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The Scottish folklorist J.F. Campbell pieced together the tale of the Celtic Dragon, an intricate oft-told story involving not just dragons but mermaids, giants, and sidhe (fairies). This story, or portions thereof, is found in many Indo-European folklore traditions, as far afield as India. Campbell includes not only his merged narrative, but original Gaelic texts for two of the episodes. Campbell is best known for his four volume Popular Tales of the Western Highlands, also available at this site. The book includes a contribution by George Henderson, the Gaelic text and an English translation of the related tale of Fraoch and the Dragon.About Author:John Francis Campbell (Scots: Iain Frangan Caimbeul; Islay, 29 December 1821 – Cannes, 17 February 1885), also known as Young John of Islay (Scottish Gaelic: Iain Òg Ìle) was a Scottish author and scholar who specialised in Celtic studies. Campbell was known as authority on Celtic folklore and that of the Gaelic peoples in particular. His best known published work is the bilingual Popular Tales of the West Highlands (4 vols., 1860–62), and Gaelic various texts.
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THE CELTIC DRAGON MYTH
With the Geste of Fraoch and the Dragon
J. F. CAMPBELL
Illustrations by Rachel Ainslie Grant Duff
The Celtic Dragon Myth by J.F. Campbell.
© David De Angelis 2017 [all rights reserved]
THE GESTE OF FRAOCH
THE DEATH OF FRAOCH
THE CELTIC DRAGON MYTH
THE THREE WAYS
THE MEETING OF THE THREE WAYS
THE MEETING OF THE FISHER'S THREE SONS
NOTES TO CELTIC DRAGON MYTH
NA TRÌ RATHAIDEAN MÓRA
If the king's daughter is not here to-morrow at this same hour the realm shall be ravaged by me
Between the years 1870 and 1884 the late Mr J. F. Campbell of Islay was repeatedly attracted by a series of legends current in the Highlands and Isles, which made special appeal to him as a storyologist. After reading a dozen versions of the stories, he found that no single title fitted so well as that of the Dragon Myth. "It treats of water, egg, mermaid, sea-dragon, tree, beasts, birds, fish, metals, weapons, and men mysteriously produced from sea-gifts. All versions agree in these respects; they are all water myths, and relate to the slaying of water monsters."
As early indeed as 1862, while fresh from work, he had taken incidents from three versions and compared them with versions in other languages. Several journeys in the Highlands followed, as also in Japan, China, and Ceylon. While in the East, it was part of his pastimes to make sketches of the Dragons of the Orient, his mind being all the while full of the legends of the West. He regarded this as one of the most important of myths, and the most difficult to deal with. It is the State Myth of England, Russia, and Japan. He found it in the "Rig Veda," and he concluded generally that it is Eur-Aryan in the widest sense.
Of his own work he expressly says that it is free translation. "I take the story from the Gaelic and tell it in my own words generally where the scribe's language is prosy. But when passages occur which seem worth preservation—bits of recitation and quaint phrases—I have translated carefully. This is work honestly done while my head was full of the subject. I think that it might interest a large number of readers… ." The manuscript is among the Campbell of Islay Collection in the Advocates' Library, Edinburgh, to the Curators of which I am beholden for their courtesy, of which I now make public acknowledgment, in enabling me to complete at Glasgow University Library the transcription which I had begun many years ago.
For him the subject had two distinct aspects: first, the story is amusing for children; secondly, it has a scientific interest for a large and growing number of scholars. He had heard in London Mr Ralston give his lectures upon Russian stories, and found that the children in the audience were much amused. But amongst the audience were also Thomas Carlyle, Professor Owen, Sir R. Murchison, Reeve, Lady Ashburton, Miss Dempster of Skibo, and a number of learned people who wanted to know "the philosophy of the subject." For Mr Campbell thought there was a great deal of philosophy in it, and he states: "I want readers, wise and foolish, to be equally well treated. The foolish may read the story, the wise may read both story and notes."
