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Cuchulain

Cuchulain

Legendary hero warrior of Irish romance, son of the solar god Lugh and Dectera. His name means "Hound of Cullan," and his mighty deeds dominate Ulster lore. In order to marry Emer, daughter of Forgall, he was obliged to pass through the ordeals of the Land of Shadow and the warrior goddess Skatha, cross the Bridge of Leaps, learn the arts of war, and slay 100 men. Cuchulain also featured in the great Cattle Raid of Quelgny, described in the Book of Leinster of Finn MacGorman, bishop of Kildare, recorded in 1150.

In the twelfth century Book of the Dun Cow, Cuchulain is summoned from hell by St. Patrick to describe the terrors of hell to the pagan king of Ireland Laery MacNeill. As a result, the King was converted to Christianity and Cuchulain allowed to enter heaven. The deeds of Cuchulain as related in the Ulster Cycle of the Knights of the Red Branch are thought to have influenced the development of traditions of King Arthur in Wales and England.

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Cuchulain

Cuchulain

Cuchulain, one of the greatest heroes of Irish mythology and legend, was a warrior in the service of Conchobhar, king of Ulster. Best known for his single-handed defense of Ulster, Cuchulain is said to have lived in the first century b.c., and tales about him and other heroes began to be written down in the a.d. 700S. Cuchulain's adventures were recorded in a series of tales known as the Ulster Cycle.


Early Life. Like many Irish heroes, Cuchulain had a short, adventurous, and tragic life. He was the son of Dechtire, sister of King Conchobhar. She and some of her handmaidens were kidnapped on her wedding night by Lug, the sun god, who appeared to her as a fly. Dechtire swallowed the fly and later gave birth to a son whose original name was Setanta.

From the beginning, the child possessed extraordinary powers. He could swim like a fish at birth. He had seven fingers on each hand, seven toes on each foot, and seven pupils in each eye. At the age of 7, he fought off 150 boy warriors to gain entrance to his uncle's court. When he was 12, Setanta accidentally killed the watchdog of the smith Cullan and offered to guard Cullan's property until another dog could be trained. It was at that time that he changed his name to Cuchulain, which means "hound of Cullan." He grew up to be a handsome, well-spoken man who was very popular with women.


Trials and Achievements. Cuchulain fell in love with Emer and asked her to marry him. Emer insisted that Cuchulain must first prove his valor by undergoing a series of trials and sent him to the war goddess Scatha to be trained in warfare. On his journey to Scatha, Cuchulain had to pass through the plain of Ill Luck, where sharp grasses cut travelers' feet, and through the Perilous Glen, where dangerous animals roamed. Then Cuchulain had to cross the Bridge of the Cliff, which raised itself vertically when someone tried to cross it. Cuchulain jumped to the center and slid to the opposite side.

To repay Scatha for his training, Cuchulain fought her enemy Aife, the strongest woman in the world. After defeating Aife, he made peace with her, and she bore him a son, Cornila. While returning home to claim his bride, Cuchulain rescued a princess and visited the underworld.

Back home, Cuchulain achieved his greatest victory. When Queen Medb of Connacht sent a great army to steal the Brown Bull of Ulster, Cuchulain stopped them single-handedly. He alone, of all the Ulster warriors, was unaffected by a curse that had weakened the strength of the fighting force. Unfortunately, during one of the battles, he was forced to fight his good friend Ferdiad, whom he killed. On numerous other occasions, Cuchulain defended Ulster against the rest of Ireland and won numerous contests of bravery and trustworthiness.

But misfortune followed him. Cuchulain killed his own son, Connla, learning his identity too late. In addition, Cuchulain died as a result of trickery. After offending Morrigan, the goddess of death and battles, he was summoned to fight at a time when he was ill. On the way to battle, he saw a vision of a woman washing the body and weapons of a dead warrior, and he recognized the warrior as himself. Knowing then that his own death was imminent, he fought bravely. When he was too weak to stand, Cuchulain tied himself to a pillar so that he could die fighting on his feet. He was 27 years old.

underworld land of the dead

imminent about to take place; threatening

The Warrior. Cuchulain had several magical weapons: his sword, his visor, and his barbed spear, Gae Bulga, which inflicted wounds from which nobody ever recovered. When Cuchulain went into battle, he would go into a frenzy. His cry alone would kill a hundred warriors from fright. His physical appearancenamely, that of a handsome manchanged completely. Cuchulain's hair stood on end, one of his eyes bulged out while the other disappeared in his head, his legs and feet turned to face backward, his muscles swelled, and a column of blood spurted up from his head. His body became so hot that it could melt snow.

When swept away in a war frenzy, Cuchulain could not distinguish between friends and enemies. On one occasion, he was so full of the lust for battle that he needed to be stopped. A group of Ulster women marched out naked carrying vats of cold water to bring him to his senses. When Cuchulain stopped his chariot in embarrassment, he was grabbed by warriors who threw him into three vats of cold water to calm him down. The first vat burst apart, the second boiled over, but the third merely got hot.

See also Celtic Mythology; Lug.

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Cuchulain

Cuchulain (kəhŏŏl´ən, –hōō´lən), Irish legendary hero of Ulster, of prodigious strength and remarkable beauty. He is the central figure of the Ulster legends, the greatest work of which is the Táin Bó Cúalnge [the cattle raid of Cooley]. The great feature of this is Cuchulain's stand at a ford on the boundary of Ulster, where he defended single-handedly his province against the armies of the rest of Ireland.

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"Cuchulain." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Cuchulain

Cuchulain in Irish mythology, Red Branch hero of the Ulster cycle, and nephew of Conchubar; he defends Ulster against the forces of the queen of Connaught, but at last (through the enmity of the Morrigan) is killed fighting heroically against overwhelming odds.

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"Cuchulain." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/cuchulain