The Epic of Gilgamesh

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

Translation of Tablet 7 (by Maureen Kovacs)

Reading time: 5 minutes. Word count: 800 words.

On the preceding page, you read Wallis Budge's brief summary of the death of Enkidu. Now you will take a look at a translation by Maureen Kovacs, which relies on some texts that were not available to Wallis Budge. The translation is still filled with gaps. For example, Enkidu has had a dream, but what was the dream exactly? We do not know, but you could maybe imagine his dream for yourself! As you read this translation by Kovacs, you might want to compare it to the translation you read before by Robert Temple. One of the main differences you will notice is that Kovacs does not use the archaic language that you saw in Temple's translation. Instead, Kovacs uses very basic, everyday English. What do you think about that? Do you think the archaic language helps to convey the "feeling" of the myth, or does it instead get in the way of your being able to follow the story? .

The Death of Enkidu

"My friend, why are the Great Gods in conference?

(In my dream) Anu, Enlil, and Shamash held a council,
and Anu spoke to Enlil:
"Because they killed the Bull of Heaven and have also slain Humbaba,
the one of them who pulled up the Cedar of the Mountain must die!"

Enlil said: "Let Enkidu die, but Gilgamesh must not die!"

But the Sun God of Heaven replied to valiant Enlil:
"Was it not at my command that they killed the Bull of Heaven and Humbaba?
Should now innocent Enkidu die?"

Then Enlil became angry at Shamash, saying:
"It is you who are responsible because you traveled daily with them as their friend!"

Enkidu was lying (sick) in front of Gilgamesh.

His tears flowing like canals, he (Gilgamesh) said:
"O brother, dear brother, why are they absolving me instead of my brother?"

Then Enkidu said: "So now must I become a ghost,
to sit with the ghosts of the dead, to see my dear brother nevermore!
In the Cedar Forest where the Great Gods dwell, I did not kill the Cedar."

Enkidu addressed Gilgamesh,
saying to Gilgamesh, his Friend:
"Come, Friend,...
The door..."

Enkidu raised his eyes,...and spoke to the door as if it were human:
"You stupid wooden door,
with no ability to understand... !
Already at 10 leagues I selected the wood for you,
until I saw the towering Cedar ...
Your wood was without compare in my eyes.
Seventy-two cubits was your height, fourteen cubits your width, one cubit your thickness,
your door post, pivot stone, and post cap ...
I fashioned you, and I carried you; to Nippur...
Had I known, O door, that this would be your gratitude and this your gratitude...,
I would have taken an axe and chopped you up,
and lashed your planks into...
in its ... I erected the...
and in Uruk ... they heard
But yet, O door, I fashioned you, and I carried you to Nippur!
May a king who comes after me reject you, may the god...
may he remove my name and set his own name there!"

He ripped out ... threw down.

He (Gilgamesh) kept listening to his words, and retorted quickly,
Gilgamesh listened to the words of Enkidu, his Friend, and his tears flowed.
Gilgamesh addressed Enkidu, saying:
"Friend, the gods have given you a mind broad and ...
Though it behooves you to be sensible, you keep uttering
improper things!
Why, my Friend, does your mind utter improper things?
The dream is important but very frightening,
your lips are buzzing like flies.
Though there is much fear, the dream is very important.
To the living they (the gods) leave sorrow,
to the living the dream leaves pain.
I will pray, and beseech the Great Gods,
I will seek ... and appeal to your god.
... Enlil, the Father of the Gods,
... Enlil the Counselor
I will fashion a statue of you of gold without measure,
do not worry ... gold...
What Enlil says is not...
What he has said cannot go back, cannot ...
What ... he has laid down cannot go back, cannot...
My friend ... of fate goes to mankind."

At last as dawn began to glow, Enkidu raised his head and cried out to Shamash,
at the (first) gleam of the sun his tears poured forth.
"I appeal to you, O Shamash, on behalf of my precious life (?),
because of that notorious trapper
who did not let me attain the same as my friend,
May the trapper not get enough to feed himself.
May his profit be slashed, and his wages decrease,
may... be his share before you,
may he not enter ... but go out of it like vapor (?)!"

After he had cursed the trapper to his satisfaction,
his heart prompted him to curse the Harlot.
"Come now, Harlot, I am going to decree your fate,
a fate that will never come to an end for eternity!
I will curse you with a Great Curse,
may my curses overwhelm you suddenly, in an instant!
May you not be able to make a household,
and not be able to love a child of your own (?)!
May you not dwell in the ... of girls,
may dregs of beer (?) stain your beautiful lap,
may a drunk soil your festal robe with vomit (?),
... the beautiful (?)
... of the potter.
May you never acquire anything of bright alabaster,
may the judge. ..
may shining silver (?), man's delight, not be cast into your house,
may a gateway be where you rake your pleasure,
may a crossroad be your home
may a wasteland be your sleeping place,
may the shadow of the city wall be your place to stand,
may the thorns and briars skin your feet,
may both the drunk and the dry slap you on the cheek,
... in your city's streets (?),
may owls nest in the cracks of your walls!
may no parties take place...
... present (?).
and your filthy "lap" ... may ... be his (?)
Because of me ...
while I, blameless, you have ... against me."

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

  • which of the gods wants to kill Enkidu? which of the gods objected?
  • to what object does Enkidu direct his anger?
  • what kind of curses does Enkidu make against the harlot?

Source: The Epic of Gilgamesh, translated by Maureen Gallery Kovacs (1989) (1989). 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