Inanna and the Huluppu Tree

In the first days, in the very first days, In the first nights, in the very first nights, In the first years, in the very first years,

In the first days when everything needed was brought into being, In the first days when everything needed was properly nourished, When bread was baked in the shrines of the land, And bread was tasted in the homes of the land, When heaven had moved away from earth, And earth had separated from heaven, And the name of man was fixed; When the Sky God, An, had carried off the heavens, And the Air God, Enlil, had carried off the earth, When the Queen of the Great Below, Ereshkigal, was given the underworld for her domain

At that time, it was planted, a tree, a single tree, by the banks of the Great River, Enki, the Father, did plant the Huluppu-tree, The God of Wisdom, he planted it by the banks of the Euphrates, Before he set sail, before the Father departed for the underworld.

The tree was nurtured by the waters of the Euphrates the very waters that carried Enki to the sea Small windstones were tossed against him; Large hailstones were hurled up against him; Like onrushing turtles, They charged the keel of Enki’s boat. The whirling South Wind arose and blew upon the tree, Pulling at its roots and ripping at its branches, Until the waters of the Euphrates carried it away.

A young woman who walked in fear of no man, and would not be owned, Plucked the tree from the river and spoke: “I shall bring this tree to Uruk. I shall plant this tree in my holy garden.”

Inanna cared for the tree with her hand. She settled the earth around the tree with her foot. She wondered: “How long will it be until I have a shining throne to sit upon? How long will it be until I have a luscious bed to lie upon?”

The years passed; five years, then ten years. The tree grew thick, But its bark did not split.

Then a serpent who could not be charmed Made its nest in the roots of the Huluppu-tree. The Anzu-bird set his young in the branches of the tree. And the dark maid Lilith built her home in the trunk.

The young woman who loved to laugh wept. How Inanna wept! Yet they would not leave her tree.

As the birds began to sing at the coming of the dawn, The Sun God, Utu, left his royal bedchamber. Inanna called to her brother Utu, saying:

“O Utu, in the days when the fates were decreed, When abundance overflowed in the land, When the domains of the Great Gods were divided, And Enki did quest for the Underworld, Then did I pluck the Huluppu-tree from the Euphrates, Then did I plant it in my Holy Garden, and tend it, Waiting for my shining throne and luscious bed.

Then a serpent nested in the roots and could not be charmed, The Anzu-bird set his young in the branches And the dark maid, Lilith, built her home in the trunk.

I wept. How I wept! Yet they would not leave my tree.”

Utu, the valiant warrior, Utu, Would not help his sister, Inanna.

As the birds began to sing at the coming of the second dawn, Inanna called to her brother, Gilgamesh, saying:

“O Gilgamesh, in the days when the fates were decreed, When abundance overflowed in the land, When the domains of the Great Gods were divided, Then did I pluck the Huluppu-tree from the Euphrates, Then did I plant it in my Holy Garden, and tend it, Waiting for my shining throne and luscious bed.

Then a serpent nested in the roots and could not be charmed, The Anzu-bird set his young in the branches And the dark maid, Lilith, built her home in the trunk.

I wept. How I wept! Yet they would not leave my tree.”

Gilgamesh the valiant warrior, Gilgamesh, The hero of Uruk, stood by Inanna.

Gilgamesh fastened his armor of fifty minas around his chest. The fifty minas weighed as little to him as fifty feathers. He lifted his bronze ax, the ax of the road, Weighing seven talents and seven minas, to his shoulder. He entered Inanna’s holy garden.

Gilgamesh struck the serpent who could not be charmed.

The Anzu-bird flew with his young to the mountains;

And Lilith smashed her home and fled to the wild, uninhabited places.

Gilgamesh then loosened the roots of the huluppu-tree;

And the sons of the city, who accompanied him, cut off the branches.

From the trunk of the tree he carved a throne for his holy sister. From the trunk of the tree Gilgamesh carved a bed for Inanna. From the roots of the tree she fashioned a pukku for her brother. From the crown of the tree Inanna fashioned a mikku for Gilgamesh, the hero of Uruk.

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