Stories, Myths & Legends

Cúchulainn and Ferdiad 

Ferdiad had trained with the warrior woman Scathach at the same time as Cúchulainn except that he was a few years ahead in his training and was therefore almost like an older brother to Cúchulainn.  Ferdiad was working for Queen Medb during the time of the battle of the Brown Cow, and she wanted him to go fight against his friend Cúchulainn.  Ferdiad refused to fight Cúchulainn at first but Queen Medb threatened to have him satirized by a bard so terribly that he would die of shame and his name would be infamous for all eternity.  This was a very grave threat to a Celtic warrior as most of Celtic history was preserved in oral form and to be satirized meant to be remembered for centuries as an object of ridicule and shame.  Medb also offered Ferdiad financial rewards should he fight against Cúchulainn and bound herself to a six-fold oath of surety that she would keep her promise. 

Thus Ferdiad went into combat albeit reluctantly.  Cúchulainn greeted him in a friendly manner only to be told by Ferdiad that due to circumstances beyond his control he had come to do battle instead of renewing their friendship.  They fought all day then neither gaining advantage over the other until at nightfall they decided to rest.   Ferdiad sent a portion of his food to Cúchulainn and Cúchulainn sent a portion of his healing herbs to Ferdiad.  Their horses slept and were cared for at the same stable and their charioteers slept by the same fireside.  This pattern continued on the second and the third day but that night they parted in great sorrow knowing that tomorrow would be the day of reckoning, that night they slept in separate places, their horses and their charioteers also slept separately.

The next day Cúchulainn used his magical weapon the gae bulga who none could resist and slew his friend Ferdiad with a low cast of the spear.  When he saw his friend dying his battle frenzy left him and he took up his friend in his arms and carried him across to die in the camp of the men of Ulster rather than with the army of Medb.   He cried and lamented over his friend's body saying that all had been but sport up to that moment but now it was no longer a game 'yesterday Ferdiad was greater than a mountain, today he is less than a shadow.'

At this point Cúchulainn was so covered in wounds from his battles that he could not let his clothes touch him and had to pad his wounds with spaghnum moss and healing herbs. The only part of his body unscathed was his left hand which held his shield.


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