The Death of Cuchulainn

This is the story of the Death of Cuchulainn, of the red branch of the mythology Irish.

the Death of Cuchulainn

The Death of Cuchulainn

 Never until this day, says Cuchulainn, have I been able to hear women and children complain without going to their aid. The fifty queens came to bar his way and they discovered their breasts in front of him. He is the first of whom it has been said that in front of him women have uncovered their breasts; their goal was to prevent him from undertaking new exploits and to retain him at Emain Macha: three vats of water were brought so that by bathing in them he would extinguish his ardor, and he was prevented from going to fight That day.

 »I see, O son of Calatin, said Lugaid, son of Cûroï, that today Cûchulainn does not move away from YOU, and what prevents him from leaving is the art with which you started war; he has a long way to go to get to Dûn Chermnai, Bel Conglais, Temair Luachra and Tombar Tri n-Ucht, which is in front of Menbolg [in Munster]; however your ruse will not be successful, it will still be a long time before Cuchulainn comes to meet us, he will go far from us tomorrow morning. " 

The enemies of Cûchulainn remained there until the next morning, the children of Calatin placed their troops all around Emain Macha; the smoke from the fires started by them formed an enormous cloud which covered the whole of Emain Macha; the army of the children of Calatin made so much noise that the palace of Emain Macha was shaken and that the weapons fell there from their rack; from outside, bad news reached Cuchulainn. Leborcham sang:

Arise, O Cûchulainn! Arise to rescue the inhabitants of the plain of Murthemné
Against the warriors of Leinster, O son of Lug!
O brilliantly brought up hero, turn against the enemy your marvelous games of war.


Cûchulainn answered by singing:

Leave me alone, O woman!
I am not the only warrior nourished by the Kingdom of Conchobar.
Whatever my obligations and the concerns they cause me,
I am not alone, o woman!
You're giving me bad advice.
After so much fatigue, after such great fatigue,
I'm not a man to go heartily looking for mortal wounds today.

Niab, daughter of Celtchar and wife of Conall the Triumphant, answered him by singing:

You must go to the fight, O Cûchulainn!

Thereupon, Cûchulainn jumped on his equipment, he put on his war costume, but, when he began to put it on, the brooch which was to tie his coat fell from his hand [on his foot and injured him]; he sang:

It's not my coat's fault; it's not the friction that hurts me
It's my brooch's fault
That pierces my skin
By falling on my foot.


He finished equipping himself, seized his shield with its sharp edge and adorned with fringes, then addressing Lôeg, son of Riangabar: "My dear Lôeg," he said, "harness the chariot to us.

- I swear it by the god by whom my nation swears, Loeg replied, even if all the inhabitants of the kingdom of Conchobar would surround your horse, the Gray of Masha, they would not manage to bring it to the chariot. His forecasts have never deceived you, I have always seen them come true; please come and speak to him yourself. " 

Cuchulainn approached Masha's Gray, and, three times with a sinister movement, the horse turned to the left. Already, the previous night, the goddess Morrigu had broken Cûchulainn's chariot: she wanted to prevent the hero from going into battle, because she knew that he would not return to Emain Macha. Meanwhile Cuchulainn spoke to his horse; he sang verses:

Your habit, O Gris de Macha, was not to answer me with this sinister movement, etc ...

Then the Gray, obedient, approached him, but he let fall on his two front feet two large tears of blood. Cûchulainn [, not stopping at this prophetic sign,] jumps in his chariot and gallops his horses in a southerly direction, on the road to Mid-Luachair [County Kerry, Munster]; then, he saw before him a woman, it was Leborcham, daughter of Aue and Ardac, two slaves of King Conchobar, whose palace they lived; she sang verses:

Don't leave us, don't leave us, oh Cûchulainn
Your scarred face is our shelter,
He is our charming happiness.
Your death would make us inconsolable.
Woe to women
Woe to the sons!
Woe to the eyes
How long would be the complaint that your loss would cause


The three times fifty women who were in Emain Macha repeated the same poem aloud. "It would be better not to go away," said Loeg, "up to this day you have kept intact the strength you got from your maternal race. " - " No Alas ! »Replied Cûchulainn,« go, Lôeg; it is the coachman to lead the horses, the warrior to protect the weak, the intelligent man to give advice, the women to cry (?). Lead me into battle, moans are useless, they won't protect you from the enemy. " 

[To deflect bad omens], Lôeg makes the chariot make a turn to the right, which is moving away; then the women utter a cry of pain, a cry of complaint, and [as a sign of farewell] they clap their hands. They knew that Cûchulainn their protector would not return alive to Emain Macha, and that this very day he would find death; they sang:

The troop of women is sad,
She sheds copious tears.


