Anzud stretched on her bed of sleeping until her
back popped and cracked at the new moon that she made of her body. She
let out a breath of sandalwood and cedar through her mouth so she could
taste the perfume that she had sprinkled on her bed of sleeping. They
tasted bitter. She did not know why. Her dream was lost to her as she
"No matter." She swung her feet to the ground and winced at the cool that she felt there. "The day won't make itself."
dressed in her green dress with the blue bands. She unbound her hair
from sleep and oiled the spiraled curls that this made. She put on a
bronze pin with a stone of lapis lazuli. She pricked herself with it,
but still she did not remember her dream. She went into the open kitchen
between her room and the tavern before. She put flat bread in the great
oven. She ground up roasted dandelion roots. She boiled water in a
great bronze urn stamped with Ishtar’s eight sided star with the
watching inner eye. She did not add the roots immediately. She let the
water boil white and steam rise up to brush her face. Only then did she
add the roots as she took the urn from the flame. She was ready as
Shamash, the sun, putting the first caress to the breast of his most
beloved bride, Aya, the dawn. She was ready as the workers of the
morning meeting the workers of the evening and coming to the tavern door
for their cups and bread to sustain them.
She laughed with the
men and women as they came inside. She laughed as she poured them their
cups, and they told their stories that were not true.
It was then
that Gilgamesh, the great king, came into her place. He tossed his long
locks as he came through the low door. He walked in like a lion. His
robes were all over embroidered with proud lions. He walked in the door
like a great king. His gaze like a hand, like he owned everything here
and all was his to touch as he wished. The eyes of the great king came
upon Anzud and he smiled with wide white teeth. Anzud stood frozen, brew
of dandelion roots hot in her hand.
"Crap." It was then that she
remembered her dream. She spilled the dark liquid on her hand. This was
not an accident. This was the choice that came of her dream. She ran to
the open kitchen to put her hand in an urn of cool water. Her heart beat
fast like the wings of the bird in the halub tree. Perhaps, he would
not follow her. Perhaps this day would unfold like a day should.
reflected that Mammetun, the mother of destinies, had the heart of a
cat and scratched with fetid claws that carried disease.
Giglamesh, the great king, was a hunter. He followed her there as she
knelt with her hand in an urn of cool water. He took her hand from the
water and he blew upon it, like the desert wind that curls the crops and
makes leaves crackle and fall. He said, "I have heard of you, Anzud. I
have heard of your beauty, and I have come to you. Even though you are
not a duckling, you will shriek like one as I put my seed inside of you,
and I forge upon you like a blacksmith at an anvil. I will give you a
chariot fast as if pulled by the demons of the storm. I will give you
perfume of cedar and a goat." He pulled her to her feet and pointed to
her room. "Is this your bed of night?"
It was very flattering in a
not-at-all sort of way. Just three days ago, he'd made cries between
the thighs of Kalla of Nippur as she came to her wedding bed in Uruk.
Three nights before that Ensughir, a warrior's daughter, had died in the
birthing of the great king's child, begotten on the floor during a
banquet in her father's honor. A stilled chariot was not fast at all.
Anzud really wished that she had remembered her dream and stayed in bed that day.
had a choice then. A choice not given to Kalla of Nippur or Ensughir,
warrior's daughter. She could go with Gilgamesh, and her bed would not
be for sleep but a bed of night. But she had a burn on her hand that
she had put there herself and her heart beat fast like the wide wings of
a bird in a halub tree.
So she said, "Great king, I, of course,
look forward to your placing your seed in my body and making me shriek
like a duckling, but just before you came, your mother, the goddess of
the wild cow in the enclosure, sent a servant and requested that I bring
her an urn of dandelion's brew." She could not free her hand but held
up the urn as best she could.
Gilgamesh's brow creased. He said,
"My mother requested dandelion brew?" Then he smiled with his wide white
teeth, for Gilgamesh was known to be a great hunter. "I will go with
Anzud sighed and felt the sting where she had pricked
herself. Felt the fire where she had burned herself. This too was her
dream. She left her fires burning. They would burn out. She did take the
water off the boil. She walked as if she had been summoned up the wide
red streets of Uruk to the great palace, to Egalmah, which rose at the
heart of the city.
Circle of Thread
was the morning, so Ninsun, goddess of the wild cow in the enclosure,
did not expect her beloved son, Gilgamesh, to come to her in Egalmah,
but there he was with his long locks perfumed.
Beside him was a
small woman with eyes that pleaded as one woman to another. The woman
said, "Oh, great goddess. Ninsun of wise choices. It is I, Anzud, who
you have summoned." She held up a bronze urn stamped with the eight
sided star of Ishtar. "Here is the brew that you requested."
gave Ninsun the look that women may give to each other while a hunter
watches. From down the hall, a baby gave a thin cry for her mother, who
would not come.
