The T`ain

The Quarrel of the Two Pig-keepers, and How The Bulls were Begotten

What Caused the two pig-keepers to quarrel?

It is soon told.

There was bad blood between Ochall Ochne, the king of the sid in Connacht, and Bodb, king of the Munster sid. (Bodb's sid is the Sid ar Femen," the sid on Femen Plain; Ochall's is the sid at Cruchan.) They had two pig-keepers, called Friuch, after a boar's bristle and Rucht, after its grunt. Friuch was Bodb's pig-keeper, Rucht was Ochall's and they were good friends. They were both practiced in the pagan arts, and could form themselves into any shape, like Mongan mac Fiachna.

The two pig-keepers were on such good terms hat the one from the north would bring his pigs down with him when there was a mast of oak and beech nuts in Munster. If the mast fell in the north the pig-keeper from the south would travel northward.

There were some who tried to make trouble between them. People in Connacht said their pig-keeper had the greater power, while others in Munster said it was theirs who had greater power. A great mast fell in Munster one year, and the pig-keeper from the north came southward with his pigs. His friend made him welcome.

"Is it you?" he said. "They are trying to cause trouble between us. Men here say your power is greater than mine."

"It is no less, anyway," Ochall's pig-keeper said.

"That's something we can test," Bodb's pig-keeper said. "Ill cast a spell over your pigs, Even though they eat this mast they won't grow fat, while mine will."

And that is what happened. Ochall's pig-keeper had to bring his pigs away with him so lean and wretched that they hardly reached home. Everybody laughed at him as he entered his country.

"It was a bad day you set out," they said. "Your friend has greater power than you."

"It proves nothing," he said. "We'll have mast here in our own turn and I'll play the same trick on him.."

This also happened. Bodb's pig keeper came northward the same time next year into the country of Connacht, bringing his lean pigs with him, and Ochall's pig keeper did the same to them, and they withered. Everybody said then that they had equal power. Bodb's pig-keeper came back from the north with his lean pigs, and Bodb dismissed him from pig-keeping. His friend in the north was also dismissed.

After this they spent full years in the shape of birds of prey, the first year at the fort of Cruchan, in north Connacht, and the second at the sid on Femen Plain. One day the men of Munster had collected together at this place.

"Those birds are making a terrible babble over there." They said.

"They have been quarreling and behaving like this for a full year now."

As they were talking they saw Fuidell mac Fiadmire, Ochall's steward, coming toward them up the hill and they made him welcome.

Those birds are making a great babble over there." He said. "You would swear they were the same two birds we had back north last year. They Kept this up for a whole year."

Then they saw the two birds of prey turn suddenly into human shape and become the two pig-keepers. They made them welcome

"You can spare your welcome Bodb's pig-keeper said. "We bring you only war-wailing and a fullness of friends' corpses".

"What have you been doing?" Bodb said.

"Nothing good," he said. "From the day we left until today we spent two full years together in the shape of birds. You saw what we did over there. A whole year went like that at Cruchan and a year at the sid on Femen Plain so that all men, north and south, have seen our power. Now we are going to take the shape of water creatures and live two years under the sea.

They left and each went his own way. One entered the Sinnan river, the other the river Siuir, and they spent two full years under water. One year they were seen devouring each other in the Siuir, the next in the Sinann.

Next they turned into two stags, and each gathered up the other's heard of young deer and made a shambles of his dwelling place.

Then they became two warriors gashing each other.

Then two phantoms, terrifying each other.

Then two dragons, pouring down snow on each other's land.

They dropped down then out of the air, and became two maggots. One of them got into the spring of the river Cronn in Cuailnge, where a cow belonging to D`aire mac Fiachna drank it up. The other got into the well-spring Garad in Connacht, where a cow belonging to Medb and Ailill drank it. From them, in this way, sprang the two bulls, Finnbennach, the white horned of Ai Plain, and Dub, the dark bull of Cuailnge.

Rucht and Friuch were their names when they were pig-keepers; Ingen and Eitte, Talon and Wing, when they were two birds of prey; Bleed and Blood, Whale and Seabeast, when they were two undersea creatures; Rinn and Faebur, Point and Edge, when they were two warriors; Sc`ath and Sciath, Shadow and Shield, when they were two phantoms; and Cruinniuc and Tuinniuc when they were two maggots. Finnbennach Ai, the White, and Donn Cuailnge, the Brown, were their names when they were two bulls.

This was the Brown Bull of Cuailinge--

Dark brown dire haughty with young health

horrific overwhelming ferocious

full of craft

furious fiery flanks narrow

brave brutal thick breasted

curly browed head cocked high

growling and eyes glaring

tough maned neck thick and strong

snorting mighty in muzzle and eye

with a true bull's brow

and a wave's charge

and a royal wrath

and the rush of a bear

and a beast's rage

and a bandit's stab

and a lion's fury.

Thirty grown boys could take their place from rump to name

--a hero to his heard at morning

foolhardy at the herd's head

to his cows the beloved

to husbandmen a prop

the father of great beasts

overlooks the ox of the earth.

A white head and white feet had the Bull Finnbennach

and a red body the color of blood

as if bathed in blood

or dyed in the red bog

or pounded in purple

with his blank paps

under breast and back

and his heavy mane and great hoofs

the beloved of the cows of Ai

with ponderous tail

and a stallion's breast

and a cow's eye apple

and a salmon's snout

and hinder haunch

he romps in rut

born to bear victory

bellowing in greatness

idol of he ox herd

the prime demon Finnbennach. ________________________________________________________


9th Century Windisch,The Book of Leinster,Irische Texte, III Serie, Vol.I,pp. 243-247.
Kinsella,Thomas,Trans. The Tain,Oxford University Press,Chatham,1969

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