The Huluppu-Tree

Translation of a Gilgamesh Prologue

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).

The translation is from Kramer38:1f

    After heaven and earth had been separated
         and mankind had been created,
    after Anûum, Enlil and Ereskigal had taken posesssion
             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


[1] 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)

Discussion: Does this passage refer to Lilith?


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© Copyright 1995-2011 Alan Humm.
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