Ninsun nodded and waved her hand at the table
before her. Anzud put the urn down carefully. Gilgamesh would have
pulled Anzud from the room then, but Ninsun said, "My beloved son, I
have need of Anzud. I have decided this day to hold a gathering where
women sew and speak what is on their minds." She raised her eyebrows
that were shaped like the new moon and said, "You can go now." Her look
said to him that it was through her that his father, Lugalbanda, had
come to the throne after Enmerkar fell on the field of battle. Her look
said that it was through her that he was two-thirds god and blessed by
Enki and Shamash.
Gilgamesh pouted like a boy. He said, "I will
come back for her when you are done with her." He left, tossing his long
locks over his shoulder as he had done when he was just a stripling
Anzud said, "Thank you, great Ninsun. I am sorry that I
have come unsummoned, but I had a dream that a bird flew down from the
sun and carried with it a halub tree into Unug, Ishtar's garden. The
bird flew to your window and brought you the bones that grew from the
Ninsun looked at the door still. She said, "My beloved son
has taken to playing the tocsin bell for his amusement alone." The sound
threaded through the sound of a baby girl crying for her mother, who
could not come.
She bent down and kissed Anzud's forehead. The
woman smelled like sandalwood and cedar and dandelion brew. Ninsun
smiled as she breathed in the smell of dreaming and morning, knew what
she needed to do. She said, "Summon the women of the city and tell them
to bring what scraps of fabric that they have. Tell them to bring their
pins of bone."
At a second kiss to Anzud's lips, Anzud was a great
bird with wide brown wings and a mighty voice. She flew from the
window. Ninsun watched her fly over the halub tree in Ishtar‘s garden.
Watched her wings beat at the light of Shamash as she went from window
to window. Then Ninsun went to make ready.
She lit a cone of
perfume and sent a prayer to her grandmother, Aruru, the goddess of
creation. She said, "Listen to Gilgamesh play the toscin that you gave
him. He plays it only for his amusement. He's terrible. He takes the men
of the city to climb the highest mountains and cross the farthest seas.
He sends them to Irkalla before their time and their names are
forgotten. He should be a shepherd to his people. His lust leaves no
virgin to her lover, nor the wife to her husband; yet this is the
shepherd of the city. This is my beloved son."
The sweet wind blew through the window and she knew that her grandmother had heard her prayer.
women of the city came. Old women with their faces worn with grooves of
charioting years. They came with scraps of soft wool from the tunics of
warrior sons that had died before their mothers. Young women with round
faces. They came with soft linen from their marriage beds. There was
blood there. Spilled seed. Girls, who would be women yet, with three-ply
scraps from the winding shrouds of mothers and fathers who had gone to
Irkalla before their children had grown. There were sixty scraps of
fabric in all and sixty pins of bone too.
What they made that day was not a garment.
a Harimatu fresh from her bed of night where she rode the men of Uruk
as a woman rides the stallion, laughed and said, "We are making a man."
She plied her needle with its red thread as she made the part of a man
that she knew best and pushed in her pin of bone. "A strong man."
the oldest woman there but for Ninsun, sniffed. "That part of a man is
his weakest part. Squeeze them too hard, and he falls over." She shaped
cattails grown by the river's edge into bones with weathered hands
spotted with the summer months of many years. "Want to make him strong,
give him a woman's hidden part."
They all laughed then. The women as they sewed with no men around but for the one that they were making.
their laughter died, Ninsun said, "We are making a companion for my
son." She smoothed her hands along the pieces of fabric. She felt the
rough wool with its scratches and the fine weave with its smooth.
"Stormy heart for stormy heart."
Outside, Gilgamesh sounded the
toscin for his own amusement. It echoed down the hall, but there was no
answering child's cry. Saba, who had but that day risen from her empty
childbed, suckled the motherless baby at her breast. She did not speak.
Her mouth was full of pins of bone. She could not know if her child, who
had given no cry, was the child of Gilgamesh or that of her husband. So
she filled her mouth with pins of bone and suckled the baby at her
breast. Suckled and sewed a woman's hidden part.
They cut locks of
hair too and sewed them into the seams. Black hair of the women of the
city. Silili pulled off her wig of long curled locks. She laughed and
said, "This is all the hair I have to give." They put it on the head of
the man that they had made.
When they were done, Ninsun dipped
her hands in water. She pinched off clay from the city of Uruk and made
his mouth, which she kissed and breathed out the gift of her
grandmother, Aruru. She ran her wet clay slick hands over the man that
they had made. She smiled for when the people praised her, their mouths
lingered over the enclosure and forgot that the wild cow of the
enclosure was first wild. His hair, their hair, grew rough and matted as
a wild cow’s. She held his face in her hands. "Enkidu." She spoke his
name. He opened his eyes innocent of cultivated lands and he smiled with
the lips that she had made for him.