He had read parallel stories in Swedish, German, French, Italian, English, and had heard outlines of Russian versions which seemed to him more mythical and nearer the original shape. He even found a part of the story in a book of Swahili tales told at Zanzibar.
"Theoretically," he remarks in 1876, this looks like serpent worship, and the defeat of serpent worship by some mythical personage. Many of the incidents which are not in Gaelic, but are in Swedish, can be traced, and are explained in the Russian version,
e.g., a well is a serpent, an apple tree is another serpent, a cushion in á meadow is a third serpent transformed. Three brothers are concerned in Russian. In Swedish the serpent-slaying heroes are born of maidens who in one instance drink of a well, and in the other eat an apple. Three brothers are concerned in the adventures in Gaelic in one case, and incidents enough for three are in the several versions; if they were combined, Gaelic Swedish and Russian together would make something like a fragment of mythology, but the Gaelic versions give the largest quantity of materials."
The incidents, which number about 440, or deducting what are but variants, about 200, were put together from the following Gaelic versions or stories (of which some specimens are given in this book) collected between January 1856 and January 1861. They are:—
, No. IV., Popular Tales of the West Highlands, p. 72. Hector Urquhart and John Mackenzie, Inveraray.
The Three Roads
. Hector Maclean and B. Macaskill, Berneray. MS.
The Fisher's Son and The Daughter of the King of the Golden Castle
. John Dewar; J. MacNair, Clachaig, Cowal. MS.
The Five-headed Giant
. B. Macaskill, Berneray; and Hector Maclean. MS.
The Smith's Son
. Same sources. MS.
. Hector Maclean and Alexander MacNeil, Ceanntangaval, Barra. MS.
The Gray Lad
. Hector Maclean and John Smith, Polchar, S. Uist. MS.
The Second Son of the King of Ireland and The Daughter of the King of France
. J. Dewar; J. MacNair, Clachaig, Cowal. MS.
The Sea Maiden
. MS. notes by J. F. C., and John MacPhie, vol. i., Popular Tales. Interleaved copy, second recitation.
The Sea Maiden
. Pp. 328, 346 of English Collection by J. F. C. Notes and MSS.
from an Irish blind fiddler on the Loch Goil Head steamer. Interleaved copy. Popular Tales, vol i., p. 71.
Then came further Gaelic versions noted in 1870 and later:—
in Journal, Aug. 17, 1870, pp. 1-10, from Lachlan MacNeill,
5 Maxwellton Street, Paisley.
Aug. 22, 1870. "John Mackenzie, fisherman, can repeat the story as printed from his telling in my book. Kenmore, Inveraray."
Iain Beag Mac An Iasgair
(Little John the Fisher's Son); p. 42 of J. F. C.'s Journal for Sept. 1, 1870. From Malcolm MacDonald, fisherman, Benmore Cottage, Mull.
1 The reciter of Leigheas Cois’ O Céin, published by me in the Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness.
15. Fionn Mac A Bhradain agus Donnchadh mac a’ Bhradain. From — Maclean, fisherman, Bunessan, Ross of Mull.
It will be seen that the legends ranged over a wide Highland area; were thoroughly popular, and of the people. In Ireland there are references to the Dragon story also in Hyde'sSgeulaidhe, and one may compare Synge's The Aran Isles (pp. 40, 46, 24, 55). Parallel tales of contests with water-monsters are world-wide, and the story of St
George and the Dragon, as told in Palestine, is very similar to that current in the Highlands. At Beyrût is shown the very well into which he cast the slain monster, and the place where the saint washed his hands thereafter. The story is:—
"There was once a great city that depended for its water-supply upon a fountain without the walls. A great dragon, possessed and moved by Satan himself, took possession of the fountain and refused to allow water to be taken unless, whenever people came to the spring, a youth or maiden was given to him to devour. The people tried again and again to destroy the monster, but though the flower of the city cheerfully went forth against it, its breath was so pestilential that they used to drop down dead before they came within bowshot.
