Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others - Anzu - Standard and Old Babylonian Version Summary & Analysis

Stephanie Dalley
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Anzu - Standard and Old Babylonian Version Summary and Analysis

The author begins by noting that these two versions of the myth differ only in their length, complexity, and naming convention. The plot of the myth revolves around the theft of the Tablet of Destinies from the gods and the battle to regain the powerful talisman by the story's hero. The standard version of the myth begins in the first person, signifying the teller of the myth is introducing the story. After the introduction, the gods assemble and speak of the birth of Anzu, a lion-headed eagle figure born in the mountains of Hehe. Ellil chooses Anzu to guard the innermost chamber of his temple. When Anzu sees Ellil bathe himself, he dreams of gaining the power of Ellil by stealing the Tablet of Destinies, which controls the rites and the orders for the gods. One day, Anzu steals the Tablet and goes into hiding. The gods search, but cannot find the Tablet. Anu calls for the gods to kill Anzu. Anu's sons Adad and Gerra, as well as Shara's son Ishtar, are asked first to attack Anzu, but they refuse, knowing they will be turned to clay at the will of Anzu. When the gods become despondent, Ea asks Anu to let him choose the attacker, and when given permission, asks Mami (also called Belet-ili) to recruit her favorite son, Ninurta, the warrior god, to make the journey. Mami calls her son, and explains that she herself gave birth to the gods, and assigned the power of destinies to Ellil, her brother. Anzu, she notes, has taken that power, therefore robbing her. She tells him to kill Anzu, and reminds him that such a deed will make him known throughout the land and worshiped. Ninurta goes to the mountains and attacks, but after a fierce battle, finds his arrows unable to near Anzu, due to Anzu's control over all things because he holds the Tablet. Ninurta sends a message back to Ea though Sharur, Ninurta's own personified weapon, that the battle is being lost, and asks for assistance. Sharur returns, explaining that Ea has told him Ninurta is to tire Anzu, cut off his wings, and then pierce his heart with an arrow before Anzu can use the Tablet of Destiny to reattach his wings. Ninurta does this, and kills Anzu. The gods celebrate as the see Anzu's feathers float past them, and Ellil calls for Ninurta to return through Birdu, an underworld god. Birdu tells Ninurta he is now famous in the lands, and tells him of his names in various areas of the world.

In the shorter Old Babylonian version, Tablet One is missing. The story begins with the theft of the Tablet by Anzu, known in this story as Anzum. Anu, known as Anum here, assembles the gods, asks Adad, Gerra, and Shara to attack, but they refuse. Ea asks Mami, known here as the Great Goddess, to ask her son, named Nirgirsu in this version, to attack Anzum. As in the previous version, Nirgirsu attacks, but finds his arrows unable to near Anzum, due to Anzum's control over all things because he holds the Tablet. Here, forty-six lines are missing. When the story picks back up, Ea is giving the instructions to tire Anzum, cut off his wings, and slit his throat. Nirgirsu goes to prepare for battle, and then ventures to Anzum once more, tiring him out and cutting of his wings. This is where the story ends.

This section contains 594 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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