CuChulain and Adoption

Cuchulainn Slays the Hound of Culain illustration by Stephen Reid from Eleanor Hull's The Boys' Cuchulain, 1904.


Also known as Setana

Irish hero figure and supreme champion of Ulster

Setana was the son of the god Lugh and the mortal Dechtire, wife of Sualtam. He had seven pupils in each eye and 14 fingers and toes. He was sent to be fostered by the best men in Ulster, according to ancient Irish custom. Like Heracles he was precociously strong. In one incident, aged six, he killed the ferocious guard dog of Culainn the blacksmith. In recompense he himself guarded the Culainn's forge until a new dog could be found, earning himself the name CuChulain (Culainn's Hound).

He mastered the javelin and hurley and the salmon-leap, and became a great warrior, whose fury in battle could only be cooled by being immersed in icy water three times or by being confronted by a legion of bare-breasted women. At 17 he fought the entire army of Connacht and her allies, but at 27 he was killed near Slieve Fuad by Lewy.

CuChulain corresponds to Gawain, Siegfried and Achilles in English, Germanic, and Greek tradition.


Leabhar na h-Uidhri = The Book of the Dun Cow, edited by R.I. Best and Osborn Bergin. (Dublin: Royal Irish Academy, 1929) Cross, T.P., and Stover, C.H. Ancient Irish Tales. (Totowa: Barnes & Noble Books, 1988) Gantz, Jeffrey. Early Irish Myths and Sagas. (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1981) "Encyclopaedia of the Celts: Cuchulain [et seq.]" Available at: and also at: