The Death of Cet mac Mágach

So we saw over the last two weeks that Cet mac Mágach is a pretty badass fella. So let’s see how he dies. Also this gives me the chance to add to the list of death tales. One day I’ll do them all!

Once upon a time Cet mac Mágach traveled into Ulster in order to slay an Ulsterman. Best place for him to go, really. This was because Cet was a very unimaginative man and he never had a day, since his childhood, when he wouldn’t try and kill an Ulsterman. I suppose you have to have a hobby. After a fine old time in Ulster he turned his chariot westwards, the three clumps of nine heads banging on the side of his chariot as he went. The Ulstermen set Conall Cernach on his trail (you remember him as the one who killed Cet’s brother in Scéla Mucce, right? Cool.) The trail was pretty easy to follow as it was winter and the snow lay thick on the ground.

Cet mac Mágach really loved the work of "Rowdy" Roddy Piper.
Cet mac Mágach really loved the work of “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.

Conall and his charioteer had only driven as far as Breifne when they came upon an abandoned house, half buried in the snow. On further investigation the house turned out not to be as empty as they first assumed. The smoke from a cooking fire rising out of the top, the hobbled horses and chariot with “I AM CET MAC MAGACH” written in blood on the side should have really given it away. On seeing the Cet evidence, Conall pulled grimaced and started to get back in his chariot.
“Yeah, this is Cet. I think we’d better just go back home. He’s a real badass, you know. Savage and fierce.”
“Seriously?” replied his charioteer. “We’ve come all this way to find Cet and now that we’ve got him, you’re just going to go home? One, he’s an enemy of Ulster so you should get all up in his business. Two, even if he does beat you, there’s no shame in dying by his hand. As you said he’s a badass.”
“Look, you know my policy, unnamed charioteer. I will not die by just one man’s hand. There’s no honour in that. I tell you what I will do, if it’ll make you happy. I’ll mess these horses up a bit.”
Then Conall cut locks out of the manes of the horses and stuck them on the front of Cet’s chariot. Then he went back eastwards, his heroic duty having been fulfilled.

Was Conall Cernach the first brony? We have our best researchers on the case.
Was Conall Cernach the first brony? We have our best researchers on the case.

Cet’s charioteer came out of the house and seeing the horses slightly shorn, called out to his master. “Woe, Cet! Something’s happened, although I am not entirely sure what. But in these stories it’s usually bad.”
“There’s no need to be crying out,” said Cet. “This is a sign from Conall. It’s a good thing that he spared the horse, since now we can reconcile each other and strike up a great friendship.” (I know by now you’re used to it, but there’s a lot in these tales that rests on assertions or knowledge of customs and semiotics that seem a bit obscure now. As always the advice is ‘just go with it’.)
“This is no good, Cet. You can’t be friends with a man who has so consistently made a laughing stock out of the men of Connacht. It just won’t do. You’ll have to take the fight to him. Do him in for messing about with your horses.”
So they set off after Conall and caught up with him at Cet’s Ford (Wonder how it got that name?).

“Now I’ve found you, Conall,” said Cet. “You won’t escape alive from this day.”
“Funny,” said Conall, “I was going to say the same thing to you.”
The two heroes met in the ford – classic location for a show-down in medieval Ireland. The clash of their swords, the striking of their spears on the shields, the whinnying of the horses and the encouraging shouts of the charioteers filled the land for miles around. Some people in the region went deaf. Eventually the two heroes parted and collapsed on either side of the ford. Cet was dead before he hit the ground but Conall was only mortally wounded.

Every time I read about single combats in Irish I mentally do "Ready, Set, FIGHT!"
Every time I read about single combats in Irish I mentally do “Ready, Set, FIGHT!”

He cried out to his charioteer, as he lay bleeding on the side of the river. Conall asked that he be taken back to Ulster before the men of Connacht could find him in such a state. The hero was so big though, that his charioteer could not lift from where he lay, his feet trailing in the river.
“This is a disaster,” said Conall. “That I should be killed by a man in single combat. How many times have I said that I will not let just one man have the honour of killing me? I would rather someone comes to finish me off now, than to have the kingship of the whole world.”

His charioteer thought that this last was a bit melodramatic but he did not have a chance to say anything before Bélchú of Breifne chanced upon the dying hero. Surveying the tragic scene he said “This is Cet and this is Conall, dead in the ford. The whole of Ireland will rejoice now that these two nightmares are dead. Good riddance to a pair of ruinous psychopaths.” As he was saying this he rested the butt of his spear on what he thought was the corpse of Conall.

