Cor Hendriks – The Macaws | Myth and Folktale (3): Excursus | The Retrieval of the Disappeared Musical Instruments by Gilgamesh

The story of the retrieval of the stolen musical instruments from the Underworld is an old one, already to be found with the Sumerians, who devoted one of the stories of their hero Gilgamesh to it, called ‘Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the Nether World’. The story starts at the beginning, recalling ‘the distant days of yore’, but we don’t have to go back that far, and the story of the huluppu-tree we will consider at a later point. This tree was chopped down by Gilgamesh and given to Inanna for her throne and for her bed, and in return

She fashions its roots into a pukku for him,
Fashions its crown into a mikku for him.

The exact nature of these instruments is open for debate, but most likely it concerns a drum with a drumstick, because Gilgamesh goes around:

The summoning pukku – in street and lane he made the pukku resound,
The loud drumming – in street and lane he made the drumming resound,
The young men of the city, summoned by the pukku –
Bitterness and woe – he is the affliction of their widows.
“O my mate, O my spouse,” they lament.
Who had a mother – she brings bread to her son.
Who had a sister – she brings water to her brother.

So it seems the instruments serve to call the men to go to war and get killed, much to the grievance of their wives, becoming widows, who bring offerings of bread and water to their dead husbands or brothers (in case of sisters). So they – the widows – are not happy with this new invention. The text continues:

After the evening star had disappeared [so at night, when all go to sleep],
And he [Gilgamesh] had marked the places where his pukku had been,
He carried the pukku before him, brought it to his house,
At dawn in the places he had marked – bitterness and woe!
Captives! Dead! Widows!

So before he goes to sleep, he marks the places where he hides the pukku and the mikku, and when he goes to look there in the morning, they are gone, causing him bitterness and woe. The captives, dead and widows are possible candidates for the theft. Then it is said what has happened:

Because of the cry of the young maidens,
His pukku and mikku fell into the “great dwelling”.’

This “great dwelling” is an euphemism for the Underworld, which is a big place for all the dead abide there. The young maidens are the wives of the young men, the widows, and the sisters of the young men. Their cry has the effect of a curse, as with the king in the introduction of ATU 301, whose daughters sink into earth as a result of his curse. [Grimm nº91 (1972, 420)] Gilgamesh tries to retrieve them:

He put in his hand, could not reach them,
Put in his foot, could not reach them.
He sat down at the great gate Ganzir, the “eye” of the nether world.
Gilgamesh wept, his face turns pale:
‘O my pukku, my mikku,
My pukku with zest irresistible, with rhythm irrepressible –
If only my pukku had once been in the carpenter’s house,
If only it had been with the carpenter’s wife, like the mother who gave birth to me,
If only it had been with the carpenter’s child, like my little sister –
My pukku, who will bring it up from the nether world!
My mikku, who will bring it up from the nether world!

This complaint of Gilgamesh probably is about the fact that he did not give his musical instruments in the care of the carpenter who made them. Anyway, they are gone now, and like the Bororo-hero he has no clue how to get them back, and is in need of assistance.

Enkidu, his servant, says to him:
“My master, why do you weep?
Why is your heart grievously sick?
I will bring up your pukku from the nether world.
I will bring up your mikku from the ‘eye’ of the nether world!”

The text goes fast: after the questions from Enkidu there should be an answer from Gilgamesh, only then to be followed by Enkidu’s promise to go to the Nether World.

Gilgamesh says to Enkidu:
“If now you will descend to the nether world,
A word I speak to you, take my word,
Instruction I offer you, take my instruction:
Wear not clean clothes,
Lest the beadles come against you like an enemy.”

This first instruction has to do with the jealousy of the inhabitants of the nether world that will be aroused by clean clothing, because ‘down there’ everything is dusty and dirty. The beadle is formerly a parish officer who helped the priest by keeping order in church, giving out money to the poor, etc. [Hornby 1974, 68. Webster (1990, 84) an attendant who walks before dignitaries in procession, a mace-bearer; in some universities an officer who precedes processions of staff and students; (hist.) a parish officer whose duties include keeping order in church. This last meaning is meant, some sort of police of the underworld.] The second instruction is of a similar kind:

‘“Anoint not yourself with the beaker’s sweet oil,
Lest at its smell they crowd about you.”

