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Cuchulain by John Duncan

Cuchulain of Muirthemne

By Lady Augusta Gregory


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This is Lady Gregory's collation of the Cuchulain cycle. Cuchulain was a mighty warrior, 'the Hound of Ulster', the hero of 'the Red Branch', a band of elite fighters of ancient Ireland. Cuchulain is the subject of numerous tales set in pre-Christian Ireland, including the pivotal 'War for the Bull of Cuailgne'. The mythological and supernatural elements are tightly interwoven in this saga, including the ever-present Sidhe (fairies); and Celtic gods and goddesses, particularly Morrigu, the goddess of war. As for the battles, they are principally composed of single combats as hair-raising as any in the Iliad or the Mahabharata. The female characters are vivid and self-motivated. The saga is overlaid with episodes which could be echoes of ancient myths, for instance the story of the two shapeshifting swineherds. There are sections of great poetry embedded in the text, particularly the lament of Emer on Cuchulain's death.

Lady Gregory's prose, which resembles that of William Morris and her collaborator Yeats, is gorgeous and moves the story along vigorously. This rendition of the Cuchulain saga is required reading for anyone interested in Celtic mythology.

Production notes: This text was originally produced by Phillip Brown from an unknown edition. In March, 2004, I did an proof pass on it using a 1902 first edition. This was primarily to add page numbers and correct a number of transcription errors in the original etext. However, there are a half-dozen places where the Phillip's etext diverged significantly from the text of the first edition. In these cases, I have retained the text from Phillip's edition, printed in green type. I have placed these passages in a two-column table with Phillip's version in the left hand column and replaced text (if any) from the 1902 version in the right hand column. Perhaps some reader can identify the other edition.

--John Bruno Hare, March 10th, 2004.

Title Page
Preface by W.B. Yeats
I. Birth of Cuchulain
II. Boy Deeds of Cuchulain
III. Courting of Emer
IV. Bricriu's Feast, and the War of Words of the Women of Ulster
V. The Championship of Ulster
VI. The High King of Ireland
VII. Fate of the Sons of Usnach
VIII. Dream of Angus
IX. Cruachan
X. The Wedding of Maine Morgor
XI. The War for the Bull of Cuailgne
XII. The Awakening of Ulster
XIII. The Two Bulls
XIV. The Only Jealously of Emer
XV. Advice to a Prince
XVI. Sons of Doel Dermait
XVII. Battle of Rosnaree
XVIII. The Only Son of Aoife
XIX. The Great Gathering at Muirthemne
XX. Death of Cuchulain
Note by W.B. Yeats
Notes by Lady Gregory