It's the only way to know if something's dead.
It’s the only way to know if something’s dead.

“Get that bloody spear off me, you oaf,” said Conall as he knocked the offending implement away. “I’m not dead yet.”
“You’re alive?”
“No thanks to you.”
“Oh I see. You want me to finish you off so that you can maintain your stupid promise not to be killed by one man alone. Well, I’ll not do it. You’re already dead as it is. Your body just doesn’t know it yet.”
“You’re such an old woman, Bélchú. You wouldn’t dare cut my cloak.”
“Alright, Conall great hero of Ulster,” Bélchú kneeled down next to the body. “I’ll not kill you now, but here’s what I will do: I’ll take you back to my house and heal you up. When you’re whole again, then I’ll fight and kill you.” So saying Bélchú took Conall on his back and started for his house. Conall was so large, however, that his legs were dragging along the ground all the way.

This is just part of my workout before I beat your ass.
This is just part of my workout before I beat your ass.

The doctors came and patched Conall up. After they had left, promising that the Ulster warrior would be right as rain in no time, Bélchú started having second thoughts. When Conall returned to full strength, could he really take him in single combat? So he devised a ruse – and we all know how well ruses tend to go. He gathered his sons around him and told them of his plan “We need to do away with Conall before he fully heals. Tomorrow night I will leave the house open. You all should sneak in and kill Conall in his bed.”

Healing an immensely powerful Ulster hero. I've made a huge mistake.
Healing an immensely powerful Ulster hero. I’ve made a huge mistake.

With this piece of expert cunning put in motion, the sons went away. On the next night Bélchú got up to open the house.
“Where are you going, Bélchú?” asked Conall from the bed. “You’ve been such a good host I wouldn’t want you sleeping outside on my behalf. Come and share this bed with me.”
Bélchú knew the rules of hospitality as well as anyone and so could not refuse his guest. He closed up the house and thought how he would spring his plan the next day. After Bélchú had fallen asleep, Conall himself got up. He opened up the house and hid himself in a corner. As the night wore on the sons of Bélchú came in the open house and stabbed the man sleeping in Conall’s bed. Little did they know that they had killed their own father. Luckily they were not left with much chance to mourn as Conall sprung on them from the shadows, hacking at their heads until the walls of the house were covered with their blood. Conall eventually returned to Ulster in triumph, carrying their four heads with him.

Another classic mix of comedy and death. Plans often go awry and sometimes the reasons given for heroes’ actions are hard to determine. As with all death tales there is much more than the advertised death. Indeed this raises a question about titling tales: is this really the death tale of Cet or is it rather another triumphant episode in the life of Conall?

As ever why not look at some Irish or a more literal translation.


The Story of Mac Da Thó’s Pig – part 2

When we last looked the men of Ulster and Connacht were squaring off against one another in the house of Mac Da Thó. The two provinces were there to collect Mac Da Thó’s dog, which the fool promised to both parties. As a prelude to the fight for the dog they are now competing for the best cut of meat. Cet mac Magach, from Connacht, seems to be winning, but how long before it all comes to blows?

This is very definitely the wrong crowd.
This is very definitely the wrong crowd.

Seeing Cet so pleased with himself, another Ulster warrior rose up. “It’s not right that Cet should carve the pig while I’m in the house.”
“Who is this?” asked Cet, putting the carving knife down again.
“Óengus son of Lám Gabuid, of course,” said the gathered Ulstermen.
Cet laughed. “I suppose you know why his father is called Lám Gabuid?” (Just to warn you, there’s going to be a lot of puns in this section. I’ll try and make them as clear as possible. Lám Gabuid means something like ‘Taking a hand’.)
“Actually we don’t,” said the Ulstermen, immediately regretting their decision to back Óengus.
“I do. Once I went to the east and people wailed and moaned at my ravaging. Lám Gabuid came with his people to stop me. He threw his great spear at me, but missed. The kid couldn’t find his two elbows in the dark. I picked it up and threw it back at him. Took his hand clean off. I don’t think I’ll have any trouble from the son of a man like that.”
Óengus sat down.

We know what can happen to the sons of men who get their hands cut off.
We know what can happen to the sons of men who get their hands cut off.

