Tochmarc Étaíne ‘The wooing of Étaín’

  • Middle Irish
  • prose
  • Mythological Cycle, Ulster Cycle
Tochmarc Étaíne
‘The wooing of Étaín’
Title headings in the manuscripts do not give the third tale a separate title other than indicating that the story of Tochmarc Étaíne is being continued, e.g. Tochmarc Etaine beos (‘Tochmarc Étaíne again’), etc. It appears from other sources, however, that a version of the tale, or an individual episode, may have been known by the title Tromdám Echach Aireman, which is attested in the introduction to the LU version of Orgain brudne Uí Dergae and in the section of so-called gnáthscéla in [[medieval Irish tale lists |tale list B]].
Following Bergin and Best (1938), Tochmarc Étaíne can be divided into three tales. The third tale concerns the attempts by Midir of Brí Léith to (re)gain Étain, whose former incarnation used to be his lover (part I), but who has been reborn around the time of the Ulaid to become the wife of Eochaid Airem, king of Tara (part II). Without revealing his true intentions, Midir engages Eochaid in a series of fidchell games, at the height of which he takes her back. Eochaid tracks down the couple, but is tricked into choosing his own daughter from a company of doubles and begets a daughter (the mother of Conaire Mór, future king of Tara). Finally, an epilogue tells of Eochaid’s violent death.
pp. 129a–132a
This copy contains all three tales, but it is wanting in parts: (1) pp. 129a-129b line 19: story I (fragment due to a gap in the manuscript); (2) 129b line 20-130b: story II (complete); (3) pp. 130b-132a: story III (lacks the middle and end of the text). Incipit: ‘Tochmarc nÉtaine dano so sís’.
pp. 175a–175b (in facsimile) cols 876–877
rubric: ‘Tochmarc Etaine andso’
Complete copy of story 2
cols 985–997
Complete copy: (1) col. 985 ff: story I; (2) col. 990 ff: story II; (3) cols 992-997: story III. Incipit: ‘Tochmarc Etaine beos’.
ff. 106r–108v
A somewhat expanded version, including some versifications. It precedes a copy of Togail bruidne Da Derga.
  • Middle Irish
prose (primary)
verse (secondary)
Textual relationships
The Book of Leinster preserves a poetic adaptation of the beginning of the tale. It is attributed to Cináed ua hArtacáin and begins ‘Secht o. f. n.’. The dindsenchas poem Dinnshenchas of Ráith Ésa also relates.
Related: Cles Con CulainnCles Con Culainn

A repertory of Cú Chulainn's feats, similar to that contained in Scéla Conchobuir meic Nessa.

Secht o. f. n.Secht o. f. n.Poem on Brug na Bóinne, which offers a poetic version of Tochmarc Étaíne.
Associated items
A Bé Find in rega limA Bé Find in rega limEarly Irish syllabic poem (7 qq) in which the speaker encourages Bé Find to join him in the delightful Otherworld. It is preserved in the third part of Tochmarc Étaíne, where the poem is attributed to Midir as he woos Étaín, addressing her as Bé Find.


Mythological CycleMythological Cycle

Ulster Cycle
Ulster Cycle
id. 1797


Cycle of Conaire MórCycles of the Kings
Cycle of Conaire Mór
id. 49693
Eochaid Airem
Eochaid Airem
(time-frame ass. with Eochaid Airem, Irish legendary history)
Eochaid Airem (‘Ploughman’), legendary high-king of Ireland, known from the tale of Tochmarc Étaíne.

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Midir of Brí Léith
one of the Túatha Dé Danann in early Irish literature

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Étaín [mythological figure]
mythological figure in Tochmarc Étaíne and related texts

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Primary sources Text editions and/or modern translations – in whole or in part – along with publications containing additions and corrections, if known. Diplomatic editions, facsimiles and digital image reproductions of the manuscripts are not always listed here but may be found in entries for the relevant manuscripts. For historical purposes, early editions, transcriptions and translations are not excluded, even if their reliability does not meet modern standards.

[ed.] Bergin, Osborn, and R. I. Best [ed. and tr.], “Tochmarc Étaíne”, Ériu 12 (1934–1938): 137–196.
CELT – edition: <link> CELT – translation: <link>
Based on YBL and G 4. III is on pp. 174-193.
[ed.] Windisch, Ernst [ed.], Irische Texte mit Wörterbuch, 4 vols, vol. 1, Leipzig, 1880.
Internet Archive: <link> Internet Archive – Originally from Google Books: <link> – Vol. 1, part 1: View in Mirador – Vol. 1, part 2: Wörterbuch: View in Mirador
118–133 “Das Freien um Etain”, based on Lebor na hUidre and Egerton 1782.
[ed.] Müller, Eduard [ed. and tr.], “Two Irish tales”, Revue Celtique 3 (1876–1878): 342–360.
Internet Archive: <link>, <link>, <link> Internet Archive – originally from Google Books: <link>
350–360 Based on the Egerton 1782 version, here called Scéla Ailill ⁊ Etaine.
[ed.] Stern, Ludwig Christian [ed. and tr.], “Das Märchen von Étáin”, Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie 5 (1905): 522–534.
Internet Archive: <link> Internet Archive: <link> Internet Archive: <link>
Based on TCD 1337.
[tr.] Carey, John [tr.], “[Various contributions]”, in: John T. Koch, and John Carey (eds), The Celtic Heroic Age. Literary sources for ancient Celtic Europe and early Ireland & Wales, 4th ed., 1, Aberystwyth: Celtic Studies Publications, 2003. [Various].
§ 89
[tr.] Corthals, Johan, Altirische Erzählkunst, Forum Celticum: Studien zu keltischen Sprachen und Kulturen, 1, Münster: Lit, 1996.
Translation into German
[tr.] Gantz, Jeffrey [tr.], Early Irish myths and sagas, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1981.
[tr.] Draak, Maartje, and Frida de Jong [trs.], Van helden, elfen en dichters: de oudste verhalen uit Ierland, Amsterdam: Meulenhoff, 1979.
120–147 Versions 1, 2 and 3 translated into Dutch.
[tr.] Guyonvarc'h, Christian-J. [tr.], “La courtise d’Étain”, Celticum 15 (1966): 283–327.
[ed.] [tr.] Leahy, A. H. [tr.], Heroic romances of Ireland, 2 vols, Irish Saga Library, 2, London, 1905–1906.
Internet Archive – vol. 1: <link> Internet Archive – vol. 2: <link> Internet Archive – vols 1-2 (Google Books): <link> Internet Archive – Gutenberg (plain text): <link>
Vol 1: 1-32 (translation from LU and Egerton 1782, with introduction); vol 2: 143-161 (edition and translation from tale 3 of LU).
[tr.] Thurneysen, Rudolf [tr.], “Etain und Alill Anguba”, in: Rudolf Thurneysen [tr.], Sagen aus dem alten Irland, Berlin, 1901. 77–80.
Internet Archive: <link>
Story 2 from from YBL and LU.

Secondary sources (select)

Dillon, Myles, “Tochmarc Étaíne”, in: Myles Dillon (ed.), Irish sagas, Dublin, 1959. 11–23.
Gwynn, Lucius, “The two versions of Tochmarc Étáine”, Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie 9 (1913): 353–356.
Internet Archive: <link>
Dennis Groenewegen, Patrick Brown
Page created
March 2011, last updated: January 2024