Caladgleó Cethirn

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Caladgleó Cethirn

Caladgleó Cethirn‘The hard fight of Cethern’

  • prose
  • Táin bó Cúailnge
Episode in the Táin bó Cúailnge (Recensions I and II), in which the warrior Cethern mac Fintain single-handedly fights the men of Ireland in their encampment (while Cú Chulainn is recovering), returns to receive treatment for his wounds, and launches a final attack on the encampment. It is the first of a final series of episodes in the Táin (the so-called dinda na Tána as Recension I describes them).
Title
Caladgleó Cethirn
‘The hard fight of Cethern’
The title Caladgleó Cethirn is given in both recensions: in the list of Dinda na Tána of recension I and in the conclusion to this episode in recension II. Recension II also offers the title Fuile Cethirn and a variant thereof, which it apparently reserves for the section in which Cethern’s wounds are read, as it were, to describe his assailants.
Context(s)
The (textual) context(s) to which the present text belongs or in which it is cited in part or in whole.
Form
prose (primary)
Textual relationships
The title of this episode is included in version B of the Middle Irish tale lists, where it occurs among the so-called gnáthscéla.

Classification

Táin bó Cúailnge
Contents
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Cethern rushes out

Summary:
Recension I:

Mac Roth describes a man in a chariot (Cethern) coming towards them from the north: he is grey-haired, carries no weapon other than a single silver spike (óen-delc n-argaid), which he uses to goad his charioteer and horses, and is preceded by a hunting dog. He makes haste because the Ulster host is about to be slaughtered. Ailill wonders if the man is Conchobor or Celtchair, but Fergus presumes that it is Cethern mac Fintain.

Recension II:

Mac Roth, chief herald (prím-echlach), keeps watch on Slíab Fúait, as the men of Ireland had asked him so that they could be warned of enemy visits from Ulster. Before long, he sees a man in a chariot (Cethern) coming towards him from the north, crossing Slíab Fúait. The man is naked, carries no weapon other than an iron spit (bir iairn), which he uses to goad his charioteer and horses. He makes haste because the Ulster host is about to be slaughtered. Mac Roth reports the news to Ailill, Medb, Fergus and the men of Ireland. Ailill wants to know the identity of the man. Mac Roth cannot give him an answer, but Fergus presumes that it is Cethern mac Fintain.


» People: Cethern mac Fintain • Mac Roth • Fergus mac Róich • Ailill mac Máta • Medb Crúachna » Places: Slíab Fúait » Keywords: watchman device • herald » Irish keyword(s): prím-echlach

Cethern, wounded from the attack, punches his physicians to death

Summary:
Recension I:

Cethern reaches the army camp and kills many there but barely makes it out alive. He is severely wounded, with his entrails hanging out by the time he finds Cú Chulainn.

A rush-bed and pillow are arranged for him. Cú Chulainn sends Láeg to Fiacha mac Fir Fhebe in order to fetch physicians from the camp. The physicians fear the violent Cethern, but Cú Chulainn threatens to kill them if they did not come to treat Cethern.

The physicians arrive to examine him. The first to do so concludes that Cethern will not live. In response, Cethern kills him with a blow to the head, dashing out his brains. In this way, 50 or 15 physicians are killed, while the last man is fortunate to receive a shallow, stunning blow and to be rescued by Cú Chulainn.

Recension II:

Cethern reaches the army camp, inflicts damages and injures all around him, but in the event, sustains many wounds from all sides. When he has left the camp and approaches Cú Chulainn (who is being treated himself), his entrails are hanging out.

Cú Chulainn sends Láeg to the enemy camp to fetch physicians (telling him that he would kill them if they did not come). The physicians fear the violent Cethern, but they also fear that Cú Chulainn would kill them if they did not come to treat Cethern.

The physicians arrive to examine him. The first man to do so concludes that Cethern will not live. In response, Cethern kills him with a blow to the forehead, dashing out his brains. In this way, up to 15 physicians are killed; the 15th man, namely Ithall, the physician of Ailill and Medb, is left for dead among the corpses after receiving a shallow, stunning blow.


» People: Cethern mac Fintain • Cú Chulainn • Láeg • Fiacha mac Fir Fhebe • Ithall

Fíngin examines Cethern’s wounds

Summary:
Recension I:

Messengers are dispatched to ask Fíngin, Conchobar’s seer-physician (fáith-liaig), to come and treat both Cú Chulainn and Cethern. When Cú Chulainn reproaches Cethern for killing the physicians, Cethern tells him that they should not have given him a bad prognosis by telling him he is beyond cure.