“On with the contest!” shouted Cet waving the knife in the air. “You’d better have someone good or I’ll start carving the pig.”
Another tall Ulster warrior stood up. “You shouldn’t carve that pig, Cet.”
“Who’s this?”
“Éogan son of Durthacht, the king of Fernmag,” said the Ulstermen. Say what you like about them, they knew their heroes.
“Ah yes, I remember,” said Cet. “I’ve seen him before.”
“Where?” asked Éogan, as if he’d been approached by a stranger in a bar who insists that they went to school with you when you know you’ve never been in a class with a ginger kid.
“At the door of your house. I was in Fernmag, stealing your cattle. You came out to see what the commotion was and when you threw your spear at me it stuck in my shield. I threw it back at you and put out your eye. I’ve seen you, but it’s unlikely you’ve seen me since then. Sit down!”
Éogan sat down.

Tis not even a real eye-patch!
Tis not even a real eye-patch!

“Who’s next for the contest?”
“Don’t be too hasty, Cet. You’ve time to lose this challenge yet,” said Muinremur son of Gerrgend.
“Ah Muinremur! I was just thinking about you the other day. I’ve finally cleaned my spears from taking those four heads from your farm six days ago. I believe one of them was your son. Gore is so difficult to work out from the sockets. I’m sure you’ll find out one day. Maybe you could teach your son … Oh right.”
Muinremur sat down.

“On with the contest, Ulstermen! I’m having fun now!”
“You won’t be having fun much longer!” shouted Mend son of Salchad rising to the carving bench.
“Who’s this?” asked Cet.
“Mend son of Salchad,” said everyone, redundantly given this is a written text.
“Christ on a bike! You’re sending the sons of herdsmen with nicknames out now? You must be desperate.” He turned a hard eye to Mend. “I acted as the priest, baptising your father with that ridiculous name (something like “the dirtied one” or “the insulted one” – not the strongest pun, this). I cut off his foot when he was fleeing from me. I’ll not dignify the son of a one-footed man with a proper response.”
Mend sat down.

I know. I wouldn't be able to take his son seriously either.
I know. I wouldn’t be able to take his son seriously either.

“More contest! Can none of you fight?”
“Some of us can,” said a great, grey haired, ugly warrior, scraping his head on the beam of the hall as he rose.
“Who’s this?” asked Cet.
“It’s Celtchar son of Uthechair,” said the Ulstermen, not yet realising that this always goes badly for them.
“You could crush me right now I’m sure, Celtchar,” said Cet. “Humour me one moment first. One day I came to your house, causing a bit of commotion. When you came to see what the matter was I threw a spear that caught you right in the crotch. I don’t think you’ve fathered any children since that day, isn’t that right? I don’t want to say you have to have big balls to challenge me, but you definitely need to have some.”
Celtchar sat down. (Didn’t hear about that in his story, did you?)

To be fair to Cet, this is hilarious.
To be fair to Cet, this is hilarious.

“On with the contest!” cried Cet.
“I’ll give you a contest,” said Cúscraid Mend Machae son of the king Conchobur.
“Who’s this?” asked Cet. (Are you bored of this yet? Because the author isn’t)
“Cúscraid,” said everyone, “Doesn’t he look like a king?”
“A look you tried to mess with, Cet,” said Cúscraid.
“Ah yes, I remember. You came to Connacht for your first test of arms and we met at the border. You ended up leaving a third of your retinue dead on the field and taking a spear to your neck. Ever you’ve not been able speak a clear word because the spear injured your vocal chords. (Mend means stammerer. Hilarious).”
Cúscraid sat down because now Cet had brought shame on the whole of Ulster.

If only there'd been Lionel Logue knocking about medieval Ireland.
If only there’d been Lionel Logue knocking about medieval Ireland.

Just as Cet was about to, finally, carve the pig the doors of the hostel were flung open. Along with the cold wind from outside came Conall Cernach. He strode into the middle of the hall to the great cheers of the Ulstermen. He handed his helmet to Conchobur and shook out an impressive mane of hair.

It's a great way to make an entrance.
It’s a great way to make an entrance.

