"I am crying because we are so much alike. Both of us are going to die. If
I kill you, who will be my equal? I have only just begun to learn what it
means to live. And now I see that someday I too, will die."
Gilgamesh and Enkidu embrace and kiss. "Let us not squander our lives
anymore. Let us live the lives of heroes and do great deeds for which we
will be fondly remembered for all time."
So Gilgamesh and Enkidu teamed up together to become heroes. They
decided that they will build a palace that would be both of their home. To
build this palace they would have to cut down some large evergreens. But
before they could cut down the evergreens, they would have to confront
the guardian of the evergreen forest.
Humbaba. You remember Humbaba. There's a story about Humbaba. "Now
there is a task worthy of heroes," claimed Gilgamesh. "Humbaba I shall
slay, and Humbaba I shall destroy. I shall cut down the evergreens of the
To Gilgamesh, Enkidu replies "The mountain is thick with forest. It is
dark, and it extends for 180 miles in each direction. How can we hope to
penetrate the forest? Humbaba's shout has the power of a deluge. His
whisper has the power of fire. His breath is Death. Humbaba can hear for
up to 180 miles. He never sleeps and he is armed with seven terrors. The
Gods have ordained that Humbaba be the Guardian of the Evergreen Forest,
to preserve it, to terrorize the people. Surely, debility would seize
anyone who attempted to penetrate the Evergreen Forest. Why do you
want to do this? "
Gilgamesh insists, "Normal people could not kill Humbaba. That's why this
is a task for heroes like us. The people will revere us for doing this deed.
Every time one of them wants to cut down the thickest and oldest trees,
the best ones for building roof beams, he does so in peril of his life.
Besides," says Gilgamesh "what of your great strength? Where is your
resolve? Are you telling me that you, who wrestle with lions and wolves,
who have the strength of mountains do not have courage to equal your
Enkidu was not entirely convinced, but Gilgamesh was better at verbal
argument and Enkidu decided to go along.
Gilgamesh and Enkidu had weapons made for this special feat. Gilgamesh
and Enkidu went together to the forge. The finest weapons were made for
They had a small swift axe made and a large heavy axe made. They had a
sword fashioned of the strongest metal. They had their sword sheaths
reinforced with gold. They gathered up their provisions.
Gilgamesh arranged for a farewell party. Enkidu spoke secretly to the
elders of Uruk. To the young men of Uruk he also spoke. "Tell Gilgamesh
not to go to the Evergreen Forest. Tell him that Humbaba protects the
Evergreen forest by the decree of the Gods. Humbaba protects their
sacred cedar incense trees. Humbaba protects their sacred pine incense
The council of elders and the council of young men approach Gilgamesh.
"Don't go to the Evergreen Forest," they advise him. "Humbaba protects
their sacred cedar incense trees. Humbaba protects their sacred pine
incense trees. Humbaba's shout has the power of a deluge. His whisper
has the power of fire. His breath is Death. Humbaba can hear for up to
180 miles. He never sleeps and he is armed with seven terrors. Humbaba
protects the Evergreen forest by the decree of the Gods."
Gilgamesh is not convinced, but to appease the council of Elders, the
council of Young Men and Enkidu, he consults an oracle. Gilgamesh finds an
Old Woman, a Priestess of the Old Ways, he takes Enkidu with him to her.
And to her he puts the question:
"What must Enkidu and I do to be successful in killing Humbaba? "
The Old Woman consults her oracle and then she answers "Not all the Gods
agree about Humbaba. Shamash, the Sun God, is on your side, Gilgamesh,
and He will bless your endeavor, as will your mother, Ninsun the wise. Do
not trust in your own strength, entirely, Gilgamesh. Watch Humbaba and
take careful aim, then trust to your first blow. He who leads the way will
save his comrade. Let he who knows the paths lead his friend. Let Enkidu
go in front of you. He knows the way of the Evergreen Forest. He knows
best how to fight a beast. Let him instruct you in battle. Enkidu, guard
your friend. Keep your comrade safe. Bring him back safe in person for
the rites of passage. We will await your return so that you may again be
Hearing this, Gilgamesh took Enkidu's hand. "Come, let us go to my
mother, Ninsun the wise, she will also give us good advice. Gilgamesh and
Enkidu went to the great palace, to the place of Ninsun, the great Queen.
