The Myth of Zu

The Myth of Anzû, Bin Šar Dadmē

Anzu_001

Ninurta with his thunderbolts pursues Anzû stealing the Tablets of Destiny from Enlil’s sanctuary.

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.

Dalley, Stephanie (1991) Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh and others. Oxford University Press, Oxford, New York.

Tablet 1

I sing the superb son of the king of populated lands,
I praise superb Ninurta, beloved of Mani,
The powerful god, Enlil’s son,
Eku’s child, leader of the Anunnaki, focus of Eninnu,
Who waters cattle-pens, irrigated gardens, ponds (?), in country and town.

Flood-wave of battles, who darkens the sash, warrior.
The fiercest gallu-demons, though tireless, fear his attack.

Listen to the praise of the powerful ones strength,
Who subdued, who bound the Mountain of Stones in his fury,
Who conquered soaring Anzu with his weapon,
Who slew the bull-man inside the Sea.

Strong warrior who slays with his weapon,
Powerful one, who is quick to form a battle array,
Until now, no dais had been created for the Igigi;
The Igigi would assemble for their Enlil-power.

Rivers were formed – the Tigris, the Euphrates –
But springs and not yet sent their water to the land.
Seas […]
Clouds were still far away on the horizon […]
All the Igigi gathered
To Enlil, their father, warrior of the gods,
They his sons, brought a report,
‘Pay attention to reliable words!

On Hehe, a wooded mountain of […]
In the lap of (?) the Anunnaki […]
[…] has given birth to Anu.
[His beak is a saw]
[…]
Which […]
Eleven coats of mail (?) […]
The mountains […]
At his shout […]
The South Wind […]
The powerful […] wind […]
The mass […]
Whirlwinds […]
They met and […]
The four winds […]

Father of the gods, Duranki’s god, looked at him,
But kept his thoughts to himself.
He studied Anzu closely […]
He considered with (?) […]
Who gave birth to […]
Why is this […]
Ea answered his heart-searching,
The far-sighted one addressed his words to Enlil,
‘Surely water of the spate begot Anzu,
Holy water of the gods of Apzu.

Broad Earth conceived him,
And he was born from mountain rocks.
You have looked at Anzu himself […]
Let him serve you and never cease!
In the hall let him bar the way to the innermost chamber, forever1.

(gap of three lines)

[…] the words spoken to him.
He (Enlil) took a cult center […]
And administered the orders of all the gods.
He made no extra fate, and Anzu administered it.

Enlil appointed him the entrance of the chamber which he had perfected
He would bathe in holy water in his presence
His eyes would gaze at the trappings of Enlil-power;
His lordly crown, his robe of divinity,
The Tablet of Destinies in his hands, Anzu gazed,
And fixed his purpose, to usurp the Enlil-power.
Anzu often gazed at Duranki’s god, father of the gods,
And fixed his purpose to usurp the Enlil-power.

‘I shall take the gods’ Tablet of Destinies for myself,
And control the orders for all other gods,
And shall possess the throne and be master of the rites!
I shall direct every one of the Igigi!’
He plotted opposition in his heart
And at the chamber’s entrance from which he often gazed,
He waited for the start of the day.

While Enlil was bathing in the holy water,
Stripped and with his crown laid down on the throne,
He gained the Tablet of Destinies for himself,
Took away the Enlil-power. Rites were abandoned,
Anzu flew off and went into […]
Radiance faded, silence reigned,
Father Enlil, their counselor, was dumbstruck,
For he had stripped the chamber of its radiance.

The gods of the land searched high and low for a solution.
Anu made his voice heard, and spoke, addressed the gods his sons:
‘Whichever god slays Anzu
Will make our name great in all populated lands!’
They called the canal-controller, Anu’s son,
The decision-maker spoke for him;
They called Adad, the canal controller, Anu’s son,
The decision-maker spoke to him,
‘Powerful Adad, ferocious Adad, your attack cannot be deflected;
Your name shall be great in the great gods’ assembly,
You shall have no rival among the gods your brothers,
Then surely shall shrines be created!