“Pig smells good. Who’s carving?” he asked.
“The man with the knife there,” chimed in the helpful Ulstermen, “Cet son of Magach.”
“Is that true, Cet? They’ve let you pick up a real, sharp knife again?”
“Welcome to you, Conall,” said Cet. “Heart of stone, angry ardour of the lynx, glitter of ice, red strength of anger in the breast of a champion. Full of wounds, victorious in battle, son of Findchoem, you are my equal.”
“Welcome, Cet,” replied Conall. “Son of Magach, house of a hero, heart of ice, fine feathers of a swan, chariot-fighter, tempestuous sea, fierce beautiful bull, Cet son of Magach.”

The welcomes over, Conall continued, “Our contest will work it all out. A great tale for all to tell, warriors and chariot-drivers alike. Two equal lions locked in fierce combat. Two chariot-fighters matched deed for deed. Before the night is out, men will step over corpses in this hall. Move away from that pig now, Cet.”
“Why should I move now? The whole of Ulster is shamed before me.”
“If you challenge me, I’d meet you in single combat. Since I first picked up a spear there has not been a single day when I haven’t killed a Connacht warrior; not a single night when I haven’t burned a house; when I finally lay my head down to sleep, I sleep with the severed head of Connachtman under my knee.” (It’s good to have lumbar support).
“You’re right, Conall. You are a better warrior than I am,” said Cet. “But if my brother Anlúan was here, you’d have a different contest. He’d be sitting at this pig. It’s a shame he’s not here.”
“Oh but he is, Cet,” answered Conall and with that he pulled the bloody head of Anlúan from his bag and threw it at Cet. The head bounced over the table, landed before Cet with a wet slap and a gobbet of blood flew from its lips onto Cet’s cheek. Cet left the pig for Conall to carve. Although the contest was over Conall had to be protected by the shields of the Ulstermen as some of the Connachtmen had started throwing spears and javelins at him.

“You may have read about it, sir, but throwing a severed head onto the desk is no way to end a board meeting.”

This was the carving that Conall made. He took hold of the belly of the pig in his mouth – a burden for nine grown men that belly was. He then sucked on it until he had taken all the flesh and meat off it. As a token Conall left the two fore trotters for the others. This sent them over the edge. The Connachtmen rose up. So did the Ulstermen. Then everyone hit something. Streams and rivers of blood flowed out of the seven doors of the house. The pile of prone bodies and corpses reached the rafters. The brawl was forced out of the house into the courtyard where they could really let loose on one another. Blows and punches, bites and gouges, all rained down on the people there. Fergus got so carried away he uprooted an oak tree and started laying about himself.
In an attempt to stop the fighting Mac Da Thó came out with Ailbe the dog. Bet you’d forgotten about these two? He unleashed the dog to see which side it would choose. The dog sided with the Ulstermen and attacked the others, forcing the Connachtmen to flee. During the rout the dog launched itself at the chariot of Ailill and Medb. It fell short but bit into the chariot board. Seeing the dog incapacitated Fer Loga, the charioteer, took up a sword and cut its head off. The plain in which this happened was thereafter known as Ailbe’s Plain.

Probably get your head cut off.
Probably get your head cut off.

As the Connachta fled westwards Fer Loga decided to push his luck further. He leapt off the chariot and hid himself in the heather, waiting for the pursuing Ulstermen. As Conchobur’s chariot passed Fer Loga burst out of hiding, jumped into the chariot and took the king of Ulster by the throat. “I have you now, Conchobur!” crowed the charioteer.
“I’ll give you anything you want, if you let me go,” said Conchobur.
“I’m not an unreasonable man, my king. All I want is for you to take me to Emain Macha with you. Every night that I am there I want the beautiful women of Ulster and their most nubile daughters to come to my chamber. All night long the women will do whatever I want. That is, sing the song Fer Loga Is My Darling. I wrote it myself”.
This all fell out as Fer Loga wished and he was serenaded every night for a year. Then he went west with two horses and golden bridles.

That’s a hell of a way to end a story, right? Now that you’ve the whole text in front of you, it’s time to decide where on the literary criticism spectrum you fall. Do you think this is funny? If so, why? Is it because it is ridiculous to modern ears, or would a medieval audience find it foolish? Could it even be a deliberate parody of that famous epic Táin Bó Cúailgne?
As ever you can check out the Irish text and a translation. I’d still point you to the Penguin Classics version too.

The Story of Mac Da Thó’s Pig – part 1

I was very nervous about tackling this tale. It was the first set text I had when learning Old Irish and quite a few people who have learned the language would have had a go at translating it. But I started talking about Celtchar’s dog last week and I feel I should fill you in about the other two dogs found in the cairn. I’m afraid that this is going to be a two-parter but let’s get on with Scéla Mucce Meic Da Thó.