Gilgamesh entered into her chamber. Mother, I am determined to go to the
Evergreen Forest and slay the ferocious monster, Humbaba. He is the Evil
One whom Shamash hates. Enkidu and I will destroy Humbaba and then our
names shall be praised forever."
Ninsun listened to Gilgamesh. Then she went into her dressing room. She
rubbed herself with the soap plant. She put on her priestess robes. She
put her crown on her head. She put on her priestess jewels. She went to
her roof. There, before Shamash, Ninsun burned incense. She burned
incense so that Shamash would hear her. She raised her arms and called
to Shamash. "Why have you given to Gilgamesh a such a restless spirit?
Now because you have inspired him, he will take the long path to the
Evergreen forest. He will enter the dangerous Evergreen forest. He will
confront Humbaba. He will not rest until he slays Humbaba, the Evil One
which you hate. From the day when you make Gilgamesh set forth until
the time when he returns to the city of Uruk, may Aya, the Goddess of
Dawn, raise a strong voice to you, commending him to you, and may you
Then Ninsun called Gilgamesh to join her on the roof. They break bread
before Shamash. They drink to Shamash. Ninsun says "Shamash can
protect you because you are my son, but Enkidu has no direct relation to
Shamash. He must either dedicate himself to Shamash and live the rest of
his life as a priest in the temple of Shamash, or he must take a wife who
is chosen by Shamash and dedicate his children to Shamash." Gilgamesh
hears the words of Shamash. He decides what to do. He extinguishes the
incense and pours a libation to Shamash.
Gilgamesh calls to Enkidu. He tells Enkidu that he must take a wife that
Shamash will provide and dedicate his children to Shamash. Enkidu must
do this so that Shamash will protect him. But Enkidu is not of Shamash.
The words of Gilgamesh are a weight on Enkidu's shoulders.
Gilgamesh and Enkidu embark on their journey. They remember the words
of the Old Woman. "He who leads the way will save his comrade. Let he
who knows the paths lead his friend. Let Enkidu go in front of you. He
knows the way of the Evergreen Forest. He knows best how to fight a beast. Let him instruct you in battle. Enkidu, guard your friend. Keep
your comrade safe. Bring him back safe in person for the rites of passage.
We will await your return so that you may again be our king."
Once more Enkidu enjoined Gilgamesh, "my friend, turn back. This journey
is not worth the risk."
Once again Gilgamesh replied that his mind was made up. "What of your
great strength? Where is your resolve? Are you telling me that you, who
wrestle with lions and wolves, who have the strength of mountains do not
have courage to equal your strength? "
Enkidu reluctantly followed.
At 60 miles they ate their ration. At 90 miles they stopped for the night.
One hundred fifty miles they traveled by day. The entire trip took several
On their first night, Gilgamesh refilled their waterskins. They dug a pit
to sleep in. Gilgamesh made a flour-offering in a high spot, asking for a
They took turns keeping watch. Gilgamesh woke startled. He told Enkidu
that he thought someone or something touched him and called his name.
He had an unsettling dream. Gilgamesh had dreamed that he saw a
mountain. At the foot of the mountain was a giant cedar. As we tried to
chop it down, suddenly we turned into flies and the entire mountain fell.
Enkidu said to Gilgamesh, "the dream that you had is favorable. The
mountain falling is Humbaba. It means we will slay Humbaba and cast his
corpse on the ground."
The next day they set out again. At 60 miles they ate their ration. At 90
miles they stopped for the night.