She petted the soft and the
rough of him until he leaned into her hand so that even a moment old, he
would understand the pleasure of touch. To the wild would come the
enclosure. She said to Anzud, "Fly him to the river. Watch over him."
Anzud called out, “I will,” with a ringing voice and did as Ninsun asked of her.
Bed of Dreams
was a fish. He knew this because he was in the river and the river was
full of fish. Also, he swam. Fish swam. This meant that he was a fish.
The Anzud bird on the rock said, "You are not a fish, Enkidu."
got out of the river and shook the water from his hair. He was covered
in hair and fish had scales. That meant he wasn't a fish. It also meant
that he wasn't a bird, although he had flown to the river. She said,
"You are not a bird, Enkidu."
"I know that. I have no feathers."
He looked at the gazelle and the wild ass drinking water at the watering
hole. At the lions on the far side. They were covered in hair. He said,
"I am an animal."
Anzud cocked her head to one side and was
silent. So it must be true. Enkidu was an animal. He ate dandelion
leaves and flowers and roots, and they were bitter, and they were sweet.
He drank water with the animals, and he ran so fast that the long grass
that grows new each year whipped at his legs. He yelled up to the sun
for the joy of yelling.
He fell in a pit. There was a gazelle
there with him. She trembled with fear. She spoke to him with her eyes.
He helped her out of the pit. He climbed out. He filled in the pit with
deep red earth so that no one would fall in it.
Anzud said, "That was a trap built by men, Enkidu."
Enkidu breathed in the smell of sweet grass. He felt the red earth under his fingernails. "And I have filled it in."
went down to the wells and the watering places. He tore up the traps
that he found. He did this with his hands until they grew calloused. He
laughed as he did it. It felt good to do. He fought with lions. He kept
the gazelles safe. The old and the weak had nothing to fear while he was
with them. He lay back on the grass and moved his arms to made a shape
there, as if he were flying. He remembered he had once flown. He
breathed in the smell of the grass in the hot sun, and it was sweet to
him. The grass was soft at his back. He could not think that he would
ever wish for more than his bed of sunshine grass.
Anzud flew over him. She said, "A Harimatu is coming to you. She will make a bed of night with you beside the watering hole."
Enkidu did not understand.
laughed. "You will." She flew away then on wings so wide that they
could block the sun when she beat them. He sat up. He watched as she
left him. But he was not alone. There were gazelle. There were wild
asses. He raced them to the watering hole.
There was a woman there
swimming in the water. She was not a fish. She came out of the water as
he approached. He saw her breasts and her smooth secret place. He fell
to the ground coughing. There was a pain in his heart. The woman held
him to her breasts as he lay on the ground. He spat out a pin of bone.
The woman said, "I shouldn't have put a pin there anyway." She kissed him over his eyes. She said, "Your name is Enkidu."
He sighed up into her touch. "I know."
lay him down on the ground and sat beside him. She combed her fingers
through the hair on his chest. She poured oil on him and worked it
through the hair until it lay smooth. "We will make this watering hole
our bed of night."
He sighed up into her touch and as he did, he
thought that the bend of his body looked like a new moon in the sky. He
said, "I don't understand."
She laughed and lay upon him. Her
hands guided him until he cried out his understanding. "You will. I will
show you." She showed him for six days and seven nights.
On the seventh day, when Shamash rose from the bed of his bride, Aya, the dawn, Enkidu laughed. "I am a man, not a gazelle."
the Harimatu, laughed and took his lips to hers. She said, "You are a
strong man. But there is a man who is stronger in wide Uruk. The great
king Gilgamesh rules there. He lords it over men and takes all the women
to his bed of night. Even the brides on their wedding day. Even the
daughters of warriors."
Enkidu grinned then. "I will challenge
this great king. I will go up to him and say, 'I am the strongest here.
I have come to change things. I am the one who was born to the hills. I
am he who is strongest of all. I will be a shepherd and I will protect
the flocks from the lions. The old and the sick will be safe while I
Silili laughed and for the first time in seven days, she
put on half of her robes. She put on her wide necklace of lapis lazuli.
"Enkidu, you love life and you will love it in Uruk. There is no place
better. In Uruk, there are people who dress up every day as if it is a
holiday. There are young women and men, who smell sweet all the time
from perfume. It is possible to go down the street and buy hearty bread
dipped in honey like sunlight and drink wine that tastes like flowers
falling from the sky on a festival day. I will take you there, and you
will meet Gilgamesh in his moods. He never rests, and he is stronger
than you for the gods have favored him. Even now, he is dreaming of you,
who will be his companion. His mother made you for him." Silili gave
him half of her robes. For the first time, Enkidu put on clothing. They
felt soft on his skin. He felt each brush of hair as he moved. He put
the pin of bone through them to hold them together. He laughed as he
walked beside Silili on their way to Uruk.
