Gilgamesh Part 3 – the Bull of Heaven

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Enkidu grabs the Bull of Heaven by the tail

The epic from Mesopotamia continues. Gilgamesh refuses to marry the goddess Ishtar. She seeks revenge by sending the Bull of Heaven to trample Gilgamesh and his friend Enkidu.

Gilgamesh Part Three - the Bull of Heaven

Read by Richard.
Sun goddess by Jana.
Adapted by Bertie.

Hello, this is Richard and I’m here with the third part of our epic from Ancient Mesopotamia, the story of King Gilgamesh and his adopted brother, the wildman, Enkidu. In the previous episode, Gilgamesh and Enkidu walked to Lebanon where they fought the dragon of the Cedar Forests called Humbaba. Now they are returning home.

Gilgamesh and Enkidu began their journey home. They walked 30 miles a day for as many days as it takes the moon to turn from a full round ball to a thin sliver. And then they walked another three days until they reached the gates of glistening Uruk. Before he entered the city, Gilgamesh threw off his dirty clothes and washed his filthy hair. He put on new robes and tied them with a sash, before shaking his head and letting his lochs fall down his back. And then he lifted up his crown and placed it on his head. The Goddess Ishtar was watching him from the top of her temple, and she saw his great beauty. She called out to the king:

“Come, to me Gilgamesh, love me and be my husband and I shall be your wife. We shall drive in my chariot of Lapis Lazuli with its wheels of gold, and demons shall pull us in place of horses. We shall ride into my house made of fragrant pine and kings and princes shall kneel down at our feet.”

And Gilgamesh heard the voice of the goddess on the morning breeze calling for him to be her husband and he replied:

“Lovely princess Ishtar, what do you want of me? How will you treat me when I am your husband?
Could I, a mere man, give you food fit for a goddess?
Could I, a mere man, give you oil fit for an immortal?
No, I cannot. I would fit you like a shoe that bites the foot.
Or a door that lets in a draught.
Besides, let me remind you of how you treated those you loved in the past.
You loved the Lion, but then you decreed that man should catch him in traps.
You loved the horse, but then you decreed that man should ride him and lash him with a whip.
You loved the shepherd, who cooked lamb stew for you, but then you turned him into a wolf, and his own dogs hunted him down.
So, lovely Ishtar, what do you want of me? How would you treat me when you grow bored of me? No better than you treated the others before me, I fear. I am no fool. I shall not marry you.”

And when Gilgamesh turned down Ishtar with such rude words, fury burned inside her immortal heart, and she spoke to her father, Anu, complaining that the king had dishonoured her.

“Father, lend me the raging bull of heaven so that he may run Gilgamesh down and trample on him.”

But Anu replied:

“No way shall I lend you the Bull of Heaven to trample on Gilgamesh. He has built the glistening city of Uruk. Fine grass grows around the city walls, and the animals grow fat on it. Grain is plentiful. The priests send us the most delicious offerings, and the altars of the temples glimmer with jewels.
If Gilgamesh is trampled under foot, the crops will fail for seven years, and the grain will turn to sand. So I shall not grant your wish, no matter how angry you are, my fair princess.”

But Ishtar continued to plead for revenge. “But Father, do not fear, I have filled up the stores of Uruk with enough grain to last for seven years. Now listen, if you do not lend me the Bull of Heaven I shall scream so loud, enough to wake the dead so they rise up and eat the living!”

And at last, Anu relented to his daughter’s pleas, and he lent her the Bull that she asked for. Ishtar led it to the land of Uruk, and down to the river. When the Bull of Heaven pawed at the ground, an earthquake opened up a great tear in the ground, and one hundred young men of the city fell into it. Then when it snorted, an even greater rent opened up in the earth, and two hundred men fell down. Then Enkidu came out of the glistening City of Uruk, and grabbed the bull by the horns. They fought and tussled. The bull stamped and the ground shook, and Enkidu fell into a third great chasm. But he soon leapt out of it, and the Bull of Heaven spat at him and kicked dung into his face. Enkidu grabbed hold of the Bull’s tale and whirled it round, and King Gilgamesh came out of the city to help his friend. Gilgamesh drew his sword from his side and plunged it into the heart of the raging Bull of Heaven. The ground shook and the bull fell down. When the two friends had finished the fight, they lit a fire and made a burnt offering of some of the bull’s meat to the sun god, Shamash. Meanwhile, Ishtar went up onto the walls of her temple and shook with rage. She called together the women of the temple and they wept and wailed for the dead bull of heaven while down below the walls Gilgamesh cut off its golden horns and took them home to his palace, where he hung them over his bed. That night Gilgamesh and his adopted brother, Enkidu held a great banquet for a hundred warriors who feasted on the meat of the Bull of Heaven. Afterwards, Enkidu lay down and had a dream.