Establish your cult centers all over the four quarters!
Your cult centers shall enter Ekur!
Show prowess to the gods, and your name shall be Powerful!

Adad answered the speech, addressed his words to Anu, his father:
‘Father, who could rush off to the inaccessible mountain?
Has taken away the Enlil-power: rites are abandoned!
Anzu flew off and went into hiding!
His utterance has replaced that of Duranki’s god!
He has only to command, and whoever he curses turns to clay!
At his utterance, the gods must now tremble!’
He turned away, saying he would not make the expedition.

They called Gerra, Anunitu’s son.
The decision-maker spoke to him,
‘Powerful Gerra, ferocious Gerra, your attack cannot be deflected;
Burn Anzu with fire, your weapon!
Your name shall be great in the great gods’ assembly,
You shall have no rival among the gods your brothers,
Then surely shall shrines be created!
Establish your cult centers all over the four quarters!
Your cult centers shall enter Ekur!

Show prowess to the gods, and your name shall be Powerful!’
Gerra answered the speech, addressed his words to Anu, his father,
‘Father, who could rush off to the inaccessible mountain?
Which of the gods your sons will be Anzu’s conqueror?
For he has gained the Tablets of Destinies for himself,
Has taken away the Enlil power: rites are abandoned!
His utterance has replaced that of Duranki’s god!
He has only to command, and whoever he curses turns to clay!
At his utterance, the gods must now tremble!’
He turned away, saying he would not make the expedition.

They called Shara, Ishtar’s son,
He (Anu) proposed a solution, spoke to him,
‘Powerful Shara, ferocious Shara, your attack cannot be deflected!
Strike Anzu with [ …..] your weapon!
Your name shall be great in the great gods’ assembly,
You shall have no rival among the gods your brothers,
Then surely shall shrines be created!
Establish your cult centers all over the four quarters!
Your cult centers shall enter Ekur!

Show prowess to the gods, and your name shall be Powerful!’
Shara answered the speech, addressed his words to Anu his father,
‘Father, who could rush off to the inaccessible mountain?
Which of the gods your sons will be Anzu’s conqueror?
For he has gained the Tablets of Destinies for himself,
Has taken away the Enlil power: rites are abandoned!
His utterance has replaced that of Duranki’s god!
He has only to command, and whoever he curses turns to clay!
At his utterance, the gods must now tremble!’
He turned away, saying he would not make the expedition.

The gods fell silent and despaired of advice.
The Lord of Intelligence wise one who dwells in the Apsu
Formed an idea in the depths of his being
Ea formed intelligence in his heart
He told Anu what he was thinking in his inmost being.
‘Let me give orders and search among the gods,
And pick from the Assembly Anzu’s conqueror.

I myself shall search among the gods
And pick from the Assembly Anzu’s conqueror.’
The Igigi listened to this speech of his
The Igigi were freed from anxiety and kissed his feet
The far-sighted one made his voice heard and spoke,
Addressed his words to Anu and Dagan:
‘Have them call for me Belet-ili, sister of the gods,
Wise counselor of the gods her brothers,
Have them announce her supremacy in the assembly,
Have the gods honor her in their assembly;
I shall then tell her the idea which is my heart.’
They called for Belet-ili, sister of the gods, to him,
Wise counselor of the gods her brothers,
They announced her supremacy in the assembly,
The gods honored her in their assembly.

Then Ea told the idea in the depths of his inmost being.
‘Previously we used to call you Mami
But now your name shall be Mistress of all Gods.
Offer the powerful one, your superb beloved,
Broad of chest, who forms the battle array!

Give Ninurta, your superb beloved,
Broad of chest who forms the battle array,
Then shall his name be Lord in the great gods’ assembly.
Let him show prowess to the gods that his may be Powerful!
Let his name be made great in all populated lands
His cult centers
Lord…

(2 lines fragmentary)

Mami listened to this speech of his,
And Belet-Ili the supreme uttered “Yes”
The gods of the land were glad at her utterance
The Igigi were freed from anxiety and kissed her feet.
She called her son into the gods’ assembly,
And instructed her favorite, saying to him,
‘In the presence of Anu and Dagan,
They announced the course of their rites in the assembly
I gave birth to all the Igigi,
I created every single one of the Anunnaki!

