The Táin: From the Irish epic Táin Bó Cúailnge

Written by: Anonymous, Thomas Kinsella

The Táin: From the Irish epic Táin Bó Cúailnge Book Cover
The Táin Bó Cúailnge, centre-piece of the eighth-century Ulster cycle of heroic tales, is Ireland's nearest approach to a great epic. It tells the story of a great cattle-raid, the invasion of Ulster by the armies of Medb and Ailill, queen and king of Connacht, and their allies, seeking to carry off the great Brown Bull of Cúailnge. The hero of the tale is Cúchulainn, the Hound of Ulster, who resists the invaders single-handed, while Ulster's warriors lie sick.

Thomas Kinsella's presents a complete and living version of the story. His translation is based on the partial texts in two medieval manuscripts, with elements from other version, and adds a group of related stories which prepare for the action of the Táin.

Illustrated with brush drawings by Louis le Brocquy, this edition provides a combination of medieval epic and modern art.
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The Tin From the Irish epic Tin B Cailnge Reviews

Mark Adderley
This is the Irish Iliad--Cuchulainn defends Ulster against everyone. Single-handed. It's a great story, but if it has a flaw, it's that it gets a little repetetive when Cuchulainn is fighting against the succession of heroes. That shouldn't detract too much--battle scenes in the Iliad and the Morte Darthur aren't terribly interesting either.
Christopher Colton
This was an interesting book. The story is ridiculous and over-the-top in a way that ancient stories long told through word of mouth tend to be, which was somewhat to be expected, but it never really quite grabbed me and held on the way that, for example, Hrolf Kraki's Saga did. After the inciting incident - when queen Madb (pronounced "Mayv") decides to steal another clan's amazing bull because her husband has an equally amazing bull and she wants to make sure all of her stuff is just as amazin This was an interesting book. The story is ridiculous and over-the-top in a way that ancient stories long told through word of mouth tend to be, which was somewhat to be expected, but it never really quite grabbed me and held on the way that, for example, Hrolf Kraki's Saga did. After the inciting incident - when queen Madb (pronounced "Mayv") decides to steal another clan's amazing bull because her husband has an equally amazing bull and she wants to make sure all of her stuff is just as amazing as his stuff - the rest of the story is largely just a long series of extremely one-sided battles against the unstoppable Ulster hero Cú Chulain. He's fighting Madb's army alone because his people are all laid up by a curse that, despite being a critical component of the story, this translator chose to explain in the footnotes at the back rather than including the story that explains the curse within the text itself.

The Táin is also obsessed with geography. One chapter ends with a page and a half long description of every location that Madb's army passed near or through on their way to steal the bull. Virtually every event - including once when Madb has to relieve herself - ends with "and this place was henceforth named for that thing." I get the historical context, of course, but that doesn't mean I didn't skim through those passages.

The biggest hurdle, though, were the names. If you've never tried to pronounce old Irish names, it's a bit of a challenge trying to wrap your brain around completely different pronunciations of letters and letter pairs that aren't even entirely consistent. The pronunciation guide at the beginning helps, but I found myself flipping back to it repeatedly and there were several names I still wasn't entirely certain about how to pronounce. While I understand the desire to leave the names in Old Irish, I did wish somewhat that they had used Anglicized spellings instead.

Overall, I'm still not really sure how I feel about the Táin. I didn't dislike it, to be certain, but I'm not really sure how much I liked it either. If nothing else, I can at least say that I am now familiar with a seminal work of ancient literature.

On a final note, despite the story being over a thousand years old, it was nice to see that Madb is presented as a competent, capable, cunning, badass warrior queen in her own right (and, frankly, much more efficient than her husband).
Glen
If you like reading about how Cuchulainn slew fifty warriors in one attack one minute, then turned around and chopped up 100 more the next, if page after page of obscure and archaic place-names, names of warriors, and descriptions of what they wore, what weapons they used, and yes, how they wore their hair is your proverbial cuppa tea, then by all means read this book. I have no doubt that it is a scholarly translation, and I read it so I would know the story when it is referenced in other Irish If you like reading about how Cuchulainn slew fifty warriors in one attack one minute, then turned around and chopped up 100 more the next, if page after page of obscure and archaic place-names, names of warriors, and descriptions of what they wore, what weapons they used, and yes, how they wore their hair is your proverbial cuppa tea, then by all means read this book. I have no doubt that it is a scholarly translation, and I read it so I would know the story when it is referenced in other Irish literature, but with the exception of the tale of the Combat of Ferdia and Cuchulainn, which was pretty good stuff since they were foster brothers and it took several days for the fight to end with the death of...(no no no, no spoilers here!), I found this to be a pretty dull and dreary slog.
Jennifer Government :: Where the Heart Is :: Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading: Finding and Losing Myself in Books :: Run Silent Run Deep :: Ten Little Indians
Alys
Really impressed with this. The manuscripts that the Táin comes from are incomplete and inconsistent so this translation amalgamates then to get the full, sensical story. That must have been really difficult but it reads seamlessly. I found myself flying through it which is odd for literature like this. I read 130 pages in one day. The story itself was about what about what I was expecting having read various retellings but I definitely appreciated the full detail of the battle and Cúchulainn's Really impressed with this. The manuscripts that the Táin comes from are incomplete and inconsistent so this translation amalgamates then to get the full, sensical story. That must have been really difficult but it reads seamlessly. I found myself flying through it which is odd for literature like this. I read 130 pages in one day. The story itself was about what about what I was expecting having read various retellings but I definitely appreciated the full detail of the battle and Cúchulainn's various activities which are often left out. I'd recommend this to anyone including a "beginner" to be honest. All the background was provided beforehand and it was very easy to keep track of.
Carl
I love me some mythology. I love Irish mythology. And the Tain was one to the most unique epics I have read. Grown out of oral tradition recorded in several manuscripts it is often fragmentary, frustrating, inconsistent with wild variations in tone, yet, it somehow all works. A story that by all account should fly apart at the seams is surprisingly memorable; from the various warrior women to those moments of personal drama to the truly wacky shenanigans of Cuchulainn. I'd recommend The Tain if I love me some mythology. I love Irish mythology. And the Tain was one to the most unique epics I have read. Grown out of oral tradition recorded in several manuscripts it is often fragmentary, frustrating, inconsistent with wild variations in tone, yet, it somehow all works. A story that by all account should fly apart at the seams is surprisingly memorable; from the various warrior women to those moments of personal drama to the truly wacky shenanigans of Cuchulainn. I'd recommend The Tain if you're curious.
M. Thomas Apple
A classic and the most commonly read version of the Táin. As the translator (Thomas Kinsella) comments in his Introduction, "This is not...a literal translation." For academic and literary research purposes, therefore, this book is not the best version available.

For introducing Irish legends, lore, and myths to a general audience, however, this is very decent. Kinsella's version additionally supplies remscéla (prequels, basically) that help to fill in the gaps missing in the Táin narrative.

A mu A classic and the most commonly read version of the Táin. As the translator (Thomas Kinsella) comments in his Introduction, "This is not...a literal translation." For academic and literary research purposes, therefore, this book is not the best version available.