An accurate depiction of my feelings on beginning this.
An accurate depiction of my feelings on beginning this.

There was once a famous king in Leinster (who was actually a hospitaller because, you know, all these stories begin with a hospitaller) and his name was Mac Da Thó. He had a fantastic spotted dog called Ailbe. You’ll remember him from The Death of Celtchar. The dog used to protect all of Mac Da Thó’s land and soon tales of the dog’s awesomeness had filled all of Ireland. So messengers were sent to ask for the dog from Ailill and Medb, the rulers of Connacht. Awkwardly they arrived in Leinster at the same as messengers sent from king Conchobur of Ulster who came to ask for the dog. Why the rulers of Connacht and Ulster thought they could just ask for someone else’s dog is beyond me.

This is you, Ailill, Medb and Conchobur. This is how you sound.
This is you, Ailill, Medb and Conchobur. This is how you sound.
Luckily, as a hospitaller, Mac Da Thó could accommodate all the messengers. His was one of the five great hostels of Ireland. The others were Da Derga’s hostel, Forgall Manach’s, Macc Da Réo’s and Da Choca’s. Guess what? There are stories about some of these hostels too. It’s like Russian dolls, isn’t it? Stories in stories in stories. It’s a wonder I can keep to one coherent narrative.

Mac Da Thó’s hostel had seven doors for its seven entrances. In the middle were seven hearths and on each hearth, a cauldron. In each cauldron there was beef and pork and all sorts of tasty food. When someone passed the cauldron they would stick a fork into it and whatever they pulled out they would eat that night. You didn’t get a second chance. This was an intense buffet.

I said
I said “intense BUFFET”.
Before dinner that night the messengers came before Mac Da Thó. “We’ve come to ask for the hound”, said the messengers from Ailill and Medb.
“Well, I’ll give you 160 cows right now”, replied Mac Da Thó, “and a chariot. And the two best horses in Connacht (although I don’t know how he got his hands on those). And the same again next year.”
“Is that a yes?” asked the messengers.
“What do you want, messengers from Ulster?” ignored Mac Da Thó.
“We, too, have come to ask for the hound. Don’t forget that our king, Conchobur, can be very generous with jewellery and cattle. If you give us the hound, it’ll be the beginning of a great friendship.”
This was, understandably, a great dilemma for Mac Da Thó. The two most powerful courts in Ireland, that of Ailill and Medb in Connacht and that of Conchobur in Ulster, had both just asked him for his dog. He’d have to turn someone down and they were a traditionally irascible lot, mythical Irish kings. He was so out of sorts that he didn’t eat for three days and spent every night tossing and turning. His wife was put out by this and finally asked him what the matter was.

We're cool here, you know?
We’re cool here, you know?
There follows, in the original, a poem by the wife. It is a well know fact that everyone always skips the poems in The Lord of the Rings so I have concluded that modern audiences don’t like poems. For that reason I have rendered it in monologue form. Maybe we’ll return to poems one day.
“You’re not sleeping and do you know why? You need advice but you won’t tell anyone what’s wrong. Is this part of your traditional manliness, then? Turning to the wall, away from your wife? I know what Crimthann Nía Náir says ‘Never tell secrets to women, they can’t keep them. You wouldn’t give jewels to a slave, would you?’ but he’s an idiot. No harm will come of it and I may be able to help you. I’ve got a different perspective. We both know it was a terrible day when those messengers appeared. If Conchobur gets turned down he’ll be down from Ulster with a great army. Same for Ailill with Cet at the head of the force, burning our possessions. So this is my plan: promise the dog to both sides. When they come to get it they can fight it out between themselves.”
“I knew there was a reason I married you,” said Mac Da Thó. “That’s a great plan. I’m off for a midnight snack now, I think.”