Silili said to him,
"Gilgamesh has dreamed that he walked through the night, and a meteor
fell to make its bed on the earth. The attraction that he felt to the
meteor was like that of a man for a woman." She squeezed his hand. Her
hand was smooth. He felt each callus on his own as she touched him.
"Ninsun, his mother made a goad and a spur from the meteor and called it
"Am I the meteor?" asked Enkidu.
Silili brushed his hair back from his face. "Yes, you are."
They walked further along the road.
said, "Gilgamesh has dreamed that he found a double headed axe with a
curved blade in the streets of Uruk. He picked it up and wore it at his
side always. His attraction to it was the attraction of a man to a
woman." She squeezed his hand.
"Am I the axe?" asked Enkidu.
Silili kissed his cheek. "Yes, you are."
came to the wide gates of Uruk as night fell. A woman stood at the gate
with an oil lamp in her hand. She called out to Silili. “It took you
Silili laughed and spread her arms wide. “It takes at least seven days to make a man.”
woman raised her oil lamp higher. "Too long. Gilgamesh has decided to
go to the marriage house where Nili, the weaver, has gone to be wed.
Gilgamesh demands to make a bed of night with her before her husband can
lie down with her in their bed of dreams."
Enkidu coughed then,
but he did not fall. He coughed and in his mouth was a pin of bone. He
pushed away Silili's hand. He pushed the pin through the robes that
Silili had given him.
He said, "I will stand between Gilgamesh and
the marriage house. I have come to change the old order. I will be the
He walked ahead of Silili. He did know how he
knew the way, but he knew. He went across the market. People talked
about him, but he did not listen. He was there to stand in front of the
When Gilgamesh came, he did not need anyone to
tell him who he was. He knew him in his heart. They grappled like
gazelles that fight in the mating season. Like bulls. Like rams. They
broke the door posts of the marriage house. They threw each other
against walls, which cracked with the blows. They snorted and beat each
other with callused hands. Finally, Gilgamesh bent his leg and flipped
Enkidu to the ground. He put his foot on Enkidu's chest. Enkidu lay on
the red bricks and looked up at mighty Gilgamesh and felt a pain in his
heart as if from a pin of bone. He said, "There is not another like you
in the world. I have not traveled to the high distant mountains as your
mother created you to do, but I know it is so. Your strength is greater
than the strength of men. You have dreamed of me." He held up his hand.
"Here I am."
Gilgamesh took his hand and pulled Enkidu to his
feet. They embraced in the wide thronged streets of Uruk. They held
hands as they walked through the street. Gilgamesh took Enkidu back to
his great-palace, Egalmah. He led Enkidu through the wide corridors to
the highest place. To the room where Gilgamesh slept in summer with its
wide columns that looked out at the night sky. Gilgamesh commanded that a
bed be placed beside his own. He commanded that the servants bring
wine, and they drank until their faces grew warm.
Below in the
wide city of Uruk, in the garden dedicated to Ishtar, he heard Anzud
sing out to the stars from the branches of a halub tree with a mighty
When it came time to sleep, Gilgamesh would not let go of
Enkidu's hand. Enkidu smiled and whispered blessings upon Silili. He
kissed the hand of Gilgamesh and said, "This is the hand that I will
never let go of." He pulled Gilgamesh down to the bed that he had
commanded be placed beside his own. Enkidu said, "I am the companion who
will always stand with you in times of greatest need." He kissed the
wide brow of Gilgamesh. "I am the companion who was made for you." He
let loose then the pins of bone that held his robes to his body.
There under the stars of night, Enkidu pulled down Gilgamesh to a bed of dreams and promised to stay with him always.
spread his hand wide on Enkidu’s chest matted with hair like that of a
wild cow and felt his companion’s heart beat with his fingers and with
Enkidu sighed and Gilgamesh thought, "He longs for the
wide fields of grass. He wants to return to the wide open spaces and run
with the gazelle." A king could not ask. A king could not be mastered
so. He asked, "Why do you sigh, Enkidu?"
Enkidu shrugged. He said,
"I am sick of idleness." He smiled at Gilgamesh, and it was a smile
that made Gilgamesh desire to grant whatever request would follow.
"Sky-Father Anu has given you great gifts. You should not abuse this
power. You should deal justly with your servants. You have the power to
bind and to loosen. To be the light and darkness of mankind. We should
not sit here eating bread. We should not spend our days in idle
pursuits. We should go and face the things that trouble the world. We
should protect the old and the sick. You are a shepherd to your people
and should keep them safe."
Gilgamesh thought then of the giant
Humbaba, who threatened travelers in the forests of great cedar. He
said, "I know what we should do, we should go to face the giant
Enkidu coughed then. His shoulders shook with the force.