For introducing Irish legends, lore, and myths to a general audience, however, this is very decent. Kinsella's version additionally supplies remscéla (prequels, basically) that help to fill in the gaps missing in the Táin narrative.

A must-have for anyone interested in Irish culture and literature.
Sarah Parker
This is a wonderful example of Irish epic poetry and it’s something that should be enjoyed by everyone!

The tale of Cú Chulainn and his exploits is very similar to the tale of Achilles, here is a young man that is capable of extreme feats of fitness and violence, who always seems to win and is never beaten.

One of the problems I do have with it are the lists, so many lists! But that is a feature of epic poetry!
Andy
The reading can be a bit dry and slow at times, with some list sections going on for a while, but this is to be expected in a tale that was initially memorized and performed orally. Overall I think the Tain is a world classic that should get much more publicity than it does, so I'm always grateful to see good translations.
Jakob Pohlman
It was quite an interesting book. The simple, matter of fact style is appealing and engaging. Everyone is a hero, and everyone performs great feats to defend their lord. An inspiration to every would be hero.
Megan
It reads very much like the Iliad. If I were the english major type, I’m sure I’d have liked it more. It’s nice to see favorite Irish heroes in context, but it’s annoying reading about all these wars fought over senseless rich people’s pride.
John Sgammato
I tried a couple of translations and found them difficult, but this Kinsella translation really works for me. It made the story seem fresh and alive rather than an historical relic.
James Rose
This is an excellent translation of the text. It depicts both the humor and the epic nature of the tale.
Dylan Rock
An ancient epic that needs to be read more by both the Irish peopel and the whole world
Ashley Collins
If you take away the pages of names and asides on how a place received its name, this is a pretty cool story. 3.5 stars.
Meeg
A FEW THINGS I DIDN'T KNOW PICKING UP THIS BOOK: We know of the Ulster cycle of Irish mythology and its most famous story, the Tain Bo Cualigne (Cattle Raid of Cooley), through just a few extant manuscripts. The most complete is the Book of Leinster which was written down in the 12th century: as Kinsella writes in the introduction to this book, "the author or compiler was at pains to produce a consistent and integral narrative structure." A full translation of the Book of Leinster was published A FEW THINGS I DIDN'T KNOW PICKING UP THIS BOOK: We know of the Ulster cycle of Irish mythology and its most famous story, the Tain Bo Cualigne (Cattle Raid of Cooley), through just a few extant manuscripts. The most complete is the Book of Leinster which was written down in the 12th century: as Kinsella writes in the introduction to this book, "the author or compiler was at pains to produce a consistent and integral narrative structure." A full translation of the Book of Leinster was published by the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies in 1967.

However, this version of the Tain is based on earlier fragmentary manuscripts: the Book of the Dun Cow and the Yellow Book of Lecan. In addition to some variations in the story, Kinsella preferred these sources for their simple, straight-forward style which contrasts with the Book of Leinster's often flowery and overwrought language. In this version of the Tain, Kinsella does his best to create a cohesive story that works in English by weaving together fragments from the Dun Cow and the Yellow Book of Lecan sometimes falling back on the Book of Leinster to fill in the gaps.

THOUGHTS ON THIS VERSION: The book itself is beautiful. It's illustrated with abstract brush drawings which often suggest the shape of men, horses, etc. I also like how each section begins with A line or two in larger block type: it at once reminds me of comic books and illuminated Medieval manuscripts. This version also begins with a section called "Before the Tain" where we're given 4 pre-tales (or remscela) which provide key information for understanding the story to come (e.g., how the Ulstermen came to be cursed with the pangs of child-bearing and the birth and tutelage of Cuchulain). Some of these were the best stories in the book. It'd sort of be like getting the Judgment of Paris, etc. before the Iliad although Homer alludes to everything you need to know whereas just reading the Tain some things would remain a mystery. The Tain also contains a few maps at the beginning as well as a somewhat useful note on how to pronounce Irish names.

There are THINGS THAT COULD BE ADDED that would greatly improve the Tain. in my opinion. First, it would be nice to have an INDEX OF CHARACTER NAMES to help the reader keep track of the characters and their names. Also, while I enjoyed reading the book, it ends on what some might call a flat or anticlimactic note. I think that just as we're given some remscela, the edition could perhaps include a few of the stories that continue the action of the Tain, the Death of Cuchulain for example.

REVIEW: All-in-all this was an enjoyable read. The story gives the reader a glimpse into an ancient Irish society where wealth was measured in cattle and wars were fought between tribal chiefs using chariots. The Irish myths also contain unique supernatural elements such as the pangs that haunt the Ulstermen and Cuchulain's werewolf-like transformations which earn him the nickname "The Warped One." It's also peopled with some unforgettable characters, the two greatest being Queen Medb of Connaught, who is the person most responsible for the war, and Cuchulain, the super-human teenage warrior (called "the Hound of Ulster") who for a while held off the army of four fifths of Ireland single-handed.

It's interesting to reading the Tain within the context of other ancient epics such as Gilgamesh, the Iliad and Beowulf, noticing the many similarities and the elements that make this Irish epic distinct. I think the Tain Bo Cualigne would make a good addition to an early World literature class--especially one centered on epics--and that this version translated by Thomas Kinsella conveys the story in a reader-friendly format and aesthetically pleasing package.
A. Murtagh
I wasn't sure if I should rate the actual Táin story or the Kinsella translation, so I went for the actual story. Kinsella's translation is very readable for the most part, but I do have one or two issues with it.

In terms of the Táin itself, I've struggled through parts of the original Middle and Old Irish as best I can and read translations ranging from clunky century-old trials to Carson's 2007 attempt. Why? Because it's just that good, in my opinion. I only discovered the actual texts a year I wasn't sure if I should rate the actual Táin story or the Kinsella translation, so I went for the actual story. Kinsella's translation is very readable for the most part, but I do have one or two issues with it.

In terms of the Táin itself, I've struggled through parts of the original Middle and Old Irish as best I can and read translations ranging from clunky century-old trials to Carson's 2007 attempt. Why? Because it's just that good, in my opinion. I only discovered the actual texts a year or two ago (I thought the Ulster Cycle was just sort of passed down stories), and my mind was blown that I never learned about it in school or anything. People compare it to the Greek stuff all the time, but there really is no comparison because they're just too different. The Iliad is very obviously full of morals and poetry; the Táin is very obviously full of grey areas and humour. I'd compare the Táin to Pulp Fiction quicker than the Iliad. The 'morals' are there, but subtly hidden under the savagery, ala George RR Martin. And Cúchulainn is just great; the perfect example of the hazard-to-himself prodigy. There is no better sociopath than Medb, no better manipulative king than Conchobar, and no better grow-up-man! guy than Fergus. It boggles my mind that the version we have now was written down a thousand years ago. The only unfortunate thing is that the Táin is better when read in conjunction with the other Ulster Cycle stories (otherwise it's like reading one chapter out of a book). For example, you miss out on the complex relationship between Cúchulainn and Emer. As for criticisms, there are those those tedious passages of names and adjectives that were meant to be read out in rhythm or memorised as a show of skill, but I just skip them.

