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Folklore: Cuchulain and guest/host etiquette

keberoxu 09 Jan 16 - 12:24 PM
Thompson 09 Jan 16 - 12:35 PM
keberoxu 09 Jan 16 - 12:41 PM
keberoxu 09 Jan 16 - 12:42 PM
keberoxu 09 Jan 16 - 12:46 PM
keberoxu 09 Jan 16 - 04:23 PM
Thompson 09 Jan 16 - 07:02 PM
Ged Fox 10 Jan 16 - 05:55 AM
keberoxu 10 Jan 16 - 12:32 PM
keberoxu 10 Jan 16 - 12:42 PM
Thompson 10 Jan 16 - 02:11 PM
Thompson 10 Jan 16 - 02:31 PM
keberoxu 10 Jan 16 - 04:43 PM
Felipa 11 Jan 16 - 08:15 AM
Thompson 11 Jan 16 - 01:58 PM
keberoxu 11 Jan 16 - 04:42 PM
keberoxu 12 Jan 16 - 11:27 AM
keberoxu 14 Jan 16 - 02:43 PM
Thompson 14 Jan 16 - 03:14 PM
keberoxu 31 Jan 16 - 06:12 PM
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Subject: Folklore: Cuchulain and guest/host etiquette
From: keberoxu
Date: 09 Jan 16 - 12:24 PM

In the Red Branch Tales from the Ulster saga, the hero Cuchulain improvises a short verse which has often been quoted out of context. In fact, Samuel Barber set Sean O'Faolain's English translation of the verse to music in his Hermit Songs, titled "Promiscuity" (O'Faolain's title? will have to look it up in the Silver Branch). So this poetic witticism from Cuchulain has been snickered at by countless classical-music audiences, but nobody ever credits the Gaelic saga or the context from which the verse was taken.   I doubt that this is really about promiscuity. But I am a classical music student, and I don't know about Irish folklore, so I am in ignorance.

Here is one rendition of the original Gaelic.

Ní fetar
cía lassa fífea Etan;
acht ro-fetar Etan bán
nícon fífea a óenurán.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Cuchulain and guest/host etiquette
From: Thompson
Date: 09 Jan 16 - 12:35 PM

And here was me thinking you were talking about how you'd invite the little bollocks to dinner and he'd kill your pet.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Cuchulain and guest/host etiquette
From: keberoxu
Date: 09 Jan 16 - 12:41 PM

The preceding Gaelic quote was redacted by the scholar Gerard Murphy, and before him, captured by Kuno Meyer (who commented on it in his native German); the manuscript source is the Yellow Book of Lecan, and the specific story is titled:

Fled Bricrenn ocus Loinges mac n-Duíl Dermait.

In Randy Lee Eickhoff's English-language retelling of "The Red Branch Tales," dated 2003 (and probably under copyright), I find this presentation and context.

(copyright)
quote:
....They made a meal for a hundred, and this was brought to Cúchulainn and his companions....much merriment was made. Soon they were drunk, and the time had come for them to go to bed.
"How would you like to spend the night, Cúchulainn?"
"Do I have a choice?" the warrior asked.
"You have a choice," the host said. "Here are Ringabar's three daughters, Eithne and Etan and Étain. Over there are their three brothers, Eochaid and Aed and Oengus. Then there are their mother and father, Rian and Gabar, and Finnabar, the storyteller. There are also the three brothers Lóeg and Id and Sedlang."
Cúchulainn eyed all and said, smiling,

"I do not know with whom
Fair Etan will pass the night,
But I know she will not sleep alone."

Etan smiled and went to bed with Cúchulainn. When morning came, Cúchulainn gave her a gold thumb ring.
page 195, The Red Branch Tales, Randy Lee Eickhoff, New York: Forge/Tom Doherty (TOR books), 2003


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Cuchulain and guest/host etiquette
From: keberoxu
Date: 09 Jan 16 - 12:42 PM

Oh, Thompson, thank you. I needed a good chuckle.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Cuchulain and guest/host etiquette
From: keberoxu
Date: 09 Jan 16 - 12:46 PM

You see, this story excerpt sounds like the exact opposite of 'promiscuity.' It sounds formal enough to be a betrothal or something, what with the whole family being present and accounted for. I guess it is different than a betrothal. But this context would never be guessed at, by people who just see the little poem, and know nothing of its source.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Cuchulain and guest/host etiquette
From: keberoxu
Date: 09 Jan 16 - 04:23 PM

