Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race
Page: 82Before Cuchulain left the Land of Shadows he gave Aifa a golden ring, saying that if she should bear him a son he was to be sent to seek his father in Erin so soon as he should have grown so that his finger would fit the ring. And Cuchulain said, “Charge him under geise that he shall not make himself known, that he never turn out of the way for any man, nor ever refuse a combat. And be his name called Connla.”
In later years it is narrated that one day when King Conor of Ulster and the lords of Ulster were at a festal gathering on the Strand of the Footprints they saw coming towards them across the sea a little boat of bronze, and in it a young lad with gilded oars in his hands. In the boat was a heap of stones, and ever and anon the lad would put one of these stones into a sling and cast it at a flying sea-bird in such fashion that it would bring down the bird alive to his feet. And many other wonderful feats of skill he did. Then Conor said, as the boat drew nearer: “If the grown men of that lad's country came here they would surely grind us to powder. Woe to the land into which that boy shall come!”[pg 191]
When the boy came to land, a messenger, Condery, was sent to bid him be off. “I will not turn back for thee,” said the lad, and Condery repeated what he had said to the king. Then Conall of the Victories was sent against him, but the lad slung a great stone at him, and the whizz and wind of it knocked him down, and the lad sprang upon him, and bound his arms with the strap of his shield. And so man after man was served; some were bound, and some were slain, but the lad defied the whole power of Ulster to turn him back, nor would he tell his name or lineage.
“Send for Cuchulain,” then said King Conor. And they sent a messenger to Dundalk, where Cuchulain was with Emer his wife, and bade him come to do battle against a stranger boy whom Conall of the Victories could not overcome. Emer threw her arm round Cuchulain's neck. “Do not go,” she entreated. “Surely this is the son of Aifa. Slay not thine only son.” But Cuchulain said: “Forbear, woman! Were it Connla himself I would slay him for the honour of Ulster,” and he bade yoke his chariot and went to the Strand. Here he found the boy tossing up his weapons and doing marvellous feats with them. “Delightful is thy play, boy,” said Cuchulain; “who art thou and whence dost thou come?” “I may not reveal that,” said the lad. “Then thou shalt die,” said Cuchulain. “So be it,” said the lad, and then they fought with swords for a while, till the lad delicately shore off a lock of Cuchulain's hair. “Enough of trifling,” said Cuchulain, and they closed with each other, but the lad planted himself on a rock and stood so firm that Cuchulain could not move him, and in the stubborn wrestling they had the lad's two feet sank deep into the stone and made the footprints whence the Strand of the Footprints has its name. At last they both fell [pg 192] into the sea, and Cuchulain was near being drowned, till he bethought himself of the Gae Bolg, and he drove that weapon against the lad and it ripped up his belly. “That is what Skatha never taught me,” cried the lad. “Woe is me, for I am hurt.” Cuchulain looked at him and saw the ring on his finger. “It is true,” he said; and he took up the boy and bore him on shore and laid him down before Conor and the lords of Ulster. “Here is my son for you, men of Ulster,” he said. And the boy said: “It is true. And if I had five years to grow among you, you would conquer the world on every side of you and rule as far as Rome. But since it is as it is, point out to me the famous warriors that are here, that I may know them and take leave of them before I die.” Then one after another they were brought to him, and he kissed them and took leave of his father, and he died; and the men of Ulster made his grave and set up his pillar-stone with great mourning. This was the only son Cuchulain ever had, and this son he slew.