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In Akkadian mythology Humbaba (Assyrian spelling) or Huwawa (Babylonian) was a monstrous giant of immemorial age raised by Utu, the Sun.[1] Humbaba was also the guardian of the Cedar Forest where the gods lived.

Clay tablet 2000 BC - British Museum

Description

He is a giant human and is sometimes shown with lion's claws, long hair, and a monstrous, hairy face. "When he looks at someone, it is the look of death."[2]In various sources, his face is like that of the coiled entrails of men and beasts.[3] This has led to the name "Guardian of the Fortress of Intestines."

He is the brother of Pazuzu and Enki and son of Hanbi.

Story

In the Epic of Gilgamesh, after they become friends following a fight, Gilgamesh and Enkidu set out on an adventure to the Cedar Forest beyond the seventh mountain range, to slay Humbaba: "Enkidu," Gilgamesh vows, "since a man cannot pass beyond the final end of life, I want to set off into the mountains, to establish my renown there."[4]

Gilgamesh tricks the monster into giving away his seven "radiances" by offering his sisters as wife and concubine. When Humbaba's guard is down, Gilgamesh punches him and captures the monster. Defeated, Humbaba appeals to a receptive Gilgamesh for mercy but Enkidu convinces Gilgamesh to slay Humbaba.

In a last effort, Humbaba tries to escape but is decapitated by Enkidu, or in some versions by both heroes together; his head is put in a leather sack, which is brought to Enlil, the god who set Humbaba as the forest's guardian.

Enlil becomes enraged upon learning this and redistributes Humbaba's seven splendors (or in some tablets "auras"). "He gave Huwawa's first aura to the fields. He gave his second aura to the rivers. He gave his third aura to the reed-beds. He gave his fourth aura to the lions. He gave his fifth aura to the palace (one text has debt slaves). He gave his sixth aura to the forests (one text has the hills). He gave his seventh aura to Nungal"[5].

It is interesting to note that no vengeance was laid upon the heroes, though Enlil says "He should have eaten the bread that you eat, and should have drunk the water that you drink! He should have been honoured".

While Gilgamesh distracts and tricks the spirit of the cedar forest, the fifty unmarried young men he has brought on the adventure are felling cedar timber, stripping it of its branches and laying it "in many piles on the hillside", ready to be taken away.

As his death approaches, and Gilgamesh is oppressed with his own mortality, the gods remind him of his great feats: "...having fetched cedar, the unique tree, from its mountains, having killed Humbaba in the forest..."[6]


Notes

1. ^ "Utu, I never knew a mother who bore me, nor a father who brought me up! I was born in the mountains— you brought me up!" (Gilgamesh and Huwawa, version A), or "The mother who bore me was a cave in the mountains. The father who engendered me was a cave in the hills. Utu left me to live all alone in the mountains!"" (Gilgamesh and Huwawa, version B)

2. ^ Gilgamesh and Huwawa, version A

3. ^ Stephanie Dalley., Myths From Mesopotamia, (Oxford University Press) 1989.

4. ^ Gilgamesh and Huwawa, version A

5. ^ Nungal, the goddess of prisoners.

6. ^ The death of Gilgamesh" Segment F from Me-Turan