Kenneth Hurlstone Jackson, in his anthology A Celtic Miscellany, is responsible for presenting the Etan Bán verse out of context and labeling it Promiscuity. Barber used Jackson's title and translation. I was mistaken in crediting this English translation to Sean O'Faolain, whose translations were used by Barber for other songs in the Hermit Songs cycle.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Cuchulain and guest/host etiquette
From: Thompson
Date: 09 Jan 16 - 07:02 PM

I'm a bit suspicious. "Do I have a choice" is such a modernism; can't see Cúchullain saying it.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Cuchulain and guest/host etiquette
From: Ged Fox
Date: 10 Jan 16 - 05:55 AM

Do I read it correctly that names of the parents, Rian and Gabar, are combined into the single name Ringabar? Is that the usual practice for the time/place/language?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Cuchulain and guest/host etiquette
From: keberoxu
Date: 10 Jan 16 - 12:32 PM

I have no Gaelic, Thompson, it is all data-entry and copying for me, so I am in over my head. However, I will post what I can, and hopefully somebody will read this thread who has the Gaelic and can interpret what I copy here.

This is how the scholar Ernst Windisch spelled out the Gaelic that he had captured from the Yellow Book of Lecan.

"Tanic doib colaigi.
" 'Cindus fibas Cuchulaind?'
" 'Inad lim roga?' or Cuchulaind.
" 'Bid lat' or im loech.   ' Atat sund ucut teora ingena Riangabra : Eithne, Etan, Étain. Atat sund ucut a tri braithri : Eochaid, Aed, Oengus.   Ata sund ocut a mathair a n-athair :   Rian , Gabar ; Finnabair reside a n'athar Riangabra. ' "


Moreover, Ernst Windisch had some remarks about the preceding, in footnotes. He published this in his native land, so the remarks are in his native German. In the interest of accuracy, I will post them as printed, first -- then, since I have a little German, I will attempt to render them in English.

"Ob hier Alles in Ordnung ist, ist die Frage. Nach dem Zusammenhang der Erzälung erwarten wir nur die Namen von weiblichen Wesen, aus denen Cuchulain auswählen soll.
"Statt dessen folgt die Aufzählung der ganzen Familie. Im MS. ist 'Rian Gabar' geschrieben, als ob 'Rian' der Name der Mutter und 'Gabar' der des Vaters wäre, oder umgekehrt. Allein 'Riangabar' ist nach den Worten   'a n-athar Riangabra' der Name des Vaters. Dann würde der Name der Mutter nicht genannt sein, wenn diese nicht Finnabair ist, nach meine Übersetzung zugleich die Erzählerin des Riangabar. "

This footnote is on page 199.
The Gaelic posted before it is on page 180.
All of the preceding comes from:
"Das Fest des Bricriu und die Verbannung der Mac Duil Dermait,"
a full-length article published in the journal,
"Irische Texte herausgegeben von Whitley Stokes und Ernst Windisch, Zweite Serie, Erste Heft."   Leipzig: S. Hirzel, 1884.

I take back what I said about translating the German....it's a little too post-graduate for my comprehension. Oh, and I was mistaken in an earlier post on this thread -- I said the translator was the German Kuno Meyer, but it is his fellow German and colleague Ernst Windisch.
(WHEW. I still want an answer to my question....about the custom and protocol being observed in this scene....?)


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Cuchulain and guest/host etiquette
From: keberoxu
Date: 10 Jan 16 - 12:42 PM

Again, the phrase that caught Thompson's eye, comes from this Old Irish:

'Inad lim roga?'

For what it's worth, I went to Google's online translator. "Rogha" and "Roghú" are translated, from "Irish", as "choice, selection, call, pick..."

"Lim" ("lem"?) comes out "to me."   Don't know about "inad."

And, as I keep saying, I am well and truly in over my head here....


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Cuchulain and guest/host etiquette
From: Thompson
Date: 10 Jan 16 - 02:11 PM

Hooooold your horses, lads. This is in Old Irish, not in modern Irish. The language has changed just as much as English has from Old English or French from Old French.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Cuchulain and guest/host etiquette
From: Thompson
Date: 10 Jan 16 - 02:31 PM

A version tweeted in modern Irish by @aongusoha:

Ní fheadair cé leis a luífidh Étain (It is not known with whom Étáin will lie)
Ach is feadair do Étain bhán (But it is known to fair Étáin)
Nach luífidh sí ina haonaráin (That she will not lie on her own)
http://www.teanglann.ie/ga/fgb/feadair


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Cuchulain and guest/host etiquette
From: keberoxu
Date: 10 Jan 16 - 04:43 PM

Well, when I run Ernst Windisch's German comments through a translator, this comes out:


Whether everything is acceptable ("in order"), is the question.
After relating the story, we only wait for the names of those women from whom Cúchulain should choose. Instead, there follows the enumeration of the entire family (not just the women's names). In the MS, "Rian Gabar" is written, as if "Rian" were the name of the mother and "Gabar" of the father, or vice versa. Alone, Riangabar is after the words for the name of the father. Then the mother's name would not be mentioned, if this name is not Finnabair, according to my translation the name of Riangabar's storyteller as well.

