There was a famous king of Leinster. Mac Dathó was his name. He had a hound; the hound defended the whole of Leinster. The hound’s name was Ailbe, and Ireland was full of its fame. Messengers came from Ailill and Medb asking for the hound. Moreover at the same time there came also messengers from Conchobar Mac Nessa to ask for the same hound. They were all made welcome and brought to him in the hall. That is one of the six halls that were in Ireland at that time, the others being the hall of Da Derga in the territory of Cualu, and the hall of Forgall Manach, and the hall of Mac Dareo in Brefne, and the hall of Da Choca in the west of Meath, and the hall of Blai the landowner in Ulster. There were seven doors in that hall, and seven passages through it, and seven hearths in it, and seven cauldrons, and an ox and a salted pig in each cauldron. Every man who came along the passage used to thrust the flesh-fork into a cauldron, and whatever he brought out at the first catch was his portion. If he did not obtain anything at the first attempt he did not have another.
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Boí rí amra for Laignib, .i. Mac Dathó a ainm. Bui cú oca. No-ditned in cu Lagniu uile. Ailbe ainm in chon, et lán hEriu dia aurdarcus. Tancas o Ailill ocus o Meidb do chungid in chon. I n-oen uair dano tancatar ocus techta Conchobair mic Nessa do chungid in chon chetna. Ro-ferad failte friu uile, et ructha chuci-sium isin mh-bruidin. Is í sein in t-shessed bruiden ro-boi i n-hErind in tan sin: .i. bruden Daderga i crích Cualand, et bruden Fhorgaill Manaich, et bruden Mic Dareo i m-Brefni et bruden Dachoca i n-iarthor Mide et bruden Blai briuga i n-Ultaib. Secht nh-doruis isin bruidin ocus VII sligeda tréthi, et VII tellaige inti, et VII core, ocus dam ocus tinne in cach coire. In fer do-theiged iarsin t-shligi, do-bered in n-ael isin coire, et na tabrad don chét-gabail, issed no-ithed. Mani thucad ní don chét-tadall, ni bered a n-aill.
— Scél Mucci Mic Dathó (Story of Mac Dathó’s Pig), Section I,
N. Kershaw Chadwick, An Early Irish Reader, Cambridge University Press.
But I who have written this story, or rather this fable, give no credence to the various incidents related in it. For some things in it are the deceptions of demons, other poetic figments; some are probable, others improbable; while still others are intended for the delectation of foolish men.
— Colophon (Latin) at the conclusion of the recension of the Táin Bó Cúailnge as found in the Book of Leinster.
The latest edition to my Gaelic library arrived at the house today, a fairly rare Irish/English copy of the Táin Bó Cúailnge, edited and translated by Cecille O’Rahilly in 1967 — and in pristine condition!
‘What manner of man,’ asked Ailill, ‘is this Hound whom we have heard of among the Ulstermen? What age is that famous youth?’ ‘I can tell you that,’ said Fergus. ‘In his fifth year he went to the boys in Emain Macha to play. In his sixth year he went to learn feats of arms to Scáthach and went to woo Emer. In his seventh year he took up arms. At the present time he is seventeen years old.’
‘Is he the most formidable among the Ulstermen?’ asked Medb. ‘More so than any one of them,’ answered Fergus. ‘You will not encounter a warrior harder to deal with, nor a spear-point sharper or keener or quicker, nor a hero fiercer, nor a raven more voracious, nor one of his age to equal a third of his valour, nor a lion more savage, nor a shelter in battle nor a sledge-hammer for smiting, nor a protector in fighting, nor doom of hosts, nor one better able to check a great army. You will not find there any man his equal in age like unto Cú Chulainn in growth, in dress, in fearsomeness, in speech, in splendour, in voice and appearance, in power and harshness, in feats, in valour, in striking power, in rage and in anger, in victory and in doom-dealing and in violence, in stalking, in sureness of aim and in game-killing, in swiftness and boldness and rage, with the feat of nine men on every spear- point.’
‘I reek little of that,’ said Medb. ‘He has but one body; he suffers wounding; he is not beyond capture. Moreover he is only the age of a grown girl and as yet his manly deeds have not developed.’ ‘Nay,’ said Fergus. ‘It were no wonder that he should perform a goodly exploit today, for even when he was younger, his deeds were those of a man.’