The New Enkidu

9 Nov

“We must make an attempt, or else the Gutians will destroy our city,” warned Agad, the head priest of the temple of Uruk.

He was addressing the council of priests serving the gods of Sumeria in Uruk. All the inhabitants of their land were facing invaders from the Zagros Mountains to the east. The elderly priest with shining white hair went on:

“As we all know, in a prior age our cities were saved from destruction by the gods, led by their king, Elil. They worked together in concert and created the hero Enkidu out of mud from the river. The mighty clay man came down to aid King Gilmashesh of Kish to unite all our cities into one single force. No one was able to stand against our armies.

“Today, we face an even greater peril. There looms the danger of annihilation by eastern barbarians. Our need is for a similar champion for the present day. Therefore, I propose that we unite and ask all the gods to join together and save us again through the rebirth of the hero Enkidu. He alone can rescue us from our common foe.

“There is a way to accomplish the bulk of the task by ourselves, on our own. Our arcane knowledge has advanced and reached a point where it has become possible for us to complete most of the work ourselves. Mankind is not as helpless as long ago. I myself am willing to lead a project to bring about the rebirth of Enkidu, a new and greater one. But we must begin the effort at once. Otherwise, we and all of our people are doomed.”

A priest of Sin, the moon god, stood up and raised an objection.

“We are no more than men. How can we do what once the gods alone did?”

Agad gave him a severe, cutting look.

“I have delved into the records left from the time of Gilmashesh and believe I know how the task can be accomplished. Very soon, our priests here in Uruk will be able to start making a second Enkidu. We must pray to all the gods to aid and support our effort. I ask all of you to join and take part in the work. Pray with me for the protection and cooperation of Elil and the other deities.”

A voice vote was called for and the plan of Agad was adopted by the priesthood.

That night saw the beginning of the shaping of the new Enkidu.

Agad reminded the clay workers of  how salvation was attained long ago in the past.

Enkidu appeared in this world as a godlike man, but his first actions were those of a wild beast. He roamed the Plain of Sumeria, eating grass and associating with the untamed animals. Gilmashesh, king of Kish, sent a harlot to try to tame him, but she proved unable to seduce him. Enkidu learned to imitate the human beings he observed so that the wild animals finally fled from him. This abandoned clay man came to enjoy, in time, the mind of a man.

Though fighting and wrestling with King Gilmashesh, the two eventually turned into warm friends. Under the guidance of that monarch, great wisdom was born in Enkidu. He came to be the second self, the closest comrade of Gilmashesh. They had bold adventures as companions, growing ever nearer. Their bonds became unbreakable.

Enkidu was finally killed in battle defending Sumeria. The weeping king kept the clay man unburied for seven days. He decided to set off for the Garden of the Gods to bring back Enkidu from the dead, but was unable to achieve that and failed.

Since that time, the memory of the clay man is one of the lost friend of the human race.

Agad always finished by raising up the dream of the rebirth of Enkidu through human effort and work.

The priest of Sin who had questioned the plan for a second Enkidu was named Nur. He became the center of opposition to Agad’s enterprise, going among the clergy in Uruk with negative arguments, sowing doubt and dissension.

“King Gilmashesh insulted the goddess Inannu. Therefore, her father Sin, god of the moon, decided to make Enkidu suffer and pay the price for it with his death. He must never be allowed rebirth in a new body made of clay. He should not be permitted to see life again.

“It was Enlil, king of the gods, who has allowed the Gurians to invade our land and conquer so many of our cities. This is a rising deluge that cannot be stopped by human efforts. The growing storm will fall upon all of Sumeria. No one, not even Enkidu, has the power to reverse what is inevitable. The gods themselves do not wish to see a resurrection of the man of clay. They alone can save the human race.”

This message of defeat gathered a following and much support in the temples of Uruk.

Agad arranged to have the hero formed and constructed in a cave near the city, in a secret location. Only he and three other priests were present for the removal of the clay man out of a large tub of wet mud.

The four waited expectantly to find out what they had created.

A tall, gigantic shape, yellowish-brown, emerged onto the floor of the cave. Everyone waited to see how it would act, what it would do.

Within only a few seconds, Agad could tell they had an animal, not a civilized man.

It lurched from side to side. The face looked wild. No voice sounded from the mouth. The new Enkidu staggered about, seeing but not understanding.

Agad at once spoke to his associates. “Like with the original hero, we have to teach this clay man how to be a person. That will take time, so we must keep him hidden here until he is ready to defend the city and the rest of Sumeria from the invaders.”

All the other priests were compelled by circumstances to agree. It would be a difficult task to tame and humanize the animal figure, but it had to be done. Survival depended upon success in that.

Taking Enkidu by the hand, Agad began to go with him on walks.

It was not going to be easy to make a champion in war out of such a pathetic creature as this.

The existence of the cave could not be kept secret for long. Reports of the situation there came to the enemies of the plan of rebirth.

Accompanied by a selected gang of priests, Nur broke into the unguarded cave location.

By the light of lanterns, the raiders found the clay body lying on a bed of stone. Agad himself was absent, away in the city on business. His associates did not know what to do.

“Do not put up any fight,” warned Nur with metal in his voice. “We are only going to take away the thing you have made here. No harm will come to you, but you have to allow us to carry the body out of this cavern and away..

There was no resistance as the clay form was hauled off.

Nur now had the job of deciding what to do with the second Enkidu.

Where have they taken him? considered Agad. What have they done to our savior? How will the clay man react to becoming a captured prisoner?

“We cannot afford to wait,” declared Agad to his supporters. “I have a solid suspicion of what the kidnappers did with him. The logical spot to search is the temple of Sin. We must go there at once and force our way into its inner precincts. Speed will be necessary if we are to rescue Enkidu from dismemberment and destruction.”

One priest asked a question. “Should we arm ourselves with weapons?”

“No,” answered Agad. “We have to avoid violence or bloodshed. The freeing of Enkidu must hold no danger to him at all. He has to be saved in one piece, whole and unharmed.”

The priests rushed out into the night, heading for the temple of the moon god. Ironically, a brilliant full moon glowed over the slumbering city of Uruk.

That night the population was awakened to a ghastly nightmare of wild, uncontrolled flames.

The moment that Agad and his priests burst into the sanctuary of Sin, a fierce battle began. Nun and his party went on the offensive before Agad could address them with a plea of any kind.

Priest attacked priest with bare hands. Wounds and injuries multiplied, growing deep and serious. Unable to halt the conflict, Agad joined in it. He struck the giant body of Nur with his own. Blow followed blow on all sides, becoming more determined and full of force.

All at once, the prone figure on a bed of stone woke up. It gazed in astonishment at the fighting clerics. As if driven by instinct, the clay man lowered himself onto the temple floor.

What happened next was never a clarified sequence of events.

Was the fire that broke out an accident or the result of the mad movements of Enkidu, excited by all that he could see around him?

The fire grew and spread while the priests continued their battle.

What happened to the man of clay? Some suspected he escaped, haunting Sumeria till it vanished in the ashes of history. There was no pile of clay or mud anywhere on the stone floor of the temple.

At long last, the two armies of priests had to run out to save themselves.

By the next day, everyone knew that Enkidu had vanished. Some suspected that he had started the fire. One opinion said it was accidental, another held he had made it intentionally.

Until the last days of the Sumerians, no one was certain of the fate of the man of clay.

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