Perhaps this answers Ged Fox's question? Because his question is well beyond my capacity to answer.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Cuchulain and guest/host etiquette
From: Felipa
Date: 11 Jan 16 - 08:15 AM

maybe you should join this e-group for advice and discussion
https://listserv.heanet.ie/cgi-bin/wa?A0=OLD-IRISH-L


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Cuchulain and guest/host etiquette
From: Thompson
Date: 11 Jan 16 - 01:58 PM

Cúchullain was also a persecutor of pets in his slightly later career; in the Táin there's a story of Queen Maeve coming out to consult with her troops, with her pet raven on one shoulder and her pet squirrel on the other - an image that warms the cockles of my heart towards Medbhín - and Cúchullain takes his sling and knocks the raven dead off one shoulder and then the squirrel dead off the other. Definitely not someone to be recommended to or by the USPCA.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Cuchulain and guest/host etiquette
From: keberoxu
Date: 11 Jan 16 - 04:42 PM

The first post in this thread was mistaken in identifying Sean O'Faolain and his Silver Branch anthology as the source of the English-language translation of the Etan Bán quatrain. The anthology A Celtic Miscellany was composer Samuel Barber's source, both for Etan Bán and for The Crucifixion, in his cycle of Hermit Songs.

David Greene, one of the generation of post-war Gaelic scholars and academics, reviewed Kenneth Hurlstone Jackson's A Celtic Miscellany in 1952 for one of the most exacting academic journals, Celtica. He singled out Jackson's take on Etan Bán, observing that the translation was adequate, but faulting the title:

" The heading 'Promiscuity' is misleading." p. 213, Celtica, vol. II, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies


I am back to my question and my need to open this thread:
If the occasion/context of "Etan Bán" is different than quote-unquote Promiscuity, then.....what exactly is going on there?

Let me be more specific and spell things out.
Three eligible adult sisters stand before Cúchullain, the guest of honor, at the end of a lavish banquet with much drink taken. The person we could call the "master of ceremonies" announces, rather formally, that the sisters and the guest are in the presence of the women's brothers and both of their parents, as well as their parents' "storyteller."

It is hard for me to imagine something less private or clandestine. I just wonder what context there is, in the customs of the time and place (of which I admit ignorance), for the parents standing around and witnessing a guest deciding which of their daughters to, as translator Eickhoff says, spend the night with?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Cuchulain and guest/host etiquette
From: keberoxu
Date: 12 Jan 16 - 11:27 AM

See, I am haunted by this tacky reality-show image, of the guest of honor viewing a line-up of Kim, Kourtney, Khloe, and Kendall, while matriarch Kris looks on, and whats-its-name says, How would you like to spend the night, Mister Big Spender?

Would somebody kindly set me straight?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Cuchulain and guest/host etiquette
From: keberoxu
Date: 14 Jan 16 - 02:43 PM

Lady Gregory studied the Yellow Book of Lecan, and included its stories in her book on Cuchullain. This includes the story of the Exile of the Three Sons of Doel Dermait, on which quest Cuchullain was going, when he was the guest of honor at the feast described above.

Although Lady Gregory translates into English, and relates, the scene where Cuchullain and his men accept the hospitality and the feast before proceeding on their quest, she omits the part where Cuchullain is invited to, erm, be specific about hospitality in bed after the feast. Lady Gregory cuts this out and smooths the story over as though it never happened in the first place.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Cuchulain and guest/host etiquette
From: Thompson
Date: 14 Jan 16 - 03:14 PM

Well… "generous-thighed" was a compliment in those sagas, and Emer was praised for her pissing ability. Sexual generosity in man or woman was viewed well.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Cuchulain and guest/host etiquette
From: keberoxu
Date: 31 Jan 16 - 06:12 PM

Then there is the translation by the Rev. Dr. Bartholomew MacCarthy, at the Royal Irish Academy. He took this on in 1892, publishing it in a lecture about the Book of Ballymote:


I know not
what man will Etan smile with
But knows Etan the brilliant
that she will not smile alone.


Why does a euphemistic version give me the creeps, more than a forthright translation?


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