The terrorised inhabitants were thus obliged to sacrifice their offspring, or die of thirst; till at last all the youths of the place had perished except the king's daughter. So great was the distress of their subjects for want of water that the heart-broken parents could no longer withhold her, and amid the tears of the populace she went out towards the spring where the dragon lay awaiting her. But just as the noisome monster was going to leap on her, Mar Jiryis appeared, in golden panoply upon a fine white steed, and spear in hand. Riding full tilt at the dragon, he struck it fair between the eyes and laid it dead. The king, out of gratitude for this unlooked-for succour, gave Mar Jiryis his daughter and half of his kingdom."2
In the folk-lore of China there is a popular legend that the Chien Tang River was once infested by a great kiau or sea-serpent, and in 1129 A.D. a district graduate is said to have heroically thrown himself into the flood to encounter and destroy the monster. Formerly two dragons were supposed by the Chinese to have been in a narrow passage near Chinaye: they were very furious, and upset boats. According to the Rev. Mr Butler of the Presbyterian Mission in Ningpo, "they had to be appeased by the yearly offering of a girl of fair appearance and perfect body. At last one of the literati determined to stop this. He armed himself and jumped into the water; blood rose to the surface. He had killed one of the dragons. The other retired to the narrow place. A temple was erected to the hero at Peach Blossom ferry."3
In Japan4 one of the dragon legends recounts how a very large serpent with eight heads and eight tails came annually and swallowed one person. A married couple
who had eight children have at last only one girl left. They are in great grief. The hero, So-sa-no-o no mikoto, went to the sources of the river Hi-no-ka-mi at Idzumo and found an old man and woman clasping a young girl. "If you will give that girl to me I will save her." The mikoto changed his form and assumed that of the girl: he divided the room into eight divisions, and in each placed one saki tub. The serpent approached, drank the saki, got intoxicated, and fell asleep, whereupon the mikoto drew his sword and cut the serpent into pieces! Which proves the unwisdom of the Japanese serpent in drinking saki, and the observant mind of So-sa-no-o!
In China the dragon is the emblem of imperial power: a five-clawed dragon is embroidered on the Emperor's robes, with two legs pointing forwards and two backwards. Sometimes it has a pearl in one hand and is surrounded with clouds and fire. The chief dragon is thought to have its abode in the sky, whence it can send rain or withhold it. Its power is symbolised in the Emperor.
Literature abounds in references to dragon-monsters. Homer describes the shield of Hercules as having the scaly horror of a dragon coiled, with eyes oblique, that askant shot gleaming fire. Ovid locates the dragon slain by Cadmus near the river Cephisus, in Bœotia. Arthur carries a dragon on his helm, a tradition referred to in the Faerie Queen. Shakespeare, too:—
Come not between the Dragon and his wrath!"
Ludd's dominion was infested by a dragon that shrieked on May-Day Eve. In Wales,
St Samson is said to have seized the dragon and thrown it into the sea. Among the Welsh, indeed, a pendragon came to mean a chief, a dictator in times of danger. And if we surveyed the lives of the saints, it would be tedious to enumerate the number who figure as dragon-slayers—all of them active long ere the days of the modern Mediterranean shark!
Over the linguistic area covered by the Celtic branches of the Indo-European peoples, legends of contests with monsters have been current from early times. As to their origin, it is difficult to be certain as to how far they may have been transmitted from one people to another. Possibly external influence may be traced in theBruden Dâ Derga, a Gadhelic text from about the eighth century, which speaks of
"In leuidán timchella inn domon"5
(The Leviathan that surrounds the world).