Which brings me to Kinsella's translation. It's very good for the most part, both the prose and poetry. He opted to keep to the original meaning more than metre for the poetry, which I think was the best move. He does a beautiful translation of Deirdre's lament for Naoise. But I do have two issues. The first and most major is that, though I'm glad he included some of the other UC stories before the Táin, he butchers some of them with no in-text acknowledgement. He does this a little with the story of Macha, and most glaringly with Cúchulainn's courtship of Emer. For example, the bit that he condenses to, "Then they spoke together in riddles," is actually a long section of the two of them testing each other's intelligence and deciding they're worthy of each other. Instead Kinsella's translation literally goes from 'hi' to 'I'd like to put my penis on you'. Classy, Cúchulainn.

My second issue is more pernickety and probably not surprising considering this translation was done in the sixties, but he does seem to alter the text to make it seem less like Cúchulainn and Ferdia were lovers. He doesn't go as far as he could and it's still pretty obvious, but take the passage where it says,

"Fast friends, forest companions
we made one bed and slept one sleep
in foreign lands after the fray..."

This is more accurately translated as:

"We were companions of the heart,
we were forest comrades,
we were men who shared a bed [lit. men 'togetherbed'],
back when we shared heavy sleep,
after hard fighting,
in many strange lands..."

The difference is subtle, but there, and there's a couple of other examples where he chooses words like 'friendship' where a stronger word was intended. Maybe he was just trying to keep the nature of their relationship more ambiguous till after the fight, or maybe I'm being overly sensitive on behalf of bisexuals in ancient literature and he wasn't trying to hide anything at all. But still, the sixties.
Lari Don
So it turns out the first superhero wasn’t in a comic or a film. The first superhero was in a 1200 year old Irish epic.
The Tain is a wonderful story about a battle between two kingdoms sparked by an argument over a cattle raid, and for most of the story, an entire army is held at bay by one warrior, Cuchulainn.
Cuchulainn has a habit of going into warp spasms during which he changes physically and becomes pretty horrible to look at, as well as almost impossible to kill (though it is quite a rel So it turns out the first superhero wasn’t in a comic or a film. The first superhero was in a 1200 year old Irish epic.
The Tain is a wonderful story about a battle between two kingdoms sparked by an argument over a cattle raid, and for most of the story, an entire army is held at bay by one warrior, Cuchulainn.
Cuchulainn has a habit of going into warp spasms during which he changes physically and becomes pretty horrible to look at, as well as almost impossible to kill (though it is quite a relief that he didn’t also turn green and rip his trousers.) And the Hulk wasn’t the only film reference which popped into my head as I read this ancient epic. Those scenes in action films where the hero manages to beat the bad guys, because they helpfully come at him one at a time? That's apparently nothing new. In much of the middle section of the Tain, Cuchulainn takes on a whole army in one single combat after another. He was a mean sniper with a slingshot too, who never seemed to miss except when he was aiming at the Queen leading the other army. I was particularly impressed by the fact that he never took the Queen’s head off her shoulders with his sling, but did decapitate her dog, her bird, and her squirrel.
This version by Thomas Kinsella is a gorgeous translation of a wonderful story. And it makes you realise that all the action beats and even action clichés of today’s cinema have been delighting audiences for a very long time.
I'd read snippets of Cuchulainn’s story in other Irish collections and in Scottish collections too (he learnt a lot of his fighting skills on the Isle of Skye, I’m proud to say), I had been telling Cuchulainn legends to kids, and had even used him as a minor character in a kids’ adventure novel (Wolf Notes), before I realised there was an entire epic devoted to his life and battles.
The Tain is a much easier read than most original source material, rattling along at a great pace at times. Though a few passages are very repetitive: there are lots of very similar fights, all shoved in one after the other to explain the name of a hill or stone or river. There are some long lists of warriors’ names, and one almost comically boring passage where a lookout describes what the leader of every single part of an army is wearing. (Cloak, tunic, brooch, ok, we’ve got it now.)
But there are some immensely moving moments too. I was moved to tears, almost to anger, by the section where a father kills a son because they are both too stiff-necked to avoid a fight. And the final single combat between Cuchulainn and his foster-brother Ferdia is incredible, both in its descriptions of the (superhuman) way they fought, and in the depth of emotion between two men who have a shared history and a great bond, but who are trying to kill each other.
And the artwork, almost uniquely in a mythology source book, isn’t naff, old-fashioned or just a way of filling a few pages. The art by Louis de Brocquy is incredible - dark, flashing, quick, a mix of cave-painting and Giacometti. The pictures don’t distract or detract from the power of the story, they highlight the drama, the ancient power and the sense of otherness.
So if you love a bit of action, and if you love seeing where the roots of our human cultures and stories lie, please read this book.
And yes, if you think from my description that this book has been waiting to be turned into a film for more than a thousand years, you might be interested to know there are rumours about a Michael Fassbender film (I do hope they are true!)
Also – thanks to Goodreads author Mark Adderley for recommending this edition!
Robert
Cuchulainn is by far the most underrated mythic hero of all time. He makes Odysseus look like a wimp and Aeneas like a pussy, and his superpowers put Jesus's to shame. He can do practically anything he wants to, so of course one of the first things he does is try to get a girl to have sex with him:

"Cuchulainn greeted the troop of girls and Emer lifted up her lovely face. She recognised Cuchulainn, and said:
'May your road be blessed!'
'May the apple of your eye see only good,' he said.
Then they sp Cuchulainn is by far the most underrated mythic hero of all time. He makes Odysseus look like a wimp and Aeneas like a pussy, and his superpowers put Jesus's to shame. He can do practically anything he wants to, so of course one of the first things he does is try to get a girl to have sex with him:

"Cuchulainn greeted the troop of girls and Emer lifted up her lovely face. She recognised Cuchulainn, and said:
'May your road be blessed!'
'May the apple of your eye see only good,' he said.
Then they spoke together in riddles.
Cuchulainn caught sight of the girl's breasts over the top of her dress.
'I see a sweet country,' he said. 'I could rest my weapon there.'"(26-27)

Emer tells him that first he needs to kill a hundred people at every ford across Ireland; and then he needs to do a salmon-leap while carrying double his weight in gold; and then he needs to "[strike] down three groups of nine men with a single stroke, leaving the middle man of each nine unharmed"; and then he needs to go for an entire year without sleeping; and only then will she have sex with him. So he agrees without hesitation to go do all that stuff, and goes to a local demigod woman to find out how to do it. He gets involved in a war between two demigods, ends up having sex with one of them, and then learns all of his superpowers:

"So Cuchulainn's training with Scathach in the craft of arms was done: what with the apple-feat---juggling nine apples with never more than one in his palm; the thunder-feat; the feats of the sword-edge and the sloped shield; the feats of the javelin and rope; the body-feat; the feat of Cat and the heroic salmon-leap; the pole-throw and the leap over a poisoned stroke; the noble chariot-fighter's crouch; the gae bolga; the spurt of speed; the feat of the chariot-wheel thrown on high and the feat of the shield-rim; the breath-feat, with gold apples blown up into the air; the snapping mouth and the hero's scream; the stroke of precision; the stunning-shot and the cry-stroke; stepping on a lance in flight and straightening erect on its point; the sickle-chariot; and the trussing of a warrior on the points of spears." (34)