It felt as if he were coming loose under the hands of Gilgamesh, but
Gilgamesh was three parts god and he gripped tighter. Enkidu spat out a
pin of bone and stared at it in his hand. He said, "I have seen the
giant Humbaba. His breath is a firestorm, and his teeth are sharp. To
face him is to die."
But the idea was a fire in Gilgamesh then.
Gilgamesh looked at Enkidu, and he could see in his mind what armor
Enkidu should wear. It should be stamped the symbol with the wild
gazelle. Gilgamesh's symbol was the lion on the hunt.
He swung off
the bed and paced the wide width of the room. He looked down at wide
ways of Uruk under the bright hot sun of Shamash. The open kitchens and
the closed smithies all streamed with smoke. The rooftop weavers bent to
their looms. The bright clothed Harimatu walked hand in hand under the
wide branches of the halub tree that grew in the garden of Ishtar. It
may as well have been empty. He wanted forest. He wanted Enkidu wanting
to be at his side. He looked to Enkidu. "I will have the blacksmiths
make armor for us. I will have them make me an axe, which we will call
might of heroes and you will have a bow of Anshan."
whispered, "I am the meteor. I am the axe." He whispered, but Gilgamesh
heard him for he whispered for Gilgamesh's ear. Enkidu sat up straight.
"We should ask your mother what road we should take." He spun the pin of
bone in his fingers. Gilgamesh took Enkidu's hand and it was warm and
dry in his. The calluses on Enkidu's hand met and matched the calluses
on Gilgamesh's hand. They went hand in hand to see Gilgamesh's mother.
she prayed for him, as she always did when he asked about a journey,
they waited in the great palace, Egalmah. Enkidu spun the pin of bone in
his fingers. He smiled such a smile at Gilgamesh that Gilgamesh longed
to grant Enkidu's request before it had been asked. Enkidu said, "I
would like to put my mark on you here." He put his hand upon Gilgamesh's
chest over his heart. "So that all will know that I am your companion."
On hearing, Gilgamesh wanted it, too. Until Gilgamesh heard Enkidu
speak it, he hadn't known the longing in his own stormy heart.
summoned the hierophants, and they showed Enkidu what to do. With the
pin of bone, Enkidu made a black mark for a wild gazelle brought down by
the hunter over the heart of Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh welcomed the pain of
it. He felt it as they put on their armor, which weighed thirty pounds.
His armor was stamped with his symbol, the lion on the hunt. It covered
the mark, but he felt it.
He felt it as he and Enkidu went down
the road that Gilgamesh's mother told them to go. He felt it as they lay
next to each other on the trail. He felt it as they dug the wells and
shelters for the travelers who would follow.
He felt it as Enkidu
gave him the words of courage that his stormy heart needed as they faced
the fierce giant Humbaba and felled him. As they cut the cedars down
and sailed back to Uruk with the head of Humbaba.
After that, they
went often into the high passes. They killed the lions that troubled
travelers. They protected the city as a shepherd should. Enkidu coughed
out pins of bone before they went. Always, Gilgamesh held him tight.
Always Gilgamesh would take Enkidu's hand in his. Always the calluses on
Enkidu's hand met and matched the calluses on Gilgamesh's hand.
went to the wide forest and they felled cedars for the people. They
emptied the forests and the roads of dangers. They protected the people
as a king should. Enkidu coughed on pins of bone before they went. But
afterwards, Gilgamesh put his hand on Enkidu's chest and felt the beat
of his heart under the hair that was rough and matted as a wild cow.
Gilgamesh worked to ensure that Enkidu wanted for nothing. He combed and
oiled his hair so that it was smooth when he touched it. Gilgamesh put
his hand over Enkidu’s heart and saw to it that Enkidu had no reason to
long for the fields of wide open grass.
Then came the bluster of
winter over the cultivated fields. On that day, they went to the tavern
to plan their next journey. The cold wind called at the door, but the
door was closed against the wind. Inside, they warmed themselves with
hot drink in their hands.
As they drank, Enkidu coughed out a pin
of bone. Enkidu smiled at Gilgamesh with red lips and Gilgamesh forgot
what he had been thinking. As he forgot, the great goddess, Ishtar, came
into the tavern.
She flung open the door, and the wind rushed
inside. She walked in like a blazing star. Her dress was all over
decorated with the stars of the sky. She walked in the door like a great
goddess. Her gaze like a hand, like she owned everything here and all
was hers to touch as she wished. Her gaze fell upon Gilgamesh, as he sat
at the table, the hand of Enkidu in his. She smiled at Gilgamesh with
wide white teeth. She said, "There is a halub tree growing in Unug, my
beautiful garden. I want the tree cut down so I can have a chair made
for me to sit in it. I want a wide bed made for me to sleep in. I want
to sleep in Uruk again as I have not since I took Enmerkar to my bed and
made him my king."
