CUCHULAINN - THE HOUND OF ULSTER
There was a time in Irelands history when chivalry and
chieftainry ruled the land. When the country was occupied
by bands of warriors who spoke only their native tongue
and who cherished their heritage and civilisation. This
was the time of Conor McNessa and the High Kings of
Ireland, of the Gamanraide and the Red Branch Knights of
the Emania. It was the time of Cuchullain.
All of the warrior bands had their own Seanachie, a
person responsible for recounting the deeds of times past,
a chronicler of the ages. Cuchullain was their most famous
subject and hundreds of tales of his heroic deeds, both
real and imagined, have survived to this day.
Cuchullain was the nephew and foster son of King Conor of
Emania, and was originaly named Setanta. He arrived at the
Court to find the youths playing Camán (hurling) and,
having with him his red bronze hurley he so outplayed the
other youths that his future greatness could be seen by
all of the Court. The warriors of the Red Branch
acknowledged him as a blood relative of the King and heard
him proclaim before the Druids in the Hall of Heroes:
"I care not whether I die tomorrow or next year,
if only my deeds live after me".
Cuchulainns greatest deed was perhaps when he alone held
back the forces of Connaught and had to fight his friend,
Ferdiad, who was the champion and chief of the Connaught
Knights of the Sword. Ferdiad and Cuchullain had trained
together in arms in their youth and it was displeasing to
Cuchullain to have to fight his friend of old. He tried to
dissuade Ferdiad against fighting by reminding him of their
days in training, when they were both subjects of the great
female champion, Scathach, in Alba.
"We were heart companions, We were companions in the
We were fellows of the same bed, where we used to sleep the
balmy sleep. After mortal battles abroad, In countries many
and far distant, together we used to practice, and go
through each forest, learning with Scathach".
Ferdiad would not be swayed. Lest he weaken under
Cuchullains pleas he responded only with taunts against
his friend, now foe.
So they fought. They fought for four days and eventually,
after a tremendous effort, Cuchullain laid Ferdiad down and
then fell into a trance of sorrow and weakness after the
As is the way with such heroes, Cuchulainn died on the
battlefield. He was propped against a large rock whilst
dead, with a spear in his hand and a buckler on his arm,
and with such a defiant attitude was able to strike fear
into his enemies even after death.
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