There was a lordly hospitaller among the Lagin people, Mac Dathó his name. There was a hound with him. This hound guarded all Lagin. Ailbe the name of the hound, and over all Ériu the fame of the hound. Messengers came from Ailill and from Medb to ask for the hound. At the same time, messengers came from the Ulaid and from Conchobor to ask for the hound as well. He made greeting to them all, and went with them into the hostel.

It was one of the five great hostels in Ériu at that time, with the hostel of Dá Derga in the Cualu country, the hostel of Forgaill Manaich, the hostel of Mac Da Réo in Bréifne, and the hostel of Da Choca in western Míde. Seven portals were in the hostel and seven paths through it; seven hearths within, and seven cauldrons. In each cauldron an ox and a flitch of bacon. Each man in his turn would thrust the fork into the cauldron, and whatever he brought out, that was his portion. If he got nothing on the first try, he recieved no second.

Then the messengers were brought to him at his seat, for their requests to be determined before food was given to them. They delivered their messages: »We've come to ask for the hound,« said the messengers from Connacht, »that is, from Ailill and from Medb; and we would give threescore hundred milch cows for it at once, and a chariot and two horses, the best of the Connachtmen, and the same again in a year as well.« »We too have come to ask for the hound, from Conchobor,« said the messengers of the Ulaid, »and no lesser is Conchobor for friendship, and for the giving of treasure and cattle: the same shall be given from our people; and good friendship will come of it.«

At that Mac Dathó became silent; he went three days with neither drink nor food, and tossing and turning from one side to the other when he tried to sleep. At that his wife said: »It's a long fast you make. There's food by you, but you don't eat. What ails you?« He made her no answer. At that his wife said:

A disturbance of sleep came upon Mac Dathó in his house,
There was something he was thinking on, while telling no one.
He turns away from me to the wall, the man of the Fían with fierce courage,
his clever wife is concerned that her husband cannot sleep.

[The man:] As said Crimthann Nia Náir: do not tell your secrets to women.
A woman's secret is poorly kept: one does not give treasure to a slave.

[The woman:] Though to a woman you might say it, what would be lost thereby?
That you cannot perceive, another might perceive it still.

[The man:] The hound of Mes-Roída Mac Dathó, ill the day when he was asked for.
Many tall fair men will fall, immeasurable the battle for him.
Unless it is given to Conchobor, the gift will be the act of a churl;
nor will his hosts leave behind more of cattle than of land.
If it is refused to Ailill, the plain of Fál will lack its people:
bear us off will Mac Mágach, crumble us to barest ashes.

[The woman:] I give you my advice about it, and no ill will come of it:
give it to the both of them; what care we who dies from that?

[The man:] The advice you give to me, I will be no weaker for it.
Ailbe came from God alone, it is not known by whom he was given.

Then he rose up and made a flourish. »Let us be entertained,«, he said, »we and the guests that have come to us!« They stayed with him three days and three nights. And he took them aside; the messengers from Connacht first. »I have been in great worry,« he said, »and great doubt, until it became clear to me; that is, that I should give the hound to Ailill and to Medb. And let them come to receive the hound with pomp and with pride, and there will be drink and food and gifts, and they will get the hound, and be welcome to it.« At that they were well pleased. He went after that to the messengers of the Ulaid. »I no longer hesitate«, he said, »to give the hound to Conchobor. And let them come with pride, those who come to receive it, that is, the host of the nobles of the Ulaid. They will all receive gifts and be made welcome.«


Indeed, they arranged their meeting for the same day, west and east. Nor did they neglect it. The two fifths of Ériu came on the same day to the doors of Mac Dathó's hostel. He went out himself to meet them and make them welcome. »We did not expect you, O warriors,« he said; »all the same, you are welcome. Come into the courtyard!« They all went into the hostel then; in half the house the Connachtmen, and the Ulaid in the other half. Not small that house! Seven doors in it, and fifty booths between each pair of doors. But they were not the faces of friends at a feast that were in the house. Each man there had a feud with another. Three hundred years before the birth of Christ the battle occurred. The pig of Mac Dathó was killed for them then. Threescore milch cows had provided its food for seven years. But there was poison in it for the men of Ériu.

