Read by Richard.
Ninsun by Jana.
Proofed and audio edited by Jana.
Adapted and illustrated by Bertie.
Hello, this is Richard, and this is the second part of our epic story from ancient Mesopotamia. It’s hero is a king called Gilgamesh, and he has been joined by a wildman called Enkidu who is now his adopted brother.
Enkidu stayed at the palace of Gilgamesh as an honoured guest, and in the evening he joined the feasting in the great hall while the musicians played on drums, flutes and trumpets. The two strongmen drank toasts to one another’s long life and health. Gilgamesh the king stood up, and the banqueters fell quiet. He turned to his friend, and made the following speech.
“Enkidu, you lived among the wild beasts, drank at the animals’ waterhole, and fought wolves with your bare hands. In a dream, I found a great axe that had fallen from the sky, and my wise mother, Ninsun, the cow-goddess told me that you would come to the glistening city of Uruk, and that you would be a friend, a brother, and a protector to me, and that I would love you as a wife. Welcome, dear Enkidu, to our city, and our family. Now that we are united in strength, we must find some worthy quest to undertake. For it is the fate of humans to live for a short time and then to die. Only by performing some great feat can we live forever on the lips of poets and storytellers. Now think, my brother, and tell me, for you have lived among the wild lands, what challenge do you know of that would be worthy of two great men of strength such as we?”
While Enkidu listened to these words, he began to weep, prompting Gilgamesh to ask:
“My brother, what troubles you so?”
And Enkidu replied:
“You asked if I knew of a feat of strength and courage we could attempt that would be worthy of everlasting glory .Well, I know that in the cedar forests of Lebanon there lives a dragon by the name of Humbaba, whose voice is the flood, whose mouth is fire, whose breath is death. Elil, the storm god, has ordered him to guard the Forest and to terrorise the people. If a leaf drops a 100 yards away he can hear it. Who could sneak up on him? If we are to win the everlasting honour of which you speak, we must defeat Humbaba, though it is likely he will kill us both, and we shall never again greet the New Year.”
When Gilgamesh heard this, he thumped the table with his fist: “By Almighty Anu you are right! We must defeat Humbaba, whose voice is the flood, whose mouth is fire, whose breath is death - that is how we shall win fame and glory that shall burn long after we are gone from this short life!”
Gilgamesh called on the wise elders of Uruk to gather before noon the next day in the echoing assembly hall. When the elders had gathered, he spoke as follows:
“I intend to travel to the cedar forests of Lebanon where the evil dragon Humbaba terrorises the people. There, with the help of my adopted brother, Enkidu, who is as powerful as a thunderbolt of Anu, I shall challenge the dragon Humbaba, and win either death and defeat, or everlasting glory and fame. Elders, I call on you to give me your blessing for my quest, so that I may return to the city of Uruk in glory and celebrate the New Year with a great victory over Humbaba.”
When the elders had heard the king’s speech, his adopted brother Enkidu asked permission to voice his opinion. Gilgamesh nodded his approval, and Enkidu spoke as follows:
“Wise elders of Uruk, I beseech you, tell king Gilgamesh not to take this unknown road to Lebanon, to face unknown dangers, for the guardian of the cedar forests is the dragon Humbaba whose voice is the flood, whose mouth is fire, whose breath is death. He can hear a leaf fall up to a 100 yards away. Who is there who can sneak up on such a creature and defeat him?”
Next the wise elders of Uruk discussed the matter among themselves, until at last the most senior spoke for all, saying:
“King Gilgamesh, this is our opinion on the matter. Do not rely on your own strength alone. Trust in your brother Enkidu to go in front of you along the unknown road. He will look out for the enemy, guide you in battle, and protect you from harm, so that you may return safely to Uruk to celebrate the New Year with a great victory and to continue as our king. If you agree to this then we will grant our blessing for your quest to defeat the dragon Humbaba.”
Gilgamesh agreed with the decision of the elders, and thanked them for their advice and their blessing. Next he and Enkidu visited their wise mother, Ninsun, in her palace.
Gilgamesh knelt before Ninsun and said:
“Wise mother, I will not rest until I have destroyed the dragon Humbaba who guards the cedar forests of Lebanon, who terrorises the people, and who is hated by the sun god Shamash.”
Ninsun the wise cow goddess listened to the words of her son, Gilgamesh and then turning to Enkidu she said,
“Enkidu, I have adopted you as my son, though you are not from my womb. Go before your brother on this new journey, lookout for the enemy, and protect Gilgamesh from danger so that you both may return to Uruk to celebrate the New Year with a victory over Humbaba, who is hated by the sun god Shamash.”
And although she gave her blessing for the enterprise, she felt fear in her heart for her beloved Gilgamesh, and her adopted son, and when the two brothers had left her palace, she put on her finest robe, and her golden brooch, and she placed her crown upon her head, and then she went up onto the roof of the palace where she raised her arms to the sun god Shamash and called out:
“Why, Shamash, why does my beloved son Gilgamesh yearn for everlasting glory and fame? Why must he make an unknown journey and face an unknown danger? Who can defeat Humbaba the dragon whose voice is the flood, whose mouth is fire, whose words are death?”