When they had finished singing, they uttered a cry of mourning, a cry of pain: they knew that the hero Cûchulainn would not return.

In front of him, on the road, was the house of the nurse who had brought him up; he always went to pay a visit there when, in his errands, he headed for the south of Ireland or when he came back; her nurse offered her a pot of beer each time. As usual, he drank this pot of beer, then left after saying goodbye to his nanny.

He was following the road to Mid-Luachair, he had passed the field of Mogna, when he saw something: three old women from the one-eyed tribe were in front of him on the road; they were cooking a dog seasoned with poison on rowan skewers.

A magical defense forbade Cûchulainn to pass near a hearth without paying a visit and without accepting food; by another magical defense, the flesh of his namesake was for him prohibited food; [its namesake was the dog, since its name means Culann's dog.] It does not stop and it passes the three old women; one of them speaks to him: “Come and visit us, O Cûchulainn.

"I'm not going to see you," he replied.

'There is something to eat here,' replied the old woman, 'we have a dog to offer you; if our home were big, she added, you would come, but because it is small, you do not come; a great one who despises the small does not deserve his dignity. " 

Cuchulainn went to visit the old woman, and [with a sinister gesture] the latter, with her left hand, offered her half the dog. Cuchulainn ate, it was with his left hand that he took the piece and he put part of it under his left thigh. [He had violated the magic defense]; his left hand and left thigh were cursed; the curse spread all over his left side, which from head to toe lost much of its strength.

Then Cûchulainn and Lôeg left. Continuing to follow the Mid-Luachair road, they rounded Fuat Mountain [in County Armagh, Ulster]. When they got to the south of this mountain, Cûchulainn asked: "What do we see, my dear Lôeg?

"Pitiful, though numerous enemies," replied Loeg; therefore, great victory.

"Woe to me," Cuchulainn continued, and he sang:

I hear a great noise; we meet dark red horses.
The heavy planks attached to the left arm touch each other.
First the coachman will fall,
Soon the horses will fall in front of the seats where the warriors are seated.

Alas! a long time I stood up before the armed troops of the Irish !

Cûchulainn and Lôeg continued to follow, in a southerly direction, the road of Mid-Luachair, and they came in sight of the fortress which is in the plain of Murthemné [in the county of Louth, in Leinster]; it was there that they encountered the enemy. Erc, whose father Coirpré had been killed by Cûchulainn, began to sing:

I see a beautiful, well-decorated chariot arriving.
It is surmounted by a large green flag.
On this beautiful chariot, the warrior plays war games.


 "This warrior is coming to attack us, O warriors of Ireland, prepare to fight…" A rampart of shields was placed around Erc; the warriors drew up in three powerful and numerous battle corps. Prepare yourself, said Erc, prepare to receive the enemy. And he sang:

Arise, warriors of Ireland; stand up.
Here is Cuchulainn the quarrelsome, the victor with the red sword.


Arise, warriors of Ireland.

 How shall we arrange our order of battle, asked the warriors?

- Here is my advice, replied Erc, you belong to four of the five provinces of Ireland; form only one body of battle, tighten your shields, so as to make, so to speak, only one plank all around, both on the sides and from the top at each end you will put outside a group of three men out of the three, two will be the strongest of the army and will fight against each other; the third will be a wizard moving near them (?). The sorcerer will ask Cûchulainn for his javelin whose name is Fame of Fame; the request made by the sorcerer will be so imperative that Cûchulainn will not be able to refuse this javelin that will be thrown at him afterwards; a prophecy announces that this javelin must kill a king; if we ask Cuchulainn for this javelin, it is not against us that the prophecy will be fulfilled. Throw out a cry of complaint and a cry of appeal, his ardor and the ardor of his horses will prevent him from singing and from again provoking us to a duel as in the expedition of Tâin bô Cûailngil. We do as Erc said.

Cûchulainn approaches, and in his chariot makes his three thunderous games: the thunder of a hundred, the thunder of three hundred, the thunder of three times nine men. It was like a broomstick that drove the enemy before him on the plain of Murthemné, he approached the enemy army, and began to brandish his weapons against it: he also played the spear, the shield and of the sword; he practiced all the arts of the warrior. As many grains of sand are in the sea, stars in the sky, drops of dew in May, snowflakes in winter, hailstones in a thunderstorm, leaves in a forest, ears of yellow wheat in the plain of Breg, grass under the feet of the Irish horses in a summer day, so many halves of heads, halves of skulls, halves of hands, halves of feet, so many red bones, were dispersed in the plain of Murthemné; she became gray with the brains of the enemies, so cruel and violent was the combat waged against them by Cûchulainn!

