This is one of the oldest stories in the world. It’s hero is a great king, warrior, and strongman called Gilgamesh who wanted to discover the secret of immortality, or living forever. He formed a strong bond with wildman called Enkidu.
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Adapted and illustrated by Bertie
Read by Richard Scott
Female Parts by Jana
This is Richard, and I’m here with one of the oldest stories in the world. It is older than even the Bible. It’s hero is a great king, warrior, and strongman called Gilgamesh who wanted to discover the secret of immortality, or living forever. It was written down around 4000 years ago on clay tablets in letters called Cuneiform when the City of Babylon was at the height of its powers. Babylon was in the part of the world called Mesopotamia, which means between the two rivers, and is in modern day Iraq. The story goes back even further in time to when a civilisation called the Sumerians ruled Mesopotamia about 6000 years ago.
So here is the story of Gilgamesh, based on the ancient tales.
Adapted for Storynory, by Bertie.
Read by Richard.
Shamhat and Ninsun read by Jana.
Proofed, audio edited by Jana.
Of him who found out all things
Who experienced everything
Who went everywhere
I shall tell the tale.
He gained complete wisdom
He found out what was secret. He uncovered what was hidden.
He built the walled city of Uruk.
If you climb up onto its high battlements and take a walk around, you will see a glistening city one square mile in size. You will see green orchards just as big. You will see the vast quarries where they dug out the clay to build the houses. You will see the temple of Ishtar and its lovely grounds. He ordered all this to be built.
What was his name? What manner of men was he?
To find out, listen on, for now I shall take out the copper box.
Undo the bronze lock
Lift up the tablet made of blue Lapis Lazuli
And read the story of Gilgamesh.
He was king of Uruk. He walked out in front of vast armies. He fought with the ferocity of a wild bull. He opened up passes through the mountains. He dug wells and quarries in their sides. He crossed the vast oceans. Two thirds of him was divine and one third mortal.
Gilgamesh was the shepherd of his people. But he was also a bully. Young men, he beat up, girls he kissed against their will. Parents and elders he disrespected.
The gods received many complaints about him. They came up with a plan to tame the king with superhuman strength.
Anu, the Lord of the skies spoke to Aruru the goddess of Creation. He asked her to make a rival strong man to challenge the arrogance of Gilgamesh. Aruru took a piece of clay from her side and pinched it into the shape of a man and then she threw the manikin into the open countryside. As he lay on the grass, Lord Anu threw a skybolt at him. The lightning coursed through his body and brought him to life. The man’s name was Enkidu and he was wild and strong. His whole body was shaggy like a wolf and the hair on his head was long like a woman’s. He knew no people and he ate and drank with the cattle and the deer.
One day a hunter came face to face with the wild man by the river. Enkidu gave the hunter such a look that he almost died of fear. The hunter staggered in a daze back to his father. At first, he was unable to speak. When eventually he recovered his strength and his witts, he managed to say:
“Father, there is a wild man. His body is shaggy like a wolf and his hair is long like a woman’s. He does not mix with people, but he lives with cattle and deer. Today he saw me by the waterhole and gave me such a look that I almost died of fright. He is the one who has smashed my traps and chased away the animals that I hunt. I cannot fight him. He is too big, wild and strong, and he fills me with terror. What can I do?”
And his father replied:
“Son, this is what you must do. You must go to the glistening city of Uruk, speak to the great King Gilgamesh, and ask him to send a woman who will tame this wild man.”
The hunter listened to his father and did as he was told. He went to the glistening city of Uruk, and threw himself on the ground before the great king Gilgamesh.
“Great Lord!” he said, “There is a wild man. His body is shaggy like a wolf and his hair is long like a woman’s. He does not mix with people, but he lives with cattle and deer. He saw me by the waterhole and gave me such a look that I almost died of fright. He is the one who has smashed my traps and chased away the animals that I hunt. I cannot fight him. he is too big, wild and strong, and he fills me with terror. What can I do?”
King Gilgamesh heard the hunter’s story and decreed, “My wise mother, Ninsun the cow-goddess, will choose a woman from the temple to return with you, and she will tame this wild man.”
And the wise Ninsun, the cow-goddess, sent a temple woman called Shamhat with the hunter. Shamhat walked three days to the water hole where the wild man used to drink along side the animals. They waited there three days while wild beasts drank at the water. Eventually Enkidu came to satisfy his thirst. He looked at Shamhat and she looked back at him. He saw her charms and wanted to live with her. From that day on, the cattle and the wild animals kept away from him. Shamhat clothed him and taught him manners, and how to speak. She told him of the glistening city of Uruk and the temples of Anu and Ishtar. And she told him of the great King Gilgamesh, a man of fabulous strength, who raged like a wild bull.
