The Ulster Cycle

Heroic legends from Ireland

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The Ulster Cycle is a group of legendary stories from early Irish literature, set in and around the reign of Conchobar mac Nessa in Ulster. His warriors include his nephews, Cú Chulainn and Conall Cernach. His main enemies are queen Medb and her husband Ailill of Connacht, and their ally, Fergus mac Róich, former king of Ulster in exile.

I’m the creator of a series of webcomics adapting these legends on my main website, paddybrown.co.uk. The first storyline, which follows Conchobar’s mother Ness as she turns outlaw to pursue an illegal quest for vengeance, is complete and also available in print. The second, The Cattle Raid of Cooley, began weekly serialisation on Wednesday 6 August 2008. A first print issue is available and a second will be published shortly.

I used to run a website collecting translations and paraphrases of the stories of the Ulster Cycle. That’s been mothballed for a while, but I’m gradually reconstructing it with original translations. I’ve also provided links to translations on other sites, primarily Mary Jones’ Celtic Literature Collective, which is an enormous collection of myths, legends and literature from all the Celtic nations. I’ve also included the titles of stories I’m aware of that I haven’t found on the web, and hope to fill them in as I go.

Original translations on this site

Translations on other sites

The Metrical Dindshenchas

Poetic traditions of places, including the following featuring characters from the Ulster Cycle:

Stories not yet online

  • The Battle of Leitir Ruaid
  • The Sons of Conaire
  • The Seed of Conaire Mór
  • The Battle of Cumar
  • The Battle of the Assembly of Macha
  • The Battle of Findchorad
  • The Cause of the Exile of Fergus mac Róich
  • The Conception of Cú Chulainn version 2
  • Medb Enjoined Illegal Contracts
  • The Birth of Athirne
  • The Guesting of Athirne
  • The Words of Scáthach
  • The Training of Cú Chulainn
  • The Elopement of Emer
  • The Siege of the Men of Falga
  • The Eulogy of Cú Roí
  • The Vision of Ferchertne
  • The Deaths of Goll and Garb
  • Cú Chulainn’s Meeting with Senbecc
  • The Wooing of Treblann
  • The Scythed Battle-Chariot
  • The Exile of the Sons of Dóel Dermait
  • The Wooing of Luaine
  • Da Choca’s Hostel
  • The Deaths of Ailill and Conall Cernach
  • The Death of Conchobar’s Sons
  • The Guests of Guaire
  • Nede and Caier

Written by paddybrown

November 7, 2009 at 10:20 am

3 Responses

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  1. Hello,

    I have always loved old Keltic myths and legends; but recently, I have begun to study them methodically and in depth. I find the Ulster or Ulaid Cycle especially fascinating, for the rich characterization of its protagonists and for its perceptible historical background.

    Here in Italy, it is by no means easy to find the Irish cycles and sagas, whether in Italian translation or in English. There are books available on Irish legends and fables, but these offer mostly brief excerpts or summaries of the originals. I would like to obtain the entire Ulster Cycle in English; could you please tell me if you have published this, or if not, could you please recommend a good, inexpensive edition?

    I particularly love the story of Deirdre of the Sorrows. In your opinion, which is the best version of this beautiful, poignant romantic tale?

    Hope to hear from you soon. Congratulations for your fine website!

    Best wishes,

    Mary (of Italian origin, but I”m an Irishwoman at heart!)

    Mary

    July 8, 2010 at 6:15 pm

  2. Hi Mary. I agree – for me, the characters are what make the Ulster Cycle so fascinating.

    The whole cycle hasn’t been published in a single edition – in fact, it probably couldn’t be. There’s too much for one volume, and translations of many of the stories can only be found in hundred-year-old academic journals.

    But in my opinion the best place to start would be Thomas Kinsella’s “The Táin”, which contains not only his version of Táin Bó Cúailnge but also a selection of other stories from the cycle, including the story of Deirdre, and is written with a poet’s command of language.

    I haven’t read all many different version of the Deirdre story, but I definitely prefer the version from the Book of Leinster, which is the one Kinsella translates. Like the best of the cycle, it has that Old Irish understatement that makes it so much more powerful than the more florid and sentimental later versions.

    paddybrown

    July 8, 2010 at 7:54 pm

  3. You have opened up a whole new world with the inclusion of the Ulster Legends. I am familiar with
    only about a third of them. I have set a goal of a summer concentration course for myself. Thank you.

    I have said it many times.For a small island, about the size of New Jersey in the US, you certainly are
    a repository of best kept secrets in your centuries more of history than we, in the US, can draw from.

    jacqueline a. beusse

    June 6, 2013 at 4:08 am


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