Cuchulainn also had problems with clawing at furniture, being housebroken, and humping inanimate objects. It was especially difficult when he was just a pup but he ended up being trained very well.

I’ve talked about Cuchulainn briefly before in a rather tongue-in-cheek comic (aren’t they all?) about the evolution of Irish heroes, but he’s one of those major figures that really demands more discussion. As one of the primary figures in the famous Ulster Cycle, a heroic tale about the war between King Conchobar Mac Nessa and Queen Medb, there’s quite a bit of information about his life. Where some heroes’ childhoods or early years remain fairly unexplored, Irish myth offers us a pretty good look at Cuchulainn’s upbringing, though there are different and conflicting versions of his birth. In all versions, Cuchulainn (born with the name Setanta) has a miraculous birth, usually fathered by the god Lug. After his birth, the boy is raised and taught by several Ulster noblemen in the arts of war, speech, and the ways of the world.

Setanta’s childhood is even more rich in detail. Growing up with his parents in the countryside, he asks to join the macrad, a famous boy troop located in Emain Macha which he has watched from a distance. After some debate, he is allowed to go and upon his arrival, sees the boys at their sport and attempts to join them and actually bests them at their own game despite his very young age. While the troop stares at him, amazed, King Conchobar (who is training the troop) orders the boys to kill him for ignoring the group’s custom of asking for a pledge of security from the other boys before joining in, which happens to be a major taboo. Setanta is immediately attacked by the others who throw their hurling weapons at him but the child manages to parry every single one (a hundred and fifty in total) completely unarmed, he then catches a hundred fifty of the boys’ spears in his tiny shield, and fends off one hundred fifty throwing balls with his fists. The boy then dives in among his attackers and knocks out fifty of them. Conchobar stops the fight and explains to Setanta the custom of securing respect for his life from the troop before joining and the child confesses his ignorance and states that he would have conformed to the rules if he’d known better. He asks the others and they consent and then he immediately proceeds to fight them again and knocks out fifty more of the boys. When questioned by the King, Setanta tells them that he won’t stop until the other boys ask for HIS protection and his guarantee on their lives. The others consented right away to ask for his protection.

One of the other major childhood deeds revolves around how Setanta acquired the name Cuchulainn which stuck with him for the rest of his life. Conchobar is asked to visit the famous smith, Culann but is asked to bring no more than a small company with him to Culann’s house. Conchobar agrees and goes to say farewell to the boys but sees young Setanta again performing surprising deeds and besting his peers. The king, impressed with the boy, asks him to come to the banquet at Culann’s and the child agrees to follow after he is finished playing with the others. Conchobar arrives at this destination and settles in to eat and talk with Culann who asks if anyone is scheduled to arrive later. The king, forgetting that he asked Setanta to join them, answers that there is no one. Thinking it safe, Culann then lets loose a vicious dog that he owns to guard the property. Later, the men hear the dog barking and growling and Conchobar remembers asking the boy to join him for the feast and realizes he has made a terrible mistake. He mentions as much to his host and presumes the boy dead, though they all rush out to see what transpired. Outside, they find young Setanta had beaten the dog to death with his bare hands in self defense. Culann, who had raised the dog to protect his home and valuables and who thought of the animal as his own family, is devastated and angry. Though the king is impressed with the boy, there is the issue of recompense for the death of the dog and the anguish of Culann. It is Setanta himself who suggests that he be allowed to take the place of the dog until he can raise and train a new guard dog for Culann. The smith accepts and the boy is given a new name: Cu Chulainn “The Hound of Culann”.

And then, naturally, he goes around and pees like a dog to mark his territory.

Just kidding.