Source: Black, J.A., Cunningham, G., Robson, E., and Zólyomi, G., The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature, Oxford 1998-.


Sumerian text from the myth about the theft of the Tablet of Destinies by the Anzu bird. Here, Enki, the god of Sweet Waters, Magic and Wisdom, pokes fun at Ninurta, who is taught a lesson in humility by Enki enlisting the help of a turtle.

The storyline is as follows: after Anzu had stolen the Tablet of Destinies and flown off with it, Ninurta attacked the bird and made him drop the Tablet into the apsu, the sweet underground waters, Enki´s domain. Enki was delighted and praised Ninurta as the great conqueror of the Anzu, saying that his name would be honoured forever. But Ninurta was not satisfied with this blessing. He wanted the Tablet for himself, and so started plotting against Enki. Enki immediately guessed what was in Ninurta´s heart. As a warning, he stirred up the waves of the apsu and sent his minister Isimud to see Ninurta. Ninurta´s arrogance was so great that he dared to raise his hand against Isimud.

Exasperated, Enki he moulded some clay from the apsu to form a turtle. Giving it life, he set it to work, scraping out a deep pit with its strong claws. When Ninurta continued to threaten him, Enki retreated gradually towards the trap. Suddenly, the turtle came out from behind him and seized Ninurta, while Enki gave him a shove into the pit.

Ninurta was unable to climb out of the pit. Enki stood on the edge of the pit, and looked down at Ninurta far below, where he was still clawed by the turtle. "You were planning to kill me", he mocked loudly,"you with your big ideas! You have tamed mountains and now you can´t even climb out of a pit dug by a turtle! What kind of hero are you?"

But who was passing by was Ninhursag, Enki´s feisty beloved. She came running and saw her spouse tormenting the young god...THEIR son??? The Great Goddess immediately stopped to reprimand Enki and reminded him of the time when She saved his life in Dilmun, when Enki was greedy and ate the forbidden plants which made him mortally ill. Again, as countless times in the past, Ninhursag had the last word with Enki, and these are the words of the Great Goddess, which cannot be disobeyed: "I saved you, now save your son!"



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B1-4' At his command your weapon struck me evilly. As I let the me go out of my hand, these me returned to the abzu. As I let the divine plan go out of my hand, this divine plan returned to the abzu. This tablet of destinies returned to the abzu. I was stripped of the me.'

B5-8 Ninurta was stunned at these words of the Anzu chick. Ninmena gave out a wail: 'And what about me? These me have not fallen into my hand. I shall not exercise their lordship. I shall not live (?) like him in the shrine, in the abzu.'

B9 Father Enki in the abzu knew what had been said.

B10-14 The chick Anzu took the hero Ninurta by his hand and drew near with him to Enki's place, the abzu. The chick Anzu returned Uta-ulu to the abzu. The lord was delighted with the hero, father Enki was delighted with the hero Ninurta.

B15-24 The lord Nudimmud honoured him duly: 'Hero, no god among your brother gods could have acted so. As for the bird which your mighty weapon captured, from now to eternity you will keep your foot placed on its neck. May the great gods give your heroic strength its due. May your father Enlil do whatever you command. May Ninmena not fashion your equal (?). May no one be as awesome as you and no god extend an upraised hand before you. Monthly may your house (?) regularly receive tributes in the shrine, in the abzu. May An (?) proclaim your name in the seat of honour.'

B25-30 The hero secretly was not happy with these promises. Where he stood, he darkened and yellowed like (?) a flood-storm (?). He contemplated great deeds and inwardly he was rebellious. He uttered a word which has no ....... The hero Ninurta set his sights on the whole world. He told no one and inwardly did not .......

B31-32 The great lord Enki intuitively grasped the substance of the plan. In the shrine, in the abzu he stirred up a dark flood-storm.

B33-35 By the house the minister Isimud opposed Ninurta. The hero Ninurta refused to come out and raised his hand against the minister Isimud.

B36-46 Against Ninurta, Enki fashioned a turtle from the clay of the abzu. Against him he stationed the turtle at an opening, at the gate of the abzu. Enki talked to him near the place of the ambush and brought him to the place where the turtle was. The turtle was able to grab Ninurta's tendon from behind. The hero Ninurta managed to turn back its feet. Enki, as if perplexed, said, 'What is this!' He had the turtle scrape the ground with its claws, had it dig an evil pit. The hero Ninurta fell into it with the turtle. The hero did not know how to get out from ....... The turtle kept on gnawing his feet with its claws (?).

B47-54 The great lord Enki said to him: 'From ......, you who set your mind to kill me, ...... who makes big claims - I cut down, I raise up. You who set your sights on me like this - what has your position seized for you, how ......? Where has your strength fled? Where is your heroism? In the great mountains you caused destruction, but how will you get out now?'

B55-60 Ninmena learned of this situation. She ripped the clothes on her body and she ....... 'You my plant-eater Enki, who shall I send to you? Men will shake their heads in fear ....... Who shall I send to you? That name is not Enki. That name is Ugugu-that-does-not-pour (?). You who are death which has no mercy, who shall I send to you?'

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