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Last Updated: Thursday, October 11, 2001

Introduction to Tablet XII

 

Scholars disagree about the relation of Tablet XII to the other eleven tablets. The general consensus is that it was an appendage added to the other Gilgamesh stories at a later date.

 This tablet presents a stark contrast to the earlier eleven in style and content. The appearance of a "resurrected" Enkidu is especially startling. In light of these inconsistencies with Tablets I-XI, why include Tablet XII?

 Tablet XII provides further insight into some of the major themes and questions explored in the first eleven tablets. Is there an afterlife? What is the nature of it? What earthly behaviors are rewarded there? By the conclusion of Tablet XI, Gilgamesh was forced to accept the limits of mortal existence

and be satisfied with its attainable rewards. Questions about the "state of being" in death had fiercely possessed him, however, and the answers remained a mystery.

 The defining and "coming to terms" with human mortality has been the province of every system of religious beliefs throughout history. Here is our first recorded vision of an afterlife. it is for these reasons that Tablet XII is included here.

 Tablet XII



Column I

"Who has Eanna's drumstrick and her drum that I let fall into the world below?
Will the gods help me?
Who shall descend to the world below and retrieve the Eanna's gift I let fall?
Enkidu offered to go to the world below and retrieve Eanna's gifts.
So Gilgamesh said this to Enkidu:

"If you decend then heed these words of mine.
Go down with filthy clothes lest the dead know you yet quick.
Neither should you wear fragrant perfume in your hair.
And another thing to avoid is carrying arrows and a bow.
For the fragrance shall attract as mosquitoes to warm flesh, or ghouls to death scene
Wearing shoes will cause you to announce with crashing step you prescence in their realm.
Do not praise nor beat you wife, and holy son for such sex and violence does attract Ereshgikal."

Column II

But proud Enkidu went he down
With finery on his skin, and fragrant oils in his hair and arrows with a bow to protect his soul.
Enkidu went down with crashing shoes. He beat and praised his wife and holy son.
Thus did the souls which long depart and their master Ereshkigal did walk straight to Enkidu.
And seized and bound him hand and foot.

Column III

Gilgamesh did grieve for lost Enkidu, so to Enlil did he go.
"Great Enlil, I did lose Eanna's gift of drumstick and her drum.
They fell in the world below.
When I asked for someone to retrieve
Enkidu did go down to the world below for me.
And Ereshkigal herself did seize Enkidu.
Queen of the world below herself did seize him.
Help me Enlil to free my friend and retrieve the gifts of Eanna now."

Enlil refused,
So to Sin did Gilgamesh go,
"Great Sin, I did lose Eanna's gift of drumstick and her drum.
They fell in the world below.
When I asked for someone to retrieve
Enkidu did go down to the world below for me.
And Ereshkigal herself did seize Enkidu.
Queen of the world below herself did seize him.
Help me Sin to free my friend and retrieve the gifts of Eanna now."

Sin refused.
So to Ea did Gilgamesh go.
"Great Ea, I did lose Eanna's gift of drumstick and her drum.
They fell in the world below.
When I asked for someone to retrieve
Enkidu did go down to the world below for me.
And Ereshkigal herself did seize Enkidu.
Queen of the world below herself did seize him.
Help me Ea to free my friend and retrieve the gifts of Eanna now."

Ea from his abyss deep heard Gilgamesh and took pity then said:
"Nergel, hear me now, open a most wide hole in your roof
From whence can Enkidu waft like smoke up from your hot fires below."
Nergel heard Ea's great voice and did cut a hole in his roof
To let Enkidu's spirit waft up from his hot fires below.
Enkidu's spirit did waft up
Till Gilgamesh his friend did see that wraith.
The king did try to hug and kis is one time companion.
So in frustration did Gilgamesh ask
"How goes it with you in the world below?"
Enkidu said: "You don't want to know."
Gilgamesh said: "Tell me anyway, for I do want to know."
Enkidu spoke: "Rats eat my flesh that you once touched in joy."
With these worlds did Gilgamesh cry.

Column IV

When Gilgamesh had recovered himself again he spoke:
"In the world below have you seen the man with no son?"
Enkidu spoke: "Yes I have seen the man with no son."
Gilgamesh asked once more: "How goes it with the man with no son in the world below?"
Enkidu replied: "The man with no son sits by the wall in the world below and weeps."

Gilgamesh asked yet again: "Have you seen in the world below a man with two sons?"
Enkidu spoke: "Yes I have seen the man with two sons in the world below."
Gilgamesh could not refrain: "How goes it in the world below with the man with two sons?"
Enkidu replied: "The man with two sons in the world below sits on a stone and eats some bread."

Gilgamesh asked yet again: "Have you seen in the world below a man with three sons?"
Enkidu spoke: "Yes I have seen the man with two sons in the world below."
Gilgamesh could not refrain: "How goes it in the world below with the man with three sons?"
Enkidu replied: "The man with three sons in the world below has one son to bring him water to quench his thirst.

Gilgamesh asked yet again: "Have you seen in the world below a man with four sons?"
Enkidu spoke: "Yes I have seen the man with four sons in the world below."
Gilgamesh could not refrain: "How goes it in the world below with the man with four sons?"
Enkidu replied: "The man with four sons in the world below acts like a farmer with four ox to pull his plow."

Gilgamesh asked yet again: "Have you seen in the world below a man with five sons?"
Enkidu spoke: "Yes I have seen the man with five sons in the world below."
Gilgamesh could not refrain: "How goes it in the world below with the man with five sons?"
Enkidu replied: "The man with five sons in the world below is treated like a scribe to a king."

Gilgamesh asked yet again: "Have you seen in the world below a man with six sons?"
Enkidu spoke: "Yes I have seen the man with six sons in the world below."
Gilgamesh could not refrain: "How goes it in the world below with the man with six sons?"
Enkidu replied: "The man with six sons in the world below acts like a farmer with a very fertile field."

Gilgamesh asked yet again: "Have you seen in the world below a man with seven sons?"
Enkidu spoke: "Yes I have seen the man with seven sons in the world below."
Gilgamesh could not refrain: "How goes it in the world below with the man with seven sons?"
Enkidu replied: "The man with seven sons in the world below acts like a king sitting on his throne listening to music."

Gilgamesh asked yet again: "Have you seen in the world below a sailor drowned?"
Enkidu spoke: "Yes I have seen the sailor drowned in the world below"
Gilgamesh could not refrain: "How goes it in the world below with the sailor drowned?"
Enkidu replied: "The sailor drowned in the world below is brought pure water all his days to drink."

Gilgamesh asked yet again: "Have you seen in the world below a warrior killed in battle glory?"
Enkidu spoke: "Yes I have seen the warrior killed in battle glory in the world below."
Gilgamesh could not refrain: "How goes it in the world below with the warrior killed in battle glory?"
Enkidu replied: "The warrior killed in battle in the world below has his head lifted up by his parents and his wife grieves at the couch of death."

Gilgamesh asked yet again: "Have you seen in the world below a man who died with no one to mourn him?"
Enkidu spoke: "Yes I have seen the man who died with no one to mourn him."
Gilgamesh could not refrain: "How goes it in the world below with the man who has no one to mourn him?"
Enkidu replied: "The man who died with no one to mourn him wanders about with no home, and he must eat what no starving dog would touch."

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