On their second night, Gilgamesh refilled their waterskins. They dug a pit
to sleep in. Gilgamesh made a flour-offering in a high spot, asking for a
favorable dream. On their second night they took turns keeping watch.
Again Gilgamesh woke startled. He told Enkidu that he thought someone or
something touched him and called his name. He had another unsettling dream.
On the second night Enkidu said to Gilgamesh, "the dream that you had is
favorable. We will slay Humbaba."
The same pattern was repeated on the third night. On the third night
Gilgamesh woke very upset. He told Enkidu that he thought someone or
something touched him and called his name. He dreamed that heaven cried
out and the earth groaned. Day grew silent, darkness emerged. Lightning
flashed, fire broke out. Flames crackled, clouds poured out rain. Then the
sparks were dim, and the fire was extinguished. All was turning to ash
Enkidu said to Gilgamesh "this is not a favorable dream. It is a dream of
death, and yet I cannot tell whose death. We have come too far to go back
now. Besides, it is probably the death of Humbaba that you dream. After
all, he is one and we are two and our combined strength is mightier than
Enkidu lead the way into the Evergreen Forest. "Now how do we bring
Humbaba to us?" asked Gilgamesh. Enkidu knew how. I will chop down a
cedar and he will come immediately.
Enkidu took the large axe. He swung at the oldest and thickest cedar. He
chopped down the cedar. But the cedar grazed him as it fell. And just
then he heard the distant roar of Humbaba. The shock paralyzed his arms.
Enkidu became afraid.
Gilgamesh took a medicine plant and rubbed it all over Enkidu's arms.
"Your strength shall be restored," he said. "We must continue our quest.
We will aid each other in battle. We will have fame and glory. Come, let
Enkidu and Gilgamesh scan the forest. They gaze with amazement at the
height of the old pines. They gaze with amazement at the width of the old
cedars. They examine the well trodden paths on the floor of the forest.
The paths were as clear as roads. They can see Cedar Mountain, dwelling
place of the Gods, shrine of Irnini. The cedars on the side of the mountain
are a lush green. The shade of the Evergreens was cooling and comforting.
It filled them with happiness. The undergrowth was full and tangled. The
sweet smell of pine and cedar was intoxicating to them. The sounds of
strange birds and creatures filled them with wonder.
And then they heard the approaching sound that sounded like fire. It
sounded like a deluge. And there before them stood Humbaba. He was a
large and terrible looking monster. His face was ugly as entrails. He
towered over Gilgamesh and Enkidu.
To their surprise, Humbaba addresses Gilgamesh and Enkidu as if he knows
them. "It is the fool, Gilgamesh and the tamed wild man. You aught to ask
yourselves why you have come to see me. Enkidu, you would not be doing
this if you knew who your father is. I could gobble the two of you up as
Gilgamesh unsheathes the sword and Humbaba bares his teeth. Gilgamesh
and Enkidu are afraid and uncertain. Then Gilgamesh says "Humbaba is one
and we are two and our combined strength is mightier than any monster.
Shamash, you have sent us here, don't abandon us now."
Shamash sent thirteen winds against Humbaba. Humbaba was immobile
for a moment. And in that moment, Gilgamesh struck. He pierced
Humbaba's neck. He struck Humbaba's head with the axe. Humbaba was
hurt too badly to retaliate.
Through his gasps he addressed Gilgamesh "You are young, Gilgamesh. I
remember when your mother gave birth to you. You are the son of Ninsun
and Lugalbanda. You came to me at the command of Shamash, Lord of the
Mountain. You don't have to kill me, Gilgamesh. I will let you have
whatever trees you want, Gilgamesh. Any type of tree you like and as
many as you want, even the myrtle wood. These timbers would be the
pride of your palace."
Enkidu raises his voice to Gilgamesh "Don't listen to Humbaba."
|Restored: November 15, 1997
Posted: March 20, 2005
Updated: March 20, 2005