The Epic of Gilgamesh

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

Tablet 5 (Robert Temple translation)

Reading time: 6 minutes. Word count: 950 words.

And just as Humbaba seems to have a special hatred for Enkidu (remember how he called him "son of a fish, who knew not his father"), you will see that Enkidu seems to harbor a real hatred for Humbaba! When the winds paralyze Humbaba so that he cannot move, he begs Gilgamish to spare his life ... and it is Enkidu who insists that Humbaba must be killed, no matter what.

Gilgamesh said to his friend, said to Enkidu:
'My friend, Humbaba's facial features have altered,
And their configuration raises itself to an equal height
But my entrails are gripped by fear that we are too hasty.'

Enkidu said to him, said to Gilgamesh:
'My friend, why do you wail so miserably
And let your mouth go flabby
And conceal yourself?
For now, my friend,
The axe has been cast for you -
The copper-smith poured its molten metal from the gutter channel,
Annealed it by heating for a double-hour,
Allowed it then to cook for a double-hour,
Producing this weapon of the flood-storm.
Seize the whip -
Travel not on your feet,
Do no turn back!
Strike with the axe and make your blow strong!'

Shamash in heaven heard the prayer of Gilgamesh
And against Humbaba rose up mighty winds:
The Great Wind, the North Wind, the South Wind, the Whirlwind,
The Storm Wind, the Chill Wind, the Tempestuous Wind
The Hot Wind - eight were the winds.
They rose up against Humbaba.
Lo! He cannot move forwards!
Lo! He cannot move backwards!
And so Humbaba relented.

Then Humbaba answered Gilgamesh:
'Oh, do let me go, Gilgamesh! You will be my master, I will be your servant.
And as for my trees, My trees which I have grown,
I will............................
I will cut them down and build you houses.'

But Enkidu said to Gilgamesh:
'Do not listen to him.
Hark not to the word of Humbaba.
Humbaba must not live!'

(An earlier fragment from Uruk published in 1980 by von Weiher gives a variant version of this section, listing 13 winds rather than 8:)

......... they might be turned away,
......... distant are they.
He struck his head and drew himself up against him.
With the heels of their feet they removed the earth;
Mount Hermon and Lebanon and their surrounding districts
Are being destroyed.
Then the white clouds became black,
And it rained the presage of death on them
Like a light rain in a mist.
But Shamash raised up great winds against Humbaba:
The South Wind, the North Wind,
The East Wind, the West Wind,
The Blowing Wind,
The Squally Wind,
The Shaparziqqu Wind,
The Evil Storm,
The Sihurra Wind,
The Wind of Frost,
The Storm,
The Thunder Storm -
Thirteen winds he raised against him
And Humbaba's face was darkened.
He cannot push forwards,
He cannot run backwards;
But the weapons of Gilgamesh could now reach Humbaba.

Humbaba now besought his life,
And said to Gilgamesh:
'Small you were, Gilgamesh -
Your mother bore you,
And you are of the offspring of ........
Agreable to the command of Shamash
Of the Lord of the Mountains, you rose up
"But he is the offspirng
In the midst of Uruk:
The king - Gilgamesh!"

(Here three lines are missing, except that the mention of the name of Gilgamesh can be made out twice:)

I will sit down with you and...........
Trees, as many as you already have said......
I will defend you! The wood of the myrtle................
It is enough...........

Enkidu said to him, said to Gilgamesh:
'My friend, do not listen
To what Humbaba says.'

(Here some lines are missing. A mutilated fragment published by Gernot Wilhelm in 1988 can be inserted about this point. Humbaba appears to castigate Enkidu for bringing Gilgamesh to him:)

'...... You have led him before me!
...... splendour.'

(Humbaba then appears to complain either to Gilgamesh or Enkidu that he did not stay at home enjoying simple comforts:)

'Could you not marry a wife
And satisfy yourself with her voluptuousness?'

(Humbaba then appears to be batterd by the various winds:)

But the great winds roared against Humbaba
.... the .... dust-storms flowed
Perpetually on his head.

(Enkidu then seems to plead with Gilgamesh to kill Humbaba:)

'I beg you to listen to me, my friend!'
..... he struck down once more speedily and
..... to the little child.

(We now return to won Weiher's 1980 fragment. Humbaba is speaking to Enkidu:)

'But you know the sign of my forest, the sign......
And you know precisely everything that is said.
I should have lifted you up on high,
I should have killed you upon your entrance
Into the branches of my forest!
I should have let the shrieking serpent-bird,
The eagle and the raven eat your flesh!
But now, O Enkidu,
It lies with you. Make limp your wrath.
Speak to Gilgamesh!
He might spare my life!'

Enkidu said to his friend, said to Gilgamesh:
'My friend, Humbaba the guardian of the Cedar Forest......
Strike him to maim him.
Kill him! Crush him! And quickly,
Humbaba, the guardian of the forest -
Strike him to maim him.
Kill him! Crush him! And quickly.
Before God Enlil, the Foremost hears his cries.
The gods will be filled with wrath against us for our deed.
Enlil in the city of Nippur, Shamash in.....
Put down and.....'

As Gilgamesh came nearer to Humbaba
But Humbaba heard his approach.
And ..... Humbaba......

(Here many lines are lost:)

He heard...............................

(Here three lines are lost. Humbaba is speaking to Enkidu:)

........... my forest.................
But denunciations are caused.....
You sit there like a shepherd.........
But as......................

(Here many lines are lost. When the text resumes, Gilgamesh and Enkidu seem to be quarreling:)

'Should not......
Should not erect a higher altar than his friend?
Gilgamesh and Enkidu should never more
Have one another as friends!'

Enkidu said to him, said to Gilgamesh:
'My friend, I speak to you
But do you not put a stop to my words.'

(The above may not have been a quarrel, but might instead have referred to them never again having each other as friends because one of them might die.)

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

  • how was Humbaba finally defeated?
  • what did Humbaba ask Gilgamesh to do?
  • what did Enkidu recommend that Gilgamesh should do?

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