The rest of the instructions are:

“Throw not the throw-stick* in the nether world,
Lest those struck by the throwing-stick surround you [pointing to the fact that the dead cannot be killed and are in great numbers].
Carry not a staff in your hand,
Lest the shades flutter all about you.
Tie not the sandals on your feet,
Raise not a cry in the nether world,
Kiss not the wife you love,
Strike not the wife you hate,
Kiss not the child you love,
Strike not the child you hate,
Lest the cry of the nether world [like the cry of the maidens a curse] hold you fast –
the cry for her who is sleeping, who is sleeping,
For the mother of Ninazu, who is sleeping,
Whose holy body no garment covers,
Whose holy breast no cloth drapes.”

* See Plate 1 in Böhl 1941: Gilgamesh is holding in his hand a S-shaped ‘boomerang’. Colossal statue of the hero as lion-killer, from the palace of the Assyrian king Sargon II (721-705) at Chorsabad, now in the Louvre at Paris (size without pedestal 4.85 m high, 2.08 m wide).

Gilgamesh (foto Louvre, Paris)

Gilgamesh (foto Louvre, Paris)

So far the instructions of Gilgamesh, which are ignored (obviously purposely) by Enkidu:

Enkidu descended to the nether world,
Heeded not the words of his master –
He wore his clean clothes,
The beadles came against him like an enemy.
He anointed himself with the beaker’s sweet oil,
At its smell they crowded about him.
He threw the throwing-stick in the nether world,
Those struck by the throw-stick surrounded him.
He carried a staff in his hand,
The shades fluttered all about him.
He put sandals on his feet,
Raised a cry in the nether world,
Kissed the wife he loved,
Struck the wife he hated,
Kissed the child he loved,
Struck the child he hated,
The cry of the nether world held him fast –
The cry for her who is sleeping, who is sleeping,
For the mother of Ninazu, who is sleeping,
Whose holy body no garment covers,
Whose holy breast no cloth drapes.

So he has broken each and every one of Gilgamesh’s instructions, which of course makes the text very repetitive, and now he is stuck there:

Enkidu was not able to ascend from the nether world –
Not fate holds him fast,
Not sickness holds him fast,
The nether world holds him fast.
Not demon Nergal, the unsparing, holds him fast,
The nether world holds him fast.
In battle, the “place of manliness” he fell not,
The nether world holds him fast.

While Enkidu is stuck there, the text switches back to Gilgamesh:

Then went Gilgamesh to Nippur,
Stepped up all alone to Enlil in Nippur, wept:
“Father Enlil, my pukku fel into the nether world,
My mikku fell into Ganzir.
I sent Enkidu to bring them up,
The nether world holds him fast
(etc. the same about not fate or sickness holding him fast).”’

Father Enlil is the Sumerian Zeus, but he is not much of a help.

Father Enlil stood not by him in this matter.
He went to Eridu,
Stepped up all alone to Enki in Eridu, wept:
“Father Enki, my pukku fell into the nether world,
My mikku fell into Ganzir, (etc. the same as with Enlil.)

Enki, the Sumerian Poseidon, is not as Enlil:

Father Enki stood by him in this matter,
Says to the hero, the valiant Utu,
The son born of Ningal: “Open now the vent of the nether world,
Raise Enkidu’s ghost out of the nether world.”

And Utu does what Enki tells him:

He opened the vent of the nether world,
Raised Enkidu’s ghost out of the nether world.’

With this act Enkidu has come alive again, is no longer a ghost, and Gilgamesh takes him in his arms:

They embrace, they kiss,
They sigh, they hold counsel:
“Tell me, what saw you in the nether world?”
“I will tell you, my friend, I will tell you.”

Kramer remarks: The poem ends with a rather poorly preserved question-answer colloquy between the two friends concerned with the treatment of the dead of the nether world,[1] and we can conclude from this that the whole business with the disappeared pukku and mikku was only an excuse to tell about the fate of the souls in the nether world, as they are no longer mentioned. This of course doesn’t mean that Enkidu didn’t bring them back: he must have, just like in the Bororo-myth the instruments are retrieved (or gotten) from the Underworld.

