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Thomas Kinsella's "The Táin"

Fergus describes Cúchulainn's arrival at Eamain Macha
'Cuchulainn, it is said by some, is the son of Sualdam and his wife Deichtine. Sualdam holds the area of Muirtheimne Plain for Conchobor and his fort is on a raised mound just beside the bay. There are others, though, who say that while Dechtine is the mother, the father is not Sualdam. By some accounts, Dechtine was spirited away on her wedding night by the god Lugh to his fortress under the mound at the place which now bears his name. This place is not the old Danaan mound by the Brú na Boinne but another, more sacred to him, concealed in the forested hills much closer to the Plain at Muirtheine. For three days the men of Ulster searched for her in vain. It is said by these same folk, and I believe them, that she reappeared just as suddenly back in the fort at Dún Dealgan, in Sualdam's wedding bed, already heavy with child, and her mind dazed.

Tain BullThe child was born and named Setanta - and this I saw myself: never was there a child more advanced and precocious as that one. Sualdam treated him proudly but more like a foster-father than if related by blood. When he was five years he was fed up with living at Muirtheimne and, having heard about the boy-troops at Eamain Macha, asked his mother for her permission to leave.
'You are too young to go,' she told him, 'and there are no Ulster warriors to accompany you.'
'I cannot wait and I do not need nor want the accompaniment of warriors,' said Setanta to his mother. 'Show me where Eamain lies and I will leave now, with or without your permission.'

Knowing her son only too well, Dechtine resigned herself to the inevitable.
'To the North then, but the hard crossing of the mountains at Sliab Fuait lies in your way.'
'Those I do not care about,' said Setanta, and off he went to prepare for the journey. He assembled together his toy shield made of sticks, his favorite toy javelin, his hurling stick and ball, and set off for Eamain.

To pass the time he would throw his javelin far ahead of him then run and catch it before it fell, or he would hit the hurley ball with the stick and run to strike it again, and not once did the ball touch the ground from Muirtheimne to Eamain. When he arrived at the playing field outside Eamain he saw the boy-troops practicing, and, not knowing he needed a promise of safety from the boys before he joined them on the field, ran to contest with them at sport and war-games.

Thomas Kinsella's The Tain'Look at this one!' they exclaimed. 'Without a doubt he's from Ulster, judging by the gall of him. Let's teach him a lesson for his brazen nerve!'

They went for him and flung three times fifty javelins at him, all of which he stopped with his toy shield made of sticks. Then they threw their hurling balls at him and he stopped them with all with his chest and returned them with a sweep of his stick. Frustrated, they even flung their hurleys at him, spinning end over end: some he caught by the handle as he dodged them all.

Then Setanta was taken by the Warp-Spasm. Each hair on his head stood upright, like spines, and each one was tipped with a fire-spark. One eye squeezed tighter than the eye of a needle; the other opened as wide as a goblet. His mouth opened and stretched to his ears, his lips peeled back until all his teeth showed and you could see straight down his gullet. All around his head the hero-halo spun and flashed like a falling star. He attacked the boy-troops. Fifty fell before him as they fled towards the gates of Eamain. Only nine made it through the gates, and these fairly flew across the fidchell board where Conchobor and I were playing. As Setanta passed by, the Warp-Spasm lessening, Conchobor grabbed at him and held him close.

'Whose child are you that you seek to injure the youths of Eamain?' he demanded.
'I am Setanta, your sister's son. I came here to join with you and these boy-troops attacked me on the field outside.' replied Setanta.
'You do not know our ways, young child. You must ask for protection before you enter the field.'
'I did not know that, but I ask you now, protect me from them.'
'You have it,' Conchobor said, and let go of Setanta.

The boy made to chase after the nine again, where they had sought refuge in the great house, but Conchobor caught him again.
'What are you going to do now, young Setanta?' he asked, a smile hovering at the edges of his mouth.
'I'm going to offer them my protection!' the youth of five summers said.
'Offer it now, to me.' said Conchobor.
'Done!' said Setanta, and Conchobor and I teased the nine from the house and they returned to the playing field with Setanta. By this time the fallen fifty were awaking and getting to their feet, with assistance of the others'.

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