Sunday, October 17, 2010

Setanta/Cú Chulainn Hero, Champion, Lover, poet and Hurler.

Dying Cú Chulainn GPO Dublin.
Cú Chulainn (ku kulan, the hound of Chulain) or Setanta was Irelands greatest warrior, often compared to Achilles from Greek Mythology
There are a few conflicting stories on the birth of Setanta, some say mythical others more scandalous. He was brought up by several men  who each trained him in poetry, politics, understanding and how to defend himself.
Like other kids he was interested in sports and hurling one of our national sports was the popular sport at the time (todays hurling star). As a young boy he went to join in a game with older boys, as he was not invited the others took him on all together and he beat them, easily. The King on his way to Chulainn's Castle saw him playing and invited him back to the castle, Setanta wanted to finish the game and asked if he could follow on. The KIng forgot about his invitation and Chulainn put out his guard dog, the most terrifying hound in Ireland and went to bed for the night. The game went on late and Setanta ran to the castle and when he got there the hound went for him, he did not hesitate and hit the ball straight down the dogs throat, killing him on the spot. He went up to the Chulainn and apologised for killing the hound and vowed to take his place, hence he got his name.
At seven as he was been trained as a warrior, on the day his teacher had an important prophecy to announce Cu Chulainn broke every weapon given to him, so the King gave him his own weapons as these were stronger. The prophecy was that the person that the King would give his weapons to would be famous but would die young. He also goes into battle and on his first day kills 3 grown men. Like Achilles in battle he becomes a maniac on the battlefield and when enraged he kills all around him, friends and foes alike.
As a youth he is so handsome that the other warriors fear that he will run on with their wives or daughters, so they scour Ireland to find someone beautiful enough to be his wife. They settle upon Emer, but her father is not happy with this situation and suggests that he train first with Scathach the fiercest warrior in Scotland and a woman.  His hope is that she will kill him, but of course he is so strong that he thrives under her training. At the end of his training she is about to face battle with her greatest enemy, her sister, fearing the Cu Chulainn in battle she drugs him to make him sleep. But he is so strong he sleeps barely an hour and goes into battle and gets Scathachs sister Aife to face him, he did not kill her but forces a truce between the two and makes Aife bear a son for him.
Not yet 18 years old he returns to Ireland and single handed storms Emers father Forgall's castle and kills more than 20 of  his best men, takes Emer as his bride and steals her Forgalls treasure. He then defends Ulster from the Army of Connaught, again single handed. He slaughters hundreds and builds walls of their bodies, but when Queen Medbh, the warrior  queen, is about to face him she gets her period and has to withdraw from battle. After defeating her army he does not kill her and even protects her retreat.
She later contrives to kill him with others of his enemies, one of them Lugaid had magical spears designed to kill Kings, one kills the King of the Charioteers, the second kills Cú Chulainns horse the king of horses and the last is the one that mortally wounds him. He refuses to die lying down so he lashed his body to a stone post, though dying his enemies are afraid to approach him. It is only when a raven lands on his shoulder they dare approach him, Lugaid approachs and as he cut the head of the dying Cú Chulainn , Cú Chulainn cuts off his right hand.
This is the readers digest version of an amazing epic tale.

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