Fíngin arrives in his chariot and examines Cethern at a safe distance, as Cú Chulainn has advised him to do (because of the 15 physicians previously killed). The usual pattern here is that (1) Fíngin singles out a series of wounds and is able to say something about the person or persons (often in twos or threes) who inflicted them; (2) Cethern describes the appearance of his assailants, and finally, (3) Cú Chulainn identifies them by name and affiliation. The sequence of attackers described in this way is as follows:

  1. Medb from Crúachu
  2. Illann, son of Fergus mac Róig
  3. Oll and Oichne, foster-sons of Ailill and Medb
  4. Bun and Mecon of the king’s household
  5. Bróen and Láiréne, sons of three lights, sons of the King of Caill
  6. Three warriors of Banba, followers of Cú Roí mac Dáire
  7. Three of the warriors of Irúath
  8. Scenb, Rand and Fodail, three stewards of Medb and Ailill
  9. The three called Fráech Baíscne, the three table-servants of Medb
  10. The brothers Cormac Colomon ind Ríg and Cormac Maíle Ogath
  11. The brothers Maine Aithremail and Maine Máithremail
  12. Ailill and his son Maine Condasgeb Uile
Recension II:

Cú Chulainn sends Láeg to ask Fíngin, Conchobar’s seer-physician (fáith-liaig) at Ferta Fíngin in Lecca Slebe Fúait, to come and treat Cethern.

Fíngin arrives to examine him. Cethern shows him various sorts of wounds. The usual pattern here is that (1) Fíngin singles out a series of wounds and is able to say something about the person or persons (often in twos or threes) who inflicted them; (2) Cethern describes the appearance of his assailants, and finally, (3) Cú Chulainn identifies them by name and affiliation. The sequence of attackers described in this way is as follows:

  1. Illand Ilarchless, son of Fergus
  2. Medb, daughter of Eochu Feidlech
  3. Oll and Othine, members of the household of Ailill and Medb
  4. Bun and Mecconn of the household of Ailill and Medb
  5. Bróen and Brudne, sons of three lights, sons of the king of Caill
  6. Cormac Coloma Ríg and Cormac mac Maele Foga, members of the household of Ailill and Medb
  7. Maine Máithremail and Maine Aithremail, sons of Ailill and Medb
  8. two of the warriors of Irúath
  9. Ailill and his son Maine Condasgeib Uile

The section above is here entitled Fuli Tána connici sein ‘The wounds (of Cethern) on the Táin’ (cf. Fule Cethirn later on).


» People: Medb Crúachna • Illann mac Fergusa • Oll • Oichne • Bun • Mecon • Bróen • Láiréne • Cú Roí mac Dáire » Places: Ferta Fíngin • Lecca Slébe Fúait

Cethern’s choice

Summary:
Recension I:

Fingín comes to a prognosis. He tells Cethern not to exchange his grown cows for yearlings: the individual series of wounds are not fatal if treated by him, but their sum is. Fíngin then tries to leave in his chariot, but Cethern knocks him off his chariot for delivering this prognosis. Cú Chulainn reproaches Cethern for this, hence the placename Úachtar Lúa in Crích Rois.

Fíngin offers Cethern a choice: to recuperate for a year and live, or to be given three final days in which he has strength to fight the enemy. Cethern chooses the latter (the temporary cure) and prepares himself for his final assault:

  • Cú Chulainn gathers cattle-bones in order to make a marrow-mash (smir-chomairt) with which to restore Cethern to strength, hence the placename Smirommair in Crích Rois. Cethern lets his body absorb the marrow and sleeps through an entire day.
  • Cethern finds a way to compensate for the loss of ribs: he has Cú Chulainn attach the ‘ribs’ (asnai) of the chariot-frame (creit in charpait) to his body.
  • Cethern also desires to have his own weapons (see the opening scene). Cethern’s wife Find Bee, daughter of Eochu, arrives in her chariot to bring him his weapons.
Recension II:

Fingín comes to a prognosis. He tells Cethern not to exchange his grown cows for yearlings, because he will not be able to profit from doing so. Cethern threatens to kill him for delivering this prognosis. Fíngin tries to leave in his chariot, but Cethern knocks him off his chariot. Cú Chulainn reproaches Cethern for this, hence the placename Úachtar Lúa in Crích Rois.

Fíngin offers Cethern a choice: to lay sick for a year and then live in need of help, or to be given three final days in which he has strength to fight the enemy. Cethern chooses the latter (the temporary cure), saying that no one could better avenge him than he himself. He prepares himself for his final assault:

  • On Fingín’s request, Cú Chulainn goes to the enemy camp and gathers the bones, flesh and hides of cattle in order to make a marrow-mash (smir-ammair) with which to restore Cethern to strength. For the length of three days, Cethern bathes in it, letting his body absorb the marrow through his wounds.
  • Cethern has the board of his chariot (clár a charpait) attached to his belly so that his entrails do not fall out.
  • His wife Finda daughter of Eochu comes from Dún Da Benn in the north to bring him his sword.