You see how I'm setting this advice up for failure?
You see how I’m setting this advice up for failure?
The next day he took the messengers from Connacht to one side. “I know I’ve been dithering for three days but I’ve finally come to a decision. I’ll give the dog to Ailill and Medb. Make sure they turn up with a great host when they come to collect him. We’ll have a right piss up.” Later that day Mac Da Thó took the messengers from Ulster off into a corner. “After a long, hard think I’ve decided to hand Ailbe over to Conchobur. Tell him to get all his champions and warriors together when he comes to collect him and we can have great celebration.”
Fortuitously enough, the Connachtmen and the Ulstermen proposed to come and get the dog on the same day. They both showed up, as well. Mac Da Thó went out to greet the two provinces on his doorstep. “My friends! So great to see you. Although I must confess I was not expecting you today.” This got some funny looks from the assembled hosts. “No matter. Come inside and we’ll have a drink.” The two armies came into the hostel and lined up on either side of the great hall. The mood was a bit tense, since these two provinces were enemies from way back.

He's not wrong.
He’s not wrong.
Now, this tale is called “The Story of Mac Da Thó’s Pig” and I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “Tom, where is the pig? All you’ve been cracking on about is the dog.” Well, dear reader, wonder no more. Mac Da Thó had a pig. It was huge. It had been fed by sixty cows for seven years. To feed the hosts it was slaughtered and when it was carried into the hall it had forty oxen laid across it as a garnish. “I know it’s not much,” wheedled Mac Da Thó, “but I hope this pig will do for starters. If you need anything else we’ll slaughter the animal, be it pig or cow, directly.”
“Not at all. This pig looks good,” said Conchobur.
“You’re not wrong there,” said Ailill, “but how are we going to divide it?”
“I’ll tell you how,” piped up Bricriu from the back. Bricriu was a renowned dick from Ulster. “The same way Irishmen always sort things out: by fighting. You’ve all had a crack at each other before, as I well know.”
“We’ll do that, then,” said Ailill.
“Fine by me,” replied Conchobur. “My lads have been round the border a few times.”

You're singing it in your head now, aren't you?
You’re singing it in your head now, aren’t you?

“Those lads will be put to the test tonight,” said Senláech from Crúachu Con Alad. “I’ve left them on their arses in the mud of Lúachair Dedad often enough. In return they’ve left me with their fat oxen.”
“The ox you left with us was fatter,” said Muinremur son of Gerrgend. “It was your own brother Crúaichiu, if I recall.”
“Crúaichiu was no better than Inloth Már son of Fergus mac Léti, who was killed by Echbél,” added Lugaid son of Cú Roí.
“That’s fair enough,” said Celtchar mac Uthechair. “But what do you say, Lugaid, to the fact that I killed your uncle and buried his head in a cairn?” (See how it all starts to add up? If you haven’t read it, you should read The Tragic Death of Celtchar mac Uthechair.)

Eventually one man won out over all the champions. Cet son of Mágach of the Connachtmen. He hung his weapons up above the host and sat down to the pig with his knife in his hand. “Is there anyone in Ireland to match me or shall I start carving this pig now?” he cried out. This was greeted by an awkward silence from the Ulstermen. A lot of shoe-gazing and shuffling. One man coughed. “Look at that, Lóegaire,” said Conchobur.
“You’re right, my king,” flustered Lóegiare Buadach, coming to his feet to challenge the Connachtman. “It’s not proper that such a man should carve the pig in front of all of us Ulstermen.”
“One moment, Lóegaire,” said Cet, putting down the carving knife. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but you Ulstermen have a tradition, don’t you? When you take up arms you head straight to Connacht, isn’t that right? When you came across the border I met you. I seem to remember that you had to leave your chariot, horses and charioteer with me, while I left my spear sticking in you. Are you going to take this pig off me the same way?”
Lóegaire sat down.

Everyone gets a slam in medieval Irish literature.
Everyone gets a slam in medieval Irish literature.
Is there a man in Ulster fit to challenge Cet? What will happen once the feast is over? Who’s getting the dog? Why is Mac Da Thó such a pushover? Answers to all these questions next time on Scéla Mucce Meic Da Thó.

Now that we have two Ulster Cycle tales on the site you can begin to see the ways in which the stories are weaved together to create a coherent picture of the past. I really enjoy this aspect of medieval Irish literature, even if it presents unresolvable chronological difficulties. The competition for the best cut of meat allows for classic flyting dialogue. Instead of actually fighting, as Bricriu encouraged (that sneaky rascal), the conflicts are verbal. Finally, I hate to keep pointing it out but the idea that women’s advice will lead to bad things is again evident in this tale.

As ever the Irish is here and a slightly older translation. This is one of the tales to feature in the Penguin Early Irish Myths and Sagas too, so you should probably get your hands on that.