The halub tree was the only tree in wide Uruk, but Gilgamesh was drunk on felling cedars. He said, "I will cut down the tree."
said, "This is a very bad idea. I am the axe." But Gilgamesh wanted to
make an ellag flute from its roots. In his mind, he could see himself
blowing a melody for Enkidu. He could see the smile that Enkidu would
give him. He walked quickly through the streets until he came to the
garden dedicated to Ishtar. Until he came to Unug. He swung his axe. He
cut down the tree. He even killed the serpent that lived in it and
drove off the Anzud bird, who made its nest in its branches. He gave the
wood to Ishtar to make a chair and a bed, and he carved an ellag from
its roots for himself. The winter wind called at the garden walls. He
sat down in the beautiful garden of Unug, and he played the ellag for
Enkidu. He forgot that Ishtar was also listening.
Her wide wings
rustled, and a cold breeze was in the garden. She said, "Gilgamesh, you
are beautiful. Come, you should be my new bridegroom. When you give me
the seed of your body, you shall be my great king. I will give you a
chariot of lapis lazuli and of gold pulled by mighty demons of the
storm. When you enter our house in the fragrance of cedar-wood, you will
play the ellag for me. Kings, rulers, and princes will bow down before
you when you have come to my bed."
It was not entirely flattering.
Gilgamesh dropped his ellag then. He put his hand to the mark on his
chest. He said the first words that came to his mouth, "I am a king
already. I am the son of Ninsun of the wild cow in the enclosure. I do
not need you to make me a king."
Ishtar beat her wide wings and
the wind of winter was in the garden. She smiled. "I am the Queen of
Heaven. My dress is made of stars. I am no goddess of wild cows in the
enclosure. My lovers become great kings and all bow to them."
stared at her for he knew how Enmerkar had boasted of her until she led
him to his final battle. He knew how Ishtar had led Tammuz until he was
left to hang a hook in the house of Irkalla like a forgotten cloak.
said, "You are not a companion whose hand will never leave mine. In
battle, you will abandon me at the moment of greatest need. You are a
door that lets in the storm. You are a water skin that keeps no water
and leaves only bruises on the one who carries it. You are a sandal that
trips the wearer." He listed then some of her lovers. The ones that she
had cursed with her love.
He felt Enkidu's tug on his sleeve and
heard him say, "You should fall silent now as if your mouth was full of
pins of bone." Gilgamesh did not want to be silent. He took the hand of
Enkidu in his. He held it firmly, Enkidu's calluses matched to his own,
and he would not let it go. He said, "If you were my bride, you would
turn on me as you have all others and I would be struck down by the
demons of the storm. The kings and rulers and princes would bend their
legs and throw me to the ground and then where would I be?"
wept through all of this and her wings beat the air like a flock of
Anzud and there was a winter storm in the garden. She said, "If you will
not first take my love, you can begin with my hate." She flew out of
the garden and away from Uruk.
Gilgamesh smiled at Enkidu. He
kissed Enkidu's cheek. "All will be well." That night he made Enkidu
promise that he would remain forever at his side. He summoned the
hierophants, and they showed Enkidu how to mark his promises in black
lines on the skin of Gilgamesh with the pins of bone. For Gilgamesh was a
king and he knew the power of written promises. They lay in their bed
of dreaming, but the sleep of Gilgamesh was troubled.
The pain of
the marks had not yet faded when the morning came that Ishtar led the
Great Bull of Heaven to the city gates of Uruk. The bull went to the
river, and he cracked the earth with a blow of his hoof. A hundred men
fell dead in the city. The bull struck the earth again, and two hundred
more fell dead. He struck the earth again, and Enkidu fell over. He
knelt on all fours before Gilgamesh, but it was not for pleasure. Ten
pins of bone fell from his lips and clattered on the clay bricks.
went to him, but Enkidu said, "I am well." He picked up the pins of
bone and put them through his robes with the others. They lay like a
necklace around his neck. Fifty-eight pins of bone. Enkidu smiled at
Gilgamesh as he wove them through the cloth. It was a troubled smile. It
put a cold wind in Gilgamesh’s heart.
Enkidu ran to the river and
grabbed the bull by his horns. Gilgamesh felt his heart beat like a
lion in his chest. Enkidu smiled as he held the bull. He said, "I will
hold it in place. You put your sword through its neck." Gilgamesh
grabbed the bull by its tail, and they flipped the Great Bull of Heaven.
Gilgamesh killed it with his sword.
As Gilgamesh killed it, Enkidu sighed. He said, "We should have brought your axe."
