, O youth?” says the damsel.

“Rise up”, says Cúchulainn, “that we may fight and combat with each other.”

“I will go there”, she says.

“'Tis not thou that shall go there”, say Cuar and Cat, Scáthach's two sons, “but we.”

“'Tis not you that shall go there, my dear sons”, says Scáthach.

“I will go alone there”, says Cuar son of Scáthach.


Thus was that man: thick-bodied, ample-chested,  p.129 like a truly-great giant. And he arose standing, with his thrice nine feats upon him, as were the apple-feat, thunder-feat, and noise-feat: the wheel-feat, body-feat, hundred-battle-feat, hero's salmon-leap, and cast of sling-stick, and leap over {}, and feat on breaths, and under-blow, and {} blow, and blow with power, and {} course finally of parts of spears 9. So that they were (coming) from him to Cúchulainn like bees actively gathering their heavy collection from the tops of the white flowers.


And he took over his bright shoulder his bossy shield with its seven bosses round the central boss 10; and that shield was adorned with steel and crystal and carbuncle, so that that many-coloured shield was an “eye's diadem” at the time of looking.


And he took his heavy, weightily-smiting sword, with length, with sharpness (?), with shadow, with the hardness of steel, with hunger for rud-red blood, and in a multitude of bronze sickles that would sever a hair against a stream, cutting and mangling his enemies. On his side a long scabbard of electrum, with beautiful belts of silver, in a high grasp of valour and weapons 11.


And he took in his hands his two five-barbed spears, ample-socketed, thick-shafted, with their well-poising rivets in their foam-red, equally straight shafts.


And thereafter they came to the place of combat, and they set feet to ground and faces to wounding: so that feet  p.131 were stayed, and hands were moved quickly, and blows were dealt boldly, and spirits were raised, for the echo was heard in isles and islands and in the rough-headed rocks of the districts that were nearest to them.


And Cúchulainn perceived that he was not destroying his strength against the big man; but he let him deal his fierce, great, soldierly blows, without attendance or waiting from himself upon them, until trembling and shaking came into the big man's legs through long standing up; and from that striking and smiting his strength passed out of his arms. And when Cúchulainn perceived the big man abating thus, his wrath and his swift anger, his power and his strength arose, and he gave the big man a blow that cut off his arm and his shoulder-blade; and he gave him a second blow that cut off his right leg; and he gave a third blow that cut off the one leg that was under him moving his body.


Thereafter the big man fell with his face on Cúchulainn, so that a foretooth of the big man chanced on the top of Cúchulainn's 12 shoulder and took a piece of flesh and skin completely from him, as far as the tip of his fingers. So that was Cúchulainn's Shearing13


And Cúchulainn beheaded Cuar son of Scáthach, without regard to their fellow-pupilship, and he brought the head to the door of the bower in which Scáthach was, and asked if Scáthach was there.

“What is it, my lad?” says Scáthach.

“Dost thou recognise this head, O queen?” quoth he.

“I do,” says Scáthach; “and violent is the deed thou hast done, O youth! And come inside till day,” she says, “a that a bed may be made for thee at my own feet, and that thou mayst be leeched and healed till a quarter's end.”


That night Uathach, Scáthach's daughter, came to Cúchulainn in the room in which he lay.

“What has brought thee here at this hour, O damsel?”says Cúchulainn.

“Every army that attacks not will be attacked”, says the damsel.


“Knowest thou not, O damsel”, says Cúchulainn, “that it is a breach of tabu for one who is sick to forgather with a woman?”


The damsel went to her own bedroom, and it was not long till her dress was donned, and she came again to Cúchulainn and lay down in the bed by his side. Thereby Cúchulainn was greatly annoyed, and he stretched the sound hand that he had to the damsel, and her finger chanced in his hand, so that with one offer he struck the skin and the flesh from her, and wounded and hurt her greatly.


“On thee be thine evil and thy sorrowful sin, O spectral, shrivelled phantom!” says she: “'tis shameful to commit woman-slaughter. And thou couldst have sent me whole from thee, without hurting me greatly like that.”

“I prefer to put thee thus from me,” says Cúchulainn, “so that the disgrace and contempt of it may be the greater to thee.”

“I would forgive thee now,” says the damsel, “for the sore hurting thou gavest me, provided I am not put out of thy bed tonight.”

“Thou wast lying in wait to stay”, says Cúchulainn “and thou shalt not remain here tonight.”

