Source: Black, J.A., Cunningham, G., Robson, E., and Zólyomi, G., The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature, Oxford 1998-.
Creation was seen by the Sumerians as an act of skilled craftmanship. In this myth, Enki, the patron of all arts and crafts, the god of the sweet fertilising waters of the deep, wisdom and magic, is challenged to a creature-making contest by Ninmah, another name for Ninhursag, the Great Mother goddess and Enki´s feisty beloved.
Everything starts in the old dyas, when the gods were forced to work hard excavating irrigation canals. The senior gods did the digging while the younger carried the baskets of earth, a heavy task indeed. Then, to relieve the gods of their workload, urged by the primeval Mother Nammu the Sea, Enki, the creator of forms, aided by Nammu and Ninmah created the first humans. The moment humankind was created, a bond between humans and the gods was sealed, to last forever after.
Thus, after the task of creating humans had been completed, Enki held a feast to celebrate the newfound leisure of the gods, who praised Enki for his accomplishment. As the feast progressed, Enki and Ninmah overindulged and drank too much. Ninmah said to Enki that She could make humans all by herself and give them a good or bad fate. Enki immediately replied, bitten, that whatever kind of human Ninmah created, he could turn to advantage the fate Ninmah bestowed upon him or her.
Ninmah set up to create the first humans by herself alone, and perhaps because of the limited assistance she had, the beings created were creatures with serious defects. Yet despite their handicaps, Enki was able to find a useful role for each of them. When Ninmah made a man unable to stretch out his hands and grasp things, Enki made him a servant of the king because he would not be able to steal. The second man, who turned out to be blind, Enki gave him the gift of making music so that he could serve the king. The third being created belongs to a broken text, so he could not be identified. The fourth creation was a man who could not hold his semen, and Enki was able to cure him by giving him a purifying bath. The fifth creature was a barren woman,, and she was put in a harem. The 6th being was a sexless creature, who was also put at service of the king.
Having outdone Ninmah, Enki had to challenge Her and he procured unfortunate beings to test her abilities. His first creature was a woman with difficulties in giving birth. Ninmah´s powers were not sufficient to reverse her fate. The second being was an old man who suffered from the heart, lungs and bowels, and was so afflicted that he could not speak up or understand the Great Goddess. Frustrated, Ninmah complained that he was neither alive nor dead, so she could do nothing to improve his condition. Thus, part of humanity from this day on may come to the world with defects, having to endure such suffering, and the only way to regeneration is to pray for the gods. The myth finishes with a praise for Enki.
1-11 In those days, in the days when heaven and earth were created; in those nights, in the nights when heaven and earth were created; in those years, in the years when the fates were determined; when the Anuna gods were born; when the goddesses were taken in marriage; when the goddesses were distributed in heaven and earth; when the goddesses ...... became pregnant and gave birth; when the gods were obliged (?) ...... their food ...... for their meals; the senior gods oversaw the work, while the minor gods were bearing the toil. The gods were digging the canals and piling up the silt in Harali. The gods, dredging the clay, began complaining about this life.
12-23 At that time, the one of great wisdom, the creator of all the senior gods, Enki lay on his bed, not waking up from his sleep, in the deep engur, in the flowing water, the place the inside of which no other god knows. The gods said, weeping: "He is the cause of the lamenting!" Namma, the primeval mother who gave birth to the senior gods, took the tears of the gods to the one who lay sleeping, to the one who did not wake up from his bed, to her son: "Are you really lying there asleep, and ...... not awake? The gods, your creatures, are smashing their ....... My son, wake up from your bed! Please apply the skill deriving from your wisdom and create a substitute (?) for the gods so that they can be freed from their toil!"
At the word of his mother Namma, Enki
rose up from his bed. In Hal-an-kug, his room for pondering, he slapped his
thigh in annoyance. The wise and intelligent one, the prudent, ...... of skills,
the fashioner of the design of everything brought to life birth-goddesses (?).
Enki reached out his arm over them and turned his attention
to them. And after Enki, the fashioner of designs by
himself, had pondered the matter, he said to his mother Namma:
"My mother, the creature you planned will really come into existence. Impose
on him the work of carrying baskets. You should knead clay from the top of the
abzu; the birth-goddesses (?) will nip off the clay and you shall bring
the form into existence. Let Ninmah act as your assistant;
and let Ninimma, Cu-zi-ana,
Ninmada, Ninbarag, Ninmug,
...... and Ninguna stand by as you give birth. My mother,
after you have decreed his fate, let Ninmah impose on
him the work of carrying baskets."
6 lines fragmentary
44-51 Enki ...... brought joy to their heart. He set a feast for his mother Namma and for Ninmah. All the princely birth-goddesses (?) ...... ate delicate reed (?) and bread. An, Enlil, and the lord Nudimmud roasted holy kids. All the senior gods praised him: "O lord of wide understanding, who is as wise as you? Enki, the great lord, who can equal your actions? Like a corporeal father, you are the one who has the me of deciding destinies, in fact you are the me."
