Humbaba


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Humbaba

one-eyed, fire- and plague-breathing monster whose eye could strike men dead. [Babyl. Myth.: Gilgamesh; Benét, 485]
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The site of the world's first urban culture dates back 5,000 years, and among the artefacts is this mash of the demon Humbaba, dated 1800-1600 BC.
The early identification of Gilgameg with the nude hero and Enkidu with the bull-man is discussed, as is the three-figure schema generally used to depict the heroic combats with Humbaba and with the Bull of Heaven.
Gilgamesh, who was the ruler of the city-state of Uruk, sought to gain eternal fame by killing the monster Humbaba.
As one of the characters in my play says about Gilgamesh's killing of Humbaba and the smashing of Ur-shanabi's Stone Crew, "He gets away with it because his mother's / a goddess: anyone else would be done for criminal damage / and murder.
But the primary enemies are superhuman: Humbaba, who guards the Forest of Cedar; and the city's special deity, Ishtar--an enemy, at least, when her overtures of sex and love are spurned.
When the two heroes finally meet, it is in the testosterone-charged context of a wrestling match in which Gilgamesh defeats Enkidu and establishes his dominance, after which the latter, who might be expected to skulk off and vow revenge, salutes smartly and agrees to accompany Gilgamesh on his journey to find and kill the monster Humbaba.
No plot summary can do the poem justice, but in essence Gilgamesh befriends a rival, Enkidu, and the two companions embark on a quest to slay the forest monster Humbaba.
The historian of travel Eric Leed has identified Gilgamesh's desire for fame, which is stimulated by the presentiment of death, as the specific motivation for Gilgamesh's fateful first departure from Uruk together with Enkidu to kill the monster Humbaba, guardian of the forest:
This identification with the wild landscape prefigures the monster Humbaba, who guards the goddess's sacred cedar forest and its inhabitants.
In his own excellent new study The Buried Book: The Loss and Rediscovery of the Great Epic of Gilgamesh (Henry Holt, 2007), David Damrosch follows many others in calling Gilgamesh "the first great masterpiece of world literature," and its protagonist, literature's "first great hero": a two-thirds divine, indefatigable, oversexed, tyrannical ruler who, horrified by the death of his bosom friend and fellow-adventurer Enkidu (with whom he slew the monster Humbaba and, later, the bull of heaven), journeys to the edge of the world in a quest of immortality that the gods have already doomed.
Originating in the world of nature himself, he has a more intimate knowledge of the monster and mentions that slaying Humbaba means transgressing the order of the gods, who had appointed him as guardian of the Cedar Forest.
In his search for fame, Gilgames kills the innocent Humbaba, whose role had been to protect the Forest of Cedar, and Marduk kills Tiamat, who was legitimately avenging the murder of Apsu.