“I would adjudge good rewards to thee,” says the damsel, “if I am not put from thee tonight only, so that my mother will give thee the three feats which she has, and which she has not given to anyone, namely, Cuar's feat and Catt's feat and the feat of eight waters.”


And Cúchulainn bound those rewards on the damsel, and on that night he gave her the desire of her mind and her nature. And on the morrow he asked her: “What are yon rewards that thou promisedst me, or how shall I obtain them?”


“I will tell thee,” says the damsel. “'Tis thus that Scáthach goes to have speech with the gods, with a feat-basket beneath her, and without weapons she goes there; and if thou find her apart from her arms and  p.135 many-edged weapons thou wilt obtain from her all yon rewards. Follow her forth tomorrow, and say that her head will be struck off unless she give thee the rewards thou wilt demand of her.”


On the morrow Cúchulainn fared forth to the Bridge of the Leaps; and at that time Scáthach was thus: in her feat-basket, and she did not feel Cúchulainn over her with a naked sword in his hand; and she saw the sheen and brightness of the sword between her and a ray of light, and Scáthach turned on the {} of his shoulder, and this she said: “What is that, O little Cú?”

“I desire”, saith Cúchulainn, “to inflict death and extinction upon thee.”

“'Tis better to give me quarter”, says Scáthach, “and to get good rewards from me.”

“What are the rewards?” asks Cúchulainn.

“The rewards that thou thyself desirest”, says Scáthach. “They are, then,” says Cúchulainn, “those three feats of thine which thou hast never given to anyone before me, and the “friendship of thy thighs”, and also (thy) daughter.”


And Scáthach promised him all these rewards, and she gave him the three feats; and on that night he had the festival of hand and bed with the girl, and from the queen he had thenceforward the “friendship of thighs”. And he remained in her company till the year's end.


And at the end of that year he prepared to travel to the fortress and goodly stead of the other woman-knight, namely Aife daughter of a king of Greeks in Magna Graecia. He fared forth to the door of the bower in which Aife was, and she welcomed him lovingly and kindly. And on that night he had the festival of hand and bed with that damsel, and he remained in her company till a year's end, and at the end of that year he prepared to travel.


“'Tis unfair to the truth of thy mind to go until thou art approved completely in the many feats of valour and bravery.”  p.137 “Is it that now I am not approved in them?” asks Cúchulainn.

“Indeed thou art not, for I have three prize-feats, and there is a year's training in them: so stay with me this year, and if thou hast them thou wilt surpass the youths of the world.”

“I will stay,” says Cúchulainn.


And he staid till the end of that year, and after spending that time he prepared to depart, and Aife said to him: “It is not right for thee to go now, for I am pregnant, until thou know what child I shall have.”

“If it be a daughter that will be born” says Cúchulainn, “every mother has the profit of her daughter, so give her to the man whom thou thyself likest. But if it be a son that thou wilt bear 14, nurture him well, and teach him feats of valour and bravery, and teach him all the feats save only the feat of the gae builg, for I myself will teach that to him after he reaches Ireland.”


Thereafter Cúchulainn bade farewell to the damsel, and sad and sorrowful was she that day after Cúchulainn parted from them. As to Cúchulainn himself, his mind was anxious on that day beyond any day, wending his way, till he reached the Bridge of the Leaps, and saw the offcast, baleful, horrible, wondrous, strange, at the other end of the bridge, to wit, a hag 15 tall, over-ripe, and in her hand an iron vessel (?) in which was a balance (containing the) full of a fist of smelted iron.


“Well, Cúchulainn,” quoth she, “leave me the road past thee.”

“This place in which I am is unfrequentable unless a solitude is made: for it is as slender as a hair, and as sharp as an orrdladh, and as slippery as an eel's tail; and if the thorn of a thistle chanced on the place wherein I am it would not stick to the place in which it would stay until the great sea would come outside.”



“Tabus and injunctions upon thee!” says the hag, “unless thou leave the road to me.”

“Sad is that”, says Cúchulainn: “life from it after his soul end non-life after his honour. And this is the road I shall leave thee, though thyself may get death or destruction from it.”


'Tis then Cúchulainn closed his arms and his legs around the bridge, and he lay thereon supine athwart, and by a thunder-feat the hag seized him roughly, ill-fatedly on the breadth of his back and on his legs and arms, so that she wounded and hurt him greatly. But he leapt aloft lightly, hoveringly, and having gone over to the hag he gave her a blow whereby he struck her head from her body. Good was the killing that Cúchulainn wrought then, to wit (the death of) Eisin chinne.