Then Cuchulainn saw at the end of the army two warriors fighting against each other; they seemed inseparable. Shame on you, Cuchulainn, said the wizard, if you don't separate these two men. Cuchulainn rushed towards them, punched each of them on the head, brains shot out through their ears and noses. You separated them, said the wizard, they won't hurt each other any more.

"They wouldn't be silenced if you hadn't asked me to intervene between them," Cuchulainn replied.

- Give me your javelin, O Cûchulainn, said the wizard.

- I swear it by the oath which my nation takes, continued Cuchulainn, you have no greater need of my javelin than I; all the warriors of Ireland are gathered here against me, and I have to defend myself against them.

- If you refuse me, replied the wizard, I will solemnly cast a magical curse on you.

'So far,' Cûchulainn replied, 'no one has pronounced a curse against me on the pretext of a refusal of a donation or an act of skimping. " 

Thereupon he threw his javelin the hilt forward; the javelin went through the wizard's head, and beyond him went to kill nine men.

Cuchulainn, pushing his chariot, crossed the entire enemy army to the end.

So Lugaid, son of Cûroï, picked up the murderous javelin which, ready to serve, had fallen among the sons of Calatin. O son of Calatin, asked Lugaid, who is the warrior this javelin must defeat?

"It is a king that this javelin must bring down," replied the sons of Calatin.

Lugaid threw the javelin in the direction of Cûchulainn's chariot, the javelin reached the coachman Lôeg, son of Riangabar, Lôeg's entrails came out of his body and spread on the cushion of the chariot, then Lôeg sang:

I was badly injured.


Cûchulainn drew the javelin from the wound and bade farewell to Lôeg. Today, he added, I will be both a warrior and a coachman. " 

[Cuchulainn, launching his chariot, passed through the entire enemy army.] When he reached the end of it, he saw before him two warriors fighting against each other, and a wizard moving beside them.

 Shame on you, O Cûchulainn, if you don't separate us. Said one of the two warriors. In response, Cûchulainn rushes towards them and arranges them, one on the right, the other on the left, with such violence that they fall dead at the foot of a nearby rock.

 "Give me your javelin, Cuchulainn," said the wizard.

- I swear it by the oath which my nation takes, replied Cuchulainn, you have no greater need of this javelin than I; at this moment the warriors of four of the five great provinces of Ireland are attacking me, it takes my valor and my weapons to sweep the plain of Murthemne today.

"I will solemnly cast a magical curse on you," replied the wizard.

- We do not have, said Cûchulainn, the right to send me a second request; by satisfying the first, I have sufficiently met the demands of honor.

"It will be," replied the wizard, "it will be against the warriors of Ulster that I will pronounce the curse, and it will strike them for your fault."

- Until now, answered Cûchulainn, I did not make them curse, neither by refusing a donation, nor by avarice; I don't have long to live, but they won't be cursed today. " 

And he threw his javelin forward with the handle; the javelin went through the wizard's head, and behind the wizard it killed nine men.

Cuchulainn, putting his horses to a gallop, again crossed the entire enemy army.

Then Erc, son of Coirpré the Hero of the Warriors, picked up the murderous javelin which, ready to serve, had fallen among the sons of Calatin.

 O son of Calatin, asked Erc, son of Coirpré, what feat will this javelin accomplish?

"This javelin is going to bring down a king," replied the sons of Calatin.

- You said, replied Erc, son of Coirpré, that this javelin would overthrow a king when, a while ago, Lugaid threw it.

- We were not mistaken, answered the sons of Calatin, so this javelin brought down the king of the coachmen of Ireland, the son of Riangabar, Lôeg, coachman of Cuchulainn.

'I swear,' Erc replied, 'I swear by the oath my people take, the king you are talking about is not yet the one that this javelin Lugaid is to kill. " 

Thereupon Erc throws the javelin at Cûchulainn, the javelin hits one of the two horses, the Gray of Macha.

Cûchulainn draws the javelin from the wound, he and the horse bid each other farewell, then Macha's Gray leaves his master, carrying half the yoke on his neck, and he goes to Gray Lake, on the mountain of Fuat; it was there that Cûchulainn had gone to look for the Gray of Masha, it was there that the Gray of Masha returned wounded. Today, said Cûchulainn, I will live in a horse-drawn chariot, with a half yoke. " 

He puts the tip of his foot on the end of the broken yoke, and once again he drives his tank through the entire enemy army. Then he sees two warriors fighting against each other in front of him, and a wizard moving near them; he separates the two warriors by treating them as he had done for the two couples he had previously met.