Wrestling in mythology - Gilgamesh vs. Enkidu (foto Fightland)

Wrestling in mythology – Gilgamesh vs. Enkidu (foto Fightland)
(See also the nice article about the wrestling of Gilgamesh and Enkidu on the site

The story is taken up by Böhl in his edition of the Gilgamesh-epos as the 12th Song, entitled ‘The Conjuration of Enkidu’s Ghost’, and originates from the library of king Assurbanipal. In his preceding comment he tells us (from Sumerian sources) that with the drum and the drumstick a conjuration is done. The role filled by Enkidu, the friend of Gilgamesh, is rather unclear. Probably Gilgamesh thinks that he can conjure up his deceased friend’s ghost from the realm of the dead by a magic circle that is drawn on the ground around both instruments. Or Enkidu disappears according to this story only later on in the underworld in an attempt to retrieve the instruments. Anyway, the conjuration can only succeed on condition of total silence. By the sudden scream of a little girl the magic circle is broken and both instruments disappear in the depth of the underworld. Gilgamesh laments this loss and attempts to get them back. Now the ghost of his friend appears and gives him, obviously in his dream, the means in hand, how to go about. These directions are literally the same as those found at the beginning of the conserved part of the 12th song of our epos from the library of king Assurbanipal. And Böhl concludes from this that it is reasonable to suppose that also the rest is a translation from the Sumerian. As an appendix this song was added to the epos, probably by the poet himself, on the basis of the Sumerian tales. He only had the beginning, probably because of its mythological character, drastically shortened. The first part of the tablet is damaged so the first lines are missing. When the text starts the words that in the text above were in Gilgamesh’s mouth are now directed to him:

“O Gilgamesh, listen to what I say to you:
If you want to descend into the realm of the dead,
then you must not go up to a sanctuary,
nor put on a clean dress,
but be dressed poorly like an attendant,
nor should you salve yourself with oil from the beaker (bowl)
Otherwise they will come then following the scent!
Your throw-stick you must not throw on the ground,
those hit by this weapon would surround you!
With the staff you must not threaten
(as birds) the shades would chatter to you!
Sandals you must not put on
and make no sound on the ground;
the loved woman you must not kiss,
the hated woman you must not strike;
the loved child you must not kiss,
the hated child you must not strike;
otherwise the complaint from the hell grabs you!”
“O you, who rests there, who rests there,
you mother of Nin-azu, who rests there,
whose chaste shoulders are uncovered,
from whose breast one doesn’t suck mother’s milk
as from bowls full of cream: / (you I conjure!).”
[There seems to be something wrong with this translation: her milk is as bowls of cream. Böhl (163) remarks: The conjuring of the spirits of the dead was counted to the ‘black’ magic, that was disapproved. Our hero therefore cannot decide to a literally fulfillment of the prescriptions. It is beneath the dignity of a hero and a king to get involved with these dark practices (referring to the witch of Endor).]

According to Böhl the tendency of the directions was clear. The conjuror had to avoid everything that could attract or annoy the shades and he has to call on the great goddess of the realm of the dead (the mother of Nin-azu). Now for a last time the old impetuousness and rebellion comes back in Gilgamesh. He does just the opposite of what was commanded to him, and he insults the goddess by quoting the conjuration deliberately wrong. So the text continues:

‘But he went up to the sanctuary,
he put on a clean dress
and was not dressed poorly like an attendant.
With precious oil from the ‘beaker’ (bowl) he anointed himself,
so that they came following the scent!
The throw-stick he threw on the ground,
so that the shades of the ‘hell’ (nether world) surrounded him
and those slain by this weapon croaked to him.
With the staff he has threatened;
sandals he has put on his feet
and made sound on the ground.
The loved woman he has kissed,
the hated woman he has struck;
the loved child he has kissed,
the hated child he has struck,
so that the complaint from the hell grabbed him!
“O you, who rests there, who rests there,
you mother of Nin-a-zu, who rests there,
whose chaste shoulders are uncovered,
from whose breasts one doesn’t suck mother’s milk
as from bowls full of alum: (you I conjure!).”
Enkidu refuses to arise from the realm of death.
“Him didn’t grab the plague, not the demon,
the realm of the dead holds him!
Him didn’t grab the inexorable watcher of Nergal,
the realm of the dead holds him!
Not on the battlefield of men has he fallen,
the realm of the dead holds him!

