Cùchulainn of Ulster

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Some heroes make the children dreaming, like Gilgamesh, Hercules or Prometheus. In Celtic mythology, Merlin of Armor and King Arthur, Perceval, King Gradlon of Ys, Melusine, fairy Viviane… And the most fabulous, the giant Setanta aka Cuchulainn.

In the fortress of Eamhain Macha, also called the “Castle of sins” Culann the blacksmith was having a party. His powerful dog had been dropped to keep the door of the stronghold. Setanta arrived there at nightfall. He did not know the dog of Culann, who attacked him and was immediately floored: Setanta did not give him the slightest chance. Son of Lugh, the god of light -whom they say he was Sun’s son- and of Dectire, a beautiful mortal woman, Setanta came from another world and was unfamiliar of the customs and tricks from ours. With his people of demigods, the Tuatha de Danaan, he came from the four northern islands. But the other world means perhaps other planets? Or is it the mysterious planet-mothership Hyperborea, whose name means above the North pole ?

 

When he heard of his dog’s death, Culann flew into a terrible rage, and Setanta swore he would replace Culann’s dog to keep the door of the stronghold. So Setanta was called “the Hound of Culann” what is said Cùchulainn in ancient Gaelic. All the inhabitants were planning to use the giant to destroy the enemies of the Castle of Sins.

The soothsayer Cathbad said the stars demanded the departure of Cuchulain to fight against the enemy. Good-natured, the giant agrees. The first day he killed two enemy princes, which filled him with war fever. A red veil blurred his eyes, the desire to kill became irresistible. Thus were the giants, objects of bloodthirsty impulses. Therefore, two paths opened before him: one of light and one of blood. Cuchulain chose the path of blood. Aware of having been manipulated, he returned to the Castle of Sins to destroy it. To appease his fury, the besieged sent him three naked women. Disarmed, the giant fell in love with the most beautiful, Emer, the lily of Emain. The killer of men became as gentle as a lamb before the beautiful girl.

“Let’s marry them quickly” murmured the soothsayer Cathbad. “No one will marry my daughter if he is not first formed by Domhnall, the fencing master”, said the father of the young woman. Culann’s hound went to train with Domhnall, he learned all he could from him during three years. Having acquired the mastery of all weapons, he came back hopeful to ask the hand of Emer.

“Now you must train with Scathatch, the master in martial arts.” answered her father. Cuchulain calmed his rage and lowered his head. “I will go to Scathatch” he said. Three more years passed. Trained in martial arts, he returned to ask the hand of Emer, but once again, her father refused without even lowering the drawbridge.

 

Then Cùchulainn gave vent to his rage. Entering the fortress, he killed many fierce warriors. Terrified, Emer’s father killed himself. The lovers were finally married. Cùchulainn, the Hound of Culann, fought then against snakes he put into pieces and dragons he routed: since then, he wore the Serpent’s emblem. In those times of unrest and wars, Cùchulainn, Ulster’s Hound, defended his country alone. Faced with the invasion of Maeve from Connaught, he protected Ulster despite the pain of his injuries.

 

cuchulainn-tue-ferdiad-200poCùchulainn is a tragic hero: with his trusty sword Caladin, he killed Ferdiad, his best friend, in the heat of the battle of Ford. In his last fight, he got pierced by a hostile javelin. His entrails hung from his torn belly. He staggered and collapsed near a lake where he drank copiously. Then he firmly fastened up to a raised stone. A crow hopped on his guts and drank his blood. Cùchulainn sent out a last laugh, ending in painful gasp.

On his feet he faced up to his enemies, on his feet he died. Already, he felt his end coming, but he still firmly kept his valiant sword Caladin.

For three days and three nights, the enemy was trembling in the bushes, not daring to approach him, tied to his stone like a pagan Christ, raising a threatening arm that was still holding Caladin. On the fourth day, an otter approached Cùchulainn. The otter sniffed his face and began to drink his blood. Whispered his enemies:

One by one, relieved, they left their burrows. The news spread. Life could return to normal …

This is the story of Cùchulainn, the mythical hero of Ulster. But I know another version

A man does his duty – in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures – and that is the basis of all human morality.
Winston Churchill