Scéla Conchobair

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Scéla Conchobair maic Nessa (Scéla Conchobuir meic Nessa) or the Tidings of Conchobar mac Nessa is a title invented by Whitley Stokes[1] for a short prose piece from the Ulster Cycle preserved in the 12th-century manuscript, the Book of Leinster. It is interpolated with lore not found elsewhere regarding the branches (halls) of the Ulster court at Emain Macha and the shields of the Ulstermen.


In the codex (Book of Leinster, TCD 1339 olim H.2.18), the piece is bound in leaves immediately following the recension of the Táin Bó Cúailnge, and in the Catalogue is listed among the "Prose tales of Conchobar Mac Nessa, Cuchulaind, Athirne, Celtchair.".[2]

The beginning portion recapitulates the conception of Conchobair, and for this reason, the tale has also been referred to as a variant text of the Compert Conchobair[3]
Others class the tale as a variant of the tract on "How Conchobar obtained the Kingship of Ulster."[4]

In this tale is a description of the three halls, or branches of Conchobar. Croebrúad' (Stokes: the Cróeb-ruad, O'Curry: the Royal Branch, Kinsella: Craebruad, the Red Branch), Téite Brecc (Stokes: the Téite Brecc, O'Curry: Speckled Branch, Kinsella: Téte Brec, the Twinkling Hoard ), Croibderg (Stokes: the Red Branch, O'Curry: the Red Branch, Kinsella: Craebderg, the Ruddy Branch). The first being the palace hall of the Ulstermen. The second was the armoury where the shields, weapons, and goblets were kept. The third stored all the heads and spoils.

There follows a listing of the shields of the Ulstermen, eighteen in all, beginning with the Ochain of Conchobar. Some of the personages are difficult to identify since neither patronymics nor nicknames are given alongside the names. This portion was also treated by O'Curry in his lectures.[5] Some of the shields are construed to be swords by contemporary translators and dictionarists[6]

The lore regarding the great ale/wine vat, Ol n-guala,[7] and the rod with apples/balls for calling the crowd to attention, can be compared with the accounts found in the LU recension of Tochmarc Emer.

This work has also been incorporated as one of the foretales in Kinsella's translation of The Táin.[8] This editorial decision is potentially confusing, since for the Tain Bo Cuailnge proper, he uses the first recension and not the Book of Leinster version.

The work also contains interesting passage of hyperboles regarding the heptad of Fergus (Irish: sechtae),[9] omitted by Kinsella, which states how Fergus had the appetite of seven men, a libido that could only be satisfied by seven women in the absence of his wife Flidas, and that the size of his phallus measured seven fists. On the last reference, it may be borne in mind that the upright stone on Tara Hill, by some considered the Lia Fail, was "still popularly called Bod Fhearghais, that is, Penis Fergusii" in the days of antiquarian George Petrie,[10]


  1. ^ Stokes 1910, p. 18, "The tractate which I have entitled 'Scéla Conchobair maic Nessa is found in the Book of Leinster (p.106a of the facsimile)"
  2. ^ Abbott 1900, p. 361, Abbott 1921, p. 159
  3. ^ e.g., Kuno Meyer 1884, RC 6, 173. "the LL Copy.."
  4. ^ "MS-OMIT". Retrieved 11 February 2012. 
  5. ^ O'Curry 1873, pp. 332–333
  6. ^ Kinsella 1969 tr., pp.3–8; Harry Mountain's Celtic Encyclopedia
  7. ^ A Ol Guala is also mentioned in the Tochmarc Ferbe as a caldron full of wine in the house of Conchobar.
  8. ^ O'Curry 1969, pp. 3–8, also endnotes.
  9. ^ Stokes 1910, ¶13, p.26/27
  10. ^ [[#CITEREF|]], PRIA 18, p.159

Manuscript sources[edit]

(Tidings/Story of Conchobar)

(How Conchobar obtained the kingship)

Editions and translations[edit]

(Tidings/Story of Conchobar)[LL]

(How Conchobar obtained the kingship)

Secondary Literature[edit]

External links[edit]