Sumerian 3: Let’s pray to our great god An for help!


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EPIC OF GILGAMESH ---The parts designated by **” are quotes from the original text. The rest I condensed and paraphrased from the original story. – Ms. LeBourg

NARATOR 1: This is the story of Gilgamesh, the oldest known written story.

NARRATOR 2: Gilgamesh was a real king, who ruled the city of Uruk, in Sumer, in about 2700B.C. Stories and legends grew up about him. The stories were written down on clay tablets.

SUMERIAN 1: Our king Gilgamesh is the greatest king on earth and the strongest super-human that has ever existed! I have heard that he is two thirds god and one third human!

SUMERIAN 2: Yes, he is strong! But he is so harsh! He forces us to work and work day after day building this ziggurat higher and higher! If he doesn’t give us a break, we will all be worked to death!

SUMERIAN 3: Let’s pray to our great god An for help!

ALL SUMERIANS: Great An, help us! Find a way to make Gilgamesh more understanding!

AN: I will help them! I will send another man to Sumer, a man as strong as Gilgamesh!
NARRATOR 1: And so An made Enkidu, a man as strong as Gilgamesh, but with a very different personality.

NARRATOR 2: Enkidu was a sort of “wild man”, who was intelligent but with no knowledge of civilization. He could not even talk, and wore no clothes. He ran naked in the forest with the wild animals. But he had a kind and sympathetic heart, and he was very strong!

SUMERIAN 3: Help, help! There is a wild man in the forest! What should I do? He is dangerous!

SUMERIAN 4: Go to the city of Uruk, and get a very pretty woman. Take her with you. A very pretty woman will be able to “tame” this wild man!

NARRATOR 1: So they got the pretty woman Shamhat to go into the forest

VERY PRETTY WOMAN-SHAMHAT: Come Enkidu, sit beside me. I will teach you to talk. I will teach you to be civilized and live among people.

ENKIDU: ( nods and sits down beside her)

NARRATOR 1: It worked. Enkidu learned to talk and wear clothing, and became civilized. He lost some, but not all, of his great strength. However, he still had a personality of great kindness and sympathy.

NARRATOR 2: Then Shamhat led Enkidu into the city of Uruk. There Enkidu saw the great King Gilgamesh, and how he was oppressing the people. He heard the moans of the people of Uruk.

ENKIDU: King Gilgamesh! You must not oppress the people! They are suffering!

GILGAMESH: What! You dare oppose me!

NARRATOR 1: Gilgamesh and Enkidu fought and fought, all day long.

NARRATOR 2: Finally, as the sun was setting, Gilgamesh began to get the upper hand in the fight. Enkidu submitted.

NARRATOR 1: But something happened to Gilgamesh during that fight. For the first time, he had met someone almost as strong as he was. He began to feel respect for someone else, and his heart began to soften.
ENKIDU: I give up, Gilgamesh, you are stronger than I am.

GILGAMESH: I really like you Enkidu, let’s become friends. I’ve never had a friend before!

NARRATOR 1: Gilgamesh and Enkidu become best friends. Together, they are an almost unbeatable force!

NARRATOR 2: They go on many adventures together!

GILGAMESH: Come Enkidu, let’s go to the far-away Cedar forest, and cut down cedar trees and bring them back to Uruk.

ENKIDU: But, Gilgamesh, in the cedar forest is Humbaba, a great monster! I saw him when I was running wild in the forest! He is very dangerous!

GILGAMESH: We can do it, Enkidu. Together, we can defeat this monster Humbaba!

ENKIDU: Alright, I’ll come, Gilgamesh. I certainly don’t want you to go alone! I’ll do all I can to help you.

NARRATOR 2: There in the Cedar forest, they meet the great monster Humbaba!

HUMBABA: Who is cutting my trees??!!

NARRATOR 1: Enkidu and Gilgamesh fight and defeat the mighty Humbaba!

NARRATOR 2: Then it happens that the Goddess Ishtar looks down on earth and falls in love with Gilgamesh. She decides she wants him.

ISHTAR: King Gilgamesh, I am the Goddess Ishtar. I love you! Come with me!

GILGAMESH: No, Ishtar, I must stay with my people in Uruk, and with my friend Enkidu!

