The Tain is epic. In fact it is Epic - at least as Epic as more famous Epics, such as the Iliad. In fact, the number of correspondences between the Cattle Raid of Cooley and the story of Achilles' rage is remarkable. (It must be - I just remarked it.) Wanna know what they are (at least some of them, anyway)? Oi - you at the back! stop saying, "No."
here we go:
Illiad: Achilles only vulnerable on one heel.
Tain: CuChulain's foster brother only vulnerable to a gae bolga shoved where the sun doesn't shine. (The gae bolga is a mysterious design of spear - the blade had backward pointing barbs - other aspects of the design are obscure and variously interpreted.)
Illiad: Lots of riding round in chariots, killing people.
Tain: Lots of riding round in chariots, killing people.
Illiad: Lots of stomping around on foot, killing people.
Tain: Lots of stomping around on foot, killing people.
Illiad: Single combat.
Tain: Single combat. Generally in a ford that gets its name from the event.
Illiad: Riding round in a chariot, dragging the corpse of your enemy behind you.
Tain: Riding round in a chariot, dragging the corpse of your enemy behind you.
Illiad: Supernatural intervention.
Tain: Supernatural intervention.
Illiad: Heaps of famous heroes.
Tain: Heaps of famous heroes, especially near the end.
Illiad: Big fight over a beautiful woman.
Tain: Big fight over a prize bull. Okay - not such a close correspondence.
Illiad: Achilles chooses a short life but ever-lasting fame. (But maybe this isn't mentioned in the Illiad - I can't remember.)
Tain: CuChulain chooses a short life rather than everlasting ridicule. (But not during the Cattle Raid.)
Illiad: Achilles' rage.
Tain: CuChulain's "warp-spasm".
Tain: Mainly prose - some cryptic verse.
So, by now you should be convinced that the pagan Celts in Ireland were just as crazy and violent as any ancient Achaen group you care to name and appreciated the stories of their ancestors' crazy violence as much, too.
Three fifties of Bards couldn't praise this Epic enough, so I won't even try - just read it and find out how many boys can play hurling on the back of Ulster's prize bull, how CuChulain (the Hound of Culann) got his name and weapons and the name of every ford, hill and rock that figured in CuChulain's almost single handed defense of Ulster from an army of 30,000!