Help Wanted – Confusion About Irish Myth

If you’ve read the Irish myth of the Tain Bo Cuailnge, the epic story of Cuchulainn, you might be familiar with the character Finnabair (sometimes spelled Findabair, apparently). Throughout the story, Finnabair keeps being used as a lure by her mother Medb, queen of Connaught, to get horny men to do various stupid and/or dangerous things – like fighting Cuchulainn in single combat. In the translation I’ve read, by Thomas Kinsella, Finnabair apparently dies of shame after she sleeps with an Ulsterman named Rochad, thereby ruining her virginity and pissing off seven kings of Munster whom her mother had promised her to in exchange for their help. (Probably with her “own thighs” as a bonus.) A fight ensues, during which 700 men die, and Finnabair apparently blames herself for their death and collapses on the spot.

In any case, at the end of the story, we read that there are seven years of peace, and Finnabair “stays with Cuchulainn.” I’m wondering how she can stay with Cuchulainn after she’s dead? Does Cuchulainn have a necro thing going? Or is it, as my girlfriend suggests, that “dying of shame” is a euphemism for “fainting of embarassment” – in which case, why do we hear no more about Finnabair for the remainder of the Tain? Unfortunately, I can’t read Gaelic, so I can’t go back through the original sources, but if any Celtic scholars happen to read this, I’d be grateful for a comment with your opinion on this matter.

I might add that the Thomas Kinsella translation is a great one; it’s very easy to read, while not feeling “dumbed down.” In addition, it is abstractly illustrated with brush drawings by Louis de Brocquy that are quite amazing. If you’re interested in the story of Cuchulainn, I’d recommend this book.

3 thoughts on “Help Wanted – Confusion About Irish Myth”

  1. I JUST read the Kinsella translation this morning.
    In the notes, he stated that it was an “artistic flourish” the authors used, ignoring her death.
    I guess, similar to the Champion’s Portions of the meat, he was also to keep the Champion’s Choice of a bed-mate — also ignoring the fact that he was already married to Emer.

  2. “But among Ailill’s cows there was a special bull. He had been a calf of one of Medb’s cows, and his name was Findbennach. But he deemed it unworthy of him to be counted as a woman’s property, so he went and took his place among the king’s cows” here
    i didnt actually read it and i should know all about it, im about 10miles from cooley, but anywho. perhaps the link will be of some help to you

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