 "Give me your javelin, O Cuchulainn," said the wizard.

"Your need for it is no greater than mine," Cûchulainn replied.

- I will solemnly pronounce against you, said the sorcerer, a magical curse.

- Today, replied Cûchulainn, I have complied with the honor, no one has the right to ask me again.

- It will be against the Ulates that I will cast the curse, continued the sorcerer, and you will be responsible.

"I have also satisfied the honor for them," replied Cuchulainn.

"It will be against your race that the curse will be cast," said the sorcerer.

- I do not want, answered Cûchulainn, that in the countries where I have not been so far people come to tell one day that I have lost my honor, and that when I cannot go to those countries to defend it, because it I have little time to live. " 

Then Cuchulainn threw his javelin, the handle forward; the javelin went through the wizard's head and killed, behind the wizard, three times nine men.

 "It is a gift of anger, O Cuchulainn," cried the exhaling wizard.

Cuchulainn, one last time, crossed the entire enemy army to the end. So Lugaid, son of Cûroï, picked up the murderous javelin which, ready to serve, had fallen among the sons of Calatin.

 What exploits will this javelin accomplish, O son of Calatin? Lugaid asked.

"He will slay a king," replied the sons of Calatin.

"You said the same when Erc threw it this morning," Lugaid replied.

- Yes, replied the sons of Calatin, and our word has come true; this javelin, thrown by Erc, mortally struck the king of the horses of Ireland, that is to say the Gray of Macha.

- "I swear it," replied Lugaid, "I swear it by the oath which my nation pronounces, the blow given by Erc did not strike the king whom this javelin is to kill. " 

So Lugaid threw the javelin at Cuchulainn, it hit him, and the hero's entrails, coming out, spilled out on the cushion of the chariot. Immediately the Black of Merveilleuse Vallée [second of Cûchulainn's horses] set out, taking what remained of the broken yoke; he returned to the black lake of Muscraigé Tiré, that is to say the country where Cûchulainn had taken him; the horse, on its return, rushing into the lake, made it boil.

Cuchulainn was left alone in his chariot on the battlefield.

 I want, he said, to go over there to the lake to drink there.

- We allow you, replied his enemies, but on the condition that you come back to find us.

'If I don't have the strength to come back,' Cuchulainn continued, 'I will invite you to meet me. He picked up his insides, put them back in place, and [on foot] made for the lake. With his hand, as he walked, he maintained his entrails. He drank and bathed in the lake, clutching his stomach with his hand, and that is why the lake of the plain of Murthemné is called Lake of Lâmrath, that is to say of the benefit of the hand. It is also called Lac de l'Eau Mince.

After drinking and bathing, Cûchulainn took a few steps away. He invited his enemies to approach him. A large party, breaking away from the army, advanced. Cuchulainn fixed his gaze on this hostile group. He went to lean against the high stone which is in the plain, and, with the help of his belt, he tied his body to this high stone. He did not want to die, neither sitting nor lying; it was standing that he wanted to die. Then his enemies came to line up around. They stayed around him without daring to approach him, he seemed to them still alive. Shame on you, said Erc, son of Coirpré the Hero of the Warriors. Shame on you if you do not take the head of this man, if you do not avenge my father whose head he took, my father whose head, then buried [in Tethbal with the corpse of Echaid the Hero of the Warriors, was only later reunited with her body, in Sid-Nenntal, behind the water. " 

Then we saw the Gray of Macha arrive, he wanted to protect Cuchulainn as long as the hero's soul was present, and the light of life would shine on his forehead. He made three terrible charges around his master; with teeth he killed fifty men, and each of his hooves killed thirty others. The number of enemies who succumbed is the cause of this proverbial expression: "Nothing is more ardent than the charges of the Gray of Masha after the death of Cûchulainn. [Then that horse went away].

Birds came to perch on Cûchulainn's shoulder. This pillar was not used to carrying birds. Said Erc, son of Coirpré. Then Lugaid, son of Cûroï, taking Cûchulainn's hair from behind, cut off his head. Immediately from Cuchulainn's hand the sword fell; she reached for Lugaid's right hand, which fell severely to the ground; to avenge Lugaid's hand, Cûchulainn's right hand was cut off.

The army marched, bearing the head and the right hand of the vanquished hero; she thus arrived at Tara. It still shows the place where the head and the right hand of Cûchulainn were buried with his shield.