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helden. heroes. héros. 1.1 (2013): Inside Out... and Upside Down: Cú Chulainn and his ríastrad

Sarah Erni

In the main heroic epic of early Irish literature, the Táin Bó Cúailnge (“The Cattle Raid of Cooley”, TBC), the warrior Cú Chulainn (“The hound of Culann”) excels through his martial abilities and heroic conduct. Yet Cú Chulainn is by no means an unproblematic hero as at times he suffers from his ríastrad, a battle-rage which makes him lose the ability to distinguish between friend and foe. This creates a heroic crux: what if the invincible hero at times turns against his own people? In a contextualised close reading of the text, the paper raises general questions about the construction of heroic identity in medieval text and exemplifies these concerns on the exciting and incredibly challenging body of Cú Chulainn.