Cuchulainn then goes and completes Emer's tasks, and the whole episode is resolved in less than 15 pages, demonstrating how densely packed with awesomeness this book is. (It should also be noted that all of this takes place in the introduction/prologue, before the real story even starts.) The fact that the Irish didn't think any of this needed any explanation is also awesome. Cuchulainn then goes on, in the main story, to do such things as take on an entire army single-handedly and keep them at bay for several months, and kill people using the gae bolga, which is a javelin-like weapon that Cuchulainn throws UNDERWATER and WITH HIS TOES that explodes into barbs when it enters a person's body. Basically, take any of the awesome stuff that the Greek or Roman heroes did and multiply it by about a hundred. The Tain is outrageous and ridiculous, and that's what makes it great. It also maintains a sense of humor throughout, which is something you don't often see in epics of this magnitude. At times it reads like a parody of some of the better-known mythic epics, and it absolutely works. The pre-Christian Irish just kicked ass.
Kellyk
Great to learn about the upbringing and warrior adventures of Cuchulainn, the well-known folkloric Irish hero. I knew nothing about him before reading this text, but I knew that Yeats and Heaney and other Irish writers cited him often in their texts, so this was a great chance for me to come to understand why Cuchulainn is seen as a national hero.
The text brings to light many interesting questions to consider in Irish lore, like what is the role of women, what makes a good hero, what is the rela Great to learn about the upbringing and warrior adventures of Cuchulainn, the well-known folkloric Irish hero. I knew nothing about him before reading this text, but I knew that Yeats and Heaney and other Irish writers cited him often in their texts, so this was a great chance for me to come to understand why Cuchulainn is seen as a national hero.
The text brings to light many interesting questions to consider in Irish lore, like what is the role of women, what makes a good hero, what is the relationship between hero/leader and land, and so on. The tale had many of the same traditions involved in the Greek heroic epics, such as sharing a similar way to tell battle scenes (this time, usually ending in a place-naming of where the scene took place), and also sharing the long descriptions of battle garb and the heroes' appearances. I found that Cuchulainn is driven much in the same way that Achilles is driven--for everlasting fame and a good reputation to live on after he has died. There were many questionable attributes to Cuchulainn, which had made wondering why he is the best or most appropriate choice for Ireland's national hero. Is there no other figure besides him to choose?
I also did some extra research and found that Cuchulainn is portrayed on many of the murals in Northern Ireland - used as a character in support of both factions' causes. Though he is known as the "Hound of Ulster" or the "Defender of Ulster," making sense, then, that the UVF or other Northern Ireland military groups would choose him as their symbol of defense...he is also utilized by the IRA to represent the beloved Gaelic tradition of early Ireland. I love this part about Cuchulainn, and I think it speaks to the widespread appreciation of literature and lore in Ireland that they use a literary figure in support of their present-day causes.
James
Ciarán Carson presents an accessible and highly readable translation of The Táin for a new generation of readers.

The Táin is part of the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology and along with other similar works forms a distinct genre known as Táin Bó, or Cattle Raid.

In Táin Bó Cúailnge, Medb the Queen of Connacht goes to war against Ulster for the sake of Brown Bull of Cúailnge. Opposing her is the mighty hero Cú Chulainn who alone stands against the assembled armies of all Ireland. Cú Chulainn then s Ciarán Carson presents an accessible and highly readable translation of The Táin for a new generation of readers.

The Táin is part of the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology and along with other similar works forms a distinct genre known as Táin Bó, or Cattle Raid.

In Táin Bó Cúailnge, Medb the Queen of Connacht goes to war against Ulster for the sake of Brown Bull of Cúailnge. Opposing her is the mighty hero Cú Chulainn who alone stands against the assembled armies of all Ireland. Cú Chulainn then singlehandedly goes about killing all the heroes and soldiers Medb sends against him in feats of supernatural martial skill. Eventually, the rest of the Ulster armies arise from the periodic curse that afflicts them and is victorious over Medb's armies. She however is able to take back the prize Ulster bull but it kills the prize bull of Connacht and escapes.

This is one of the defining stories in Irish literature and Carson has ably translated the prose text; the smaller sections of Irish verse are much more cryptic and do not lend themselves to a fluid translation. Also, the traditional tána literature include a number of remscéla, or preludes, that Carson has either not included or reduced to endnotes.

The list of heroes Cú Chulainn kills fighting against Connacht and the list of place names named thereafter does get repetitive yet the lively and engaging spirit of Ireland's own Iliad is never lost. This is truly a classic of world literature.
Wawan
Transcribed in the 12th century in Old and Middle Irish, The Tain is set in the pre-Christian Ireland of the 1st or 2nd century Common Era. The epic narrates the unconventional battle between the kingdom of Ulster and the other kingdoms in Ireland. Most of the battle is a one person, a 17 year old super human, against the best of warriors from all parts of Ireland. Throughout the story, every significant incident leads to the naming of the place where that incident happens. By the end of the sto Transcribed in the 12th century in Old and Middle Irish, The Tain is set in the pre-Christian Ireland of the 1st or 2nd century Common Era. The epic narrates the unconventional battle between the kingdom of Ulster and the other kingdoms in Ireland. Most of the battle is a one person, a 17 year old super human, against the best of warriors from all parts of Ireland. Throughout the story, every significant incident leads to the naming of the place where that incident happens. By the end of the story, the reader will have probably around 30 names of places throughout the Medieval Irealand, and these names are taken from the incidents that take place in this story. If that's not strange enough, you might want to know why the battle starts to begin with. It starts with a pillow talk between a king and a queen (both effective rulers) that leads to the queen bragging about her wealth and the king doing the same in return. Eventually, the king brags about a very productive bull that he has, which the queen cannot top. For that, the queen prepares her troop to attack the kingdom of Ulster, which is said to possess another productive bull comparable to the one the king has. Long story short, one thing leads to another and eventually we see the battle.

