Combat with Ferdia

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  • Táin Bó Cúailnge: The Cattle Raid of Cooley

Medb's Last Hope

After Fergus, there was only one man left among Medb's armies who had a chance against Cúchulainn. This was Ferdia, Cúchulainn's foster brother. However, Ferdia did not wish to fight. Medb had to use all of her cunning to convince him to take up arms against Cúchulainn.

At first, Ferdia would not even go to meet Medb. She forced his hand by threatening to spread word throughout the kingdom that he was afraid.

Then Medb got Ferdia drunk and promised him her daughter's hand in marriage. Even that was not enough. It was only when she lied to him, saying that Cúchulainn had said he would not consider beating Ferdia as a great triumph, that Ferdia agreed to fight.

Clash of the Titans

Both Cúchulainn and Ferdia were matched evenly in strength and skill. They had each been trained in combat by the famous she-warrior Scáthach in Scotland.

However, there were two features which separated them: while Cúchulainn had the Gae Bolga, Ferdia possessed a coat of horn-like armour that no ordinary weapon could pierce.

The fight between the brothers raged on for five days. Each day brought a new choice of weapon. The whole of Ireland was enraptured by the gruelling contest. Finally, Ferdia found a way through and pierced Cúchulainn's chest with his sword.

Cúchulainn had only one option left: the deadly Gae Bolga. He hurled this spear and it penetrated Ferdia's armour and, as the story goes, 'went coursing through the highways and byways of his body, so that every joint filled with barbs.'