And I created the gods’ assembly. I Mami,
Assigned the Enlil-power to my brother.

Anzu has disrupted the kingship that I designated!
He has obtained for himself the Tablet of Destinies […]
He has robbed Enlil; he rejected your father,
Stole the rites and turned them to his use

(Catchline)

TABLET II

Make a path, fix the hour,
Let light dawn for the gods whom I created.
Muster your devastating battle force,
Make your evil winds flash as they march over him.

Capture soaring Anzu
And inundate the earth, which I created – wreck his dwelling.
Let terror thunder above him,
Let fear of your battle force shake in him.

Make the devastating whirlwind rise up against him
Set your arrow in the bow , coat it with poison,
Your form must keep changing, like a gallu-demon,
Send out a fog, so that he cannot recognize your features!

May your rays proceed above him,
Make a high, attacking leap; have glare
More powerful than Shamash generates,
May broad daylight turn to darkness for him
Seize him by the throat: conquer Anzu,
And let the winds bring his feathers as good news
To Ekur, to your father Enlil’s house,
Rush and inundate the mountain pastures
And slit the throat of wicked Anzu.

Then shall kingship enter Ekur again,
Then shall rites return for the father who begot you!
Then surely shall shrines be created!
Establish your cult centers all over the four quarters!
Your cult centers shall enter Ekur!

Show prowess to the gods, and your name shall be Powerful!’
The warrior listened to his mother’s words,
He hunched in trepidation and went into hiding,
The Lord marshaled the Seven of Battle
The warrior marshaled the seven evil winds,
Who dance in the dust, the seven whirlwinds,
He mustered a battle array, made war with a terrifying formation,
Even the gales were silent at his side, poised for conflict.

On the mountainside, Anzu and Ninurta met.
Anzu looked at him and shook with rage at him,
Bared his teeth like a lion in sudden rage,
In utter fury shouted to the warrior:
‘I have taken away every single rite,
And I am in charge of al the gods’ orders!
Who are you, to come to do battle against me? Give your reasons!’

Insolently his speech rushed out at him,
The warrior Ninurta answered Anzu:
‘I am the avenger of Duranki’s god,
Who established Duranki, the … of the broad Earth of … Ea king of destinies’.
Anzu listened to his speech, then hurled his about furiously amid the mountains,
Darkness fell over the mountain, their faces were overcast,
Shamash, the light of the gods, was overcast by darkness,
Adad roared like a lion, his din joined that of Anzu,
A clash between battle arrays war imminent, the flood-weapon massed,
The armour-plated breast was bathed in blood,
Clouds of death rained down, an arrow flashed lightning,
Whizzed, the battle force roared between them
The powerful, superb one, Mami’s son, trusted of Anu and Dagan,
Beloved of the far-sighted one,
Aimed the shaft at him from the bow’s curve
But it did not go near Anzu: the shaft turned back.

Anzu shouted at it,
“You, shaft that came, return to your reed thicket!
Bow frame, back to your copse!
Bow string, back to the ram’s gut! Feathers, return to the birds!”
He was holding the gods’ Tablet of Destinies in his hand,
And they influenced the string of the bow, the arrows did not come near his body.
Deadly silence came over the battle and conflict ceased.

Weapons stopped and did not capture Anzu amid the mountains
He (Ninurta) shouted out and instructed Sharur:
‘Repeat to the far-sighted Ea the actions you have seen!
The Lord’s message is: Ninurta was encircling Anzu
And Ninurta was wrapped in devastation’s dust,
But when he set the shaft to the bow, drew it taut
And aimed the shaft at him from the bows curve,
It did not go near Anzu: the shaft turned back

As Anzu shouted at it:
“You, shaft that came, return to your reed thicket!
Bow frame, back to your copse!
Bow string, back to the ram’s gut! Feathers, return to the birds!”
He was holding the gods’ Tablet of Destinies in his hand,
And they influenced the string of the bow, the arrows did not come near his body.
Deadly silence came over the battle and conflict ceased.
Weapons stopped and did not capture Anzu amid the mountains.’