The two important features of this epic are its comical aspects and the change of how women are viewed in this story. These are main important aspects you want to pay attention to as you read the story.
Patrick
Goodreads, like its owner the store, often has difficulty distinguishing between different translations or versions of works. In this case, there is only one entry for both Ciaran Carson's 2008 translation of the Tain Bo Cuailnge and Thomas Kinsella's 1969 version, which I read in succession. In truth, there is not a huge difference in the translations - Kinsella puts several tales leading up to the Tain before the main story, while Carson summarizes these in his notes. With regard to language, the Goodreads, like its owner the store, often has difficulty distinguishing between different translations or versions of works. In this case, there is only one entry for both Ciaran Carson's 2008 translation of the Tain Bo Cuailnge and Thomas Kinsella's 1969 version, which I read in succession. In truth, there is not a huge difference in the translations - Kinsella puts several tales leading up to the Tain before the main story, while Carson summarizes these in his notes. With regard to language, they are very close, but I give the nod to Carson because he translates more of the opaque "rosc" passages and because his translations of the poems interspersed throught the text are superior. As for the tale itself, as both translators note, it starts out strong, and then deteriorates. There is more humor here than in any Greek or Roman epic, and it features a vivid female character in Maeve, but there is too much repetition and exaggeration to carry much emotional weight, with a few exceptions - notably, Cuchalain's fight with his foster-brother Ferdiad. This story, like any synthesis of oral culture, needed an artist like Homer to pick and choose from the various variant tales and elevate the most powerful elements into a picture of human behavior that would last for all time. Unfortunately, what it got were Christian monks who often grew bored with the story and its details, and seemed to have no interest in fashioning it into something more.
Miriam Joy
I read Carson's translation last year, which I really enjoyed for its readability and also the fact that the poetry sections rhymed, making the long exchanges seem more like a rap battle than anything else. Kinsella's doesn't have quite that tone, but the notes at the beginning and the additional material makes up for that -- he includes various 'before the Tain' stories to clarify aspects of the story, such as the Boyhood Deeds of Cúchulainn, which I hadn't had in context before. That definitel I read Carson's translation last year, which I really enjoyed for its readability and also the fact that the poetry sections rhymed, making the long exchanges seem more like a rap battle than anything else. Kinsella's doesn't have quite that tone, but the notes at the beginning and the additional material makes up for that -- he includes various 'before the Tain' stories to clarify aspects of the story, such as the Boyhood Deeds of Cúchulainn, which I hadn't had in context before. That definitely made it easier to follow.

Still crying over Cúchulainn and Ferdia, though. Because look at these quotes:

"I’d rather face a thousand fights, Ferdia, than this fight with you."
(Cúchulainn to Ferdia.)

"I loved the noble way you blushed, and loved your fine, perfect form. I loved your blue clear eye, your way of speech, your skilfulness."
(Cúchulainn to Ferdia.)

"Your flushed, sweet cheek, your curled yellow hair like a great lovely jewel"
(Cúchulainn to Ferdia.)

"You are dead and I must live to mourn my everlasting loss."
(Cúchulainn to Ferdia.)

"All play, all sport, until Ferdia came to the ford. I thought beloved Ferdia would live forever after me - yesterday, a mountain-side; today, nothing but a shade."
(Cúchulainn about Ferdia.)

Oh my friends. I will never be okay with this. So tragic and, let's be honest, so very gay. HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN TO ME.

But yes. I like the Tain. The Tain is awesome.
Jenny
Since this is an ancient Irish epic which has lasted through time, I feel a little silly only giving it 3 stars. So I guess my rating is based on if I'd recommend it to the general public; I'd say you'd be more interested if you had some reason for reading it. And after reading it I figured out it was actually not the tale I was looking for, but that's all good! Now I know all about the legendary Cuchulainn.

Incidentally, I compared this with another more recent translation, and this one flowed Since this is an ancient Irish epic which has lasted through time, I feel a little silly only giving it 3 stars. So I guess my rating is based on if I'd recommend it to the general public; I'd say you'd be more interested if you had some reason for reading it. And after reading it I figured out it was actually not the tale I was looking for, but that's all good! Now I know all about the legendary Cuchulainn.

Incidentally, I compared this with another more recent translation, and this one flowed more smoothly. Also, this one begins with a few extra stories which help set the scene for the actual cattle raid.

So it was a very interesting time, when women challenged guys showing interest with "Oh yeah, you wanna be with me? Well then you need to go kill 300 people and then come talk to me." And the guys fell for it, every time! This whole cattle raid (which ended up with several thousand dead) happened because the king and queen were arguing about which one of them was wealthier. Craziness! So it's basically about warfare, and magical feats, and pledges of honor. Good times.
Jean
Merciless warfare. Gallows humor. Brutal and bloodthirsty, Cuchulain slays scores of men in single combat as he seeks to protect the men of Ulster and the Brown Bull of Cuailgne from the plots and incursions of the Connacht queen and king, Medb and Ailill. The reader has to depersonalize all the killing in order to continue reading to the end; otherwise, all s/he would see is blood spurting everywhere. Yet, after all the bloodshed, both bulls are dead. A seven-year peace follows, and the grim im Merciless warfare. Gallows humor. Brutal and bloodthirsty, Cuchulain slays scores of men in single combat as he seeks to protect the men of Ulster and the Brown Bull of Cuailgne from the plots and incursions of the Connacht queen and king, Medb and Ailill. The reader has to depersonalize all the killing in order to continue reading to the end; otherwise, all s/he would see is blood spurting everywhere. Yet, after all the bloodshed, both bulls are dead. A seven-year peace follows, and the grim implication is that war will begin again as soon as the next generation of Ulster and Connacht boys are old enough to go to war. The world is so alien, yet the issues so modern. The epic was revised and transcribed in an early Irish Christian monastery and must have been popular as an after-dinner story, albeit told in parts. Awesome ink-spatter drawings by Louis le Brocquy make this edition, a translation by the poet Thomas Kinsella that was first published in 1969, the gold standard for general reader and scholarly reader alike.
Erin
I read this book for a Comparative Literature class on old Irish heroes and I found it to be an enjoyable read. The structure of this version is a little difficult to grasp so I would suggest reading the other translation published by Penguin Classics if you think that may bother you.

A vulgar summary would be:-

Based on the famous Gaelic tale of a hero which is set in ancient Ireland. Lots of interesting characters are introduced and the relationship they have with each other is probably one of I read this book for a Comparative Literature class on old Irish heroes and I found it to be an enjoyable read. The structure of this version is a little difficult to grasp so I would suggest reading the other translation published by Penguin Classics if you think that may bother you.

A vulgar summary would be:-

Based on the famous Gaelic tale of a hero which is set in ancient Ireland. Lots of interesting characters are introduced and the relationship they have with each other is probably one of the most thought provoking elements of the book. The gender play within this tale is also worth mentioning as the treatment of women differs slightly from the rest of Europe.
If you are a fan of heroes, particularly the hulk, then you will love this book as I feel that the two characters are heavily linked. It may even be fair to suggest that the hulk was based on this tale?
In addition to this, modern Irish politics and culture play with this tale often and attach different meanings to it.

I rated it 3/5 and I would recommend it to anyone thinking of reading it.

Kathryn
Thomas Kinsella deserves a huge thank you from people like me who love Irish folk tales, and try to read the annals of ancient Ireland, available through a wonderful website: http://www.ucc.ie/celt/publishd.html but who finds it all becomes a jumble of side tales, genealogies other quasi historic lore. Kinsella's book creates a coherent narrative around the tales of ancient Ireland, particularly regarding the Ulster cycle -- including the birth, childhood and success of Cú Chulainn, the madness Thomas Kinsella deserves a huge thank you from people like me who love Irish folk tales, and try to read the annals of ancient Ireland, available through a wonderful website: http://www.ucc.ie/celt/publishd.html but who finds it all becomes a jumble of side tales, genealogies other quasi historic lore. Kinsella's book creates a coherent narrative around the tales of ancient Ireland, particularly regarding the Ulster cycle -- including the birth, childhood and success of Cú Chulainn, the madness of Sweeney, the love affair of Deirdre and Uisne, and other tales.