And Shamash the sun god replied, “wise Ninsun, do not tremble and fear too much for Gilgamesh your son. I shall watch over him and if he prays to me for help I shall answer with assistance.”
The next day Gilgamesh and Enkidu set out on their quest. After they had marched 20 miles they stopped to eat their food. Then they marched 10 more miles and stopped to rest for the night. And on they marched like this, 30 miles a day, for as long as it took for the new moon to become the full moon, and then for another three days along the unknown road until at last they reached Lebanon. On their first day in Lebanon, Gilgamesh climbed to the top of a mountain where drew his sword and drew a circle in the dirt. Then he dug hole in the center of the circle and poured barley into it as an offering to Shamash the sun god. Next he stretched out his arms to the sky and prayed for Shamash to send him a favourable dream to prove that he would succeed in his quest to defeat Humbaba. When all this was done, Gilgamesh sat down with his chin on his knees until sleep overcame him. Some hours later he woke with a start and saw that Enkidu was standing over him, watching out for danger. Gilgamesh said, “My brother why did you not wake me? I had a bad dream and it was most upsetting. Lightning flashed, fire raged, and all was dark . Then, when the sun rose in the morning, you and I were both turned into flies and we buzzed all over the mountain, zig-zagging this way and that.”
Enkidu smiled and said, “Do not worry my brother because Shamash the sun god has sent you a favourable dream. The mountain was the dragon Humbaba, and we two were able to fly around him and dodge his blows against us. It means that although we are both far smaller than Humbaba, we are quicker and more skillful and we shall defeat him in the battle.”
“That is good,” said Gilgamesh, “Then let us rub ourselves with plants so that we may not fear death. We shall shout as loud as a drum and our hearts will burn for the fight and we shall forget death and only think of life and everlasting fame!”
They next day they stood at the edge of the forest. Up, up they gazed at the trees that touched the sky. Then they cast their eyes down to gaze at the deep tracks - the footprints of humbaba - that lead this way and that into the shady forest.
After some time had passed, they heard the echoing voice of the dragon:
“Gilgamesh, have you come to pay me a visit? You are very small and puny, and your friend, is even smaller and more puny than you are. You are both like snails to me. Be careful! I might tread on you!”
And Gilgamesh when he heard this, whispered to Enkidu, “Now that I have heard the voice of Humaba, my heart trembles, for it sounds like death.”
And Enkidu replied, “My friend, do not talk yourself into fear.”
“Remember,” said Gilgamesh, “What you said to me in Uruk, when you asked who could defeat Humbaba?”
“I remember,” said Enkidu. “But that was before we set out on our quest. Now we are here, this is no time to run away, because Humbaba will catch us and kill us like cowards. So listen carefully to the plan which is sure to bring us victory! Drop down to your knees, lift your arms up to the sky, call out at the top of your voice, and beg the sun god Shamash for help! He must come to our aid, because no one else can save us from Humbaba whose whose voice is the flood, whose mouth is fire, whose breath is death.”
And Gilgamesh fell to his knees, threw up his arms, and called out at the top of his voice saying, “Shamash, now is the time to help us, do not delay, I beg you, because Humbaba the dragon means to step on us like snails!”
And as soon as he spoke, a great voice called down from the sky, “Gilgamesh and Enkidu, stand up now and rush into the woods to fight Humbaba. I have taken away six of his seven cloaks and I will send the winds to fight on your side.”
And hearing the voice of the sun god, Gilgamesh and Enkidu burned for the fight. They drew their swords from their sides and rushed headlong into the woods to meet Humbaba the dragon who was a terror to the people. They struck at the dragon’s feet and then they struck at his head while Shamash the sun god sent whirlwinds and tempests to knock Humbaba this way and that. Finally their weapons brought the dragon down, and gasping for breath, the evil one pleaded:
“Spare my life, Gilgamesh, and I shall make trees grow in the land of Uruk, as many as you like, and you shall have timber for houses, palaces, and ships, and a great forest shall protect your shining city from invaders.”
But Enkidu said, “My friend, do not listen to the evil dragon’s words. A few moments ago, he would have happily trodden on us like snails. But now we have him at our mercy, we must finish him off! Only this way can we win the everlasting fame which your heart yearns for, so that future storytellers shall relate that we two, Gilgamesh and Enkidu, killed Humbaba the dragon of the forest. ”
Gilgamesh raised his sword:
And Humbaba the dragon complained, “All right then, it is your will to kill me. I am at your mercy. I cannot prevent you. But I predict this, your fortune. Only one of you shall live long enough to grow gray hairs, and he shall mourn and grieve for his brother!”
And fired up with anger and grief at this fortune, Gilgamesh plunged his sword into the guardian of the forest, finishing him off, and in doing so, he won fame everlasting on the lips of poets and storytellers.
And that was the Second Part of Gilgamesh, an epic story from ancient Mesopotamia. I’ll be back soon with the next part, in which Gilgamesh and Enkidu fight the Bull of Heaven.
For now, from me Richard at Storynory.com, goodbye.