Gilgamesh took Enkidu's hand in his. Callous to callous. "You are the axe."
flew down to the walls of the great city of Uruk. She perched there and
commanded that the Harimatu and the dancing girls come to weep with her
over the Great Bull of Heaven. "Who is the most beautiful, who is the
most powerful among women? Ishtar is the most beautiful, the most
powerful among women. I am Love and I am War. See what Gilgamesh has
done and weep."
Gilgamesh stood over the Great Bull of Heaven and
commanded that the blacksmiths and armorers come to admire what they had
killed. He called out loudly so that Ishtar would hear him. "Who is
most glorious of the heroes, who is most eminent among men? Gilgamesh is
the most glorious of heroes, Gilgamesh is most eminent among men. See
what I have killed."
Enkidu put his hand on Gilgamesh's heart, but a storm raged there.
called out, "A curse on Gilgamesh for he has spurned me, and he has
killed the Great Bull of Heaven. Now I will open the doors to the realm
of the dead and let them loose to walk again on the skin of the world.
They will eat on the flesh of the living, and it will be impossible to
tell the living from the dead."
An Anzud bird circled in the sky. She perched on the gate of cedar from the forest of the gods. She called out.
Enkidu took his hand from Gilgamesh.
ripped off the haunch of the Great Bull of Heaven and threw it at
Ishtar. "If I could lay my hands on you, I would lash you with the
entrails of the Great Bull of Heaven. Can you not hear the cries of the
women of the city? They search for those that died as the Great Bull of
Heaven cracked the earth. Sky-Father Anu has given you great gifts. You
should not abuse this power. You should deal justly with your servants.
Why have you requested that the halub tree be felled? It was the home of
the serpent and Anzud. A maiden lived inside it. Could neither of you
see her? Why have you demanded Gilgamesh to be your lover? You should
not ask these things."
Ishtar's gaze fell then on Enkidu and she
cursed him. "You have killed Humbaba, who guarded the cedar forests from
the axes of men. You have killed the Great Bull of Heaven. One of you
must die." She smiled at Gilgamesh and it was a smile that drenched cold
through the storm of his heart. "The companion who will never leave you
must sit down on the threshold of the dead and go down to Irkalla. It
is his time." As she spoke, Enkidu felt to the ground. He coughed out a
pin of bone.
A Harimatu caught him as he fell. She brushed back
his hair as he lay on the earth, but Gilgamesh did not need her. He took
up Enkidu himself. He carried him to the palace. He put Enkidu in the
bed that Gilgamesh prepared for him. He wept and said, "Mother, save
His mother brushed her hands over Enkidu and said, "Immortality was not given to him. Only life."
went to Unug. He called out to Ishtar. "Take back the fate that you
have laid upon Enkidu, my companion. I look forward to placing my seed
in your body and I will shriek like a duckling in your bed. I will
gladly take you as my bride." Ishtar did not answer. She had flown out
of the wide city of Uruk. The Anzud bird that perched on the garden
walls called out, but he did not understand the language of birds.
returned to the sick bed that he had made for Enkidu. He sat with him
and gave him water when he was thirsty. Enkidu called out for him. "I am
the axe." He coughed. "I am the meteor." Gilgamesh took Enkidu's hand
in his and held him as he spat out a pin of bone. Enkidu lay still then.
Gilgamesh put his hand on Enkidu's chest, but his heart did not beat.
His rhythm had gone silent.
Gilgamesh laid a thin piece of fabric,
as one veils the bride, over his friend. He commanded that Enkidu be
bathed in fragrant oils. He sat with him for seven days. He would
neither let them take his body for burial nor for burning. He said,
"Perhaps the gods will hear my weeping and bring my companion back to
me." But for all the tears that Gilgamesh shed, Enkidu did not open his
On the seventh day, the worms began their feast upon him and
fear came to Gilgamesh's heart. He commanded that all the city come out
to mourn when they set light Enkidu's funeral fire.
raged like a lion over the embers. He took off his splendid robes and
put on skins held together with sixty pins of bone. He put ash into his
long hair. He scratched at the marks on his body that Enkidu had put
there. With his fingers, he broke the lines of Enkidu's promises.
mother came to him and said, "My beloved son, cease with your raging.
You should be a shepherd to your people. The young men that you led on
journeys went to Irkalla as Enkidu has now done. The women who have died
in childbed and the children that they bore, they have also gone ahead.
You wear their bones as pins. Put aside your tears."
could not cease weeping. He wanted no end to tears. He went into the
wilderness that had raised Enkidu. He sought out the gazelle and the
wild ass. He stood in the yellow grass. He said, "How can I rest when my
companion who was to never leave my hand has left me?" He walked
swiftly. He said, "I will find Utnapishtim, who is immortal, and find
out his secret. The worms will not feed on me then." The gazelle and the
wild ass did not answer him.
He left them behind as he walked to
the mountain passes. He came to Mashu, the great mountains that guard
the rising and setting sun. He came to where the Scorpion-dragons
guarded the gate.
