Mythology Monday: The Champion’s Portion, Part 3

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And with this post, I end the epic tale of the Champion’s Portion. Which, I remind you, is all about deciding who gets to eat what at parties.

So, let’s dive in.

In part 2, it was decided that they’d go to a wise man named Cu Roi Mac Dara (who is also the king of Munster) to get this figured out once and for all. So Sencha sends Laoighre, Conall, and Cu Chulain to Cu Roi’s big ass fortress.

Unfortunately, the owner of said fortress isn’t home, but they’re greeted by his daughter, Blaithnaid, who was given instructions on testing the three. See, Cu Roi’s fortress has this enchantment where the doors and windows all disappear at night, which means that the rest can be guarded by just one person. So our three intrepid heroes are tasked with guarding the place, for one night each.

Laoighre decides to go first, and things seem to be going pretty well for him. That is, until a sea giant comes by and starts hucking oak trunks at him. Laoighre responds by chucking spears at the giant. Neither of them are able to hit the other, so the giant decides to just grab Laoighre and throw him over the fortress.

Now, due to the enchantment, the people in the fortress are unable to see the battle, but they could hear it, and they decide that Laoighre decided to jump over the fortress on his own to impress them. And he decides not to correct this notion.

The next night is Conall’s turn, and basically the same thing happens, down to the giant tossing him over the fortress and the inhabitants believing he jumped over it.

Next up is Cu Chulainn. This time, instead of the giant showing up, he’s attacked by 3 groups of nine warriors. He kills them all and stacks their heads up in a neat pile. That’s when the giant attacks, and Cu Chulainn cuts his head off too. Then he decides to copy Laoighre and Conall, only he actually manages to jump over the fortress because he has superpowers.

So, Blaithnaid declares Cu Chulainn the winner, but the other two basically claim he cheated and this doesn’t count.

Some time later Ulster is throwing another feast. This time, though, Cu Chulainn and his wife Emer are away from Emain Macha, so aren’t present. The rest of the Red Branch is, though, and they’re having a great time until a dude with a huge axe comes by.

He introduces himself as Uabh, and says that he’d like to play a little game. Basically, he wants someone to come forward, cut off his head, and then come back the next day so he can return the favor.

And this sounds like something I’ve heard before.

Anyway, Laoighre, thinking there’s no way this could bite him in the ass. comes up and takes a whack. And, to everyone’s surprise, Uabh stands, picks up his newly severed head, and walks out the door.

Now, Laoighre is understandably freaked out by this, and decides to hide from Uabh rather than face him the next day. This prompts Uabh to start calling the men of Ulster pussies, Conall will not stand for this, and decapitates Uabh himself.

Pretty much the exact thing happens, Conall goes into hiding, and Uabh starts insulting everyone again. Now, by this point Cu Chulainn has come back from his vacation, and decides to take his swing.

Cu Chulainn, however, does not go into hiding, since he promised that Uabh could decapitate him. So the time comes, Cu Chulainn puts his head on the block, and Uabh buries his axe in the ground by Cu Chulainn’s head.

It’s here that he reveals himself to actuall be Cu Roi Mac Dara, and declares Cu Chulainn the winner of the contest. And that he’ll kill anyone who disagrees, which shuts Laoighre and Conall up pretty good.

So, I mentioned earlier that this part of the tale reminded me of something. That something is the Arthurian tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The whole “cut off my head then let me cut off yours” is basically the inciting incident of that story. This makes me think that, perhaps, this tale may have influenced that one. I’m not sure, but the parallels are interesting.

Also, everything they went through seemed needlessly complicated. I can’t help but think that there should have been an easier way to figure this out then schlepping three dudes across three different kingdoms. Like, I dunno, draw straws or have them take turns.

Oh, well, it was a different time, and this was obviously Serious Business™, so I’ll just let it slide.

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