We saw these verses above, where they were also connected to Enkidu. Böhl comments further: Full of regret Gilgamesh (the son of the goddess Nin-sun) toils to correct his mistake. In vain he first directs himself to the earth-god Enlil and to the moon-god Sin in their temples at Nippur and Ur. Finally the god Ea listens to him in his temple at Eridu, whose role as the friend and protector can be seen in the Babylonian story of the Deluge (song XI). Ea is his advocate at the ruler of the realm of the dead Nergal. The text continues:

Then cried the son of Nin-sun, my lord,
over Enkidu, his servant.
To Ekur, the temple of Enlil,
he went without company:
“Father Enlil, on the day, that the drum disappeared in the earth
and the drumstick disappeared in the earth,
Enkidu disappeared,
who went to get them.
Him didn’t grab the plague” (etc.).
But Father Enlil gave him no answer.
(To Egishshirgal, the temple of Sin,
he went without company:)
“Father Sin, on the day that the drum
and the drumstick disappeared in the earth,” (etc. as above)
But Father Sin gave him no answer. (To E-abzu, the temple of Ea,
he went without company:)
“Father Ea, on the day,” (etc.)
Then Father Ea has listened to him.
To the heroic Lord Nergal Ea has spoken:
“O, hero and lord Nergal, listen to me
and open soon a pit into the earth,
that Enkidu’s shade arises from the realm of the dead
and tells the law of the realm of the dead to his brother!”
The hero and lord Nergal listened to him
and opened soon a pit in the earth,
that Enkidu’s shade as a breath of wind arose out of the earth.

Böhl comments: The goal is reached, the friends are reunited. But the joy last only for a short while. Because the law of the realm of the dead doesn’t allow that he stays in the light, who once has undergone the judgment of the court of the dead. The text continues:

They embraced and kissed each other
and danced of joy till they became tired of it:
“Tell me, friend, tell me, friend,
tell me the law of the realm of the dead,
that you have seen!”
“I don’t tell it to you, friend, I don’t tell it to you!
If I should tell you the law of the realm of the dead,
that I have seen,
you would sit down and cry!’
“So I will then sit down and cry!”
“O friend, my body, that you have touched joyfully,
is consumed by the worms as a worn-out dress!
O friend, my face, that you have touched joyfully,
is in state of decomposition and full of dust!”
Then spoke Gilgamesh to Enkidu, squatted in the dust,
and he spoke to Gilgamesh, squatted in the dust:

Here follows a great lacuna of 46 lines, but from the begin and end lines Böhl concludes that the series questions-answers concerning the ‘law of the realm of the dead’ has started already. The number of these questions concerning the fate of the humans after death was at least two dozen. But only the last five of them have remained somewhat readable. [Böhl 1941, 98-104.]

This 12th tablet is also reviewed by Arthur Ungnad. Gilgamesh’s desire to know is not quenched after his journey to Utnapishtim: he wants to descend himself into the Underworld to question the ghost of his deceased friend about the fate of the dead. It is hard to get down in the Underworld: all joys of life and life-confirming acts have to be denied by the human who wants to do this. Gilgamesh receives therefore from a god these prescriptions:

When you want to arrive at the Underworld,
want to go down to the holy places of Nergal [the god of the dead, or of death]
you must not wear a clean shift (dress),
with good oil from the ointment-box you must not anoint yourself:
otherwise they [the souls of the dead] shall gather around you coming to this scent.
The bow you must not put down on the earth:
otherwise those killed by the bow will surround you.
The staff you must not take in the hand:
otherwise the spirits of the dead will tremble before you.
Shoes you must not put on your feet,
Noise in the Underworld you must not make.
Your wife, that you love, you must not kiss,
your wife, that you abhor, you must not strike.
Your child, that you love, you must not kiss,
your child, that you abhors, you must not strike;
the lament of the Underworld will otherwise grab you.

But the man of action cannot kill off himself with living body and this way remains closed to him. No god can help him; finally Ea has pity on him. He (Ea) directs himself to the god of the dead and asks him to fulfill the wish of the hero.

