The Court of Emer

This is the story of The Courtship of Emer, of the red branch of the mythology Irish.

Courtesy of Emer

Courtesy of Emer

Cûchulainn, very young, had at the court of Conchobar, in the royal castle of Emain-Macha, such a great success, that the other warriors, fearing for the virtue of their wives and their daughters, recognized the need to marry him. . The king therefore sent nine men to each province of Ireland to seek a wife of the brilliant hero. At the end of a year, these messengers returned, and all declared that they had not found in Cûchulainn a companion worthy of him. So the latter had his two horses harnessed to his chariot and set off with his coachman Loeg, son of Riangabair. He went to the castle of Luglochta-Loga, which belonged to the wily Forgall; he wanted to pay court to Emer, daughter of Forgall; he found her in a large gathering of young girls. Emer and the others were busy doing needlework. He had a long conversation with Emer interspersed with learned words which Emer, a highly educated girl, understood very well; but the meaning of their conversation escaped the others. Forgall was absent. When he got back to the story he was told, he immediately guessed what it was.

The girls told the lords how the warrior had come in such a beautiful chariot; the lords repeated to Forgall the Cunning, their leader, all that Emer had said to the warrior. “Truly,” said Forgall, “it is Emain-Macha's grimace; he came to talk to Emer, my daughter, and Emer fell in love with him; that's why she chatted with him, but it won't do the gallant any good, I'll prevent him from having another interview with my daughter. Then, Forgall le Ruse went to Emain-Macha, he was dressed in the Gallic style, he said he was ambassador of the king of the Gallic , that he came to speak to Conchobar, king of Ulster, and ask him if he would accept gold and wine from the Gauls. Conchobar received him well; Forgall had brought two companions; when, on the third day, he had dismissed them, Cuchulainn and the other warriors of Ulster who fought in chariots were boasted before him; he answered that the praise was legitimate, that these warriors were admirable, that, however, if Cuchulainn went to find Domnall the warlike in Albion, he would be still more worthy of admiration. Forgall proposed this in the hope that once in Albion Cuchulainn would not return. Forgall did not leave Emain-Macha until he had succeeded in imposing his will and the journey from Albion to Cú Chulainn.

Cûchulainn therefore left, Loégairé the victor and Conchobar, king of Ulster, accompanied him: Cûchulainn, crossing Brega, went to visit Emer; she had a talk with him as he entered the ship; each of the two promised the other to be faithful to him until the day they met again. The three warriors who arrived in Albion, at Domnall the Bellicose, learned from him a first skill trick: this trick consisted of lying down on a flat stone, where a small hole was drilled, and blowing into this hole so as to inflate four wineskins; the three warriors only succeeded after so much effort that the soles of their feet turned black or blue. Another turn was on a spear, on top of which each of the three warriors mounted, he stood on the point of the spear and placed the sole of his foot on this point.

Domnall's daughter fell in love with Cûchulainn, her name was Sublime Fist with Sublime Grip, she had big knees, heels in front, tiptoes behind; she was ugly in appearance, Cûchulainn said no, she promised herself to get a fine revenge for it. [Here is what this revenge was:]

Domnall said that Cuchulainn would not be recognized as having sufficient education until he went to find Scathach, who lived in Albion on the east. The three warriors therefore set out, Cûchulainn, Conchobar, king of Ulster, and Légairé the conqueror crossed Albion; but then the image of Emain-Macha, capital of Ulster, appeared before their eyes, Conchobar and Loégairé did not have the courage to go further; Cuchulainn consented to part with them, he could not repel this trial, his efforts to avoid it were useless, for Domnall's daughter had the power of the fairies and it was she who was the cause of evil, [c it was she who had made Emain Mâcha appear before their eyes,] it was she who separated his companions from him.

It was therefore while passing through Albion that he had the grief of their departure; when he saw them go, he stopped; then a terrible lion-like beast came to attack him; she did not harm him, but young people [watching] had a bad time and laughed at him; on the fourth day the beast left him; then he met a house in the valley, he found a young girl there, she spoke to him and welcomed him; he asked her where she had known him: "We have been," she replied, "pupils together at little Wolf the Saxon, when both of us at his house were learning to speak the harmonious language." "

He then met a warrior, and the latter also welcomed him, it was this one who taught him the way to cross the Plain of Woe which was in front of him: in one half of this plain, the men were freezing; in the other half, the grass was so thick that it carried people. Cûchulainn received a wheel from the warrior: he had to cross the plain like this wheel in order not to freeze; the warrior also gave him an apple: Cûchulainn had to go on the ground as this apple would go.

