Táin Bó Cuailnge

It’s amazing to me how few people have ever heard of this story, in my opinion it should be as well known as the Iliad. The summary below, from articlesbase.com, is the most concise version of I could find.

Tain Bo Cuailnge meaning the Cattle Raid of Cooley is a legendary epic from early Irish literature. The Táin Bó Cuailnge represents the oldest vernacular tale of Western Europe, predating both Beowulf and Homer’s Odyssey. It describes the invasion of Ulster by the armies of Queen Medb of Connaught and her husband Ailill intending to steal the Brown Bull of Cuailnge. They are faced only by the boy warrior Cuchulainn, the rest of the men of Ulster being incapacitated by an ancient curse placed by the ancient Celtic goddess of war, Macha. Cuchulainn is young enough to be free of the curse, he manages to hold off the invading armies until the Ulstermen are free of the curse. 
Read the rest of the summary here

More about the Tain here
More about Cúchulainn here

Here is a look at the version of the story I have read. It can be purchased at Amazon.com


1 Response to “Táin Bó Cuailnge”

  1. 1 Ortwin March 25, 2009 at 9:11 am

    The Táin Bó Cúailnge is an important work and an interesting read, especially if you are planning to go to Ireland where you’ll find references to its hero, Cú Chulainn, everywhere. Thanks for mentioning it on your blog.

    That said, there is no evidence that the Táin is older than Homer and Beowulf. The oldest of the manuscripts that preserve a version of the Táin, the Lebor na hUidre, is from the early 12th century CE, and even linguistically, nothing really points to an origin earlier than the 9th century CE. So Homer is more than 1500 years older, and Beowulf (preserved in an 11th cent. manuscript) is probably at least contemporary, if not older (it has been dated 8th-11th cent. CE). Of the information on the TBC floating around on the internet, the introduction by Patricia Kelly seems to be one of the best:

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