When the manly hero Nergal [heard his request],
he opened at once a hole in the Underworld;
the ghost of Enkidu he let arise like a wind.

Now starts a gripping dialogue between the friends which unfortunately has been preserved very incompletely. Gilgamesh begins:

‘“Tell me, my friend, tell me, my friend,
the regulation of the Underworld, that you have seen, tell me!”
“I don’t want to say it to you, my friend, I don’t want to say it to you.
If I would say the regulation of the Underworld, that I have seen, to you,
then you would sit down the whole [day] and weep!”
“So I will sit down [the whole day] and weep!”
“See the body that you touched, that your heart gladdened,
that eats the worm like an old [dress]!
[My body, that] you touched, that your heart gladdened,
[is withered], is full of dust!
[In dust] it is sunk down,
[in dust] it is sunk down.”
[Ungnad, ‘Gilgamesch-Epos und Odyssee’, in: Oberhuber 1977, 132f. He also gives the closing few lines of the poem, a gripping picture of the transientness of all earthly things.]

A new translation was made by Stephanie Dalley in her ‘Myths from Mesopotamia’. Here we can see that the story has not only left its traces on the 12th tablet, but is already part of the 1st, where it is said of Gilgamesh:

He had no rival, and at his pukku
His weapons would rise up, his comrades have to rise up.

This is repeated a little further:

Is there no rival? At the pukku
His weapons rise up, his comrades have to rise up.

This is followed by the line: ‘Gilgamesh will not leave any son alone for his father’, which seems to indicate that the sons follow Gilgamesh’s call on the pukku, and fall in battle; anyway, the behavior of Gilgamesh is ‘overbearing’ and Anu hears the complaints of the daughters of warriors, the brides of young men, resulting in the creation of Enkidu as a companion for Gilgamesh. In the translation of Böhl the pukku is the drum:

With the drum are started his fellows,
timid are the men of Uruk in their apartments,
because Gilgamesh does not leave a son to his father;
by day and by night his fury is impetuous.’

And the second time is in the speech held by the gods of heaven (Anu) to ‘the great Aruru’, Ishtar:

‘“Thou are the one who has created this impetuous aurochs,
whose weaponry hasn’t its equal,
whose fellows are started by the drum,
because Gilgamesh doesn’t leave the son to his father” (etc).’

Sandars translates: ‘But the men of Uruk muttered in their houses: “Gilgamesh sounds the tocsin [= alarm-signal, usually a bell] for his amusement, his arrogance has no bounds by day or night. No son is left with his father, for Gilgamesh takes them all, even the children.’ The second time has dropped out. Remarkable is that the widow-making from the Sumerian has changed in ‘His lust leaves no virgin to her lover, neither the warrior’s daughter nor the wife of the noble’, Dalley: ‘Gilgamesh will not leave young girls [alone],’ (etc.), Böhl: ‘Gilgamesh doesn’t leave the girl to her mother, / the daughter to the hero nor the spouse to her husband.’ [Dalley 1991, 52; Sandars 1972, 62; Böhl 1941, 15, who comments: The complaints and prayers of the oppressed inhabitants of Uruk rise up to heaven. The tyrant even intrudes on the family-life of his subordinates by claiming the young daughters lustfully for himself. The prayers are sent to the goddess of the town of Uruk: the goddess Ishtar, who as the great Mother-goddess carries the name ‘Aruru’.]

Gilgamesh and Enkidu (Foto earlyworldhistory)

Gilgamesh and Enkidu (foto earlyworldhistory)

The story on the 12th tablet starts with the complaint of Gilgamesh:

“If only I had left the pukku in the carpenter’s house today!
[If only I had left it at] the carpenter’s wife [who is] like the mother who bore me,
[If only I had left it at] the carpenter’s daughter [who is] like my little sister.
Today the pukku fell into the Earth [= Underworld]
And my mikku fell into the Earth.”
Enkidu [asked] Gilgamesh:
“My lord, what did you weep for, and your heart [grow sad]?
I shall bring up the pukku from the Earth today,
I shall bring up the mikku from the Earth.”’