And thus was Scáthach, instructing some of the Irish cavaliers who were about her during that year when Cúchulainn was with Aife in Magna Graecia. These were the names of those cavaliers, to wit, Fer diad son of Damán, and Fer demain son of Damán, and Fraech Fáil son of Fidach, and Náisi son of Uisnech, and Lóit mór son of Mogh Feibis 16, and Fergus son of Lua the long-maned. And on the day that Cúchulainn came to the fort, 'tis then came the time for those cavaliers to travel to Ireland. But they remained another year with Scáthach, side by side, so that each of them might gain as much instruction as Cúchulainn, both feat and valour and prowess, save only the feat of the gae builg; and thereafter they bade farewell to Scáthach.


“Well, O damsel,” says Cúchulainn, “'tis meet for me to go with these other cavaliers to Ireland.”

“Thou shalt not go with them,” says she, “until I bind a covenant of honour and friendship between you all, so that the world's men may never put one of you against the other to conflict or combat, for you are in no danger of any one else in the world imperilling you, unless it come from yourselves against you. And these are the injunctions I leave upon you, namely, if the better man of you seek combat with him who  p.141 is worse, the better man shall be vanquished, and, in the same way, (defeat) to him who is worse if he seek combat with him who is better. Let none of you transgress those leavings.”


And they gave their hands to each other for the fulfilment of that covenant to the brink of Doom.


Then they bade farewell to Scáthach, and paid the fees for their training by her; and tidings of them are not told till they reached the country of the men of Catt.

“What is this country?” says one of them, “or who is king over it?”

“This is the kingdom of the men of Catt”, says Cúchulainn, “and Aed the Red is king over it. Which of us without the night's guesting will obtain it from him?” says Cúchulainn.

“What is the place on which thou art going?” say they.

“I will go by the edges of this sea below,” says Cúchulainn, “to know whether I can get birds or winged things which I can take to the fort, so that the women and youths and womankind may marvel the more at their reaching them alive.”

“Do so”, say they; “and here we fare to the fort before thee.”


Then they parted from each other, and Cúchulainn went and looked forth on the great sea. As he was there he beheld a great assembly on the strand nearest to him, to wit, a hundred men and a hundred women seated in the bosom of the haven and the shore, and among them a maiden shapely, dear and beautiful, the most distinguished damsel of the world's women, and they a-weeping and lamenting around the damsel.


Cúchulainn came to the place and saluted them.

“What is this sorrow or the misery upon you?” says Cúchulainn.

The damsel answered and this she said: “A royal tribute which the tribe of Fomorians carry out of this country every seventh year, namely, the first-born of the king's children. And at this time it has come to me to go as that tribute, for to the king I am the dearest of his children.”

“What number comes to lift that tribute?” asks Cúchulainn.

“Three sons of Alatrom of the Fomorians,” she answers, “and Dub, Mell and Dubros are their names.”



Not long had they been at those talks when they saw the well-manned, full-great vessel approaching them over the furious waves of the sea. And when the damsel's people saw the ship coming, they all fled from her, and not a single person remained in her company save only Cúchulainn. And thus was that vessel: a single warrior, dark, gloomy, devilish, on the stern of that good ship, and he was laughing roughly, ill-fatedly, so that every one saw his entrails and his bowels through the body of his gullet.

“What is that mirthfulness on the big man?” asks Cúchulainn.

“Because,” says the damsel, “he deems it excellent that thou shouldst be an addition to his tribute in this year rather than in any other year.”

“By my conscience”, says Cúchulainn, “it would not be right for him to brag thus regarding me if he knew what would come of it.”


Then the big man came ashore to them into the strand, and stretched forth his long, sinewy, hideous arm to seize Cúchulainn in the very front of his royal tribute. Straightway Cúchulainn raised his right hand, and bared his sword, and gave a blow to the big man and struck off his head, so that he was the first that fell by Cúchulainn after having completed his training. And thereafter the other two fell by him, and he left them thus, neck to neck.


Touching Cúchulainn, he gave neither care nor heed to the damsel, for he deemed it neither honourable nor sensible to speak to her, as she was alone after her following fled front her. And he fared forward after his comrades, and did not tell them of that deed. Then they came to the gate of the fortress, and they strike a blow of the knocker on the door, and the doorkeeper asked who was there.

“We are a band of Irish cavaliers”, they say, “come out of the world in the east, after completing our training.”


The doorkeeper went where the king was, mournful and sad after his daughter, and told him that a band of Irish cavaliers was at the gate.

