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PAGE 42

Line 20. "Pierced through with a spear." The different ways in which Ket claims to have conquered his rivals or their relations may be noted; the variety of them recalls the detailed descriptions of wounds and methods of killing so common in Homer. There are seven victories claimed, and in no two is the wound the same, a point that distinguishes several of the old Irish romances from the less elaborate folk-tales of other nations. Arthur's knights in Malory "strike down" each other, very occasionally they "pierce through the breast" or "strike off a head," but there is seldom if ever more detail. In the Volsunga Saga men "fall," or are "slain," in a few cases of the more important deaths they are "pierced," or "cut in half," but except in the later Niebelungenlied version where Siegfried is pierced through the cross embroidered on his back, a touch which is essential to the plot, none of the Homeric detail as to the wounds appears. The same remark applies to the saga of Dietrich and indeed to most others; the only cases that I have noticed which resemble the Irish in detail are in the Icelandic Sagas (the Laxdale Saga and others), and even there the feature is not at all so prominent as here, in the "Tain be Cuailnge," and several other Irish romances, though it is by no means common to all of them. It may be noted that the Irish version of the "Tale of Troy" shows this feature, and although it is possible that the peculiarity is due to the great clearness and sharpness of detail that characterises much of the early Irish work, it may be that this is a case of an introduction into Irish descriptions of Homeric methods.

It may be also noted that six of Ket's seven rivals are named among the eighteen Ulster chiefs in the great gathering of Ulster on the Hill of Slane before the final battle of the Tain, Angus being the only one named here who is not in the Hill of Slane list. Two others in the Hill of Slane list, Fergus mac Lets and Feidlimid, are mentioned elsewhere in this tale. Several of these are prominent in other tales: Laegaire (Leary) is a third with Cuchulain and Conall in the Feast of Bricriu, and again in the "Courtship of Emer;" Cuscrid makes a third with the same two principal champions in the early part of the "Sick-bed;" Eogan mac Durthacht is the slayer of the sow of Usnach in the old version of that tale; and Celtchar mac Uitechar is the Master of the Magic Spear in the "Bruiden da Derga," and has minor romances personal to himself.



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Map of Ireland