One day Enkidu said to Shamhat, “Take me to the glistening city of Uruk, and the temples of Anu and Ishtar, and show me King Gilgamesh, a man of great strength who rages like a bull, for I want to fight him and prove that I am the strongest man in Uruk and that glory belongs to me.”
And Shamat replied, “Enkidu my love, I shall take you to the glistening city of Uruk and I will show you the young men who wear bright sashes, and the women who show off their figures. We shall sit down and eat the feasts that they hold there every day while the musicians play on drums, flutes and trumpets. But do not fight Gilgamesh. He is handsome and dignified. He has built the high walls of Uruk and the temples of Anu and Ishtar. He leads great armies out of the gates. He is a man who is two-thirds divine and one-third human and my love, he is stronger than even you are.”
Now it happened that before Shamhat had left the city of Uruk, she heard the following story. One night King Gilgamesh had a dream. He dreamed that a great axe fell like a thunderbolt of Anu from the sky. Gilgamesh found the great axe on the mountainside and with great difficulty he hauled it back to the city of Uruk and to the feet of his mother. She treated the axe like an equal to him and he cherished it like a wife.”
When Gilgamesh awoke he was troubled by this strange dream. He went to his wise mother, Ninsun, the cow-goddess, and he said:
“Mother, I am troubled by a strange dream. A great axe fell from the sky like a thunderbolt of Anu.I found the axe on the mountainside, and with great difficulty, I dragged it back to the city of Uruk and to your feet. You treated this axe like an equal to me and I cherished it like a wife. Wise mother, tell me, what is the meaning of this strange and troubling dream?”
And the wise mother of Gilgamesh, Ninsun the cow-goddess, replied:
“It means that soon a strong partner will come to you. Next to you, he shall be the mightiest in the land and he will support and save you from danger. In return, you will love and care for him like a wife.”
The wise Ninsun told the story of the dream to Shamhat and Shamhat told it to Enkidu. “It means,” said Shamhat, “that you shall be like a brother to Gilgamesh. That is why I was sent to tame you and to fetch you to him.”
Shamhat and Enkidu began to walk to the glistening city of Uruk. The journey took three days and three nights. On the final night, they camped near the walls of Uruk with a group of shepherds. They sat around the campfire and the shepherds wondered at Enkidu, how he was as strong as a thunderbolt of Anu, and equal to Gilgamesh. And they spoke of the arrogance and injustice of Gilgamesh, how he used his strength to bully the young men and women of the city of Uruk.
Then the shepherds put food and drink in front of Enkidu, but he refused to touch it. He narrowed his eyes, stared at the embers of the campfire, and brooded about the arrogance and violence of Gilgamesh, and he resolved to prove that he was more mighty than Gilgamesh and deserved the glory, and would rule in his place and be wise and just.
The next day Shamhat and Enkidu entered through the great lion gates of the glistening city of Uruk. They saw the temples of Anu and Ishtar and the young men who wore bright sashes and the women who showed off their figures and feasted every day while the musicians played.
And then Enkidu went to the house of Gilgamesh’s father-in-law and stood before the door. When the king arrived at the house of his father-in-law, with his soldiers around him, Enkidu barred the way and would not allow him to enter.
The two men, as mighty as thunderbolts of Anu, began to fight. The door frames of the great city of Uruk shook, and the mighty walls trembled. They fought and they grappled, they pushed, and they shoved, and they punched, they wrestled, and they clawed, and they bit and they scratched. In the end, Gilgamesh, who was two-thirds god and one-third human, proved that he was the strongest, but only just.
And the wise mother of Gilgamesh, Ninsun the all-knowing, spoke to her son and said:
“Here is Enkidu, who grew up on the mountainside where he grappled with wolves. His body was shaggy his hair grew as long as a woman’s. He lived among the cattle and deer until Shamat the temple-woman tamed him. He is the axe that you saw in your dream. He is the strongest of all men after you. He shall be your friend and supporter, and you shall cherish him like a wife. I shall treat him as equal to you, and I hereby adopt him as my son, even though he was not born to me. From henceforth Enkidu shall be your brother.”
And that is where we will leave the story of Gilgamesh for now, but I will be back soon with the next part of the heroic tale from ancient Mesopotamia in which Gilgamesh and Enkidu fight the monster called Humbaba.
For now, from me, Richard, at Storynory.com, goodbye.