Cú Chulainn Revived: Nostalgia In Modern Receptions Of The Táin Bó Cúailnge

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Hayden Slentz-Kesler (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
Web Site: https://library.appstate.edu/
German Campos-Munoz

Abstract: If you walked along Nassau Street in Dublin, Ireland today, you would come across a large mosaic mural depicting, among other images, a boy wrestling with a hound, two bulls head to head, two warriors fighting with sword and shield and a man dying upright against a tree. This is the Setanta Wall, also called the Táin Wall, created by Belfast artist Desmond Kinney. It recalls visually some scenes from the early Irish epic tale of the Táin Bó Cúailnge, or the Táin. If you happened to walk into the General Post Office, you would find a statue of the death of Cú Chulainn, the hero of the Táin, sculpted by Oliver Sheppard. In other public buildings and government offices in Dublin, you might find some of the Táin tapestries, largescale reproductions of the brush drawings by Louis le Brocquy that complemented Thomas Kinsella’s 1969 translation of the Táin (Marshall and O’Toole). On Burlington Road, fittingly in front of Connaught House, there is an imposing statue of Queen Maeve sculpted by Patrick O’Reilly. Medb, as her name was earlier spelled, was the mythic queen of Connacht who led her army against Cú Chulainn in the Táin. If you travelled north from Dublin to Ardee, you could see another statue of Cú Chulainn, this one called “Cuchulain Carrying the Slain Ferdia.” Sculpted by Ann Meldon Hugh, this statue visually retells one of the Táin’s most well-known and tragic encounters. All of these images from modern Ireland recall the old Irish epic of the Táin Bó Cúailnge, which translates to “The Cattle Raid of Cooley.” The Táin is one of the many tales comprising the Ulster Cycle, a set of around eighty interrelated stories about the Ulaid, a prehistoric people from the north of Ireland, from whom the name “Ulster” derives (Carson xi). Arguably the most famous of these tales, the Táin tells of a legendary cattle raid in which Queen Medb of Connacht, along with her army gathered from all four provinces of Ireland, invades Ulster to steal a prize bull. The epic hero of the tale is Cú Chulainn, the young Ulster warrior who singlehandedly keeps Medb’s forces at bay. First recorded during the Middle Ages, the Táin became an obscure piece of literature for centuries until it was “recovered” in the late nineteenth century by Irish intellectuals, whose versions of the narrative have served as inspiration for the mosaic, statues, tapestries and other cultural artifacts listed above.

Additional Information

Honors Project
Slentz-Kesler, H. (2020). Cú Chulainn Revived: Nostalgia In Modern Receptions Of The Táin Bó Cúailnge. Unpublished Honors Thesis. Appalachian State University, Boone, NC.
Language: English
Date: 2020
Tain, Irish Literature, Reception, Lady Gregory, Patrick Hicks

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