But more than just creating a coherent narrative, Kinsella brings fresh humor to many scenes -- especially in regard to the relationship between men and women. I esp.love how Maeve and her women bare their breasts to render the men impotent on the battle field.
Bryn
This is a translation of a mediaeval text, telling the story of Cuchulain - one of ireland's great heroes. I had a vague sense of the tale before reading, but what startled me most was the reason for the huge, heroic battles...

It's all about a cow. A really big cow, admitedly, but Medh wants it (for long and complicated reasons) and the people who own it won't let her have it, and so they go to war, huge armies march across the country, and for a long time, Cuchulain holds them off all by himsel This is a translation of a mediaeval text, telling the story of Cuchulain - one of ireland's great heroes. I had a vague sense of the tale before reading, but what startled me most was the reason for the huge, heroic battles...

It's all about a cow. A really big cow, admitedly, but Medh wants it (for long and complicated reasons) and the people who own it won't let her have it, and so they go to war, huge armies march across the country, and for a long time, Cuchulain holds them off all by himself.

It's a good story, written rather plainly, with lots of attention to who wore what, and how people are connected to each other, and how these tales relate to the naming of features in the landscape. An odd read, but a good one. If you're interested in Irish mythology and/or druidry, its well worth a look.
grunthos
This book is likable as a cultural epic, but it is also boring and predictable for the same reasons. The endless list of warriors and place names are of little interest to the average reader not steeped in the history of Ireland and Irish lineages. That aside, I appreciate the unique depiction of women that comes in this tale. When compared to other cultural epics, woman have tremendously more roles then simply the wife/mother, the virgin/daughter, and the temptress/whore. Some of the women of t This book is likable as a cultural epic, but it is also boring and predictable for the same reasons. The endless list of warriors and place names are of little interest to the average reader not steeped in the history of Ireland and Irish lineages. That aside, I appreciate the unique depiction of women that comes in this tale. When compared to other cultural epics, woman have tremendously more roles then simply the wife/mother, the virgin/daughter, and the temptress/whore. Some of the women of the Tain fit into these molds, but there is also the Irish warrior goddesses and the Queen who not only battles but has a prominent role in the entire plot of the epic. The unique female roles provide colorful variety to the feats of the warrior, Cuchulainn.
Colin
Wow. My ancestors were bonkers. This story of an expedition to steal a bull quickly turns into one of the bloodiest things I've ever read. The hero is an Achilles-type character whose only real challenge is having to do battle against folks he cares about. Even then, he whoops them with almost no thought or remorse, most of the time. The names are difficult to keep track of and don't even bother trying to pronounce the Irish words in your head. It'll hurt too much. If you can get past the gore a Wow. My ancestors were bonkers. This story of an expedition to steal a bull quickly turns into one of the bloodiest things I've ever read. The hero is an Achilles-type character whose only real challenge is having to do battle against folks he cares about. Even then, he whoops them with almost no thought or remorse, most of the time. The names are difficult to keep track of and don't even bother trying to pronounce the Irish words in your head. It'll hurt too much. If you can get past the gore and violence, and remember that this was eventually written down by Christian monks likely trying to demonize Ireland's pagan past, it's an interesting look at late Iron Age life, or at least a mythologized version of it, on the Emerald Isle.
Lora O'Brien
This is the most accurate translation of the epic Irish tale, the Táin Bó Cuailnge, and includes the major remscéla or pre-tales which go a long way towards putting some of the madder stuff into a bit of context.

There's still a lot of mad stuff in there, but sure it's all good.

Starting at Rathcroghan, in County Roscommon, the story wends it's way across the country to Cooley in County Louth. Featuring CúChulainn, Lugh, the Morrigan, Ferdia, Conor MacNessa, Fergus Mac Roich, and the notorious war This is the most accurate translation of the epic Irish tale, the Táin Bó Cuailnge, and includes the major remscéla or pre-tales which go a long way towards putting some of the madder stuff into a bit of context.

There's still a lot of mad stuff in there, but sure it's all good.

Starting at Rathcroghan, in County Roscommon, the story wends it's way across the country to Cooley in County Louth. Featuring CúChulainn, Lugh, the Morrigan, Ferdia, Conor MacNessa, Fergus Mac Roich, and the notorious warrior Queen of Connacht, Medb - you won't be short of an interesting character to keep track of.

I really like the artwork included in this version, by Louis le Brocquy; it captures well the tenuous nature of the meanings and symbolism that are woven into the fabric of this teaching tale.
Diana
Still the best translation of this Irish epic for me - although I do have some issues with some of the word choices which are not strictly appropriate when compared to the Old Irish. What I like is that, unlike other translators, Kinsella doesn't sneak in his own editorializing into the text - which, in the Old Irish, is surprisingly light on editorial insertions by the monastic scribes. Given the religious and political environment when the Old Irish texts were composed and transcribed, that is Still the best translation of this Irish epic for me - although I do have some issues with some of the word choices which are not strictly appropriate when compared to the Old Irish. What I like is that, unlike other translators, Kinsella doesn't sneak in his own editorializing into the text - which, in the Old Irish, is surprisingly light on editorial insertions by the monastic scribes. Given the religious and political environment when the Old Irish texts were composed and transcribed, that is rather remarkable.

I have read this before (for my dissertation), but I read it again this year to have it fresh in my mind as I assigned it for my graduate medieval literature course.
Sharon
I'm rating it a 5, because it is a significant piece of historical literature. You can learn about the culture of Ireland. According to Wikipedia, this is a legendary tale from early Irish literature, often considered an epic, although it is written primarily in prose rather than verse. It tells of a war against Ulster by the Connacht queen Medb and her husband Ailill, who intend to steal the stud bull Donn Cuailnge, opposed only by the teenage Ulster hero Cú Chulainn. If you choose to read this I'm rating it a 5, because it is a significant piece of historical literature. You can learn about the culture of Ireland. According to Wikipedia, this is a legendary tale from early Irish literature, often considered an epic, although it is written primarily in prose rather than verse. It tells of a war against Ulster by the Connacht queen Medb and her husband Ailill, who intend to steal the stud bull Donn Cuailnge, opposed only by the teenage Ulster hero Cú Chulainn. If you choose to read this, I'd suggest at least skimming through the first part of the book that discusses the translation.
Ben Campbell
Bought today wed 8 july at "the green arcade bookstore" on the corner of Market st & Gough, San Francisco.
Irish folk literature telling of the longest tale of the Ulster cycle

Champing at the bit to start eating the words inside these pages.
5 sep:
3/4 of the way through, im finding it a challenge. I can say i find the god like characters, with their super strength and powers interesting. I do need a whole year to learn the pronounceation of gaelic grammar and letters. I find myself compromisi Bought today wed 8 july at "the green arcade bookstore" on the corner of Market st & Gough, San Francisco.
Irish folk literature telling of the longest tale of the Ulster cycle

Champing at the bit to start eating the words inside these pages.
5 sep:
3/4 of the way through, im finding it a challenge. I can say i find the god like characters, with their super strength and powers interesting. I do need a whole year to learn the pronounceation of gaelic grammar and letters. I find myself compromising to my interpretations and pronounceations of places and people, just to get the book read.

