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the Cualnge Tam B6 Cualnge

irish, ulster, bull, medb, saga, name, cycle and connaught

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TAM B6 CUALNGE, THE CUALNGE The mediaeval Irish schol ars catalogued their native literature under several heads, to one of which they gave the name Tain, by which they meant a "reavine or a "driving of cattle. The most important tale betonging to this class is the subject of this article. The professional Irish story-tel lers also arranged their epic tales according to cycles, one of which was known as the Ulster cycle, because the scene is always laid in Ulster; as the cycle of Conchobar (Connor), the king round whom the Ulster warriors mustered; as the Red Branch cycle, from the name of their banqueting hall; and, finally, as the Cuchulainn cycle, from the name of the champion round whom the saga pivots. The (Thin B6 has always enjoyed the reputation of being the most celebrated story of Irish antiquity.

The following is the argument of the Cualnge Cattle-Raid: One night a dispute arose between Queen Medb of Connaught and her husband, Ailill, as to the amount of their re spective possessions. On matching their wealth, they were found to be equal, except that among the king's herds was a lordly bull called ((the Whitehorned.D Thereupon Medb dispatched her courier to Dare mac Fiachna, a rich landowner in Cualnge (Anglice Cooley), in Ulster, to ask for the loan of his wonderful bull, called "the Brown of Cualnge.° Dare at first granted the queen's request but, incensed at a remark made by one of the envoys, he withdrew his promise and swore that never would he hand over the Brown Bull of Cualnge.

Medb straightway gathered a formidable army composed of allies from all parts of Ire land wherewith to undertake the invasion of Ulster and to carry off Dare's bull by force.

Now it happened that the expedition took place while the Ulstermen suffered a debility which lasted all winter and the burden of de fending the province fell on the shoulders of a stripling of 17 years of age, namely Cuchu lainn, who was exempt from the curse which had befallen the remainder of the champions of Ulster.

Cuchulainn confronted the foe and agreed to allow them to continue their march on con dition that every day they send one of their champions to meet him in single battle. When he shall have killed his opponent, the host shall halt and pitch camp until the follow ing morning. Queen Medb agrees to abide by those terms. In each of the combats which ensue, the heroic youth is victorious and slays many of the most celebrated warriors on the side of Connaught. The severest of all those single fights was the one which lasted four days and in which he had as antagonist his early friend and foster-brother, Ferdiad. Af

ter the death of Ferdiad, Queen Medb, im patient at these delays, broke the sacred laws of ancient Irish warfare and overran Ulster with fire and sword.

By this time the Ulstermen have come out of their debility and gathered their forces. In the final battle Medb's army is repulsed and retreats in flight into Connaught. But she had the satisfaction of carrying off with her the prize and the cause of the war, the Brown Bull of Cualnge.

The events which the B6 relates and its personages are ascribed by the Irish annalists to about the rime of the birth of Christ, that is to about 300 years before the introduction of Christianity into the island, and such has been the constant Irish tradition. It belongs to a period when agriculture was almost unknown, when land was plenty and when the possession of kine to place upon it was of first importance and when cattle-raids were of frequent occurrence. The general con dition of culture described in the saga corre sponds in a remarkable way with the earlier part of the age to which archmologists have given the name La Tine, or Late Celtic, and which terminated at the first century of our era.

The B6 even carries us back to one of the earliest and most widespread be liefs of the great linguistic family to which we belong, to one of the most primitive as pects of a world-wide nature-myth. Its great protagonist, Cuchulainn, gives us the impres sion of a god, who appears to personify warmth and light struggling against the powers of cold and darkness. In the earliest version of the story, he is the son of the supreme god Lug and a mortal woman. Hence• the curious com bination that we find in him: On the one hand he acts like a brave and courtly warrior; on the other, his supernatural exploits exceed the course of ordinary human existence. By the time the tale had been given an historical framework and had been consigned to writing, the mythological idea from which it had sprung was, at most, but dim and uncertain. The story-tellers and their hearers regarded Cuchu lainn and the other characters of the saga as real Irish men and women, and, although we are not to look for historical accuracy in the saga in every particular, it is very likely that, in the main, the events narrated really took place and the protagonists really, existed.

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