Here on the Táin March website we have provided an online version of this great Irish epic for you to enjoy. With over sixty passages/pages we have compiled the passages into groups of ten or so for easy navigation and reading. Some of the passages are just a paragraph or two but there are some that are quite long! We hope you enjoy!
The Táin or the Cattle Raid of Cooley (in gaelic "An Táin Bó Cúailnge") is the central epic of the Ulster Cycle in Irish Mythology. Queen Medb (Maeve or Maebh) of Connaught gathers an army in order to gain possession of the most famous bull in Ireland, the Brown Bull of Cooley which is the property of Daire, a chieftain of Ulster.
The story proper begins with Aihill and Maeve king and queen of Connacht, who compare their respective wealths and find that the only thing that distinguishes them is Ailill's possession of the phenomenally fertile white bull called Finnbhennach. He had been born into Maeve's herd of cattle but scorned being owned by a woman and so decided to transfer himself to Ailill's herd. Maeve determines to get the equally potent Donn Cuailnge, a brown bull from Cooley in the province of Ulster, to balance the books and to have equal possessions with her husband. She successfully negotiates with the bull's owner to rent the animal for a year until her messengers, drunk, reveal that they would have taken the bull by force even if they had not been allowed to borrow it. The deal breaks down, and Maeve raises an army of thousands and sets out to capture him.
The men of Ulster are determined to fight Maeves army but are disabled by a curse and fall into a deep sleep. The only person fit to defend Ulster is seventeen-year-old Cuchullain but he lets the army take Ulster by surprise because he's off on a tryst when he should be watching the border. Maeve takes the bull, but Cúchulainn prevents her from taking him back to Connacht by invoking the right of single combat at fords. He defeats champion after champion in a stand-off lasting months. When Fergus, his foster-father, is set to face him, Cúchullain agrees to yield to him on the condition that Fergus yields the next time they meet. Finally there is a physically and emotionally gruelling three-day duel between the hero and his foster-brother and best friend Ferdia, and this ends up with Cuchullain killing his best friend and step-brother
Eventually the sleeping Ulstermen start to rouse, one by one at first, then en masse, and the final battle begins. It ends after Fergus makes good on his promise and yields to Cúchulainn, pulling his forces off the field. Connacht's other allies panic and Maeve is forced to retreat. She does, however, manage to bring Donn Cuailnge, The Brown Bull, back to Connacht, where he fights the white bull, Finnbhennach at Athlone. He kills him, but, mortally wounds himself. He wanders around Ireland where many place names are named after him, before wandering back to Cooley where he dies of exhaustion.
The Táin is one of the great epics of Irish Literature.
The original online content is from the 1914 translation of the Táin "The Ancient Irish Epic Tale Táin Bó Cúalnge" by Joseph Dunn which was compiled by Steve Taylor. An Irish language version can be found alongside Steve Taylor's compilation on the Vassar College, New York State website.
Other translations of "An Táin Bó Cúailnge"
Táin Bó Cúalnge Recension 1 - Cecile O'Rahilly
Cuchulain of Muirthemne - Lady Augusta Gregory