Then follow the instructions from Gilgamesh to Enkidu: not put on a clean garment (for they will recognize that you are a stranger), not anoint with perfumed oil from an ointment jar (for they gather around you at the smell of it), not toss a throw-stick into the Earth (for those who are hit by the throw-stick will encircle you), not raise a club in your hands (for ghosts will flit around you), not put shoes on your feet (lest you make a noise in the Earth), not kiss the wife you love, not hit the wife you hate, not kiss the son you love, not hit the son you hate, for [otherwise] the Earth’s outcry will seize him.

“She who sleeps and sleeps, the mother of Ninazu who sleeps [= Ereshkigal],
Her pure shoulders are not covered with a garment,
Her breasts are not pendulous like an ointment jar in a šappatu-basin [?].”

But Enkidu ‘[did not follow his lord’s instructions.]
He put on a clean garment,
So they recognized that he was a stranger.
He was anointed with perfumed oil from an ointment jar
So they gathered around him at the smell of it.
He tossed a throw-stick into the Earth,
So those who were hit by the throw-stick encircled him.
He raised a club in his hands,
So ghosts flitted around (him).
He put shoes on his feet,
He made a noise in the Earth.
He kissed the wife he loved,
He hit the wife he hated,
He kissed the son he loved,
He hit the son he hated.
(And) the Earth’s outcry did seize him.
She who sleeps and sleeps (etc).
When Enkidu [tried] to go up again out of the Earth,
Namtar did not seize him, nor did Asakku seize him: the Earth seized him.
The croucher, Ukur, the merciless, did not seize him: the Earth seized him.
He did not fall in a fight among males: the Earth seized him.
Then the son of Ninsun [went] and wept for his servant Enkidu.
He went off on his own to Ekur, Ellil’s temple.
“Father Ellil, today the pukku fell into the Earth,
And my mikku fell into the Earth,
And the Earth seized Enkidu, who went down to bring them up.
Namtar did not seize him,” (etc.).

Father Ellil answered him not a word, so he went off alone to Sin’s temple.
“Father Sin, today…” (etc.).
Father Sin answered him not a word, so he went off alone to Ea’s temple.
“Father Ea, today…” (etc.).
Father Ea answered him,
He spoke to the warrior [Ukur (the ‘ghost’ of Nergal, king of the Underworld)]:
“Warlike young man Ukur […]
You must open up a hole in the Earth now,
So that the spirit [of Enkidu can come out of the Earth like a gust of wind].
[And return] to his brother [Gilgamesh].” The warlike young man Ukur […]
Opened up a hole in the Earth then
And the spirit of Enkidu came out of the Earth like a gust of wind.
They hugged and kissed,
They discussed, they agonized.
“Tell me, my friend, tell me, my friend,
Tell me Earth’s conditions that you found!”
“If I tell you Earth’s conditions that I found,
You must sit (and) weep!
I would sit and weep!
[Your wife (?)], whom you touched, and your heart was glad,
Vermin eat [like (?)] an old [garment].
[Your son (?) whom] you touched, and your heart was glad,
[Sits in a crevice (?)] full of dust.
“Woe,” she said, and groveled in the dust.
“Woe,” he said, and groveled in the dust.
More lines follow without making the sense clearer. [Dalley 1991, 120-124 (notes p. 134f). She points out that in Iliad XXIII, when Achilles dreams that Patroklos’ ghost visits him, they try in vain to embrace; as when Odysseus attempts to hug his mother’s ghost in Odyssey XI.]

The disappearance of the Pukku and Mikku (whatever they are) into the underworld as the result of a curse can be compared with versions of ATU 301: ‘The Three Stolen Princesses’ that start with the disappearance of the princesses into the underworld as the result of a curse by their father the king as in the Grimm-tale ‘The Gnome’. This king has an apple-tree of which he is so fond, that if anyone gathers an apple from it he wishes him a hundred fathoms underground. His 3 daughters pluck off apples and sink deep down into the earth, where they can hear no cock crow. [Grimm 1972, 420 nº91.]

