Cuchulinn and Conlaech

Ainfer Aife
T.C.D. H. 3, 17

Trans. J. G. O'Keeffe

When Cuchulinn went to study arms in Alba with Scathach and she gave her daughter Aife to him, and he left her pregnant and went himself to Ireland, he said to her : " Here is a gold arm-ring for you ; and if it be a son which you will bring forth, send him to me in Ireland as soon as his wrist fills the ring. Call him Ainfer Aife, and tell him not to reveal his name to any single person in Ireland."

She gave birth to a son, and did with him as she had been told. She taught him all feats of arms except the Gai Bulga feat, for his father had taken the Gai Bulga with him to Ireland. When Ainfer Aife came to Ireland, the men of Ulster were assembled in Mag Ene. They saw the curach coming towards them, and Munremar was sent to ask tidings of him ; but Ainfer Aife said that he would not tell his name to any single person. Then ensued a combat between him and Munremar, and he put the belt of his sword across the wrists of Munremar. Then Dubthach was sent down. He did the same to him. Cuchulinn then went down, and still he did not tell him any tidings. Both fought, but Cuchulinn was not able to do anything to him on land.

"If your skill at sea is as it is on land," said Cuchulinn, "your fight is good."

"Methinks no worse is my skill at sea," said he ; and they went out to sea. Still Cuchulinn was unable to do aught to him, until he hurled the Gai Bulga at him and killed him.

"Tell your name now," said Cuchulinn, " for your time has come."

"Ainfer Aife I am," said he, "son of Cuchulinn, son of Sualtam." Then he takes him on his back to the place in which the men of Ulster were, and there is a token1 of it [viz. this verse] :

"Heavy the burden
I have borne across Mag Ene !
The great weapons of my son in one hand.
And in the other his spoils."

Cuchulinn was then sued by the men of Ulster ; and he was adjudged a native of Ulster, and half the wergeld was [exacted] from him for his son. For he had slain him in mistake, and he was an innocent person in the guise of a guilty person, although it was a combat.

This is the reason which caused it, though it was combat: that it was not with consent of tribe or race that he did it.

What was the cause that Cuchulinn should pay half-wergeld for his son ?

Because he was a stranger in Ulster, even though he belonged to them (?). The extent of a cantred of Murthemne was his own land in Ulster, and thus he was [adjudged] a native, and his son a stranger, and to Conchobar was given the half-wergeld.

What caused the half to be given to Conchobar ?

Not difficult. This is the cause. Cuchulinn was a parricide, and the parricide takes not inheritance or wergeld. Conchobar was the nearest kinsman to him, and the half-wergeld was [accordingly] given to him.

If he had been an Ulsterman, he would have been a guiltless person in the guise of a guilty one. If he had not been of them at all, he was a guilty person in his own guise ******2 to be given to Conchobar as the price of indemnification.


1. Lit. "There is an example on it" — a phrase of common occurrence in the Laws and Glossaries.

2. Something seems omitted before a breith.

Sources : J. G. O'Keeffe, Eriu I