Sharur bowed, took the message,
Carried the battle dispatch to far-sighted Ea.
‘The Lord’s message is: Ninurta was encircling Anzu
And Ninurta was wrapped in devastation’s dust,
But when he set the shaft to the bow, drew it taut
And aimed the shaft at him from the bows curve,
It did not go near Anzu: the shaft turned back

As Anzu shouted at it:
“You, shaft that came, return to your reed thicket!
Bow frame, back to your copse!
Bow string, back to the ram’s gut! Feathers, return to the birds!”
He was holding the gods’ Tablet of Destinies in his hand,
And they influenced the string of the bow, the arrows did not come near his body
Deadly silence came over the battle and conflict ceased.

Weapons stopped and did not capture Anzu amid the mountains.’
The far-sighted one listened to his son’s words,
Called out and instructed Sharur:
‘Repeat to your lord what I say, and everything I tell you , repeat to him:
“Don’t let the battle slacken, press home your victory!

Tire him out so that he sheds his pinions in the clash of tempests!
Take a throw-stick to follow your arrows
And cut off his pinions, detach both right and left.

When he sees his wings and emits (?) his utterance,
Shouts “Wing to wing”, don’t panic:
Draw taut from the curve of your bow
Seize him by the throat, conquer Anzu,
And let the winds bring his feathers as good news
To Ekur, to your father Enlil’s house.

Rush and inundate the mountain pastures
And slit the throat of wicked Anzu.
Then shall kingship enter Ekur again,
Then shall rites return for the father who begot you!
Then surely shall shrines be created!
Establish your cult centers all over the four quarters!
Your cult centers shall enter Ekur!
Show prowess to the gods, and your name shall be Powerful!’

Sharus bowed, took the message,
Carried the battle dispatch to his lord,
Everything Ea told him, he repeated to him.

‘Don’t let the battle slacken, press home your victory!
Tire him out so that he sheds his pinions in the clash of tempests!
Take a throw-stick to follow your arrows
And cut off his pinions, detach both right and left.
When he sees his wings and emits his utterance,
Shouts ‘Wing to wing’, don’t panic;
Draw taut from the curve of your bow, let shafts fly like lightning,
Let the wing feathers dance like butterflies.

Seize him by the throat, conquer Anzu
And let the winds bring his feathers as good news
To Kur, to your father’s Enlil house.

Rush and inundate the mountain pastures
And slit the throat of wicked Anzu.
Then shall kingship enter Ekur again,
Then shall rites return for the father who begot you!
Then surely shall shrines be created!

Establish your cult centers all over the four quarters!
Your cult centers shall enter Ekur!
Show prowess to the gods, and your name shall be Powerful!’

The Lord listened to the words of far-sighted Ea.
He hunched in trepidation, and went into hiding.

The Lord marshaled the Seven of Battle,
The warrior marshaled the seven evil winds,
Who dance in the dust, the seven whirlwinds,
He mustered a battle array, made war with a terrifying formation,
Even the gales were silent at his side, poised for conflict.

TABLET III

( 3 Lines fragmentary)

Devastation…
A heatwave blazed, confusion (?) […]
A tempest […] to the four winds,
Weapons slew (?) the protection of frost,
Both were bathed in the sweat of battle.

Anzu grew weary and in the clash of tempests shed his pinions.
He (Ninurta) took a throw-stick to follow his arrows,
And cut off his pinions, detached both right and left.
He (Anzu) saw his wings and emitted his utterance.

But as he shouted ‘Wing to wing’ a shaft came up at him
A dart passed through his very heart.