In the morning, Enkidu said to his brother:

“Last night I had a dream. The gods were in their palace, discussing with one another. And Anu said to Elil, “Gilgamesh and Enkidu have killed the Bull of Heaven and the dragon of the forests,” and Anu replied, “One of them must die for this.” And although Shamash the glowing sun god grew angry, and declared that all this had happened according to the will of Anu, Anu insisted that innocent Enkidu must die.”

Then Enkidu wept and said, “Oh my brother, you who are so dear to me, they will take me away from you. I shall sit among the dead, and never see you again.”

And when Gilgamesh heard this prophetic dream, his eyes filled with tears and he said, “My brother, this warning was awful. Your lips buzzed like flies as you told it to me. This is my plan that will not fail. I shall go onto the roof of my palace and offer prayers to the great gods and beg them to have mercy on you.”

And when Gilgamesh was gone, Enkidu, in a great rage, pulled the door off the hinges of his palace, and he cursed the hunter who had found him in the wild, and the temple woman, Shamhat who had tamed him and brought him to Uruk. And Shamash the sun god heard him, and said, “Enkidu, why do you curse my temple woman Shamhat who fed you food fit for the gods, and clothed you in robes, and gave you Gilgamesh as your brother?”

And Enkdu’s rage cooled. And he called the temple woman Shamhat to him, and he blessed her, and he gave her jewels and broaches and asked her to take gold to the hunter who had found him in the wild.

Then when he had blessed Shamhat the temple woman, Enkidu wept because he was sick of heart, and then he lay down and sleep came over him. He dreamed that he was in the dark house where the spirits feast in the dust and clay, and he saw a heap of golden crowns. They belonged to the kings who had lived and ruled on earth, whose feet had been kissed by princes, who had banqueted on food fit for the gods, but who now sat in the house of darkness and ate dust for dinner.
And seven days and nights passed, and Enkidu did not rise from his bed but grew weaker and weaker. His friend Gilgamesh sat beside him and said, “Listen to me young men of Uruk, listen to me wise elders, weep bitterly for Enkidu, for outside these glistening city walls, the bears and the hyenas, the stags and the wild donkeys are grieving for him. The tall pine trees are shedding tears! The stars of heaven are weeping, and the river Euphrates is pouring forth water. He walked before me and looked out for my enemies, he fought by my side to defeat the dragon Humbaba the guardian of the cedar forests of Lebanon. he grabbed the bull of heaven by the tale and whirled him around while I drew my sword and plunged it into his heart. But the great gods of heaven hold petty grudges and have taken him from me for revenge. He is mortal and must die, though his name shall live forever in the lips of poets.”

“Now my friend, what sleep has taken hold of you? I am speaking but you do not hear my words. I say your name but you do not turn your head. I feel your heart but it is not beating. I loved you like a wife. I shall never stop grieving for you.”

And when the first light of morning came, Gilgamesh let out a great cry that was heard across the city. He called craftsmen and ordered them to make a statue of Enkidu out of gold and jewels.

And Enkidu himself was laid to rest in a Mausoleum outside the glistening city of Uruk along with weapons and musical instruments, bejewelled bowls of lapis lazuli, golden thrones, crowns and sceptres, bracelets, rings and fine robes, statues and idols, a horn of the bull of heaven, and a tooth from the mouth of the dragon Humbaba.

And when Enkidu had been laid to rest, Gilgamesh threw off his fine robes and cast aside his crown, and he dressed himself in the skin of a wild goat. He left the glistening walls of the city of Uruk and set out to live alongside the wild bears and hyenas, who had once been the companions of his brother Enkidu.

And that was the third part of Gilgamesh, an epic story from Mesopotamia. In the next episode, Gilgamesh goes on a journey in search of Immortality.

For now, from me, Richard Scott, at Storynory.com, goodbye!