The abortifacient stone Kronos is tricked into swallowing likewise finds no counterpart in the gentle (albeit mysterious) maieusis to which Enki is subjected by Ninhursag. This may well be a function of the absence from the Hesiodic tale of any notion that Kronos' pregnancy is painful--a central issue in EN, with respect both to Enki himself and also to the last victim of his sexual hunger, his great-great-granddaughter Uttu (EN 186) (42)--and so too the absence of any claim that the delivery of the first generation of Olympian gods is somehow therapeutic, either for Kronos or the world at large.
(43) That in both the detour also involves a switch in the gender of the enclosing body--female (Metis) to male (Zeus) in Greek, male (Enki) to female (Ninhursag) in Sumerian--additionally makes for intriguing symmetry, and at the same time possibly also hints at inverse aims in the respective stories.
The conflict of gender in the Greek myth likewise seems relatively muted here, (46) since the birth of the eight gods instead takes the form of an apparently cooperative effort between the trickster and Ninhursag. For that matter, and most significantly, those births unfold in the course of a narrative whose motive is apparently not to establish lines of power and justify domination but rather to depict cosmic order as the result of therapeutic activity.
As already noted, the strong analogy with the Hesiodic myth of Zeus and Metis, in which credit for Athene's birth is transferred by sleight of hand from goddess to god as an index of triumphant male parthenogenesis, might suggest mutatis mutandis a similar (though inverse) aim in EN, namely affirmation of Ninhursag's female reproductive power.
Ninhursag and the embedded Enki sounds like mere sound-play, it is nonetheless an authentically theogonic play that in turn supports the cosmological order of the emergent Dilmun.
asks Ninhursag each time, and somehow by means of the names he speaks in reply, each part of his suffering body is separated off, as it were, and undergoes translation into a deity whose function it is to alleviate that localized pain.
(56) Uttered by Ninhursag and Enki in the very dawn of Dilmun, each name fuses the innate character and the "destiny" of the thing that is named, then fuses name and thing in such a way that to speak the one is also to invoke the other.
Its status as an embodied world is reflected in the image of the series of incorporations in which the myth culminates: eight divinized plants within Enki, Enki within Ninhursag, and Ninhursag herself within the nascent Dilmun--whose own emergent order in turn reflects the weird alchemy of the transformation from poison into medicine, mortal stuff into god.
Enki and Ninhursag: The Creation of the First Woman.
On the issue of the actual placement of Enki within Ninhursag's body, see Kirk 1970: 92, Alster 1978: 19 and 1994: 223, Evers 1995: 37, and the commentary by Attinger 1984: 45.