Enkidu, can he be compared with a fairytale hero like Faithful John, the true hero of ATU 516. Influenced by the Grimm-version (KHM 6) it is tempting to look at this character as an older man who keeps the young prince from running into trouble. But from the motif list of Thompson it is clear that this type can be quite different: N861. Foundling helper. L31. Youngest brother helps elder. P311. Sworn brethren. P273.1. Faithful foster brother. Such a type can be met in a Georgian version from the collection of Bleichsteiner, called ‘The Fairytale of the King’s Son and the Suckling of the Dev.’ Once the Turk came to a country, resulting in a great flight. Also 3 daughters-in-law ran away; one of them had a baby in the arm, became tired and left it behind in the woods. In that country lives a king with a son, who loves to hunt. Once he comes on a open spot in the woods, where a dev lies with a boy playing on his chest. He asks his father for warriors, gives every man a candle and a bush of straw, and has them surround the open spot. Then he gives the sign and every man lights the straw with the candle [cf. Judges 7:16-20]. The dev jumps up and tears up part of the army on one side, but then the fire burns his hairs and he runs away without looking back. The boy, with whom the dev had played, is caught with much trouble, brought to the palace and put in a special room. The king’s son is the whole time with the wild boy and helped him in getting dressed and eating, and also learns him our way of life and speech, but the wild boy doesn’t get used to it quickly; until he learns more than licking honey with his finger and getting dressed. So he learns everything after a long time and is no less sharp than the king’s son. Here we start ATU 516 with the room in the palace that the king’s son is not allowed to enter. His father will not give the key, but the suckling of the dev (as the foster-brother is called, which has made him strong like ‘Strong John’) breaks open the door so that they can see the portrait of the daughter of the Black Dev, with whom the prince falls in love. Together they set out and win the princess for the King’s son. But the Black Dev warns them that the white Dev wants to abduct the princess. So one evening the couple is walking and the white dev comes and takes her away. The prince almost dies of fright, but what can he do? He should have followed him, but he has to wait for the return of the suckling of the dev (who has gone to the palace to report the success). The abduction of the princess is the introduction of ATU 301, as we saw above. The suckling of the dev comes the next day, but what can he do? He has to do as commanded [as Enkidu has to follow the command of Gilgamesh] and follows the trail of the dev [in ATU 301-versions the abductor is often wounded and leaves a blood-trail behind that is easy to follow]. He goes over a mountain, he goes over a plain, a sentence repeated twice, meaning a large undefined journey, and the trail of the dev that is sunk in till the knee leads to a stone. When he rolls the stone away, he sees a deep dark hole. He has to go in, but how? He braids a basket and collects the devs, who, partly willing, partly forced, help him. No dev dares to refuse, so afraid are they! [These are the helpers from ATU 301B: ‘The Strong Man and his Companions’.] He collects whatever ropes he can find in that land, ties one to the other and finally connects the basket; he seats himself in the basket and orders the devs to wait there for his return and watch the rope for movement. The devs bless his way and lower the suckling of the dev down. The basket sinks, sinks, sinks, sinks down and arrives in the Underworld country. The suckling of the dev steps out of the basket, walks, walks and walks till he meets a swineherd and asks for news. He tells him that the king of this country has abducted a girl from the upper-world and holds a great meal to which everyone is invited. The suckling of the dev switches clothes with the swineherd, goes to the meal, acts as a beggar, is recognized by the girl, who has him seat next to her at the table. They make a plan how to escape: she has to find out where the soul of the dev is hidden [ATU 302, see further on]. He gives her first a false clue, but finally reveals it, and the girl tells it the suckling of the dev, who catches the stag, out of which comes a hare, that he shoots and out of which comes a little box with two flies, that he kills whereupon the White Dev dies. Loaded with the treasures of the king they return to the basket. They put the treasures in the basket and the devs hoist it up, then the girl, and finally the youth. But when he has come near the exit, the devs cut the rope and the youth tumbles down, but he manages to hold on to a stone [more or less like the Bororo-hero did with the stick of his grandmother] and remains hanging there. The devs take the girl away and make her their servant, dividing amongst each other the treasures. The youth crawls, crawls and crawls [as the Bororo-hero] and arrives at the upper-world. He collects all the devs and cuts off the ears of all of them, and brings the girl and the treasures to the prince, after which ATU 516 continues. [Bleichsteiner 1909, 210-223 nº12.]