In the end I couldnt finish-lost interest!
Stephen
Not as refined an epic as Beowulf or the Illiad--probably on par with Gilgamesh in that sense--but still an awesome piece of literature. Focuses far more than any other epic I've read on showing how certain parts of the setting were named (i.e., and at that ford so-and-so died; that is why it is called so-and-so's ford). Some pretty interesting and complex characters, most notably Cu Chulainn, Fergus Mac Roich, and Fer Diad. There are a couple of tedious parts--the lists and descriptions of hero Not as refined an epic as Beowulf or the Illiad--probably on par with Gilgamesh in that sense--but still an awesome piece of literature. Focuses far more than any other epic I've read on showing how certain parts of the setting were named (i.e., and at that ford so-and-so died; that is why it is called so-and-so's ford). Some pretty interesting and complex characters, most notably Cu Chulainn, Fergus Mac Roich, and Fer Diad. There are a couple of tedious parts--the lists and descriptions of heroes that also show up in the Illiad and the Aeneid--but it is pretty action packed, probably only surpassed by the Illiad in that aspect. Overall, a great story. I will certainly be reading it again.
David
An action packed translation of an old Irish legend about what amounts to a cattle rustling raid. The entire Irish army gathers to take back the great White Horned Bull from the people of Ulster. All the Ulstermen with the exception of the 17 year-old Cu Chulainn are stricken with The Curse and are temporarily unable to fight. No matter, Cu Chulainn holds off the Irish army for some time single handed, lopping heads and cutting warriors in half by the hundreds. All the Irish names can be a probl An action packed translation of an old Irish legend about what amounts to a cattle rustling raid. The entire Irish army gathers to take back the great White Horned Bull from the people of Ulster. All the Ulstermen with the exception of the 17 year-old Cu Chulainn are stricken with The Curse and are temporarily unable to fight. No matter, Cu Chulainn holds off the Irish army for some time single handed, lopping heads and cutting warriors in half by the hundreds. All the Irish names can be a problem. There is a pronunciation guide in the front of the book, but I finally gave up and mentally pronounced the names as closely as I could as they looked in English.
Dylan Grant
I am so saddened by how little I enjoyed this book. I thought an Irish epic poem, an irish Beowulf or Odyssey, would be spectacular.

Instead, the Tain is astonishingly boring. The bulk of the book consists of Cuchulainn fighting arrogant people, and the fights always go the exact same way. Queen Medb promises some brave warrior a beautiful woman named if they kill Cuchulainn, and then Cuchulainn makes mincemeat out of them effortlessly. This happens at least a dozen times.

Recommend to only the I am so saddened by how little I enjoyed this book. I thought an Irish epic poem, an irish Beowulf or Odyssey, would be spectacular.

Instead, the Tain is astonishingly boring. The bulk of the book consists of Cuchulainn fighting arrogant people, and the fights always go the exact same way. Queen Medb promises some brave warrior a beautiful woman named if they kill Cuchulainn, and then Cuchulainn makes mincemeat out of them effortlessly. This happens at least a dozen times.

Recommend to only the most die-hard heroic poetry fans.
Paul Peterson
Ultra-violent, but that seems to be the way with all ancient epics. Trying to fill in my knowledge of Celtic history and this was probably a good start, at least as it pertains to Ireland. It seems the split between Northern Ireland and the rest of Ireland predates the Norman conquest. Covers a lot of how places got their names in Ireland. Basically, somebody was killed there during this epic war and the place was either named after them or after how they were killed.

A good, fairly quick read f Ultra-violent, but that seems to be the way with all ancient epics. Trying to fill in my knowledge of Celtic history and this was probably a good start, at least as it pertains to Ireland. It seems the split between Northern Ireland and the rest of Ireland predates the Norman conquest. Covers a lot of how places got their names in Ireland. Basically, somebody was killed there during this epic war and the place was either named after them or after how they were killed.

A good, fairly quick read for buffs of this time and place in history.
John
I love this book. This is an awesome example of the richness of the Irish story telling tradition. It's a shame we know more about Greek, Roman and Norse mythology than we do our own (if only anicient Celtic people weren't discouraged from writting things down!).

It's only flaw is that by being a translation much of the poetic nature of the original is lost. Despite this, this book is a must read for anyone interested in classical European mythology. Cúchulainn's feats and deeds far surpass thos I love this book. This is an awesome example of the richness of the Irish story telling tradition. It's a shame we know more about Greek, Roman and Norse mythology than we do our own (if only anicient Celtic people weren't discouraged from writting things down!).

It's only flaw is that by being a translation much of the poetic nature of the original is lost. Despite this, this book is a must read for anyone interested in classical European mythology. Cúchulainn's feats and deeds far surpass those of Hercules, Beowulf or Achilles.
Katie Joiner
Surprisingly palatable, I finished this required reading for an upcoming university course in one day flat - and was left bowled over by the sheer imagination required to make this epic. It's obvious that hundreds of years of orators tossing the story of Cuchulainn around has rendered it a remarkably well-done work, with epic world-building, adventure, and romance. The characters are interesting, and the things that happen are just unbelievable enough to make it feel like you're reading a peculi Surprisingly palatable, I finished this required reading for an upcoming university course in one day flat - and was left bowled over by the sheer imagination required to make this epic. It's obvious that hundreds of years of orators tossing the story of Cuchulainn around has rendered it a remarkably well-done work, with epic world-building, adventure, and romance. The characters are interesting, and the things that happen are just unbelievable enough to make it feel like you're reading a peculiarly well-thought-out dream.

FIVE STARS
Tracy
This translation of an ancient Irish epic is worth looking at. The action is swift and the glimpses into ancient pagan cultures are fascinating. The strong female character of Queen Medb was a surprise as well. She was a powerful woman who commanded authority, led armies, and owned many wealthy lands.