52-55 Enki and Ninmah drank beer, their hearts became elated, and then Ninmah said to Enki: "Man's body can be either good or bad and whether I make a fate good or bad depends on my will."
56-61 Enki answered Ninmah: "I will counterbalance whatever fate -- good or bad -- you happen to decide." Ninmah took clay from the top of the abzu in her hand and she fashioned from it first a man who could not bend his outstretched weak hands. Enki looked at the man who could not bend his outstretched weak hands, and decreed his fate: he appointed him as a servant of the king.
62-65 Second, she fashioned one who turned back (?) the light, a man with constantly opened eyes (?). Enki looked at the one who turned back (?) the light, the man with constantly opened eyes (?), and decreed his fate allotting to it the musical arts, making him as the chief ...... in the king's presence.
66-68 Third, she fashioned one with both feet broken, one with paralysed feet. Enki looked at the one with both feet broken, the one with paralysed feet and ...... him for the work of ...... and the silversmith and ....... ( 1 ms. has instead: She fashioned one, a third one, born as an idiot. Enki looked at this one, the one born as an idiot, and decreed his fate: he appointed him as a servant of the king.)
69-71 Fourth, she fashioned one who could not hold back his urine. Enki looked at the one who could not hold back his urine and bathed him in enchanted water and drove out the namtar demon from his body.
72-74 Fifth, she fashioned a woman who could not give birth. Enki looked at the woman who could not give birth, and decreed her fate: he made (?) her belong to the queen's household. ( 1 ms. has instead: ...... as a weaver, fashioned her to belong to the queen's household.)
75-78 Sixth, she fashioned one with neither penis nor vagina on its body. Enki looked at the one with neither penis nor vagina on its body and give it the name "Nibru eunuch (?)", and decreed as its fate to stand before the king.
79-82 Ninmah threw the pinched-off clay from her hand on the ground and a great silence fell. The great lord Enki said to Ninmah: "I have decreed the fates of your creatures and given them their daily bread. Come, now I will fashion somebody for you, and you must decree the fate of the newborn one!"
83-91 Enki devised a shape with head, ...... and mouth in its middle, and said to Ninmah: "Pour ejaculated semen into a woman's womb, and the woman will give birth to the semen of her womb." Ninmah stood by for the newborn ....... and the woman brought forth ...... in the midst ....... In return (?), this was Umul: its head was afflicted, its place of ...... was afflicted, its eyes were afflicted, its neck was afflicted. It could hardly breathe, its ribs were shaky, its lungs were afflicted, its heart was afflicted, its bowels were afflicted. With its hand and its lolling head it could not not put bread into its mouth; its spine and head were dislocated. The weak hips and the shaky feet could not carry (?) it on the field -- Enki fashioned it in this way.
92-101 Enki said to Ninmah: "For your creatures I have decreed a fate, I have given them their daily bread. Now, you should decree a fate for my creature, give him his daily bread too." Ninmah looked at Umul and turned to him. She went nearer to Umul asked him questions but he could not speak. She offered him bread to eat but he could not reach out for it. He could not lie on ......., he could not ....... Standing up he could not sit down, could not lie down, he could not ...... a house, he could not eat bread. Ninmah answered Enki: "The man you have fashioned is neither alive nor dead. He cannot support himself (?)."
102-111 Enki answered Ninmah: "I decreed a fate for the first man with the weak hands, I gave him bread. I decreed a fate for the man who turned back (?) the light, I gave him bread. I decreed a fate for the man with broken, paralysed feet, I gave him bread. I decreed a fate for the man who could not hold back his urine, I gave him bread. I decreed a fate for the woman who could not give birth, I gave her bread. I decreed the fate for the one with neither penis nor vagina on its body, I gave it bread. My sister, ......." 2 lines fragmentary
Ninmah answered Enki:
9 lines fragmentary
122-128 (Ninmah's answer continues) "You (?) entered ....... Look, you do not dwell in heaven, you do not dwell on earth, you do not come out to look at the Land. Where you do not dwell but where my house is built, your words cannot be heard. Where you do not live but where my city is built, I myself am silenced (?). My city is ruined, my house is destroyed, my child has been taken captive. I am a fugitive who has had to leave the E-kur, even I myself could not escape from your hand."
129-139 Enki replied to Ninmah: "Who could change the words that left your mouth? Remove Umul from your lap ....... Ninmah, may your work be ......, you ...... for me what is imperfect; who can oppose (?) this? The man whom I shaped ...... after you ......, let him pray! Today let my penis be praised, may your wisdom be confirmed (?)! May the enkum and ninkum ...... proclaim your glory ....... My sister, the heroic strength ....... The song ...... the writing (?) ....... The gods who heard ...... let Umul build (?) my house ......."
140-141 Ninmah could not rival the great lord Enki. Father Enki, your praise is sweet!
Back To The Top
Back To Enki Texts
Back To Myths