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"Ferdia Falls at the Hand of Cuchulain", illustration by Stephen Reid from Eleanor Hull's The Boys' Cuchulainn, 1904

Ferdiad (pronounced [ˈfʲerðiað]; also Fer Diad, Ferdia, Fear Diadh), son of Damán, son of Dáire, of the Fir Domnann, is a warrior of Connacht in the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology. In the Táin Bó Cúailnge, Ferdiad finds himself on opposite sides to his best friend and foster-brother Cúchulainn who may also have been his lover[1], with whom he had trained in arms under the renowned warrior woman Scáthach. He and Cúchulainn are equal in all martial feats, with two exceptions: the Gáe Bulg, a barbed spear which Scáthach has taught only Cúchulainn to use; and Ferdiad's horny skin, which no weapon can pierce.

When Ailill and Medb, king and queen of Connacht, invade Ulster to steal the bull Donn Cúailnge, their progress is held up by Cúchulainn, who demands single combat. After Cúchulainn has defeated a series of Connacht champions, Medb sends for Ferdiad, but he only agrees to fight Cúchulainn after Findabair, Ailill and Medb's daughter, has seductively plied him with alcohol, and Medb has variously bribed, shamed and goaded him to do so. They fight in the ford for three days, first fighting with 8 swords, darts, and spears, then fighting with "throwing-spears" and lances, and finally moving on to "heavy, hard-smiting swords." It is on the third day that Ferdiad starts to gain the upper hand. At this point, Cúchulainn calls to his charioteer, Laeg, for the Gáe Bolga, which he floats down the river to him. Cúchulainn throws a light spear at Ferdiad's chest, causing him to raise his shield, and then picks up the Gáe Bolga between his toes and thrusts it through his anus upon which the barbs spread throughout his body, killing him. The Gáe Bolga is then removed from Ferdiad's body by Laeg, and Cúchulainn mourns Ferdiad's death, praising his strength and bravery:

"Ah, Ferdiad, betrayed to death."
"Our last meeting, oh, how sad!"
"Thou to die I to remain."
"Ever sad our long farewell!"[2][3]

Scholars believe that the fight between Cuchulainn and Ferdiad is a late addition to the Táin, originating not earlier than the eleventh century and drawing on earlier episodes in the story.[citation needed] Ferdiad means "man/warrior of the pair" (Diad related to dïas, "two persons").[citation needed] But can also be read as "Fear" (man) "dia" (god), as opposed to Cúchulainn's position as a literal god-man (being a demigod, his father the chief god Lugh).


A Statue of Cuchulainn and Ferdia in Ardee, Co. Louth, Ireland.

The ford on which he died is named Áth Fhirdiad (Ferdiad's ford in Irish) Ardee, County Louth is named after him (Baile Átha Fhirdhia).[4][5]

A bronze statue stands in Bridge Street, Ardee depicting the battle and the death of Ferdia.[6][7]


  1. ^ Conner, Randy P. (1998). Cassell's Encyclopedia of Queer Myth, Symbol and Spirit. UK: Cassell. p. 116 "Cú Chulainn and er diadh". ISBN 0304704237.
  2. ^ Joseph Dunn, "The Ancient Irish Epic Tale Táin Bó Cúalnge", London:David Nutt, 1914 [1]
  3. ^ Ciarán Carson, The Táin, Pg 151
  4. ^ Cecile O'Rahilly, Táin Bó Cúailnge Recension 1, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1976, pp. 195-208 [2]
  5. ^ Cecile O'Rahilly, Táin Bó Cúalnge from the Book of Leinster, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1967, pp. 211-234 [3]
  6. ^ "Where Ferdia fell: Ardee, Co Louth" (PDF). Archaeology Ireland Heritage Guide. 73: 6. Summer 2016.
  7. ^ Ross. Noel (2011). "The Walled Town of Ardee: Selected Extracts." Journal of the County Louth Archaeological and Historical Society, 27 339-365. - via JSTOR

External linksEdit

  •   Media related to Ferdiad at Wikimedia Commons