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The Táin (0800) 1,906 eksemplarer, 24 anmeldelser

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Táin author



Irish Queen Medb is pissed. The only thing separating her wealth from her husband Ailill's is a supernatural bull, which should be hers except that he defected to Ailill's herd because he didn't want to be owned by a woman. Very regressive, this is the 8th century already, come on. So she decides to invade the neighboring province of Ulster to steal this other supernatural bull and even the score. Ailill goes along because sure, nothing more fun than a good cattle rustling war.

Bolstering their chances is the fact that all the men of Ulster are suffering labor pains. Ok, see, they once forced this pregnant woman named Macha to race the King's horses while she was heavily pregnant. She won and gave birth at the finish line, to twins, but she wasn't happy. She laid a curse on all the men of the province that they would be laid out with labor pangs for 5 days and 4 nights whenever they most needed their strength.

Even better, for some reason this situation lasts for 3 months while Medb's army is in Ulster; the contradiction goes unremarked. Pretty rough, fellows. However, there is one man in Ulster unaffected, the hero Cúchulainn, who seems to be spared because his natural father is both the mortal Sualtam and the god Lug. Not really sure how that works, but okay.

Cúchulainn single handedly fights the invading army for months, sometimes through ritual single combat, but at other times going on rampages in which he kills dozens and even hundreds of men. He's not invincible, but he's pretty close to it, and he can do various superhuman feats you might expect to find in an ancient epic tale. You've heard the expression "contorts with rage"; Cúchulainn has a version that Kinsella memorably translates as "warp-spasm":
His body made a furious twist inside his skin, so that his feet and shins switched to the rear and his heels and calves switched to the front... His face and features became a red bowl: he sucked one eye so deep into his head that a wild crane couldn't probe it onto his cheek out of the depths of his skull; the other eye fell out along his cheek. His mouth weirdly distorted: his cheek peeled back from his jaws until the gullet appeared, his lungs and his liver flapped in his mouth and throat, his lower jaw struck the upper a lion-killing blow, and fiery flakes large as a ram's fleece reached his mouth from his throat... Then, tall and thick, steady and strong, high as the mast of a noble ship, rose up from the dead centre of his skull a straight spout of black blood darkly and magically smoking like the smoke from a royal hostel when a king is coming to be cared for at the close of a winter day.
The only warrior who comes close to matching Cúchulainn is Ferdia, his ex-foster brother and training companion. They engage in a 3 day long single combat, and despite their past bond engage in some trash talk, an Epic Rap Battle:
'It is I who will kill,
I who will destroy,
I who will drive
Ulster's hero to flight
before all eyes
By my doing
they'll rue their loss
early and late.'

'You have reached your doom,
your hour is come
My sword will slash
and not softly
When we meet you will fall
at a hero's hands
Never again
will you lead men
Cúchulainn kills Ferdia after 3 solid days of combat but is now seriously wounded and needs to recuperate. Fortunately the men of Ulster have finally recovered from their labor pains and show up for the final battle, which is rather unimportant and anti-climactic in comparison to Cúchulainn's heroics. Medb misses the end of the battle when she gets her period; off by herself taking care of business, Cúchulainn finds her but does not kill her, the story making the obviously false claim that he doesn't kill women.

A generally entertaining epic, though it suffers from internal inconsistencies, contradictions, and the epic's consistent weakness for dull list making. The personal comment made by the 12th Century scribe who copied down the story in the manuscript known as the Book of Leinster is a notable contribution to the corpus of medieval scribal notes in hand copied manuscripts: "I who have copied down this story, or more accurately fantasy, do not credit the details of the story, or fantasy. Some things in it are devilish lies, and some poetical figments; some seem possible and others not; some are for the enjoyment of idiots."
… (mere)
lelandleslie | 23 andre anmeldelser | Feb 24, 2024 |
La grande razzia (alias Táin Bó Cúailnge) è il racconto mitico della guerra che il Connacht mosse all’Ulster per il possesso di un magnifico toro. La simbologia si spreca e bisogna ringraziare Adelphi (e quando mai la malediamo?) per l’edizione annotata e accompagnata da un’introduzione molto interessante, soprattutto per chi come me è appassionata di mitologia (irlandese, in questo caso), ma non è che ne sappia poi chissà quanto.

Il pregio de La grande razzia è sicuramente la simbologia, che intreccia le vicende mitologiche con la lotta tra luce e oscurità, con il ciclo della natura e il succedersi delle stagioni, con la necessità che l’equilibrio sia mantenuto, con il terrore che una donna salga al potere e si dimostri più virile del marito. Con ovvia rottura dell’equilibrio (niente rompe più gli equilibri che scombinare i ruoli di genere, segnatevelo).

Il difetto è che dopo aver letto per l’ennesima volta dell’uccisione di Tizio, Caio o Sempronio a opera di Cú Chulainn, figlio del dio Lúg e della sorella del re dell’Ulster e giovanissimo eroe in grado di contrapporsi da solo all’esercito del Connacht, il latte alle ginocchia inizia a venire. E questo nonostante la mia grande passione per la mitologia e la mia resistenza granitica alle kenningar, alle divagazioni e alle ripetizioni tipiche di poemi e prose epiche.

