Cuchulainn Meets His Son
Irish and Celtic myths and legends, Irish folklore and Irish fairy tales from the Ulster Cycle
Cuchulainn Meets His Son
They say the fury of a storm in a high tempest has nothing on the fury of a woman scorned, and few women have ever felt quite so scorned as Aoife the warrior-queen after she found out that her lover Cúchulainn had married another woman, Emer! She had borne a son for him, but in her wrath she decided to turn the child against him.
She spoke not a word of this to Connla, which was the boy's name, but trained him well in all the arts of a warrior. She sent him to Scathach also, that he would become Cúchulainn's equal in war, and when the ring his father had given her fit his thumb, she sent him away to Ireland.
But first she put on him three geases, or magical forbiddings. The first was that he should never turn back from his journey. The second was that he should never back down from a fight, but tackle all comers, and the third was that he should never, under any circumstances, tell anyone his name.
Proudly the young man set off to meet his father, armoured in fine mail and a broad shield, and his ship landed near Baile's Strand. It so happened that King Conchobar and his men were nearby at the time, and they spotted this warrior's approach. Admiring his poise from a distance, King Conchobar sent a messenger to ask his name.
Well, the messenger came back with the news that the lad refused to speak his name, no matter what the custom was! King Conchobar was enraged and asked whether any in his host would defend the King's honour, at which Conall Cearnach stood up and gravely declared that he'd teach the boy a lesson.
Striding to the beach, he challenged Connla and told him that there was no need for a fight, but fight they would if he refused to tell his name.
“Then fight we must!” said Connla, and fight they did. By the end of it Conall it was who lay bleeding into the sand, and so his reputation passed to Connla. King Conchobar was nonplussed and decided to play his strongest hand, sending for Cúchulainn, who came as quick as the wind.
Like the King, Cúchulainn was impressed by the young man's stance and bearing, and even more so when he heard that Conall had fallen by his hand, but when he demanded to know the lad's name, he was told the same story and more – that Connla was under a geas never to speak his own name when asked.
Although he understood now, Cúchulainn had no choice but to fight for the King's honour, and they did battle as few battles had ever been fought! Blow for blow, strike for strike Connla matched him, up and down as though he fought his own mirror image. As this continued, the hero-light began to shine from Cúchulainn's head, and at last Connla knew who he must be.
Turning aside his spear thrust at the last moment, he shouted that he was Cúchulainn's son Connla, but too late, for the deadly Gae Bolg - javelin of a thousand barbs - had pierced him and destroyed him in every part and joint.
Even with the battle-spasm still on him, Cúchulainn cradled his dying son in his arms, and they both cursed Aoife. After his son died, his fury grew to greater heights than ever before, and he smote trees like reeds into splinters and boulders like apples into dust and rubble.
Then he began to threaten the assembled host of the King for he was gripped by the furies, so Cathbad the druid cast a spell on him to make him think the waves of the ocean were attacking warriors, and he strove with them from the waxing of the moon to the waxing of the moon until he collapsed from exhaustion.
As for Aoife, when she heard the end of the tale that she had begun, she wept bitter tears till the end of her days, reaping now at last the full fruits of wrath and vengeance, knowing she had lost her son and Cúchulainn both forever. And isn't it a pity more people don't learn from her lesson.
Baile's Strand is close to the spot marked on the map below if you care to visit!
We now have an amazing Patreon page as well, where you can listen to the many myths and legends on the Emerald Isle! Exclusive to our Patreon, you can now hear stories of ancient Ireland, folklore and fairy tales and more, all professionally narrated. It's at times like these that it's most important to support artists and creative people whose income might be reduced, so if you'd like to support the work that goes into Emerald Isle, the Patreon can be found here: https://www.patreon.com/emeraldisle
Further Tales from the Ulster Cycle
It was a warm and balmy summer's night, heavy with the fragrances of heather and honeysuckle, when Aengus, son of Dagda, awoke to find a beautiful young woman approaching him where he had slept. He was immediately taken with her grace and elegance, and his heart yearned for her, but when he tried to speak, she vanished! He stayed in his bed ... [more]
Many and infamous were the weapons of the tribes of Ireland, and fierce the warriors who wielded them in battle, but few were as notorious as the spear of fire and poison, the Lúin Cheltchair, which thirsted for blood so much that it had to be kept in a cauldron of poison, held down with chains by four foreigners – for who would risk t ... [more]
Cúchulainn, although still a young man, had made many powerful enemies, but none more bitter and dark than Queen Medb of Connaught, whose armies he had routed and whose ambitions he'd thwarted. Long into the dark nights of winter, year after year she brooded on the humiliations visited upon her, for undying is the wrath of a Queen. Sh ... [more]
Queen Medb had invaded Ulster and the lands of the north, thinking it would be an easy victory since the men of Ulster were crippled with birth pangs as a result of a curse place on them, but Cúchulainn had dogged her every step savagely. Attacking her supply wagons, ambushing her men from the trees, burning tents at night, he fought sing ... [more]
Queen Nessa had been known as a gentle and sweet natured woman when she was a maid, but through the hardships of the world she became cold and ruthless. Still, for all that she was still a rare beauty and an indomitable warrior, which many men find to be an irresistible combination! And so it was with King Fergus Mac Ríoch, master of all ... [more]
They say the fury of a storm in a high tempest has nothing on the fury of a woman scorned, and few women have ever felt quite so scorned as Aoife the warrior-queen after she found out that her lover Cúchulainn had married another woman, Emer! She had borne a son for him, but in her wrath she decided to turn the child against him. She spok ... [more]
In the age of heroes, forgotten by all but the storytellers and the legend-weavers, when champions strode the land of Ireland, their halls and Duns now covered in moss, echoing to no songs but those of the blackbird and the red-breasted robin, the people of Ulster were gathered together for a great celebration at Emain Macha, the capital of Ulster. ... [more]
A quarrel arose between Queen Medb of Connacht and the King of Ulster regarding who had the most wealth, but all of his men were cursed with the pains of a pregnant woman giving birth so they couldn't ride out to meet her marching army. Only Cúchulainn who had the blood of the Sidhe running through his veins could even walk, let alone fi ... [more]
Cathbad the Druid was well known throughout the lands of Ireland for his subtle skill and cunning ways, he could make birds speak the language of men and the very stones themselves sing, it was said! But like all Druids, he could also tell the portents of the day, as the ripples may be seen from a rock cast into a still pool in the deepest forest. ... [more]
Cruinniuc was a farmer in the northern part of Ireland back in the days of legend, and often legends are told of heroes and their mighty deeds, but this tale is about humbler folk who change the path of history nonetheless. Cruinniuc wasn't a bad sort but his life had been struck with ill fortune for years – his wife had passed away an ... [more]
The chariot games in Ireland of old were a great event – the mightiest of kings, warriors, princes and champions from around the world would travel from afar to watch and join the fiercely contested races. Each man and his team of horses would thunder round the track, and the cheers of the onlookers would shake the hills. And so it was for ... [more]
It was the time of heroes in ancient Ireland, when giants walked the land, before Fionn MacCumhaill had sent the seven shadows of the Glen back to their dark and restless sleep with his flashing sword, and even before his son Oisín had slain the worm of the lakes, when Setanta was young. He it was who became one of the mightiest heroes of ... [more]
King Aillil, husband to Queen Medb whose famous cattle raid started a war with Cú Chulainn, was deep in his cups as the sun set on Samhain night, red and cloud-torn over the ancient fortress of Rathcroghan. Bothered by the whispering winds, he took a notion that it would be a good test of courage if one of his warriors would go out and put a ... [more]
Bricriu of the venomous tongue he was called, and well named indeed he was, for he loved nothing better than to cause trouble and spread rumours and half-truths to unsettle people. As such he decided to hold a great feast, although he knew that by his reputation few would be interested in attending, so he made a special effort to entice them. He ... [more]
One of the most famed legends of old is that of the war that was fought over the Brown Bull of Cualgne. Now while it might seem an odd thing for us today to think of a war fought over a bull, the matter is not so simple as it might seem, and the bull was no ordinary bull either! For it was in the time of Cú Chulainn, the hound of Chulainn, t ... [more]