Story Archaeology

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Names of the Dagda

from Cath Maige Tuired, edited by Elizabeth Gray

translation by Isolde Carmody

 

When the Dagda encounters Indech’s daughter, she demands that he carry her on his back.  He replies that it is geis (“taboo”) for him to carry anyone on his back who does not call him by name.  She asks his name, and he gives it as Fer Benn, which could be understood as “Horn[ed] Man”, and she asks the Horned Man to carry her.  He says that is not his name, so she asks a second time.  This time he gives her Fer Been Brúach, which could be understood as “Big-Bellied Horn[ed] Man”.  But this is still not sufficient.  Significantly, it is on her third time asking that he reveals his full name, which puts Fer Benn Brúach into a different context, thereby changing its meaning.  When she calls him by his full name, he “carries her on his back”, which immediately leads to love-making.

This entire incident is contained within Section 93 of the translated text.  The reason this is such a long section is that the section-numbers are based on Stokes’ edition of 1891, where he omitted most of the action.

The line-breaks here are mine, based on making sense of a series of phrases.  As a roscad, the language is necessarily dense and obscure, open to reinterpretations and various readings.  This is partly the structure and function of the poetic form itself, partly due to the older language being more preserved in poetic parts of the text rather than the surrounding prose.

I have recorded the Old Irish here as well as I can:

ll 423 – 426; S 93

Fer Benn Bruaich

Man of peaks and shores /

Man of horns and big-bellied

Brogaill Broumide

Large-Lapped Farter

Cerbad Caic

Cutting All /

Cutting Mountains

Rolaig Builc

Great-lying Bag

Labair Cerrce Di Brig

Talkative Hen from the Hill

Oldathair Boith

Great-father of Being

Athgen mBethai Brightere

Regeneration of the World of Dry Land

Trí Carboid Roth

Three Chariot Wheels

Rimairie Riog Scotbe

Enumerating Judgements

[Riog Scotbe = lit. “king of speech”]

Obthe Olaithbe.

Refusal of the Great Ebb

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