The Cymric book of Taliessin tells of
"That river of dread strife hard by terra [earth],
Venom its essence, around the world it goes."6
The Early Lives of the Saints have parallel references. In an eighth-century chronicle concerning St Fechin, we hear of evil powers and influences whose rage is "seen in that watery fury, and their hellish hate and turbulence in the beating of the sea
against the rocks." Pious men are often afraid to approach the shore, fearing to encounter the like hellish influence. Of a great storm we read of "the waves rising higher and higher—Satan himself doubtless assisting from beneath."7 The Life of the Irish Saint Abban tells how from his ship he saw a beastly monster on the sea, having a hundred heads of divers forms, two hundred eyes, and as many ears; it extended itself to the clouds and set the waters in such commotion that the ship was almost lost. The sailors feared greatly. St Abban prayed against the monster, the beast fell as if dead, and there was a calm. But strange to relate, the body of the monster could be seen neither on sea nor on land (et in hoc apparet quod dyabolus fuit).8 In
Adamnan's Life of Colum-Cille9 there is a chapter concerning the repulse of a certain aquatic monster (aquatilis bestia) by the blessed man's prayer. The incident occurred somewhere by the river Ness. The inhabitants were burying one who had been bitten while swimming. To fetch a coble from the opposite bank, one of Columba's companions, Lugne Mocumin, cast himself into the water. And Adamnan relates:—
"But the monster, which was lying in the river bed, and whose appetite was rather whetted for more prey than sated with what it already had, perceiving the surface of the water disturbed by the swimmer, suddenly comes up and moves towards the man as he swam in mid-stream, and with a great roar rushes on him with open mouth, while all who were there, barbarians as well as brethren, were greatly terror-struck. The blessed man seeing it, after making the Salutary sign of the cross in the empty air with his holy hand upraised, and invoking the name of God, commanded the ferocious monster, saying: 'Go thou no further, nor touch the man; go back at once.' Then, on hearing this word of the saint, the monster was terrified, and fled away again more quickly than if it had been dragged off by ropes, though it had approached Lugne as he swam so closely that between man and monster there was no more than the length of one punt pole."
The whole incident reflects some natural fact, together with the human belief in the possible occurrence of such. "The belief," says Bishop Reeves, "that certain rivers and lakes were haunted by serpents of a demoniacal and terrible character was current among the Irish at a very remote period, and still prevails in many parts of Ireland." St Molua and St Colman of Dromore are recorded to have saved people from such monsters. As to the modern Irish belief, let Mr W. R. Le Fanu's Seventy Years of Irish Life be evidence:—
"The dreadful beast, the wurrum—half fish, half dragon—still survives in many a mountain lake—seldom seen, indeed, but often heard. Near our fishing quarters in Kerry there are two such lakes, one the beautiful little lake at the head of the Blackwater River, called Lough Brin, from Brin or Bran as he is now called, the dreadful wurrum which inhabits it. The man who minds the boat there speaks with awe of Bran; he tells me he has never seen him, and hopes he never may, but has often heard him roaring on a stormy night. On being questioned what the noise was like, he said it was like the roaring of a young bull.' … Some miles further on, between Lough Brin and Glencar, there is another lake from which a boy while bathing was
driven and chased by the dreadful wurrum which dwells in it. It bit him on the back and hunted him all the way home, where he arrived naked and bleeding."
In the Life of St Mochua of Balla it is recounted that no one ventured to pursue a wounded stag that fled to an island in Lough Ree, on account of a horrible monster that infested the lake and was wont to destroy swimmers. A man was at last persuaded to swim across, but as he was returning the beast devoured him.
In the Altus of St Colum-Cille he refers to a great slimy dragon, terrible and most horrible, that slimy serpent more subtle than all the beasts:—
"Draco magnus deterrimus terribilis et antiquus qui fuit serpens lubricus sapientior omnibus bestiis… ."
Nor is a similar belief yet extinct in the Highlands. The late Miss Dempster of Skibo records in her manuscript a legend of St Gilbert and the Dragon, with a note that some say that this was not a dragon, but a witch from Lochlin—a variant to be expected in Sutherland:—
"There lived once upon a time in Sutherland a great dragon, very fierce and strong. It was this dragon that burnt all the fir woods in Ross, Sutherland, and the Reay country, of which the remains, charred, blackened, and half-decayed, may be found in every moss. Magnificent forests they must have been, but the dragon set fire to them with his fiery breath, and rolled over the whole land. Men fled from before his face, and women fainted when his shadow crossed the sky-line. He made the whole land desert. And it came to pass that this evil spirit, whom the people called the 'beast' and 'Dubh Giuthais,'10 came nigh to Dornoch as near as Lochfinn, and when he could see the town and spire of St Gilbert, his church—'Pity of you, Dornoch,' roared the dragon. 'Pity of you, Dornoch,' said St Gilbert, and taking with him five long and sharp arrows, and a little lad to carry them, he went out to meet the 'beast.' When he came over against it he said, 'Pity of you,' and drew his bow. The first arrow shot the beast through the heart. He was buried by the towns-people. Men are alive now who reckoned distance by so or so far from the 'stone of the beast' on the moor between Skibo and Dornoch. The moor is planted, and a wood called Carmore waves over the ashes of the destroying dragon."