» People: Fingín • Cethern mac Fintain • Cú Chulainn • Find Bé ingen Echach » Places: Smirommair (Crích Rois) • Úachtar Lúa (Crích Rois) • Dún Da Benn

Cethern’s final fight

Summary:
Recension I:

Armed and with the chariot-frame strapped to his belly, Cethern goes to attack the enemy. The physician who was left for dead (see earlier) warns those in the camp of Cethern’s coming. Ailill’s crown is placed on the pillar-stone so that when Cethern arrives, he immediately drives his sword and fist through the stone, hence the place-name Lía Toll in Crích Rois.

Knowing he has been deceived, Cethern demands to see Ailill’s diadem on someone’s head, or he will continue to attack them. After a full day of attack, Maine comes forth, in a chariot, with the diadem on his head. Cethern throws his shield so that it slices through Maine, his charioteer and horse. Cethern then fights his final fight closed in by his attackers and dies.

Recension II:

Cethern goes to the encampment to attack the enemy. Before he does, he tells Íthall, the physician of Ailill and Medb (previously lying unconscious among the corpses, see earlier), to warn those in the camp of his coming. Ailill’s crown and garments are placed on the pillar-stone so that when Cethern arrives, he immediately drives his sword through the stone.

Knowing he has been deceived, Cethern demands to see someone wearing Ailill’s dress and crown, or he will continue to attack them. Maine Andóe, son of Ailill and Medb, comes forth wearing Ailill’s crown and dress. Cethern throws his shield at him so that it cuts Maine in three pieces, together with his chariot, his charioteer and horses. Cethern then fights his final fight hemmed in by his attackers on both sides and dies.

These are (the tales of) Caladgleó Cethirn and Fuile Cethirn.


» Comments: The death of one of the seven Maines at the hands of Cethern is also referred to in the poem beg. Eol dam aided, erctha gním. » Places: Lía Toll (Crích Rois)
  • Sources

Primary sources
Text editions and/or modern translations – in whole or in part – along with publications containing additions and corrections, if known. Diplomatic editions, facsimiles and digital image reproductions of the manuscripts are not always listed here but may be found in the entry for the relevant manuscript.

See Táin bó Cúailnge for the complete list
[ed.] [tr.] O'Rahilly, Cecile [ed. and tr.], Táin bó Cúailnge: Recension I, Dublin: DIAS, 1976.
CELT – edition: <link> CELT – translation: <link>
Lines 3161–3327 Recension I.
[ed.] [tr.] O'Rahilly, Cecile [ed. and tr.], Táin bó Cúalnge: from the Book of Leinster, Irish Texts Society 49, Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1967.
CELT – edition: <link> CELT – translation: <link>
Lines 3609–3811 Recension II in LL.

Secondary sources

Dooley, Ann, Playing the hero: reading the Irish saga Táin bó Cúailnge, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006.
34–36
Ó Cathasaigh, Tomás, “The body in Táin bó Cúailnge”, in: Sheehan, Sarah, Joanne Findon, and Westley Follett (eds.), Gablánach in scélaigecht: Celtic studies in honour of Ann Dooley, Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2013. 131–153.
Sayers, William, “Fergus and the cosmogonic sword”, History of Religions 25 (1985): 30–56.
31–32

Queried results

if available
Ó Cathasaigh, Tomás, “The body in Táin bó Cúailnge”, in: Sheehan, Sarah, Joanne Findon, and Westley Follett (eds.), Gablánach in scélaigecht: Celtic studies in honour of Ann Dooley, Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2013. 131–153.
Dooley, Ann, Playing the hero: reading the Irish saga Táin bó Cúailnge, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006.
Sayers, William, “Fergus and the cosmogonic sword”, History of Religions 25 (1985): 30–56.
O'Rahilly, Cecile [ed. and tr.], Táin bó Cúailnge: Recension I, Dublin: DIAS, 1976.
CELT – edition: <link> CELT – translation: <link>
O'Rahilly, Cecile [ed. and tr.], Táin bó Cúalnge: from the Book of Leinster, Irish Texts Society 49, Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1967.
CELT – edition: <link> CELT – translation: <link>

web page identifiers

page name: Caladgleó Cethirn
page url: //www.vanhamel.nl/codecs/Caladgle%C3%B3_Cethirn
page ID: 12266
page ID tracker: //www.vanhamel.nl/codecs/Show:ID?id=12266

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