The Epic of Gilgamesh

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

Tablet 5 (Robert Temple translation)

Reading time: 4 minutes. Word count: 600 words.

Beginning on this page you will be reading an actual translation of the ancient text, rather than just a summary. On the previous page, you learned about the battle with Humbaba in the Cedar Forest. Now you will read about that in detail! You might want to try reading this out loud in order to get a sense of the poetic language which comes through even in the English translation.

They stood quite still and looked at the forest,
Saw how high were the great cedars,
And gazed upon the entrance to the forest.
There, where Humbaba was wont to tread,
Was a fine path; straight it was and easy to travel.
They saw also the Cedar Mountain, where lived the gods
And Irnini, Goddess of Love, holy Inanna had her throne seat
The cedar raised aloft its great luxuriant growth:
What cool shade, what delight!
Covering the brushwood, covering the....

(Here the text breaks off. It resumes, after an indeterminate lapse, with Gilgamesh speaking to Enkidu:)

'Rise up, cast your gaze to the mountain....!
My divine sleep has been torn from me.
My friend, I saw a dream - Oh, how ill-omed!
How....! How disturbing!
I seized a wild bull of the steppe;
He bellowed, he kicked up the earth,
And the dusk darkened the sky.
I gave way before him.
He was seizing.... strength, my flank
He tore out the ............................
He provided food.......................he drank
He gave me water to drink from his water-skin.'

(The text continues unbroken without identifying the speakers, but Enkidu is obviously replying to Gilgamesh:)

'My friend, the god to whom we go is not a wild bull,
Although his form is surpassing strange.
What you saw as a wild bull is really
The radiant Shamash the Sun
He will take us by the hand in our dire need,
He who gave you the water to drink from his water-skin -
He is your special god who brings you honour, Shamash the Sun.
We should therefore join him together
With Lugulbanda, your father, your own god, your familiar,
So that we might do a deed, such deed,
Which, though we die, yet will not be inglorious.'

(There may be a break here, as the order of the fragments is uncertain. But the text continues coherently:)

They took hold one of the other
And went to their nightly rest
Sleep descended upon them -
As it were the great surge of night.
But upon midnight hour a-sudden,
Sleep flew from Gilgamesh.
To Enkidu, his friend, he tells his dream:
'If you have not waked me, then how do I wake?
Enkidu, my friend, I must have seen a dream!
Have you not waked me? Why ......?
Aside from that first dream,
I now have seen a second dream;
In my dream a great mountain fell,
Pinned me to the ground, trapped my feet beneath it.
A great glare of light overwhelmed me.
A man like any other -
Such a man as we have never seen -
Stepped forth from the light.
His grace and beauty were more,
More than any on this earth.
He freed me from the mountain,
Gave me water to drink,
Quieted my heart.
He put my feet back on the earth.'
Enkidu spoke to Gilgamesh,
Said to him:
'My friend, let us go down into the plain,
Let us go take counsel together.'

(Several lines are lost here, and we don't have Enkidu's interpretation of the dream. After a break, the text resumes as follows, with Gilgamesh again speaking:)

'A second dream I saw:
We were standing in mountain gorges
And a mountain fell upon us.
It was so large that by comparison
We were like small reed-flies -
Like the little fly of the cane-brakes we were.'
He who was born on the steppe...
Enkidu said to his friend:
'My friend, the dream is auspicious,
It is a precious dream....
My friend, that mountain which you saw
That mountain is Humbaba.
We shall seize Humbaba, we shall kill him,
And cast his dead body on the plain.
On the morrow...'

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

  • what path did Gilgamesh and Enkidu find in the forest?
  • what was Enkidu's interpretation of the first dream?
  • what was Enkidu's interpretation of the second dream?

Source: He Who Saw Everything: A verse version of the Epic of Gilgamesh by Robert Temple (1991). 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