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Aided Meidbe – The Violent Death of Maeve

Here is the translation of Aided Meidbe by Vernam Hull, published in Speculum. v.13 issue 1. (Jan. 1938), pp 52-61 (as published on Mary Jones’ excellent “Celtic Literature Collective“).

Aideda, sometimes referred to as “Death Tales”, are a class of narrative literature in the Medieval Irish tale-lists. There are only two aideda which recount the deaths of women: this is one, the other is Aided Derbhfhorgaille.


The Violent Death of Medb


What is the cause of the violent death of Medb, the daughter of Eochaid Feidlig from Temair?


The three sons of Find[gail] [were] Conall Anglonnach and Eocahid Find and Eochaid Feidlig. Now Eochaid Feidlig had three sons and three daughters. The three sons [were] Bres and Nár and Lothur, that is, the three Finds of Emain. The three daughters [were] Eithni Uathach [For this reason she was called eithni Uathac (Eithni the Terrible), namely, she used to eat the flesh of infants so that the children always disliked her to be mentioned] and Medb of Cruachu and Clothru of Cruachu concerting whom it was said:


The three daughters of Eochaid Feidlig

–A report along the North–

(Were) Eithni Uathach, Mebd of Cruachu

And Clothru.


Now Clothru was queen in Cruachu before Medb took the sovereignty; that [was] by force from Eochaid. The three sons of Eochaid were attempting to take away the kingship from their father. Clothru came to hinder and to restrain them. Nevertheless, they then proclaimed battle against Eochaid. Clothru came to them.


“Are you intending to outrage your father?” she said. “It is a great injustice that will be done.”


“It is indeed a necessity,” said the youths.


“Do you leave [any] descendants at all?” the woman enquired.


“Not any at all,” the youths said.


“It is possible that you will fall [in battle] through your unrighteousness. Come to me,” she said, “to see whether you will leave descendants with me, for it is my time of conception.”


That is done. Each man went in turn to her and good came thereof, namely Lugaid Riab n-Derg [of the red stripes], the son of the three Finns of Emain.


“Do not come now,” she said, “against your father. It is sufficient unrighteousness for you to have sexual union with your sister without coming to [engage in] battle with your father.” That then hindered them from the victory in the battle.


Now Clothru used to spend the tributes of Connaught in Inis Clothrand on Loch Rí. They say indeed that Medb killed her and that through her side the swords brought forth Furbaide mac Conchobair. Afterwards, the aforesaid Medb assumed the kingship of Connaught and took Ailill into sovereignty with her and she was wont to spend the tributes of Connaught in Inis Clothrand. And it was a tabu for her not to bathe herself every morning in the well at the entrance to the island.


Then once upon a time Furbaide went to Inis Clothrand and he stuck a stake on the flagstone on which Medb was accustomed to perform her ablutions, and he fastened a rope to the top of the stake – a stake that was as high as Medb – and he stretched the rope back and forth across Loch Rí. He bore the rope to his house. Whenever afterwards the youths of Ulster were wont to be playing, this was Furbaide’s game. He used to stretch his rope between two stakes and he was wont to cast between them and he never ceased until he struck the apple that was on top of the stake.


Now once upon a time there was a great assembly between the men of Connaught from the west and those of Ulster from the east around Loch Rí, and Medb happened to be bathing herself early in the morning in the well above the selfsame Loch.


“Beautiful is yonder form,” said each one.


“Who is that?” Furbaide asked.


“The sister of your mother,” all answered.


He was eating a piece of cheese. He did not then tarry to seek a stone. He put the piece [of cheese] in the sling. When Medb’s forehead was [turned] towards them, he let fly the piece [of cheese] and it struck her on the crown of the head so that he killed her by the one cast in vengeance of his mother.


That is the death of Medb.

1 Comment


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