This church, Miss Dempster notes, was built between 1235-45, burnt 1570, and rebuilt 1614; it was repaired in 1835 by the Duchess, Countess of Sutherland. While the work was going forward the tomb of the founder, Gilbert, Bishop of Caitness, called St Gilbert, was discovered. The saying went in Sutherland that when this happened, the cathedral would fall at mid-day the following Sunday; and Mrs Dempster well remembered seeing a third of the congregation (Gaelic) camped out on the hill above the town, expecting to see the fall of the roof; nor did many of the oldest inhabitants go to church for several following Sundays.
In addition to legends of the beithir-nimh (venomous serpent) and uile-
bheist (dragon; also a’ bheisd), there are endless tales of the water-horse (each-uisge) associated with Highland lochs. There is hardly a district without some legend of a Linne na Baobh (Badhbh): very often the water-horse is represented as a kind of
10 There is still an old pronunciation with t hard, and not th.
creature covered all over with rags and ribbons, typifying the wind-tossed surface of the waves. His appearance is a portent of a drowning soon to follow.
I n the poem of Tristan and Iseult, by Gottfried of Strassburg, a German poet who wrote about the year 1210, working on sources found by him in a poem by Thomas of Brittany, there is an account of the fight with the dragon, strangely analogous to that in Highland tradition. The hero overcomes a monster, and is about to be robbed of the credit of his exploit by a traitor who claims the princess as his guerdon. It is a widespread Aryan tale. A similar adventure is ascribed to Lancelot in Le cerf au pied blanc, and in the Dutch poem of Morien. At least three of the printed prose versions of Tristan retain the dragon fight,11 whether it formed originally a part of the tale or not. Gottfried of Strassburg introduces it thus:—
"Now, the story tells us that there was at that time in Ireland a monstrous dragon which devoured the people and wasted the land; so that the king at last had sworn a solemn oath that whoever slew the monster should have the Princess Iseult to wife; and because of the beauty of the maiden and the fierceness of the dragon, many a valiant knight had lost his life. The land was full of the tale, and it had come to Tristan's12 ears, and in the thought of this had he made his journey.
"The next morning, ere it was light, he rose and armed himself secretly, and took his strongest spear, and mounted his steed, and rode forth into the wilderness. He rode by many a rough path till the sun was high in the heavens, when he turned downwards into a valley, where, as the geste tells us, the dragon had its lair. Then he saw afar off four men galloping swiftly over the moor where there was no road. One of them was the queen's seneschal, who would fain have been the lover of the Princess Iseult, but she liked him not. Whenever knights rode forth bent on adventures, the seneschal was ever with them for nothing on earth save that men might say they had seen him ride forth, for never would he face the dragon, but would return swifter than he went.
"Now, when Tristan saw the men in flight he knew the dragon must be near at hand, so he rode on steadily, and ere long he saw the monster coming towards him, breathing out smoke and flame from its open jaws. The knight laid his spear in rest, and set spurs to his steed, and rode so swiftly, and smote so strongly, that the spear went in at the open jaws, and pierced through the throat into the dragon's heart, and he himself came with such force against the dragon that his horse fell dead, and he could scarce free himself from the steed. But the evil beast fell upon the corpse and partly devoured it, till the wound from the spear pained it so sorely that it left the horse half-eaten, and fled into a rocky ravine.
