Gilgamesh Prologue – Non-Fiction



Feature Writer:  jewishchristianlit

Feature Title: Gilgamesh Prologue

Link: The Huluppu-Tree / Translation of a Gilgamesh Prologue

Author’s Notes: Taken from the Gilgamesh Prologue Fragment — This passage, as understood and translated by Samuel Kramer, would include the oldest known reference to Lilith. See the Sumerian Mythology FAQ (from which this is pirated) for a fuller discussion. I have included the larger context with the specific appearances or Lilith in bold. Kramer’s translation with Diane Wolkstein is far smoother (but for style, not accuracy), although missing a couple of verses at the end. It can be found here (without Lilith marked), paired with tablet 12 of the Epic of Gilgamesh, which seems to be dependent on it. That version is informed by differences and additional lines from his original version (added or marked).


Gilgamesh Prologue

After heaven and earth had been separated
and mankind had been created,
after Anucircum, Enlil and Ereskigal had taken possession
of heaven, earth and the underworld;
after Enki had set sail for the underworld
and the sea ebbed and flowed in honor of its lord;
on this day, a huluppu tree
which had been planted on the banks of the Euphrates
and nourished by its waters
was uprooted by the south wind
and carried away by the Euphrates.
A goddess who was wandering among the banks
seized the swaying tree
And — at the behest of Anu and Enlil —
brought it to Inanna’s garden in Uruk.
Inanna tended the tree carefully and lovingly
she hoped to have a throne and a bed
made for herself from its wood.
After ten years, the tree had matured.
But in the meantime, she found to her dismay
that her hopes could not be fulfilled.
because during that time
a dragon had built its nest at the foot of the tree
the Zu-bird was raising its young in the crown,
and the demon Lilith had built her house in the middle.
But Gilgamesh, who had heard of Inanna’s plight,
came to her rescue.
He took his heavy shield
killed the dragon with his heavy bronze axe,
which weighed seven talents and seven minas.
Then the Zu-bird flew into the mountains
with its young,
while Lilith, petrified with fear,
tore down her house and fled into the wilderness



In a subsequent translation with Wolkstein, this passage is given as:

…a serpent who could not be charmed
made its nest in the roots of the tree,
The Anzu bird set his young in the branches of the tree,
And the dark maid Lilith built her home in the trunk.
(Wolkstein83: p. 8)