Cûchulainn thus escaped the dangers of the plain which he found before him after having left the warrior; the latter had warned him that he would meet a valley, that in that valley he would find a narrow path and that this was the road that led to Scathach's house; this house was on a rock of a frightening height.

Cûchulainn followed the indicated route, he arrived at Scathach castle, he knocked on the door with the shaft of his spear and entered. Uathach, that is to say "terrible", daughter of Scathach, presented herself to him, she looked at him, she did not speak to him, so much the beauty of the warrior had inspired her with love! She returned to her mother and praised the newcomer's charms to her. "Did you like this man?" His mother told him. “He comes to my bed,” replied the young girl, “and I sleep by his side that night. "I don't dislike your project," said the mother.

Uathach gave Cûchulainn water to wash himself, brought him food, gave him the best welcome, she had disguised herself as a servant to serve him. Cuchulainn hit her and broke her finger. Uathach gave a cry. All the inhabitants of the castle rushed to his aid. Cochor Crufé, Scathach's strong soldier, rose up against Cûchulainn; Cûchulainn and he fought, Cochor Crufé succumbed.

Scathach was saddened by his death. Cuchulainn told her that he would do the service of the strong soldier she had lost.

Uathach gave a piece of advice to Cuchulainn on the third day: "Since it is to learn the art of warriors that you have come, you must go and find Scathach in the place where she is, where she gives instruction. to Cuar and Cet, his two sons. By making the warlike jump of the salmon, you will arrive at the large yew bush, under which it is located. At this moment she is sleeping; you will put the sword between her two breasts, and you will demand that she promise you the three things that you ask her. Here are these three things: she will teach you the art of warriors completely, without hiding anything from you; she will give me in marriage to you, Cuchulainn, so that you will give me the wedding present you owe me; finally, she will predict what will happen to you, because she knows the future. "

Everything turned out as Uathach had said.

While in Albion Cuchulainn lived with Scathach, where he was the husband of Uathach, his daughter, [this is what happened in Ireland]: A wondrous warrior of Munster, King Lugaid Noes, son of Alamacc, from the western region of. the island, came to Tara, capital of Ireland, with twelve nobles of Munster, to propose in marriage to the twelve daughters of the king of Tara, Cairpré Niafer [supreme monarch of Ireland]. All twelve girls had been engaged before these suitors showed up. Forgall the Cunning heard of Lugaid Noes' move; he went to Tara, promised to give his daughter Emer to King Lugaid Noes, and twelve daughters of his wealthy vassals to the twelve nobles of Munster.

King Lugaid Noes arrived at Forgall for the wedding celebration. They brought Emer to her, and made her sit down beside him on the bench where he was. But she hid her face in her hands; and, taking her honor as a witness, confessed to her that it was Cuchulainn whom she loved. King Lugaid Noes did not dare to marry her and left.

During that time [in Albion], Scathach had war with other peoples over whom a woman called Aïffé ruled. Scathach, wishing to hold Cûchulainn prisoner at home, gave him a drink which put him to sleep; she did not want him to go to war, she feared that something bad might happen to him, it was a benevolent precaution. But Cûchulainn woke up very quickly. The soporific drink she had given him would have made any other sleep for twenty-four hours; for him sleep lasted only an hour.

With the two sons of Scathach, he went to meet Cuar, Cet and Cruffe, the three warriors of Aïffé; alone he fought [and conquered] the three.

The next day, still accompanied by the two sons of Scathach, he attacked the three sons of a woman called Eïss Enchend; They were Ciri, Biri, and Bailcné, all three warriors of Aïffé, like the previous ones. Scathach heaved continual sighs, she did not know what would happen when Cûchulainn went on the road to meet Aïffé; indeed, the two sons of Scathach then had to remain alone to fight the three warriors of Aïffé. Scathach also feared for Cûchulainn, for Aïffé was the most formidable warrior in the world.

