Shields: Dubán – the shield of Cú Chulainn (Irish mythology)


A law was made by the Ulstermen that they should make silver shields, and that the engraving on each shield should be different. At that time Cú Chulainn was at his training with Scáthach and Búanann. When he saw the kind of shields that were being made for him in that land, he went to the specialist shield-maker, Mac Endge.

‘Make me a shield,’ he said, ‘and make sure no other other Ulsterman’s shield has the same engraving on it.’

‘I can’t do that,’ said Mac Endge, ‘for I used up all my skill on the Ulstermen’s shields.’

‘I swear by my weapon,’ said Cú Chulainn, ‘I will kill you if you don’t make it as I ask.’

‘I am under Conchobar’s protection against you,’ said Mac Endge.

‘Go to Conchobar for protection,’ said Cú Chulainn, ‘and I’ll still kill you.’

Cú Chulainn headed home, and Mac Endge became very depressed. Just then he saw a man sitting in the skylight, a two-pronged fork in his hand.

‘This is terrible,’ said the man.

‘You’re telling me!’ said Mac Endge. ‘I’ll be killed if I don’t make Cú Chulainn his shield.’

‘Clean your house,’ said the man, ‘and have ashes strewn on the floor, as deep as a man’s feet.’

It was done as he said, and he marked out one of the portions of the design in the ashes. Lúathrinde (a point brought swiftly, or a point brought from the ashes) was the name of the point, and, as Dubdetba said, ‘If I were Mac Endge, this is how I would engrave,’ and further, ‘this is how Dubdetba makes shields.’

It was this Lúathrinde that was cut into Cú Chulainn’s shield, and Dubán (“Blackie”) was the name of the shield

This artifact is a part of SwordTemple Library

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