He (Ninurta) made an arrow pass through pinion and wing,
A dart passed through heart and lungs,
He slew the mountains, inundated their proud pastures,
Inundated the broad earth in his fury,
Inundated the midst of the mountains, slew wicked Anzu,
And warrior Ninurta regained the Tablets of Destinies for his own hand.

As a sign of good news,
The wind brought Anzu’s feathers
Dagan saw his sign and rejoiced
Called all the gods and joyfully he spoke:
‘The strong one has indeed slain Anzu on his mountain
He regained for his own hand the … of Anu e Dagan.

Come! Let him come to us,
Let him rejoice, play, make merry.
… the gods, his brothers and hear their secrets.
… the secrets of the gods.
Let Enlil the … of the gods his brothers bestow on him the rites’.
Enlil made his voice heard, and spoke to Dagan,
‘[…] water…
When […] he took.

When he slew wicked Anzu in the midst of the mountains,
Warrior Ninurta regained the gods’ Tablet of Destinies for his own hand.
Send for him and let him come to you.

Let him place the Tablet of Destinies in your lap!’
Enlil made his voice heard and spoke,
Addressed his words to Nusku, his vizier,
‘Nusku, go outside, bring Birdu into my presence’.
Nusku went outside, brought Birdu into Enlil’s presence.
Enlil made his voice heard and spoke,
Addressed his words to Birdu,
‘Birdu, I shall send you, I shall …’

(gap of a few lines)

Ninurta made his voice heard and spoke.
Addressed his words to Birdu,
‘Birdu, why have you come here so aggressively?’
Birdu made his voice heard and spoke.

Addressed his words to Ninurta, his lord,
‘My lord, Enlil, your father, sent me to you … to say
The gods have heard
That you slew wicked Anzu amid the mountains.
They rejoiced, were glad and […]
Made me to come to your presence and […]
Go to him that he may […]

(11 lines fragmentary, about 34 lines missing, then 3 lines fragmentary)

Let him (Enlil) in his powerfulness faze upon wicked Anzu in Ekur,
Warrior, in your powerfulness, when you slew the mountain,
You captured Anzu, slew him in powerfulness,
Slew soaring Anzu in his powerfulness.

Because you were so brave and slew the mountain,
You made all foes kneel at the feet of Enlil your father,
Ninurta, because you were so brave and slew the mountain,
You have made all foes kneel at the feet of Enlil your father,
You have won complete dominion, every single rite,
Who was ever created like you? The mountain’s rites are proclaimed,
The shrines of the gods of fates granted to you.

They call upon Nissaba for your purification ceremony;
They call your name in the furrow Ningirsu.
They designate for you the entire shepherding of peoples,
Give your great (?) name as Duku for kingship.

In Elam they give your name as Hurabtil,
They speak of you as Shushinak in Susa.

Your name is Anu’s … they give you as Lord of the Secret
[…] among the gods your brothers
[…] your father.
[…] who marches in front.

They give [your name as Pabilsag] in Egalmah,
Call your name … in Ur,
Give your name as Nin-Azu in Ekurmah,
[…] Duranki was your birthplace.

[In ] they speak of you as Ishtaran,
[In ] Zababa.
[…] they call his name.

Your bravery much greater than all the other gods,
[…] your divinity is surpassing;
Wholehearted (?) I praise you!
They give your name in … as Lugalbanda.
In E-igi-kalama (?) they give you as Warrior Tishpak,
They call you (?) … or … in E-nimma-anku.

[…] son of Belet-ili, your mother,
[…] lord of the Boundary-Arrow,
[…] Panigara,
[In E-akkil (?)] they call…
[ Your name ] Papsukkal, who marches in front.

[…] surpassing are your names among the gods by far!
[…] you are thoughtful, capable, awesome,
Your counselor (?) the far-sighted one, your father Anu,
[…] battle and combat,
He granted you […]
Called you […] of their […]

(7 lines fragmentary, about 5 lines missing, 2 lines fragmentary. After a ruled line, 5 fragmentary lines and a few missing lines appear to give a concluding passage.)

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