The Legend of Cú Chulainn

Time of Interview: April 22nd, 7:30 p.m.

Location of Interview: Interior of Arts and Humanities Study Lounge via Telephone

Informant’s first encounter w/ folklore: Studying in Trinity College Library, 2011

When folklore is performed: When amongst friends, children, etc. in social gatherings.



“I’ll give you one that’s a story within a story. There’s a fellow named Cú Chulainn, and he’s kind of the archetypal warrior who personified Celtic warriors. He was a great warrior in the myth of Ireland, and he was in a perpetual war with the ‘Conaught’ in the west of Ireland. He was part of a group of warriors who were particularly known as the ‘Red Branch’ warriors and they were the army that was to defend Ireland from the oncoming forces of Conaught. Within this story of the larger story of Cú Chulainn, what happened was that, through some difficulties, the ‘Red Branch’ soldiers all fell asleep and only Chulainn was to defend the path from the Conaughts. He fought man against man against every invader who fought with the Celts. The Conaughts sent some of their greatest warriors, and he beat them all… But when he beat them all, he realized that he was dying from all the wounds that had cut into him but it had been prophesized that he wouldn’t die by an enemy’s sword, so he stumbled over to a pole and tied himself to it so that he would die standing up so that it would never be said that he ‘fell to an enemy’s sword.’ And that’s one of ‘hundreds’ of stories of Cú Chulainn.”


The legend of Cú Chulainn is a popular one amongst Irish natives, and his legend has spread not only through folklore but also through well-known works of literature [1]. He represents national pride and Irish heritage, serving as a sort of founding father for the Irish people. Stories of his are passed around at an early age, imparting the various morals and lessons that are to be gained from his adventures. In this particular story, he displays Irish values of tenacity and clearness of vision.


[1] William Butler Yeats wrote several pieces based on the legend, including the plays On Baile’s Strand, The Green Helmet, At the Hawk’s Well, The only Jealousy of Emer, and The Death of Chuchulain. Stories of Chulainn appear occasionally in Frank McCourt’s bestselling 1996 memoir, Angela’s Ashes.