The Boyhood Deeds of Cú Chulainn

The Ulaid were at war with Éogan mac Durthacht. The Ulaid went to battle, but the boy was left asleep. The Ulstermen were defeated; Conchobar was left lying on the battlefield, with Cúscraid the Stammerer and many others. The sound of their agonies woke the boy. He stretched himself in his bed, so hard that the two stones at his feet and head cracked and broke; Bricriu saw it happen. Then he got up. At the gates of the fort he met Fergus, a sore wound in him.

»Alas! master Fergus,« says the boy, »the gods spare you. Where is my friend Conchobar?«

Fergus said that he didn't know.

Sétanta set forth then, in the dark of the night, making for the battlefield. He came upon a churl with half a head upon him, carrying half of another man on his back.

»Help me, boy«, said the churl; »I was wounded in the battle, and I carry half of my brother with me. Carry him for awhile so that I may rest.«

»I won't«, said the boy, but the churl threw the burden at him; Sétanta flung it away. The churl begins to grapple with him then; the boy is thrown to the ground. He hears the Badb crying among the carnage: »What weakness to be struck down by a phantom

The boy was enraged to be taunted so; he rose up out of the mud, and struck off the churl's halved head with his hurley-stick. He went on his way, driving the head before him like a ball over the battlefield, shouting: »Is my friend Conchobar on this battlefield?«

In the end he had answer; he goes to Conchobar where he lies in the trench, mud and earth about him on all sides, hiding and holding him.

»Why have you come into the field of battle,« asked Conchobar, »where you might die of fear?«

The boy lifted him out of the trench then: six of the strongest men of Ulaid could not have done it better.

»We will go now to that hut yonder«, said Conchobar, »and truly, if a roast pig came to me now, I should live.«

»I will fetch one«, said Sétanta.

He sets off then, and comes upon a man cooking, at a fire in the middle of the woods. In one of his hands his great arms; in the other, a spit with a roast pig thereon. Terrible the look on this man; still the boy attacked him, and took his head and spit and went. Conchobar ate the pig then.

»Let us be off now to our house in Emain«, said Conchobar.

On their way they met Cúscraid the Stammerer, hard wounds heavy in him. Sétanta took him on his back, and they went the three of them back to Emain Macha.

The Boyhood Deeds of Cú Chulainn

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