Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/348

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334 '^^^ European Sky -God.

physical fitness for the office of divine king.i Can the same be said of his Gaelic and British peers ? In ' The Feast of Bricriu ' ^ there are three competitors for the championship of Ulster, viz. Laegaire, Conall, and Cuchulain, After various preliminary tests, in which Laegaire and Conall claim to rival Cuchulain, they all three repair to the dun of Curoi, son of Daire and king of South Munster. Curoi is away from home ; but they are hospitably entertained by his wife Blath- nath, who bids them guard the dun, each in turn for a night, till Curoi comes back. Laegaire and Conall fail to do so. But Cuchulain successfully slays thrice nine assailants and a monster from the neighbouring lake. At the last there comes against him a gigantic warrior armed with great branches of oak. The warrior hurls his branches at Cuchulain ; Cuchulain hurls his javelin at the warrior : both miss. The warrior then attempts to grapple with Cuchulain, who leaps his famous salmon-leap and circles his opponent's head with his sword ; then, performing his wheel-trick, turns about in the air and forces the foe to cry for mercy. Finally Cuchulain extorts three concessions, that he should obtain the sovranty of Erin's heroes, that he should receive the champion's portion, and that his wife should take precedence of all the women in Ulster.

^ lb. xvi. 322, cp. XV. 376 ff. So well did he defend it that it, or more probably a seedling of it, has perhaps lived down to modern times. At least, the learned though anonymous author of a Description of Latium London 1805 p. 85 f. prefaces his account of the rex Nemorensis by remarking that in the wood at Nemi ' there is a tree which tradition reports to be near two thousand years old, but some of the inhabitants content themselves with saying, that it was planted by Augustus ; its spreading branches hang over the lake, and produce a noble effect.' The period between Servius, who described the tree of the rex Nemorensis, and our author may be reckoned at 1420 years.

^G. Henderson Fled Bricrend {Irish Texts Society vol. ii) p. lOl iT., D'Arbois Uipopie celtique p. 135 ff., Lady Gregory Cuchulain of Muirthemne p. 74 ff.