“Let them in,” says the king.

They came in, and the king gave them a hearty welcome, sweetly and courteously.



And they were not long thus when they saw the damsel approaching them.

“Well, my daughter,” says the king, “art thou sorrowful after thy followers, or is it the fear that caused thee to flee like that?”

“Not so assuredly,” says the damsel, “but a single, young, youthful lad who came to me, and remained near me after my followers fled from me, and fought on my behalf with three sons of Alatrom the Fomorian; and they fell by him; and to prove that, send some one for the rest of the tribute, and let it be brought to thee.”

“Take triumph and blessing, my daughter,” says the king: “good are the tidings thou hast told me.” And he sent a servant for the rest of the tribute, and it was brought to him.


And Aed the Red was glad at that tale, and he said to the womankind and the females of the fort: “Go and wash and bathe the cavaliers.”


Then the women went, a woman opposite each of the cavaliers, to wash him and to bathe him. And it is Aife, Aed the Red's daughter, that happened to be above the tub in which Cúchulainn was, and Cúchulainn's hand chanced to be in hers, and she said: “Well, indeed, great is this hand's share of bravery and valour!”

“What is that, my daughter?” says the king.

“It is,” says the damsel, “that this is the hand of him by whom the three sons of Alatron the Fomorian have fallen, and 'tis he that rescued me from the great captivity in which I was.”

“Is yon true, ye Irish cavaliers?” says Aed the Red. “When ye entered the fort was there a single one of your company absent?”

“It was Cúchulainn who is yonder”, they answer; “for he went along the edges of this sea below, of perchance he could get birds or winged things to take to the fort.”


“Is yon,” says the king, “the renowned Cúchulainn, whose fame ye have in Ireland? If so,” says Aed the Red, “here for thee is the royal tribute which thou thyself hast gained, and the damsel also.”


“On thee be thine evil and thy sorrowful sin!” says Fer diad son of Damán: “may no one on earth ever get renown or fame or lasting distinction on the same road with thee!”


As to Cúchulainn, however, he gave neither heed nor care to a single word that Fer diad uttered; but he divided that tribute of the Fomorians, to wit, a third to the cavaliers, and the second third to the hospitallers of the Fir Catt, and the third third as the damsel's dowry. And on that night he had her on a bed-festival.


And they were a month and a fortnight abiding in that stead with gentle attendance and ministering; and at the end of that time they set out for Ireland, and took harbour and haven on Tráig na Folad in Ulster, and went thereafter to smooth-beautiful Emain Macha where Conchobar son of Fachtna Fáthach, overking of Ulster, was dwelling. And Conchobar retained them with him for the space of a year, and gave them the tribute of the province as their pay. And authors and sages recount that no king or great lord on the Continent had at that time heroes or champions or leaders as brave or as hardy as the band that was then in Ulster called the Champions of the Red Branch, such as Conall the Victorious, and Fergus son of Ross Ruad, with their children, Loegaire the Triumphant, Cormac Conloinges son of Conchobar, and those eight others who came with Cúchulainn into Ireland 17.


At the end of that year Conchobar divided lands and estates among so many of them as had not got land before, and distributed them along the borders of Ulster; and they used to bring the great tribute of the islands, and many of the other countries of the globe under tribute and subjection to them by dint of their valour and bravery.

So that so far is a portion of the proceedings of Cúchulainn.Finis.

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Title (uniform): The Training of Cúchulainn

Title (original, Irish): Do fogluim Chonculainn

Author: unknown

Editor: Whitley Stokes

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Electronic edition compiled by: Beatrix Färber and Miriam Trojer and Beatrix Färber and Miriam Trojer

Proof corrections by: and Beatrix Färber and Miriam Trojer

Funded by: the HEA via PRTLI 4 and the EU under the LEONARDO Lifelong Learning Programme

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2. Second draft, revised and corrected.

Extent: 7700 words

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Publisher: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts: a project of University College, Cork

Address: College Road, Cork, Ireland—http://www.ucc.ie/celt

Date: 2009

Distributor: CELT online at University College, Cork, Ireland.

CELT document ID: T301038

Availability: Available with prior consent of the CELT project for purposes of academic research and teaching only.

Source description

Manuscript sources for the original

  • British Library, Egerton 106, written by Richard Tipper, 1715.


