CONTENTS - Introduction [vii]; TALES OF THE TUATHA DE DANANN : The Book of Invasions ; The Second Battle of Mag Tured (Moytura) ; The Fate of the Children of Tuirenn [; The Wooing of Etain  The Destruction Op Da Dergas Hostel . THE ULSTER CYCLE : The Birth of Conchobar ; The Birth of Cu Chulainn ; The Boyhood Deeds of Cu Chulainn ; The Wooing of Emer ; The Tragic Death of Connla ; The Sick-Bed of Cu Chulainn ; The Story of Mac Dathos Pig ; The Debility of the Ulstermen ; The Cattle-Raid of Regamna ; The Intoxication of the Ulstermen ; The Exile of the Sons of Usnech ; The Adventures of Nera ; Bricrius Feast ; The Cattle-Raid of Cooley ; The Tragic Death of Cu Roi Mac Dairi ; Death Tales of the Ulster Heroes ; The Phantom Chariot of Cu Chulainn . THE CYCLE OF FINN, OSSIAN, AND THEIR COMPANIONS : The Cause of the Battle of Cnucha ; The Boyhood Deeds of Finn ; The Pursuit of Diarmuid And Grainne ; The Hiding of the Hill of Howth ; The Death of Finn [[42; Oisin In The Land of Youth ; The Colloquy of the Old Men . TALES OF THE TRADITIONAL KINGS ; The Death of Fergus Mac Leide ; The Adventures of Connla The Fair ; The Adventures of Art Son of Conn ; Cormacs Adventures In The Land of Promise ; The Adventures of the Sons of Eochaid Mugmedon ; The Death of Niall of the Nine Hostages ; The Death of Muircertach Mac Erca ; The Wooing of Becfola ; How Ronan Slew His Son ; Stories of Mongan ; The Vision of Mac Conglinne . THE VOYAGE OF BRAN SON OF FEBAL . PLACE-NAME STORIES . GLOSSARY .
INTRODUCTION: When, more than a quarter of a century ago, Standish Hayes OGrady presented to the public his well-known collection of early Irish tales, he expressed the fear that “a promulgator of such wares” might be called upon to justify his action; today the publication of a volume of translations from Irish needs no apology. All who have even the slightest acquaintance with the early literature of western Europe now recognize the peculiar importance which attaches to the traditions of ancient Ireland.
The oldest literature of Ireland has been well called “the earliest voice from the dawn of western European civilization.” The significance of this fact has been too often neglected. The allconquering Romans looked upon the native speech of the peoples whom they subdued as vulgar tongues unworthy of notice. If any written literature ever existed in the native language of Gaul, none has come down to us, and French, though based on Latin, (lid not reach the dignity of a literary language until the Roman conquest had been over for at least a thousand years. In Spain the earliest national literature was composed, not in the language of the most ancient inhabitants, but in a form of neo-Latin and is no older than the earliest literary compositions in French. In Germanic territory the beginnings of literature in the German language did not appear until late in the eleventh century.
So powerful was the influence of the Latin tongue that, in the West, only nations outside the Roman Empire succeeded in prem.rving any early records in their native speech. Of the western isls beyond the immediate sway of Rome, few learned the art of writing early enough to record for posterity any native pagan traditions in the vernacular. Chief among these were the Irish, the Anglo-Saxons, and the Icelanders. Of the three, the Irish were the first to receive letters and to develop a national literature, and it in perhaps ultimately to Irish influence that we owe the oldest written records in Anglo-Saxon and in Icelandic.
It is the proud boast of the Irish people that no Roman legion ever landed on their shores. Ireland never became a Roman [vii] province, and thus she preserved her native speech largely unaffected by foreign influences. Ancient Gaelic did not suffer from the contempt with which the older languages were regarded in the Roman provinces. To the early Irish their tongue was a “choice language”; and not long after they had learned the art of writing from the Christian missionaries of the fifth century, they developed a script of their own and began recording their ancient traditions in their own vernacular. Our early Irish manuscripts, though in no case written as far back as the introduction of Christianity, are, in many instances, copied from texts recorded at least as early as the eighth century and embodying pre-Christlan traditions.
Both in age and in variety the literature of ancient Ireland surpasses that of any other western European vernacular during the early Middle Ages. It includes not only numerous religious and legal writings but also a large body of lyric poetry and a long list of epic and other tales written in prose alternating with passages in verse. Early Irish epic and romantic literature comprises, in addition to many outlying stories, three groups, or cycles, known respectively as (1) the Mythological cycle, (2) the Ulster, or Red Branch cycle, and (3) the Finn, or Ossianic cycle. Typical examples from all three cycles, as well as a group of outlying romances and sagas, are presented in this volume.
TALES OF THE TUATHA DE DANANN: The dominating peoples of Irelands remotest past are traditionally by represented as the Partholonians, the Nemedians, the Fir Bolg, the Tuatha De Danann, and the Milesians. The accounts of their doings, although ostensibly depicting the very earliest periods of Irish history, were composed, for the most part, later than the oldest sagas of the Ulster group (p. 127). The Tuatha De Danann (Peoples of the Goddess Danu, or Anu) are said to have come to Ireland from the north of Europe, where they had spent many years in learning arts and magic. They are represented as large, strong, and beautiful beings who mingled with mortals and yet remained superior to them. Their principal residences were Brug na Boinne, a district along the river Boyne near Stackallen Bridge in Leinster, and the fairy-mound (síd, “shee”) of Femin in Tipperary. Certain personages in this group, without being definitely labelled as gods, have characteristics that elevate them above the rank of ordinary mortals. For example, Manannan mac Lir, whose name is associated with the Isle of Man, may have been some sort of sea divinity. Angus, often called Mac Oc, son of Boann (Boyne) and the Dagda, is regarded by some students of mythology as a sort of Irish Adonis. Nuada Silver-Arm, Lug Long-Arm, and the Dagda are also, according to the mythologically minded, partially humanized ancient Celtic divinities. / The selections included below under the “Tales of the Tuatha De Danaun” belong, with one or two exceptions, to the so-called Mythological Cycle. [...; &c. ix.]
The Tragic Death of Ferdiad, in Ancient Irish Tales, ed., Tom Peete Cross & Clark Harris Slover NY: Barnes & Noble Books 1996), 319ff.
Thereupon Cu Chulainn hastened towards Ferdiad and clasped his two arms about him, and bore him with all his arms and his armor and his dress northwards over the ford, so that it would be with his face to the north of the ford, in Ulster, the triumph took place and not to the west of the ford with the men of Erin. Cu Chullainn laid Ferdiad there on the ground, and a cloud and a faint and a swoon came over Cu Chulainn there by the head of Ferdiad.
Come, O Loeg, my master, cried Cu Chulainn; cut open Ferdiad and take the gae bolga out, because I may not be without my weapons.