Cûchulainn [killed the three warriors, son of Eis Enchend]. Then, going to meet their queen, he asked Scathach what had been the main object of Aïffé's love until then. “What AifFé likes best,” Scathach replied, “is his coachman, and these are the two horses harnessed to his chariot. "

Then the battle began on the road between Cûchulainn and Aïffé. Aïffé broke Cûchulainn's sword, which only had a section of a weapon as long as its fist. “Woe to me! Cried Cuchulainn. »Thereupon Aïffé looks. Cûchulainn rushes below her, takes her by the waist, throws her over his shoulder like a bundle, joins the troop of people from Scathach, and violently throws Aïffé to the ground.

“Grace! She cries. "You will grant me three things," Cûchulainn replied. "Very well! »Said Aïffé. “These are the three things I want,” Cuchulainn continued: “hostages in Scathach, against whom you will no longer make war; marriage with me that very night in front of your castle; a son that you will give birth to me. "

She consented, and everything was done as Cûchulainn had requested.

She told Cuchulainn that he had made her pregnant. He replied that she would give birth to a son, and that this son would go to Ireland in seven years on that day; he added what name she would give to this son, then returned; he took the road that was to bring him back to Scathach. A one-eyed, left-eyed old woman stood before him on his way. “Watch out,” she told him, “don't stay in front of me. There was no room to turn away, the path was a path, on a rock along the sea; he descended below the path, his toes alone supported him; when the old woman passed him, she hit him on the big toe to knock him off the rock; he, making the warlike leap of the salmon, climbed back to the top of the rock and cut off the old woman's head; it was the mother of the last three warriors he had killed, it was Eïss Enchend.

Cuchulainn and the other warriors returned with Scathach to his kingdom; the hero stayed there and healed, in rest, the wounds he had received while fighting. Scathach told him what would happen to him when he returned to Ireland:

"Great perils await you," she said, and so on.

He therefore left for Ireland, and took part in the famous expedition of Táin bó Cúalnge, then, as he had promised, he went to the castle of Forgall the Cunning; with one jump he passed over the three ramparts, and in the fortress he struck three blows; with each blow he killed eight men, sparing the ninth; the three men who were saved were Scibor; Ibor and Catt, brothers of Emer; he took Emer and his foster sister, each with their load of gold, and, holding them both, leaped over the three ramparts out of the castle. Having thus fulfilled all the promises he had made to Emer, he left with her and arrived at Emain-Macha, capital of Ulster.

The end of the text comes from the article: The King's Right in the Irish Epic, in Archaeological review.

He leads Emer to the palace; he presents it to Conchobar and the rest of the great lords of Ulster. They welcome the bride. There was a man in the house whose tongue was Ulster's Scourge. This man was the son of Arbad, Bricriu with the poisonous tongue. He spoke: “Cûchulainn,” he said, “will hardly bear what will be done here tonight; the woman he has brought will sleep that night with Conchobar, since it is with Conchobar that the very first woman sleeps before sleeping with the inhabitants of Ulster. Hearing these words, Cuchulainn went into a rage. He shook the cushion beneath him so forcefully that he made the feather fly around the house. Then he left. Druid Cathbad spoke: “The situation,” he said, “is full of difficulties; it is not possible for the king to do what Bricriu said, Cûchulainn will kill the one who sleeps with his wife. "Call him Cuchulainn," said Conchobar, "we'll see if there is any way to calm his anger." Cûchulainn returns. “You are going to set out for me,” said Conchobar, “you will bring me the herd that I have to the mountain of Fuait. Cûchulainn leaves, and all that he finds wild boars, deer, any wild animals on the mountain of Fuait, he chases it in front of him and pushes them together like a herd in the lawn of Emain Macha. Thereupon his anger [happens].

The people of Ulster discuss the point in dispute, and here is their solution: Emer will sleep with Conchobar tonight; Fergus and Cathbad will get into the same bed to watch over Cûchulainn's honor. Conchobar and Emer will receive Ulster's thanks if they accept. Conchobar and Emer agreed and did as they had decided. The next morning Conchobar gave Emer the present which every newlywed now owes the bride, and he paid Cuchulainn the price for his outraged honor.