Tochmarc Fe(i)rbe ‘The wooing of Ferb’

  • Middle Irish
  • prose, prosimetrum
  • Ulster Cycle
Prosimetric tale from the Ulster Cycle
Tochmarc Fe(i)rbe
‘The wooing of Ferb’
The [[Medieval Irish tale lists/Físi and Baili |Middle Irish tale lists]] attest to the title Fís Conchobair (‘The vision of Conchobar’), which seemingly refers to at least a version of an episode in this tale.
ff. 69v–70r
Short prose version of the episode Togail Dúine Geirg.
  • Middle Irish
  • early Middle Irish
prose, prosimetrum (primary)


Ulster Cycle
Ulster Cycle
id. 1797



The BadbThe Badb
(time-frame ass. with Ulster Cycle)
name of a war-goddess, often in the appearance of an ominous crow (badb)
See more
(time-frame ass. with Ulster Cycle)
druid to Conchobar mac Nessa, king of Ulster, in the Ulster Cycle; husband of Ness and possible father of Conchobar mac Nessa.
See more
Conchobar mac NessaConchobar mac Nessa
(time-frame ass. with Ulster Cycle)
king of the Ulaid in tales of the Ulster Cycle; son either of Cathbad or Fachtna Fáthach (father) and Ness (mother); husband of Mugain; father of Cormac Cond Longas, Cúscraid Mend Macha, Furbaide Fer Bend and Fedelm Noíchrothach; fosterfather of Cú Chulainn.
See more
Cú ChulainnCú Chulainn
Young Ulster hero and chief character of Táin bó Cuailnge and other tales of the Ulster Cycle; son of Súaltam or Lug and Deichtire (sister to Conchobor); husband of Emer (ingen Forgaill)
See more
Entry reserved for but not yet available from the subject index.

See more
Entry reserved for but not yet available from the subject index.

See more


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.] [tr.] Shercliff, Rebecca, “A critical edition of Tochmarc Ferbe: with translation, textual notes and literary commentary”, unpublished PhD thesis, Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, University of Cambridge, 2019.  
This thesis provides a critical edition of the longest extant version of the medieval Irish text Tochmarc Ferbe (‘The Wooing of Ferb’), accompanied by translation, textual notes and literary commentary. Tochmarc Ferbe is found in two manuscripts, the Book of Leinster (LL) and Egerton 1782. This comprises three versions of the text: a short prose account in Egerton 1782, and a long prosimetric account in LL, followed in the same manuscript by a poetic account. After a preliminary analysis of the relationship between these three versions, the edited text of the long prosimetric version (LL-prose) is presented, alongside a facing-page translation. Issues arising from the text, in terms of interpretational difficulties, literary features and metrical analysis of the poems, are discussed in the form of textual notes. A particular focus is the prevalence of textual correspondences between Tochmarc Ferbe and other medieval Irish tales, many of which are identified as direct textual borrowings by the author of this text. The thesis concludes with a literary commentary focusing on the role of women in the LL-prose version. It is argued that its depictions of a wide range of female characters challenge traditional assumptions about medieval Irish attitudes towards women, which tend to focus on their supposed passivity and negativity. The portrayals of two female characters are singled out as especially noteworthy. Queen Medb, frequently viewed as the archetypal expression of negative attitudes towards power-wielding women in medieval Irish literature, is shown to receive a positive depiction in this text. Meanwhile, the main female protagonist Ferb is characterised by her use of speech, which dominates the text in a manner almost unparalleled in medieval Irish literature. It is argued that she subverts the usually passive role of lamenter by channelling her grief into an active force, offering an alternative model of positive female action.
[ed.] [tr.] Windisch, Ernst [ed. and tr.], “Tochmarc Ferbe”, in: Ernst Windisch, and Whitley Stokes [eds.], Irische Texte mit Wörterbuch, 4 vols, vol. 3, Leipzig, 1897. 445–556.  
Critical edition of Tochmarc Ferbe, with facing German translation
CELT – edition: <link> CELT – German translation: <link> Internet Archive: <link>
Edition from LL and Egerton 1782 (separately), both with a German translation
[ed.] Best, Richard Irvine, and M. A. OʼBrien, The Book of Leinster, formerly Lebar na Núachongbála, vol. 5, Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1967. xv + pp. 1119-1325.
CELT – pp. 1119-1192 and 1202-1325: <link>
1137–1161 Diplomatic edition of the LL text
[tr.] Leahy, A. H. [tr.], The courtship of Ferb: an old Irish romance transcribed in the twelfth century into the Book of Leinster, Irish Saga Library, 1, New York, 1902.
Internet Archive: <link>

Secondary sources (select)

Thurneysen, Rudolf, Die irische Helden- und Königsage bis zum siebzehnten Jahrhundert, Halle: Niemeyer, 1921.  

Contents: Part 1 (chapters 1-23): Allgemeines; Part 2 (chapters 1-85): Die Ulter Sage.

Internet Archive: <link>
351–359 [‘Tochmarc Ferbe oder Fis Conchobair’]
C. A., Dennis Groenewegen, Patrick Brown
Page created
April 2011, last updated: June 2023