"Tristan followed after the monster, which fled before him, roaring for pain till the rocks rang again with the sound. It cast fire from its jaws and tore up the earth around, till the pain of the wound overcame it, and it crouched down under a wall of rock. Then Tristan drew forth his sword, thinking to slay the monster easily, but ’twas a hard strife, the hardest Tristan had ever fought, and in truth he thought it
would be his death. For the dragon had as aids smoke and flame, teeth and claws sharper than a shearing knife; and the knight had much ado to find shelter behind the trees and bushes, for the fight was so fierce that the shield he held in his hand was burnt well-nigh to a coal. But the conflict did not endure over-long, for the spear in the vitals of the dragon began to pain him so that he lay on the ground, rolling over and over in agony. Then Tristan came near swiftly and smote with his sword at the heart of the monster so that the blade went in right to the hilt; and the dragon gave forth a roar so grim and terrible that it was as if heaven and earth fell together, and the cry was heard far and wide through the land. Tristan himself was well-nigh terrified, but as he saw the beast was dead he went near, and with much labour he forced the jaws open, and cut out the tongue; then he closed the jaws again, and put the tongue in his bosom. He turned him again to the wilderness, thinking to rest through the day, and come again to his people secretly in the shadows of the night; but he was so overcome by the stress of the fight and the fiery breath of the dragon that he was well-nigh spent, and seeing a little lake near at hand into which a clear stream flowed from the rock, he went towards it, and as he came to the cool waters the weight of his armour and the venom of the dragon's tongue overpowered him, and he fell senseless by the stream.
"Iseult and her mother afterwards found Tristan, and drew him out of the water, whereupon the dragon's tongue fell from his breast. And when all the folk came together to know the end of the seneschal's matter, Tristan spake—
"'Lords all, mark this marvel, I slew the dragon, and cut this tongue from out the jaws, yet this man afterwards smote it a second time to death.'
"And all the lords said, 'One thing is clear, he who came first and cut out the tongue was the man who slew the monster.' And never a man said nay."13
Wales, too, has its legends of dragons, serpents, and snakes. It seems to have been an old Welsh belief that all lizards were formerly women.14 Every Welsh farmhouse had two snakes. They never appeared until just before the death of the master or mistress of the house; then the snakes died." Parallel with this, perhaps, is the number of river names within the Celtic area that seem to contain the names of goddesses or nymphs of the stream. Such are met with in Lōchy, the Nigra Dea (black goddess) of Adamnan; in Affric, both a lake and river name, also a personal female name, from aith bhric (root), as in breac (spotted); in Nevis, where Dr MacBain rightly detected some nymph name like Nebestis; Aberdeen, Gaelic Obair-dhea’oin, with a strongly trilled r, showing that dh of old deuona (goddess, etc.) has been assimilated to the preceding word for estuary, deuona itself being a divine name, and exemplifying in a river name what Ausonius tells us was the case with sacred springs in Gaul—fons addite divis (they were dedicated to the gods) . To be included in the number is the name of the river Boyne, which under the form Bofind (white cow) yields Boyne, the name of Fraoch's mother's sister from the Sídh (Shee) or Faëry. The form Boand (genitive Bóinde), also that in the phrase in (h)ostio Boindeo (at the mouth of the Boyne) goes back on some such form as Boouinda (white cow). This
recalls an Irish name for the Milky Way—bóthar bó finne (the way or path of the cow of whiteness) . But in Uist I met with the name Sliochd Uis (Milky Way), meaning seemingly "the path or way of whiteness or brightness," the root of which recurs again in Uisne (Uisnech).