Due to being busy I had to return this book to the library before I could finish it, but what I read was an engaging story that I think fantasy fans would like.
Hazel
Reading the introduction to this book I was quite wary of the accuracy, and I still can't know but I believe the translator does a good job. The stories are quite interesting. You can definitely see the influence it has had on Tolkien, and to a lesser extent the elder scrolls series. The book is mostly prose with some smatterings of poetry. Occasionally it breaks down into long lists, usually people and their descriptions and these are quite boring.
Liam
Read this while a student in Dublin, so reading it in Ireland added to the ambiance of the reading experience. I read much of it enroute to Belfast on a bus. We visited the sites told about such as Emain Macha the ancient capitol of Ulster. The Tain is mysterious in that like Greek tragedies it includes passages that don't fully translate or actually make immediate sense to the story line. Still, the Tain is powerful and the include pretales make great short story bed time reading.
Archetype
Who knew that the early A.D. Irish were so much like comic-book characters. This very very old text is amazingly entertaining. Boasting a 'warp-spasming' hero, this old story also carries accounts of how mountains in Ireland ended up with flat tops (missed sword strikes), why the Irish fought naked, and even where Stonehenge came from... If you liked comic books as a kid, this is a far better entrance, methinks, to medievil literature than BEOWOLF.
Csenge
I'm not really going to write a review of Ireland's national epic. This story existed centuries before I came along and it will be around long after me too. It is a part of the world's legacy of stories. It's great.
The edition, though, I can talk about. I strangely liked the simplistic illustrations, and the whole thing was easy to follow. I can't speak for the translation because I don't read Gaelic, but the language was enjoyable and eloquent. That's all.
Neil
I found this book to be breathtakingly beautiful, it swept me away with its wonderful prose. It wont be for everybody I guess, I have a strong connection to the stories and I devoured it hungrily. I gave it as a present to my girlfriend and she didn't quite have the experience I had, if you love poetic epic tales and heroes my guess is you will find something good you can take away from the experience
Brynna
The great ancient epic of the cattle-raid on Ulster by the army of Connacht, led mainly by their queen Medb. Ulster is defended by the hero Cuchulainn. As a classical scholar, I found the stylistic similarities with Homer striking. The Tain contains some beautiful poetry as well as prose, and the brush illustrations really add to this edition. One of my favorites, but not for the faint of heart.
Mary McMyne
This amazing translation, with lovely modern art inkblot illustrations, truly seems to evoke the culture and values of the ancient Irish people (or at least the way they were remembered by the monks who eventually wrote down these fragments over many centuries). Bawdy and clever, mythic and poetic, highly recommended for anyone interested in ancient Ireland.
Miriam Joy
I assumed with the Irish and the medieval and the epic going on that I would enjoy this more than I did, but no. The exposition went okay, but most of the book was Cúchulainn aka the Incredible Hulk's g-g-g...g granddad killing everyone. Boring, and I am not a fan of Cú. A few interesting details, sequences, and vivid descriptions along the way, but mostly meh.
Allison Weber
An epic written in the old Celtic tradition, much like Beowulf, this delightful tale features a hero with supernatural abilities and mad ninja talents. Although this book possesses a lot of humor (intentional and otherwise) and I often found myself chuckling about it, it also illustrates fundamental qualities of national Irish identity, like fierce loyalty and the value in bravery.
Wilde Sky
Irish heroic fantasy with both political intrigue and individual heroic feats. The hero, Cú Chulainn, is a young, hot-tempered, nearly invincible warrior who stands alone against invading armies.

I found it difficult to engage with this story - the fact that some of the text layout is unusual didn't help the reader.
Kate
This is your second Irish assignment after reading "How the Irish Saved Civilization." Understand the mythology, understand the culture. This volume of selected stories includes tales of fierce warriors and fiercer women. Don't let the Gaelic names put you off; this bloody, sexy epic is a wild read.
A. Hotzler
My only complaint, with the Kinsella edition shown above, is the discrepancies that the conclusion of the epic takes. I won't give any spoilers, but the notes in the back of the text will illuminate them if you happen to miss them.

Regardless, sexual innuendos, bloody battles, what more could one ask for? Oh, yeah, there's some magic, and recurring appearances of the morrigan; fun stuff.

Patrick Hadley
This is excellent. It's got all the speed and marvelous storytelling of the Odyssey, with all the interesting and debatable details of the Iliad. I really wish I had grown up somewhere that would've allowed me to be studying this area of literature right now. This book is the perfect ancillary to anyone with a degree in classics.
Mike
An excellent translation. The language is clear and natural without compromising the integrity of the narrative. It's more concerned with keeping the narrative intact than keeping the meter intact, which is probably the way to go when translating an epic.

If you don't understand the mythology too well, or aren't that familiar with this story, this is a good version to start with.
Benjamin
This laugh-a-minute slaughterfest hits the spot. When Fer Diad and Cu Chulainn punctuate their pugilism with a rap battle, I thought it couldn't get any better, but then came "The Multiple Wounds of Cethern," not the least of which is that he's been disemboweled. That's when the fun really starts! Those rowdy Irish!
Dana
The story of the Cattle Raid of Cooley, complete with Queen Medb (Mab or Maeve) and the Irish hero Cuchullain. Humorous, bawdy, and heroic, this tale surely is one of the reasons why the Irish are known for their storytelling.
Lanea
Arguably the best translation from Old Irish to English available. It's full of action, intrigue, sex, poetry, myth--everything worth reading, in short. Loius LeBrocquy's illustrations are genius.
Mike
This is the best translation I have ever seen of Ireland's greatest epic. It is absolutely amazing. The battle between Cuchulainn and Ferdiad kicks ass (and the description of how Cuchulainn uses the gae bolga to kill Ferdiad is just sick).

Amazing stuff.
Mordecai
It would have been a better read if not so strictly translated. As it was, the story-telling was thick with information that was unnecessary to people of our time. The battles and deeds were quick reads, but the rest was slow going.
Peter Aronson
Epic, brilliant, brutal, vulgar and very, very, bloody, the Táin may or may not be an authentic Iron Age epic but it certainly reads like one. Ciaran Carson's translation is very readable and occasionally poetic.
Andy
Good translation of a text that doesn't appear in full form in any individual source. It is an interesting epic poem that should be more widely read to remind people that the Greeks and Vikings don't have exclusivity over epic poetry.
Thomas
extremely violent, quite funny and there's lots of cool little grotesque moments, like when it's explained that any cows got with calf by the brown bull will explode with calves if they don't give birth within a day.
Silvio Curtis
I think that some people think of this as the national epic of Ireland, though it isn't a poem. It is very much in the style of a war epic. It's mostly about how the hero Cúchulainn from the kingdom of Ulster fights off the warriors of the rest of Ireland almost single-handed.
Scott
Over the past 30 years or so I've read several retellings and excerpts, but this is the first time I've read the whole work. Superheroes were real superheroes back in the day. This was a fun read, start to finish.
Jennifer Freitag
I found this retelling of the old Irish saga to be occasionally hilarious, very brutal, quite engaging, not exactly squeaky-clean, and, in general, extremely Irish. Carson's translation makes for an easy read and a nice little peek into the life of Cuchulainn and the times of the ancient Irish.
Mike
An incredible tale that I had to read for class yet thoroughly enjoyed. Truly epic but hard to remember all the names mentioned. After some time I just decided not to except the major players. Simply put Cuchulainn kicks ass!
Gerry
While its amazing that this story has persisted through the centuries it's a fairly painful read at times due to the overly repetitive nature. It's hard to get drawn into Cuchulainns character a he seems like a raving physo who takes great pleasure in smashing people's skulls in.
Andie
I was reading this book for my British Literature class and then I just kept reading it for fun. I was surprised at every turn of the page, it is funny, incredible and fairy-tale like is like the Lord of the Rings, uncut... love it!
Brigid ✩ Cool Ninja Sharpshooter ✩
3.5 Stars Pretty crazy. I liked it. Review coming eventually.
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