The Scorpion-dragons saw the tracks of his tears
and where his nails had scratched at the marks Enkidu had made on his
body. They let him go by through the gates that they guarded with their
blessing. The one called out, "Good luck."
The other called out, "Keep walking in a straight line. It is easy to get lost in the dark."
walked through the darkness. He could not tell if it was a straight
line, but he came to the gardens of the gods where the bushes bent low
with jeweled fruit. He came to the place where Shamash lay on a burning
couch with his bride, Aya.
Shamash said, "What are doing in my garden? You will not find eternal life here."
pulled up the smoldering blankets and said, "I have seen you,
Gilgamesh. I have seen your disrespect for brides. The way you turned
beds of dreaming into beds of night." Aya, the dawn, did not smile at
Gilgamesh wept and scratched at his chest. He said, "Let me see the light of the sun, I have walked so long in darkness."
Shamash shook his head and the hair on his head crackled. "Go to
Siduri, the vintner. Perhaps she will take pity on you." Aya pulled up
the blanket that covered them.
Gilgamesh went from the garden. He
did not know what else to do. He came to an enclosure. Siduri stood
behind the gate, but would not open it. She handed him a beaker of wine
through the gate. She said, "Take joy in the light of Shamash and all
that it brings. Take the hands of your children and teach them the stars
of night. Eventually, even wine loses its sweetness. Bread grows hard
if you do not eat it."
Gilgamesh scratched at his chest. He said,
"I have despair in my heart. The companion who should have never left
his hand from mine has fed the worms, and I am afraid. I seek
Utnapishtim so that I may learn to never die."
Siduri sighed. She gave him wine and directed him on his journey.
went to the boatman, Urshanabi, and in his despair, he destroyed the
boat's tackle. Urshanabi said, "How can I take you across the sea if you
have destroyed the way that I sail?" Gilgamesh shook his head and wept.
Urshanabi sighed and helped him across the sea.
Utnapishtim on a couch made of woven cat tails surrounded by fragrant
flowers on the shores of the lapping sea, but Utnapishtim had no
immortality to give. He said, "There is no permanence. The waves wash
the shore and change its contours. These flowers give way to cold winter
and new flowers in their spring. I and my wife are immortal out of the
guilt of the gods. The loud sounds of the people kept the god Enlil from
sleeping. So, he brought down a flood on all humanity. Only I and my
wife survived, and the gods in their pity gave us this life. Would you
ask for another flood? Do you think you could survive it?"
lowered his head. He could not answer yes. Enkidu had asked him to be a
shepherd to his people, and here he was far from home. He could only go
back across the lapping sea. He heard its waves on the shore. The light
of the sun danced on the water.
He went back to the vineyard of Siduri, and he gathered grapes for her in the sun baked vineyards.
came to the garden of the gods where the bushes bent low with jeweled
fruit. He came to the place where Shamash lay on his couch of dreaming
with his bride, Aya. Shamash said, "Now you are ready to see the sun."
He kissed his bride and said, "I must leave you for my journey of the
Aya gave Shamash travel cakes wet with honey. Shamash shared
them with Gilgamesh as they traveled across the leagues of darkness,
which were now light. The food of the gods was sweet and the taste of it
lingered in Gilgamesh's mouth. As they came to the mountains, Shamash
climbed up into the sky. Gilgamesh watched him go. It was a fast journey
over a well worn trail.
Gilgamesh thanked the Scorpion-dragons
for letting him through their gate. He gave them wine from the vineyard
of Siduri. They drank it together for it tasted of the earth and
sunlight, and the day was pleasant. One called out, "Thank you."
The other said, "Come again soon."
waved at them and ran across the wide plains. The tall grass that grows
green every year whipped at his legs. He ran faster.
saw the wide walled city of Uruk over the horizon. He saw the Anzud bird
circling high over the city walls. He went faster then. He went
straight to the great palace, to Egalmah, where his mother waited for
him. She took him in her arms and held him as if he were a boy. He was
not a boy. He was a man grown. He breathed in the smell of sandalwood
and cedar. He breathed out through his mouth, and the taste was sweet in
He said, "Mother, I want to see my children. I want to take their hands in mine and teach them the stars."
smiled at him and said, "My beloved son, there are too many for you to
take all their hands at once. But there are stars enough for them to
Gilgamesh found, as with all things, his mother was
correct. He ordered couches be made ready for his sons and daughters,
and he sat with them in his rooms and pointed out the stars. When they
went to their sleep, he lay down on his bed and dreamed of the green
grass that grows in the spring.
It was only the morning, as the
taste of hot dandelion brew filled his senses with waking, that it
occurred to him that Ishtar had spoken of ripping off the gates to the
realm of the dead. He could almost hear Enkidu tell him that it was a
bad idea. This was why he didn't go there with his axe for at least