But the survey of the theme would not be complete in the form in which the more modern tradition leaves it. I have therefore given the story of Fraoch from the Book of the Dean of Lismore, and also the first part of the old and important tale known as the Táin Bó Fráich, of which the following manuscripts exist: The Book of Leinster;
The Yellow Book of Lecan; Edinburgh Advocates’ Library Gaelic MS. XL.; Egerton 1782 (British Museum). This old story has been edited with all the important variants, with his wonted care and skill, by Professor Kuno Meyer in the Zeitschrift für Celtische Philologie for 1902. In making my translation I tried to select from among the best of the variant readings. The last seven sections of the Táin Bó Fráich I have not translated here: they are apart from the Geste of Fraoch, and bring the hero of the narrative on further adventures elsewhere. This tale is one of the oldest of our secular narratives in Gadhelic: it belongs to about the ninth century, a period when the Scoto-Celtic idiom of Alba was one with the language of Erin. A translation was made by the late Mr J. O’Beirne Crowe, which appeared in the Royal Irish Academy Proceedings for 1870, but subsequent studies have necessitated many changes.
The name Fraoch (Fraech) is very ancient. It survives in the place name Clonfree
(Cluain Fraeich), Strokestown, Roscommon. On an Ogham stone it occurs in Netta Vroicci maqi muccoi Trenaluggo at Donaghmore, Kildare; also in Vraicci maqi Medvi on an Ogham from Rathcroghan, Roscommon. In this last it stands for (the stone) of Fraoch, son of Medb.15 Another account of the death of Fraoch than that given in what I term the Geste of Fraoch is met with in the Táin Bó Cuailnge, where he meets his death at the hands of Cuchulainn. It is noticeable that his fairy origin is pointed to, and that his death is associated with water. This episode is at a later stage in his story than that in Táin Bó Fráich, which gives the serpent encounter. He had by this time accompanied Mève's forces as recounted in the Cattle-Raid of Cuailnge (Táin Bó Cuailnge), and his healing at the hands of the folk of Fiery is to be presupposed: here again they intervene, and we hear of Fraoch's fairy-mound. Here is the Táin Bó Cuailnge version of the death of Fraoch, or Fraech:—
"They are there till next morning; then Fraech is summoned to them. 'Help us, O
Fraech,' said Medb (Mève). 'Remove from us the strait that is on us. Go before
Cuchulainn before us, if perchance you shall fight with him.'
"He set out early in the morning with nine men, till he reached Ath Fuait. He saw the warrior bathing in the river.
"'Wait here,' said Fraech to his retinue, 'till I come to the man yonder; not good is the water,' said he.
"He took off his clothes, and goes into the water to him.
15 MacAlister's Irish Oghams, pt. 3, p. 213; Journ. Roy. Soc. Antiq. Ireland, 5 ser.
"'Do not come to me,' said Cuchulainn. 'You will die from it, and I should be sorry to kill you.'
"'I shall come indeed,' said Fraech, 'that we may meet in the water; and let your play with me be fair.'
"'Settle it as you like,' said Cuchulainn.
"'The hand of each of us round the other,' said Fraech.
"They set to wrestling for a long time on the water, and Fraech was submerged. Cuchulainn lifted him up again.
"'This time,' said Cuchulainn, 'will you yield and accept your life?' "'I will not suffer it,' said Fraech.
"Cuchulainn put him under it again, until Fraech was killed. He comes to land; his retinue carry his body to the camp. Ath Fraich, that was the name of that ford for ever. All the host lamented Fraech. They saw a troop of women in green tunics16 on the body of Fraech mac Idaid; they drew him from them into the mound. Sid Fraich was the name of that mound afterwards."
Ailill's plan in compassing the death of Fraoch recalls his episode with Fergus, son of Rōg. Keating17 tells how, when Fergus was in banishment in Connaught, it happened that he was with Ailill and Mève in Magh Ai, where they had a fortress; and one day, when they went out to the shore of a lake that was near the lios (or outer court), Ailill asked Fergus to go and swim in the lake, and Fergus did so. While swimming, Mève was seized by a desire of swimming with him; and when she had gone into the lake with Fergus, Ailill grew jealous, and he ordered a kinsman of his to cast a spear at Fergus, which pierced him through the breast; and Fergus came ashore on account of the wound caused by that cast, and extracted the spear from his body and cast it in the direction of Ailill; and it pierced a gray hound that was near his chariot, and thereupon Fergus fell and died and was buried on the shore of the same lake.
Rhys points out that Ailill (written Oilill in Keating) seems cognate with
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