Gilgamesh is also connected with the flight on an eagle in a fragment usually attributed to Berossus: ‘When Seuechoros was king of the Babylonians, the Chaldeans [= the fortune-tellers] said that his daughter’s son would take away the kingdom from his grandfather, for [= therefore] he guarded her very closely. The girl, however, became pregnant by some obscure man and gave birth in secret, for necessity was wiser than the Babylonian. The guards, fearing the king, hurled the child from the citadel, for the girl was confined there. But an eagle, observing the fall of the child with its sharp eyes, swooped down and threw its back under it before it was dashed against the ground. The eagle brought the infant to a garden and placed it down very carefully. The keeper of the place on seeing the beautiful child fell in love with it and raised it. It was called Gilgamos and became king of the Babylonians.’ [Gmirkin 2006, 105 = Berossus FGrH 680 F14 (Aelian, ‘On Animals’ 12.21). Cf. rescue of Zal, see Dunn, Charles W., ‘The Foundling and the Werwolf. A literary-Historical Study of Guillaume de Palerne’, Toronto 1960. Also kidnapping of Hagen by a griffin in the ‘Kudrun’ (Peeters, Leopold, ‘Historische und literarische Studien zum dritten Teil des Kudrunepos’, Meppel 1968). Gmirkin remarks: ‘Many of the above motifs – the prophecy of the surplanter, the miraculous rescue of the baby from execution, the secret upbringing of the future scion, even the gardener raising the king’s child – were common folk motifs used, for instance, in stories about Sargon and about Cyrus. Two details point specifically to Berossus as the ultimate source behind this passage. First, “Seuechoros, king of the Babylonians” appears to have been identical with Euechsios (possibly a corruption of Euechoros), the first post-flood king of Babylon in Berossus (FGrH 680 F5a: Eusebius, Chronicle12:17-19). Second, and more telling, Seuchoros and Gilgamesh are described as kings of Babylon; in all cuneiform versions of ‘The Gilgamesh Epic’ (or its Sumerian sources) Gilgamesh was king of Uruk. That Gilgamesh has been transformed into a king of Babylon points to Berossus, who is known to have altered his sources in order to promote the city at which he was priest. One may therefore take it as certain that Berossus included an account of Gilgamesh as one of the early kings of post-flood Babylon. [The anecdote from Berossus may have reached Aelian by way of Juba’s ‘Concerning the Assyrians’.] From a reference to Gilgamesh and the monster Humbaba in fragments of the ‘Book of Giants’ from Qumran, it is certain that the Jews were familiar with tales of Gilgamesh in the Second Temple period (by way of Berossus).]

For more on the Gilgamesh story, see

[1] Kramer 1970, 199-205. Comments on the text: ID., 198f; Oberhuber 1977, 9-11; Santillana & Dechend 1969, 439-443. These last writers point to the fact that the drum and stick of the shaman is made from the wood of the ‘world-tree’ (see Eliade 1954, 168f). This however does not entail that Gilgamesh used his drum for shamanistic purposes, i.e. to get in a trance; his instruments are magical and force young men to follow him into battle, more or less as the flute of the Pied Piper. A typical description of the epic is given by Landsberger (Oberhuber 1977, 173): Gilgamesh fells a tree, guarded by fearful demons, to obtain the wood for a gorgeous throne, that he wants to have made for his queen, the goddess Ishtar. Then the goddess of the Underworld lets fall out of jealousy the felled tree through a crack, that opens itself through her action from the earth’s surface to the Underworld. Gilgamesh’s servant Enkidu brings with a ruse the tree up again. (Nur die Beschreibung der seltsame Bräuche und Regeln der Unterwelt, welche diese Erzählung enthält, hat den späteren Autor so interessiert, daß er in dem Wunsche, dem Epos alles Wissen um die Welt einzuverleiben, die Partie über Enkidus Besuch der Unterwelt aus ihrem Zusammenhange gelöst und in wörtlicher Übersetzung seinem Epos angehängt hat, wo sie jetzt die 12. Tafel der jüngsten Fassung füllt.) Stuckrad 2003, 132: der ‘Trommelkasten [ist] von dem Holz des Weltenbaumes selbst genommen’, sodas ‘der Schamane beim Trommeln auf magische Weise an den Weltenbaum versetzt’ wird.

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