Then the pig was brought to them, and forty oxen laid lengthwise across it as garnish, and other food besides. Mac Dathó himself sat in the high seat. »The equal of this cannot be found; there are bullocks and pigs aplenty among the Lagin, and whatever you lack, it will be slaughtered for you tomorrow.«
»The pig is good«, said Conchobor.
»It is good indeed«, said Ailill. »How shall the pig be divided, O Conchobor?«
»How, indeed!« said Bricne mac Carbaid from his booth above, »where you have the bravest heroes of the men of Ériu, but to compete for the division of it? And each of you has planted his fist in the nose of another before.«
»Let it be done!« said Ailill.
»It is good«, said Conchobor; »we have young men with us in the house who have raided the borders.«

»You will need your young men tonight, Conchobor«, said Senláech Arad from Crúachan Con-Alad in the west; »it's many a time they've been stuck up to their backsides in the marsh of Lúachra Dedad, many a time they've left a fat bullock behind.«
»It was a fatter bullock you left with us«, said Muinremur mac Gerrgend; »that is, your own brother, Crúaichniu mac Rúadlam from Crúachan Con Alad.«
»He was not better«, said Lugaid mac Cú Roí; »than the great Loth mac Fergus meic Léti, who was left lying by Echbél mac Dedad in Temair Luachra
»What sort of man was he,« said Celtchair mac Uthechair, »to Conganchnes mac Dedad, whom I killed, and took his head?«


They clashed thus until in the end, one man prevailed over the men of Ériu: Cet mac Mágach of the Connachtmen. At that he hung his arms over the arms of the host, and he took a knife in his hand and sat down to the pig. »Find now among the men of Ériu«, he said, »a single man who can sustain the contest with me, or leave the pig for me to carve!«

A hero could not be found to contend with him. It silenced the Ulaid.
»Do you see that, O Lóegaire?« said Conchobor.
»It is not just«, said Lóegaire, »that Cet should carve the pig to our faces.«
»Wait a little, Lóegaire, so that we may speak! It is the custom among you of the Ulaid«, said Cet, »that each of your sons, when he first takes arms, it is us he makes a target. You came to the border indeed. We clashed together there. You left behind the wheel and the chariot and the horses, and you fled yourself, with a spear through you. It is not by such deeds you will attain the pig!«
Lóegaire sat down then.

»It is not just«, said a large fair hero who had risen from his booth, »that Cet should carve the pig to our faces.«
»Who have we here?« said Cet.
»A better warrior than you are«, said everyone: »Óengus mac Lám Gábuid of the Ulaid.«
»Why is your father named Lám Gábuid?« said Cet.
»Well, why?«
»I know it«, said Cet. »Once I went into the east. A great alarum around me. Everyone came against me. Then Lám came. He cast a great spear at me. That same spear I hurled back at him, so that it took off his hand, and it was left lying on the ground. What contest could his son bring against me?«
Óengus sat down then.

»On with the contest further«, said Cet, »or I'll carve the pig.«
»It is not just that you should be preferred to carve it«, said a large fair hero of the Ulaid.
»Who have we here?« said Cet.
»That is Éogan mac Durthacht,« said everyone, »that is, the king of Fernmag
»I have seen him before«, said Cet.
»Where have you seen me?« said Éogan.
»At the door of your house, as I was carrying your cattle off. Alarm was cried against me in that countryside. You came at the crying of it. You cast a spear at me so that it stuck in my shield. That same spear I hurled back at you, so that it went through your head, and your eye came out with it. The men of Ériu see you have but a single eye. I myself plucked the other from your head.«
Éogan sat down then.

»On with the contest, O Ulaid!« said Cet.
»You won't carve the pig yet«, said Muinremur mac Gerrgend.
»Is that not Muinremur?« said Cet. »I have cleaned my spears at last, O Muinremur! It isn't three days since I took three heroes' heads from you, and one of them the head of your firstborn son.«
Muinremur sat down then.

»On with the contest!« said Cet.
»Be it so«, said Mend mac Salchada.
»Who have we here?« said Cet.
»Mend«, said everyone.
»What now!« said Cet. »Sons of churls with nicknames to contend with me? For I was the priest at the baptism of his father with that name; I myself took his heel from him with my sword, so that he took only one foot away from me. What could bring the son of the one-footed one to me?«
Mend sat down then.

»On with the contest!« said Cet.
»Be it so«, said a large, grey, dreadful hero of the Ulaid.
»Who have we here?« said Cet.
»That is Celtchair mac Uthechair«, said everyone.
»One moment, Celtchair,« said Cet, »unless you want to fight me at once. I came, O Celtchair, to the door of your house. Cries about me. Everyone came against me. You too came. You went to meet me in the doorway. You threw a spear at me. I threw another spear at you, and it pierced your thigh and your testicles. Ever since that time you have been gelded, so that you haven't sired either son or daughter, ever since. What could bring you against me?«
Celtchair sat down then.