Quindi il mio consiglio è di recuperare La grande razzia se la mitologia (irlandese) vi piace davvero, davvero tanto. Altrimenti potete sempre leggervi il racconto in qualche libro che racconta la mitologia irlandese senza aver bisogno di leggere di Cú Chulainn che ammazza questo o quello per pagine e pagine.
… (mere)
lasiepedimore | 23 andre anmeldelser | Jan 12, 2024 |
Ages ago I read a simpler version of this epic tale, I suppose tidied up for younger people. I had a passion for folklore as a child and my mother was always finding treasures. So. The folk of Ulster have a great Brown bull and the folk of Connacht, a great White bull. The Connacht greedily want both and so steal the Ulster Brown bull. Now the complication is that the Ulstermen suffer a thing called 'the Pangs' for a week or two once a year. During this time they undergo the severe pains of childbirth and are entirely unable to function. For some reason the young Cúchulainn, nephew of Conchobar, King of the Ulsterfolk, does not get the pangs and so comes to the rescue fighting off the Connacht until the Ulster warriors recover. He kills everyone he meets and in the end even has to kill his best friend, Ferdia. Badly wounded he has to step out but just then the Ulster warriors are recovered and show up. As with many ancient works, lineages are paramount and there are pages and pages of descriptions of the warriors--titles, status, prowess as warriors, where from, who related to, what wearing, what weapons and all the rest. Tedious, but restful too. Also, as with much ancient story-telling there is the 'how-this-place-got-its-name' theme as well. Hyperbole is de rigeur also. I kind of assume that when a king turns up with three thousand men, actually it is a local chieftain with thirty men. But whatever. The point of such tales, I think, while to provide entertainment was more importantly to remind the people of their history and heritage, and also, to some degree their values (or lack thereof) and to provide a kind of physical map of the area--very ancient indeed. Plot, character development etcetera was entirely irrelevant. There are moments of humor (Medb is happy to sleep with anyone if that would help them fight for her, they constantly offer their daughter to any reluctant warrior as well, even after she has died) and moments of true pathos (Ferdia's death). Kinsella includes the conclusory remarks of the scribe of the version in The Book of Leinster:
First: "A blessing on everyone who will memorise the Táin faithfully in this form and not put any other form on it."
Then: "I who have copied down this story, or more accurately fantasy, do not credit the details of the story, or fantasy. Some things in it are devilish lies, and some poetical figments: some seem possible and others not; some are for the enjoyment of idiots." Rating must be ***** but truly no rating is necessary.
… (mere)
1 stem
sibylline | 23 andre anmeldelser | Mar 30, 2022 |
The Tain is epic. In fact it is Epic - at least as Epic as more famous Epics, such as the Iliad. In fact, the number of correspondences between the Cattle Raid of Cooley and the story of Achilles' rage is remarkable. (It must be - I just remarked it.) Wanna know what they are (at least some of them, anyway)? Oi - you at the back! stop saying, "No."

here we go:
Illiad: Achilles only vulnerable on one heel.
Tain: CuChulain's foster brother only vulnerable to a gae bolga shoved where the sun doesn't shine. (The gae bolga is a mysterious design of spear - the blade had backward pointing barbs - other aspects of the design are obscure and variously interpreted.)
Illiad: Lots of riding round in chariots, killing people.
Tain: Lots of riding round in chariots, killing people.
Illiad: Lots of stomping around on foot, killing people.
Tain: Lots of stomping around on foot, killing people.
Illiad: Single combat.
Tain: Single combat. Generally in a ford that gets its name from the event.
Illiad: Riding round in a chariot, dragging the corpse of your enemy behind you.
Tain: Riding round in a chariot, dragging the corpse of your enemy behind you.
Illiad: Supernatural intervention.
Tain: Supernatural intervention.
Illiad: Heaps of famous heroes.
Tain: Heaps of famous heroes, especially near the end.
Illiad: Big fight over a beautiful woman.
Tain: Big fight over a prize bull. Okay - not such a close correspondence.
Illiad: Javelins.
Tain: Spears.
Illiad: Achilles chooses a short life but ever-lasting fame. (But maybe this isn't mentioned in the Illiad - I can't remember.)
Tain: CuChulain chooses a short life rather than everlasting ridicule. (But not during the Cattle Raid.)
Illiad: Achilles' rage.
Tain: CuChulain's "warp-spasm".
Illiad: Verse.
Tain: Mainly prose - some cryptic verse.

So, by now you should be convinced that the pagan Celts in Ireland were just as crazy and violent as any ancient Achaen group you care to name and appreciated the stories of their ancestors' crazy violence as much, too.

Three fifties of Bards couldn't praise this Epic enough, so I won't even try - just read it and find out how many boys can play hurling on the back of Ulster's prize bull, how CuChulain (the Hound of Culann) got his name and weapons and the name of every ford, hill and rock that figured in CuChulain's almost single handed defense of Ulster from an army of 30,000!
… (mere)
3 stem
Arbieroo | 23 andre anmeldelser | Jul 17, 2020 |



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Associated Authors

Thomas Kinsella Translator
Ciaran Carson Translator
Joseph Dunn Translator
Louis le Brocquy Illustrator
Mary A. Hutton Translator
Gene Haley Topographical research



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