  1. Ernst Windisch (ed.), Die altirische Heldensage Táin Bó Cúalnge nach dem Buch von Leinster, in Text und Übersetzung mit einer Einleitung [und Wörterverzeichniss]. Gedruckt mit Unterstützung der kgl. sächsischen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften (Leipzig 1905).
  2. M. A. Hutton, The Táin. An Irish Epic Told in English Verse (Dublin 1907) [Recension II].
  3. Ruairí Ó hUiginn, Oileamhain Con Culainn: 'Cú Chulainn's Training', Emania 19 (2002) 43–52.

The edition used in the digital edition

‘The Training of Cúchulainn’ (1908). In: Revue Celtique‍ 29. Ed. by Whitley Stokes, pp. 109–147.

You can add this reference to your bibliographic database by copying or downloading the following:

  editor 	 = {Whitley Stokes},
  title 	 = {The Training of Cúchulainn},
  journal 	 = {Revue Celtique},
  number 	 = {29},
  address 	 = {Paris},
  publisher 	 = {Émile Bouillon},
  date 	 = {1908},
  pages 	 = {109–147}


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Creation: Translation by Whitley Stokes

Date: 1908

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  • The text is in English. (en)
  • Some words are in Irish. (ga)
  • Two lines in the notes are in Danish. (da)
  • Some words are in Latin. (la)

Keywords: saga; Ulster Cycle; prose; medieval; translation

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  1. 2010-03-22: Some personal names encoded and additions made to bibliography. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  2. 2009-08-11: Additions made to header; file proofed (2); file parsed; SGML and HTML file created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  3. 2009-07-30: Header constructed. (ed. Miriam Trojer)
  4. 2009-07-28: File proofed (2); introduction typed in; more structural markup applied; footnotes integrated. (ed. Miriam Trojer)
  5. 2009-07-11: Text scanned; file proofed (1); structural encoding applied. (text capture Beatrix Färber)


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  1. Apparently an alias of Dornoll daughter of Domnall. Crowe (Siaburcharpat Conculainn p. 441) calls her “Ducreann daughter of Domnall soft-smooth, King of Alba.” 🢀

  2. A corruption of the Miltemail “soldierly” of Tochmarc Emire🢀

  3. A similar passage is cited (presumably from one of the Dublin mss.) and translated by Crowe, ubi supra🢀

  4. Perhaps this was Forgall Monach, Emer's father. 🢀

  5. i.e., I suppose, the instruments used in performing the feats. 🢀

  6. So in the Danish ballad Hellelil og Hildebrand, where the girl's distraction is caused by sorrow:Det hun skulde mit guld virke
    Det syer hun med silke

  7. See more as to her sections 53-56 infra. She is the Ess Enchenn of Tochmarc Emire🢀

  8. See section 17 supra. 🢀

  9. See as to these feats, the names of some of which are hopelessly corrupt, Windisch's Táin bó Cúalnge, and Crowe's notes to his edition of Siaburcharpat Conculainn, pp. 432–448. And compare the feats of the Celto-Roman cavalry described by Arrian, The Celtic Review, IV 384. 🢀

  10. The ms. here is greatly confused and very corrupt. It runs thus: go thesgfadh fionnd anághaidh srotha ag leodh ⁊ ag leadradh a bhiodhbhadh ⁊ an-iomad do chorránuib cré umhaidh go raibh é an sgiath soin arna choimhegair do chruadhan ⁊ do chriosdal ⁊ do charradh mhogaill, gur budh mionn súala ré huair nfaicsiona an sgíath ioldhathach soin ⁊ do ghabh a chlaidhemh tróm 'tortbhuillech go bfhed go bfigh ⁊ go bfhosgadh go gcruas cruaidhíaroinn, go ccíocrus foladh flannrúaidhi go ttruaill fhada fiondruinne go ccresaibh aille airgid a nardghabháil goilé ⁊ gaisgé ara thaobh. 🢀

  11. Compare the description of Cúchulainn's shield, sword and spear, LU 81a. 🢀

  12. Literally “destroyed.” 🢀

  13. Apparently the name of a lost story. 🢀

  14. She bore Cúchulainn a son, Conlaech or Óinfer Áife, who was slain in battle by his father. See the Rennes Dindsenchus, no. 95, Revue Celtique XVI 46, and Aided Énfir Áifi, Ériu 1, 114. 🢀

  15. This was the Ess Enchenn of the Tochmarc Emire. Cúchulainn had slain her three sons. Hence her attempt on his life. 🢀

  16. Lóch Mór mac Mofebhais, TBC, ed. Windisch, pp. 316, 438, 1088. 🢀

  17. See section 57 supra, where only six are named. 🢀


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