ISHTAR: What, you dare reject me! You dare reject me! I will get revenge!
NARRATOR 1: So Ishtar sends a great monster, the Bull of Heaven, to fight Gilgamesh! The Bull of Heaven attacks Gilgamesh. Naturally, Enkidu helps his friend and the two fight the Bull of Heaven together.


NARRATOR 2: Gilgamesh and Enkidu defeat the Bull of Heaven, and in the fight, Enkidu kills it.

ISHTAR: I will have my revenge on you, Enkidu, for killing my Bull of Heaven.

NARRATOR 1: Ishtar sends a sickness to Enkidu. He becomes very sick, to the point of death.

ENKIDU: ** “I am going to the house where the dead dwell in total darkness,

Where they drink dirt and eat stone,

Where they wear feathers like birds,

Where no light ever invades their everlasting darkness,

Where the door and the lock of the Underworld is coated with thick dust.”

NARRATOR 2: Enkidu dies. Gilgamesh is overcome with grief! He falls apart, does not bathe or shave or take care of himself.

GILGAMESH: Alas! My only friend! Life is meaningless without Enkidu! And now I realize the great truth, that everyone, even the strongest, must die! This is horrible! Even I must die! I must find some way to avoid death! I must find the secret to eternal life!

NARRATOR 1: So Gilgamesh sets out on his greatest journey alone, to find the secret of eternal life. He seeks the only mortal man to whom the gods granted eternal life, the one called the “FAR-AWAY”, Utnapishtim.

NARRATOR 2: Gilgamesh travels and travels. He encounters many dangers, including giant scorpions. He finally comes to the “Waters of Death” and asks the ferryman to take him across these waters to the place where Utnapishtim lives. Gilgamesh crosses the waters, and finds an old man, Utnapishtim.

GILGAMESH: I am Gilgamesh. Please, Utnapishtim, tell me how to obtain eternal life!

UTNAPISHTIM: First, I will tell you a great story! The story of my own life. Long ago, the gods held a secret meeting, and decided to destroy all life on earth with a great flood. But the kind god Ea secretly let me know about the plan. I built a huge boat, and took my wife and many animals on it with me. When the flood came, we were safe in the great boat. The flood lasted for seven days and seven nights. When the flood waters began to subside, I sent out a dove, but it came back, for it could find no perch. Then I sent out a swallow, but it, too, returned; finally I sent out a raven. It never returned, so I knew the flood waters had subsided. I and my wife and the animals came out of the boat and sacrificed to the gods. The god Enlil blessed my wife and me, and gave us immortality.

GILGAMESH: But how can I achieve immortality?

UTNAPISHTIM: If you can stay awake for 6 days and seven nights, you, too, will become immortal.

GILGAMESH: I will try!

NARRATOR 1: Gilgamesh tried and tried to stay awake! But he fell asleep. When he woke up, and realized he had blown his chance to have immortality, he was distraught!

GILGAMESH: **“ O woe! What do I do now, where do I go now? Death has devoured my body, Death dwells in my body, wherever I go, wherever I look, there stands death!”

UTNAPISHTIM’s WIFE: Have a little pity on him, Utnapishtim! If he can’t have immortal life, at least give him the magic plant that will make him young again!

UTNAPISHTIM: You can have the magic plant, Gilgamesh, but you must go and get it. It is at the bottom of the ocean.

GILGAMESH: I will get it!

NARRATOR 2: So Gilgamesh ties rocks to his feet, and gets the magic plant. Then Gilgamesh travels back to Uruk with the magic plant. While he is sleeping, a snake slithers up and eats the magic plant. Now Gilgamesh has nothing!

GILGAMESH: ** “For what have I labored? For what have I journeyed? For what have I suffered? I have gained absolutely nothing for myself, I have only profited the snake!”

NARRATOR 1: So Gilgamesh comes home to Uruk. There he looks again on the greatness of his city, its high walls, its fine ziggurat.

GILGAMESH: This city, Uruk, is my greatest lasting achievement. I have built this city. It is a fine city. This city is my immortality, the only immortality that I, or any human, can hope to achieve.

  1. How is Gilgamesh like all other people, from all times and in all places?

  1. What does this story tell us about the Sumerian view of death and life after death? What metaphors for death are used in the quotation?

  1. What does this story seem to be saying about human immortality

3. How would this story be different if it were an Egyptian story?


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