Conchobor mac Nessa
Irish: "CON-or mic NESH-ah"

Legendary king of Ulster and uncle to Cuchulain, he was said to be born the same day as Christ (though not the same year), and died the same day.

He was the bastard son of Nessa and the druid Cathbad mac Rossa, who raped Nessa. His mother married Fergus mac Róich, king of Ulster, and tricked Fergus out of this kingship by making a deal so that Conchobor could rule for one year in his stead. "So that his children could one day say, 'My father was once king of Ulster.'" Fergus, being the good-hearted man that he was (and being more apt towards being a bard), happily made the trade. When he wanted his throne back after a year, he was told, "Tough luck, boyo. Conchobor's king now, and there ain't a thing you can do about it." Fergus, being the laidback musician that he was, said, "Eh, I wasn't that interested in kingship anyway." Off he went to be a bard, though always standing in the shadows as an advisor.

At times, Conchobor was a good king, and at times he was a bad one. He was incredably generous, especially with his nephew Cuchulain, and always held a feast at Emhain Macha on Samhain, and defended Ulster when Medb of Connacht held the Cattle-Raid of Cooley (interesting, since Medb was an ex-lover of his).

However, it was also his fault that the goddess Macha cursed all of Ulster, and that the "Sorrows of Deirdre" ever happened.

There is some speculation that the relationship between Conchobor and Cuchulain lay some of the groundwork between King Arthur and his nephew Sir Gawain, particularly in the tale of Bricriu's Feast, which is generally considered a precursor to Sir Gawaine and the Green Knight. Medb can be seen as an early Morgan le Fey, the sword Caladbholgh is Excalibur, and so on.

Back to "C" | Back to JCE

Mary Jones © 2004