Toichim na mbuiden‘The march of the companies’

  • Early Irish
  • prose
  • Táin bó Cúailnge
Episode in Táin bó Cúailnge (Recensions I and II), in which Ailill and Medb watch the approaching Ulaid through intermediaries. It employs the so-called ‘watchman device’, in which a watchman with keen sight, here Mac Roth, offers a visually rich if puzzling description of what he sees and in which an interpreter of the description, here Fergus mac Róich, is able to identify the approaching characters.
Context(s)The (textual) context(s) to which the present text belongs or in which it is cited in part or in whole.
  • Early Irish
prose (primary)
Textual relationships
Related: Dinda na TánaDinda na TánaA short section, or table of contents, in the first recension of Táin bó Cúailnge (YBL). It enumerates the fifteen subsequent episodes, or main episodes (dinda), that make up the final section of the Táin.


Táin bó Cúailnge


watchman device


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.

See Táin bó Cúailnge for the complete list
[ed.] [tr.] O'Rahilly, Cecile [ed. and tr.], Táin bó Cúailnge: Recension I, Dublin: DIAS, 1976.
CELT – edition: <link> CELT – translation: <link>
Lines 3544–3944 Recension I.
[ed.] [tr.] O'Rahilly, Cecile [ed. and tr.], Táin bó Cúalnge: from the Book of Leinster, Irish Texts Society 49, Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1967.
CELT – edition: <link> CELT – translation: <link>
Lines 4148–4687 Recension II in LL.

Secondary sources (select)

O'Connor, Ralph, “Was classical imitation necessary for the writing of large-scale Irish sagas? Reflections on Táin bó Cúailnge and the ‘watchman device’”, in: O'Connor, Ralph (ed.), Classical literature and learning in medieval Irish narrative, Studies in Celtic History 34, Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2014. viii + 244 pp. 165–195.
Sims-Williams, Patrick, Irish Influence on medieval Welsh literature, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.  
See also the web edition: Patrick Sims-Williams, Irish Influence on medieval Welsh literature (2011).
[‘Narrative techniques in Irish and Welsh, II: the riddling ‘watchman device’’]
Dennis Groenewegen
Page created
July 2012, last updated: August 2019