Medb and Ailill

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  • Táin Bó Cúailnge: The Cattle Raid of Cooley

Queen Medb ruled over Connacht, and when Ailill married her, he became her king. They were both very powerful and proud rulers. One night, they were sitting in bed squabbling. Ailill said to Medb, 'It strikes me how much better off you are today than the day I married you.' Medb's father had been the High King of Ireland, so she was a very rich woman. She was offended that Ailill thought he was wealthier.

The king and queen started to compare their wealth. The servants were commanded to gather and bring forth all of Medb and Ailill's jewellery, gold, fine clothes, animals and all other valuable goods. Finally, when there was hardly any room left in the castle, they agreed there was only one thing Ailill posessed that Medb did not. This was the great, white-horned 'Finnbennach', a stud bull of incredible pedigree.

Medb had to agree that she did not own a bull to match Ailill's. In fact, there was only one bull in the whole of Ireland that did. He belonged to an Ulster man called Daire Mac Fiachna. She was determined to match her husband, so she sent a messenger to Ulster asking Daire for the loan of the bull for a year.