The Táin

Publisher: Little Island Books

This prose re-telling of the great Irish battle epic, which was passed down in the oral tradition for about two thousand years, is accessibly written and as full of gore as the battle itself. The original was composed in Old Irish, and there have been many different versions. It is called Táin Bó Cúailnge in Irish and The Cattle Raid of Cooley in English. The plot centres on the attempt by Queen Maeve and King Ailill of Connacht to steal an enormous bull from Dáire mac Fiachna, who is an Ulsterman. Thanks to a sleeping curse on the leaders of Ulster, only one man can stop them and their large army – the young warrior Cúchulainn, who kills everyone they send against him, one by one. Will Maeve and Ailill ever win the battle – and the bull?

With an introduction and a glossary at the back, this is a comprehensive version of the epic. It’s best aimed at children of 11 and older, due to the many details of casual violence and horrible deaths. Eoin Coveney’s illustrations are full of action and atmosphere, often showing battling warriors. The Táin is a hugely important part of Irish culture, and it will instigate discussions about war, heroism, myths and legends. 

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