The Epic of Gilgamesh

Week 2: Ancient Near East - Assignments - Reading - Resources - Images

Paraphrase of Tablets 4-5

Reading time: 4 minutes. Word count: 400 words.

Wallis Budge was so frustrated by the bad condition of these two tablets that he provides just a brief summary here of the whole episode with Humbaba. On the next page, you will read Robert Temple's translation of these two tablets: Temple's translation has to work with tablets that are full of gaps, but you will still be able to get a vivid sense of the Humbaba story, which Wallis Budge just summarizes here.

The Gate of the Forest

So much of Tablet IV is missing that only a very general notion can be obtained of its contents.

The two heroes had by now reached the Gate of the Forest wherein Khumbaba dwelt. Enkidu was amazed at the gigantic size and beauty of this gate, fashioned out of the timbers of the forest. When the text begins again, the two are found encouraging each other to their enterprise, and Gilgamish bursts through the gate.

Soon afterwards Enkidu was overcome either by sickness or by dread of the combat, and lay inert for twelve days, apparently as the result of evil dreams which had visited him. In his weakness he strove again to turn back from their desperate adventure, but again Gilgamish overcame his fear with encouragement.

The Dreams of Gilgamish

The two warriors were now in the forest, and this Tablet begins with a description of its wonders. They saw a straight road running between its tall cedars, along which Khumbaba trod; they saw also the mountain of the cedars, the dwelling of the gods, and the pleasant shade and perfume which the trees spread around. After this they seem to have fallen asleep, for Gilgamish is next found relating to Enkidu a dream which he had had: the two were standing together on the top of a mountain, when the peak fell away, leaving them unharmed. Enkidu interprets this as a forecast that they were to overthrow the gigantic Khumbaba.

At the sixtieth league they stayed to rest, and Gilgamish besought the mountain to send him another dream. Falling asleep at once, he woke in terror at midnight and began to tell how he dreamed that the earth was darkened, amid loud roarings and flames of fire, which gradually died away. This dream too was interpreted by Enkidu, no doubt favourably, but nothing more remains of this Tablet before the end, when Khumbaba has been fought and defeated, and his head cut off.

The Battle with Khumbaba

A fragment of another version shows that Khumbaba was defeated by the help of the Sun-god, who sent eight evil winds against him on every side so that he could not move. Thus entrapped, he surrendered to Gilgamish and offered submission in return for his life. This Gilgamish was disposed to grant, but Enkidu warned him of the danger of letting the giant live.

Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

  • who broke through the Gate at the entrance to Khumbaba's forest?
  • who was paralyzed with fear before fighting Khumbaba? who wanted to go on and fight Khumbaba?
  • how did Gilgamish kill Khumbaba?

Source: The Babylonian Story of the Deluge and the Epic of Gilgamish by E.A. Wallis Budge (1929). Weblink.

Modern Languages / Anthropology 3043: Folklore & Mythology. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.
Page last updated: October 9, 2004 12:52 PM