»On with the contest!« said Cet.
»Be it so«, said Cúscraid mend Macha mac Conchobor.
»Who have we here?« said Cet.
»Cúscraid«, said everyone; »he has the bearing of a king.«
»No thanks to you«, said the boy.
»That's good!« said Cet. »You came against us when you first took arms, boy. We clashed in the borderland. You left a third of your retinue lying behind you, and fled yourself, and a spear through your throat, so that you haven't got a proper word in your head; for the spear injured the sinews of your neck. And because of that you've been called Cúscraid the Stammerer ever since.« And in this manner he shamed the whole province.


After that he was exulting over the pig, and the knife in his hand, when they saw Conall Cernach in the house. Conall leapt into the middle of the floor; the Ulaid made great welcome to him, and Conchobor lifted the helmet from his head and brandished it.
»It is good that you've prepared my portion!« said Conall. »Who is carving it?«
»It was conceded to that man to carve it,« said Conchobor, »that is, Cet mac Mágach.«
»Is it right, Cet«, said Conall, »that you're carving the pig?«


To this Cet replied:

Hail Conall,
heart of stone,
ferocious fire,
gleam of ice,
strength of red rage
in hero's chest,
wounder, war-victor:
I see Findchoem's son before me.


And Conall said:

Hail Cet,
Cet mac Mágach,
home of a hero,
heart of ice,
swan-plumaged,
battle-driver,
storm raging,
fine fierce bull,
Cet mac Mágach.

»All will be made clear by our clashing and parting; it will be a tale for the ages, well remembered, told by the men of goads and witnessed by the men of awls. Champions will go into furious battle like lions; two warriors will give exploit for exploit, man will clash with man in this house tonight. Now step away from the pig.«
»And what should bring you to it?« said Cet.
»It's right that you should challenge me, Cet!« said Conall. »I swear by what my people swear by, since I first took arms, there has not been one day that I haven't killed a Connachtman, nor not one night that I haven't ravaged your homes and lands with fire, and I have never slept without a Connachtman's head under my knee.«
»It's true«, said Cet, »you're a greater warrior than I. Your luck that my brother is not here, Anlúan; if he were, it would be another sort of contest for you.«
»Oh, but he is here!« said Conall, and he drew Anlúan's head from his satchel; he threw it at Cet's chest so that a mouthful of blood spewed from his lips.
Cet stepped away then.


Conall sat down to the pig. »Let them come to the contest now!« he said. But there was not found among the Connachtmen a hero to maintain it. However the Ulaid made a circle around Conall with their shields, because some unscrupulous persons had begun to shoot at him from the corners of the house. Conall began to carve the pig then. As he made an end of the carving, he took the end of the belly in his mouth. He devoured the belly — a burden for nine men — until not a scrap was left of it.

Indeed, he did not give the Connachtmen anything whatever besides the two foretrotters of the pig. The men of Connacht thought their portion small. They sprang up, and at that the Ulaid sprang up, and each man faced another. Then indeed there was boxing of the ears, until the carnage on the floor was as high as the wall of the house, and streams of blood through the doors. The host of them broke out through the doors then, and they had a good drinking round in the courtyard, that is, each man struck his neighbor. It was then that Fergus pulled a large oak up by the roots, that was growing in the courtyard, and wielded it. Thereupon they spilled out of the courtyard. The battle continued at the gates of the courtyard.

Then Mac Dathó went out, and the hound at his hand, and he released it in order to see which of them it would choose, that is, by instinct. The hound chose the Ulaid, and set itself to slaughtering the Connachtmen, and they were routed. They say it was in Mag n-Ailbe that the hound seized the pole of the chariot of Ailill and Medb. Then Fer Loga, that is, the charioteer of Ailill and Medb, dealt it such a blow that the body fell away, and it left its head on the chariot pole. They say that it's because of that they call it Mag n-Ailbe, for Ailbe was the hound's name.

The flight went northward through Beluch Sen-Roírenn, over Áth Midbine in Maistin, past Cill Dara, past Ráith Imgain, into Fid n-Gaible, to Áth Mac Lugnai, past Druim-Dá-Maige, over Drochet Coirpri. At Áth Chinn Con in Bile the head of the hound fell off the chariot. Going over the heath of Míde westward, Fer Loga leapt out of the chariot. He hid in the heather, and sprang into Conchobor's chariot behind his back, so that he seized his head from behind.
»Beware, O Conchobor!« he said.
»Ask your desire!« said Conchobor.
»It will not be much«, said Fer Loga, »to wit: you to bring me with you to Emain Macha, and all the single women and young daughters of the Ulaid to sing to me thus every evening: ›Fer Loga is my darling‹.«
They had to do it, for they daredn't defy Conchobor. And Fer Loga returned west over Áth Lúain a year and a day after, and a pair of Conchobor's horses with him, with golden bridles on them.


Such is the Pig-Tale of Mac Dathó.

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