The Raid for the Cattle of Regamon
The Yellow Book of Lecan
IN the time of Ailill and Medb, a glorious warrior and holder of land dwelt in the land of Connaught, and his name was Regamon. He had many herds of cattle, all of them fair and well-shaped: he had also seven daughters with him. Now the seven sons of Ailill and Medb loved these (daughters): namely the seven Maine, these were Maine Morgor (Maine with great filial love), Maine Mingar (Maine with less filial love), Maine Aithremail (Maine like his father), Maine Mathremail (Maine like his mother), Maine Milbel (Maine with the mouth of honey), Maine Moepert (Maine too great to be described), Maine Condageb-uile (Maine who combined all qualities): now this one had the form both of father and mother, and had all the glory that belonged to both parents.
The seven daughters of Regamon were the three Dunann, and the four Dunlaith; from the names of these is the estuary of Dunann in western Connaught, and the Ford of Dunlaith in Breffny.
Now at a certain time, Ailill and Medb and Fergus held counsel together. "Some one from us," said Ailill, "should go to Regamon, that a present of cattle may be brought to us from him; to meet the need that there is on us for feeding the men of Ireland, when the kine are raided from Cualgne." "I know," said Medb, "who would be good to go thither, if we ask it of them; even the Maine; on account of their love for the daughters."
His sons were called to Ailill, and he spoke with them. "Grateful is he, and a better journey does he go," said Maev, "who goes for the sake of his filial love." "Truly it shall be that it is owing to filial love that we go," said Mani Morgor. "But the reward should (also) for this be the better," said Mani Mingar; "it stands ill with our heroism, ill with our strength.
It is like going from a house into the fields, (going) into the domains or the land of foes. Too tenderly have we been brought up; none hath let us learn of wars; moreover the warriors are valiant towards whom we go!"
They took leave of Ailill and Medb, and betook themselves to the quest, They set out, seven times twenty heroes was the number, till they were in the south of Connaught, in the neighbourhood of the domain of Corcomroe in the land of Ninnus, near to the burg. "Some of you," said Mani Morgor, "should go to find out how to enter into the burg; and to test the love of maidens." Mani Mingar, with two others, went until he came upon three of the maidens at the water-springs, and at once he and his comrades drew their swords against them. "Give life for life!" said the maiden. "Grant to me then my three full words!" said Mani Mingar. "Whatever thy tongue sets forth shall be done," said the maiden, "only let it not be cows, for these have we no power to give thee." "For these indeed," said Mani, "is all that now we do."
"Who art thou?" said she: "Mani Mingar, son of Ailill and Medb," said he: "Welcome then," she said, "but what hath brought with you here?" "To take with us cattle and maidens," he said: "'Tis right," she said, "to take these together; (but) I fear that what has been demanded will not be granted, the men are valiant to whom you have come." "Let your entreaties be our aid!" he said. "We would desire," she said, "that it should be after that counsel hath been taken that we obey you."
"What is your number?" said she: "Seven times twenty heroes," he said, "are with us." "Remain here," she said, "that we may speak with the other maidens": "We shall assist you," said the maidens, "as well as we can."
They went from them, and came to the other maidens, and they said to them: "Young heroes from the lands of Connaught are come to you, your own true loves, the seven sons of Ailill and Medb." "Wherefore are they come?" "To take back with them cattle and wives." "That would we gladly have, if only we could; (but) I fear that the warriors will hinder them or drive them away," said she. "Go ye out, that ye may speak with the man." "We will speak with him," they said. The seven maidens went to the well, and they greeted Mani. "Come ye away," he said, "and bring your cattle with you. That will be a good deed. We shall assist you with our honour and our protection, O ye daughters of Regamon," said he. The maidens drove together their cows and their swine, and their sheep, so that none observed them; and they secretly passed on till they came to the camp of their comrades. The maidens greeted the sons of Ailill and Medb, and they remained there standing together. "The herd must be divided in two parts," said Mani Merger, "also the host must divide, for it is too great to travel by the one way; and we shall meet again at Ath Briuin (the Ford of Briuin)." So it was done.
King Regamon was not there on that day. He was in the domain of Corco Baiscinn, to hold a conference with the Firbolgs. His people raised a cry behind him, message was brought to Regamon, and he went in pursuit with his army. The whole of the pursuing host overtook Mani Morgor, and brought defeat upon him.
"We all," said Mani, "must go to one place, and some of you shall be sent to the cattle to summon the young men hither, and the maidens shall drive the cattle over the ford to Cruachan, and shall give Ailill and Medb tidings of the plight in which we are here." The maidens went to Cruachan, and told all the tale. "Thy sons are at Ath Briuin in distress, and have said that help should be brought to them." The men of Connaught with Ailill, and Medb, and Fergus, and the banished men of Ulster went to Ath Briuin to help their people.
The sons of Ailill had for the moment made hurdles of white-thorn and black-thorn in the gut of the ford, as defence against Regamon and his people, so that they were unable to pass through the ford ere Ailill and his army came; so thence cometh the name Ath Cliath Medraidi (the Hurdle Ford of Medraide), in the country of Little Bethra in the northern part of the O'Fiachrach Aidne between Connaught and Corcomroe. There they met together with all their hosts.
A treaty was then made between them on account of the fair young men who had carried off the cattle, and on account of the fair maidens who had gone with them, by whose means the herd escaped. Restitution of the herd was awarded to Regamon, and the maidens abode with the sons of Ailill and Medb; and seven times twenty milch-cows were given up, as a dowry for the maidens, and for the maintenance of the men of Ireland on the occasion of the assembly for the Tain bo Cualnge; so that this tale is called the Tain bo Regamon, and it is a prelude to the tale of the Tain bo Cualnge. Finit, amen.
1. The name of Maine Annai, making an eighth son, is given in Y.B.L., but not in the Egerton MS.
2. So Egerton, which Windisch follows here; the reading of Y.B.L. is Dunmed for the daughters, and Dumed for the corresponding ford.
3. Properly "Coremodruad," the descendants of Modh Ruadh, third son of Fergus by Maev; now Corcomroe in County Clare.
4. "Only let it not be cows" is in the Egerton MS. alone.
5. "That we do" is Egerton MS. (cich indingnem), Y.B.L. has "cechi m-bem."
6. Windisch conjectures this instead of "said the warriors," which is in the text of Y.B.L.
7. In the south-west of Clare.
8. Literally "mouth."
9. Ath Cliath oc Medraige, now Maaree, in Ballycourty parish, Co. Galway (Stokes, Bodleian Dinnshenchus, 26). It may be mentioned that in the Dinnshenchus, the cattle are said to have been taken "from Dartaid, the daughter of Regamon in Munster," thus confusing the Raids of Regamon and Dartaid, which may account for O'Curry's incorrect statement in the preface to Leabhar na h-Uidhri, p. xv.
Heroic Romances of Ireland, Volume II ed. and trans. A.H. Leahy. London: David Nutt, 1906.
Back to Irish Texts
Back to CLC