Lugalbanda and the Anzud Bird

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Lugalbanda and the Anzu Bird is a Sumerian mythological account. The story is sometimes called The Return of Lugalbanda or Lugalbanda II being the second of two stories about the hero Lugalbanda. The first story is known as Lugalbanda in the Mountain Cave, or sometimes Lugalbanda in the Wilderness. They are part of a four-story cycle that describes the conflicts between Enmerkar, king of Unug (Uruk), and the king of Aratta. The texts are believed to be composed during the Ur III Period (21st century BCE), but almost all of the extant copies come from Isin-Larsa period (20th-18th centuries BCE). Nevertheless, a few fragmentary bilingual copies (Sumerian and Akkadian) from Nineveh suggest that the texts were still known during the first millennium.


Lugalbanda lies idle in the mountains, in the faraway places; he has ventured into the Zabu mountains. No mother is with him to offer advice, no father is with him to talk to him. No one is with him whom he knows, whom he values, no confidant is there to talk to him. In his heart he speaks to himself.
  • Lugalbanda lies idle in the mountains, in the faraway places; he has ventured into the Zabu mountains. No mother is with him to offer advice, no father is with him to talk to him. No one is with him whom he knows, whom he values, no confidant is there to talk to him. In his heart he speaks to himself: "I shall treat the bird as befits him, I shall treat Anzud as befits him. I shall greet his wife affectionately. I shall seat Anzud's wife and Anzud's child at a banquet. An will fetch Ninguena for me from her mountain home -- the expert woman who redounds to her mother's credit, Ninkasi the expert who redounds to her mother's credit. Her fermenting-vat is of green lapis lazuli, her beer cask is of refined silver and of gold. If she stands by the beer, there is joy, if she sits by the beer, there is gladness; as cupbearer she mixes the beer, never wearying as she walks back and forth, Ninkasi, the keg at her side, on her hips; may she make my beer-serving perfect. When the bird has drunk the beer and is happy, when Anzud has drunk the beer and is happy, he can help me find the place to which the troops of Unug are going, Anzud can put me on the track of my brothers."
  • The splendid 'eagle'-tree of Enki on the summit of Inana's mountain of multicoloured cornelian stood fast on the earth like a tower, all shaggy like an aru. With its shade it covered the highest eminences of the mountains like a cloak, was spread out over them like a tunic. Its roots rested like saĝkal snakes in Utu's river of the seven mouths.
  • In the mountains where no cypresses grow, where no snake slithers, where no scorpion stings, in the midst of the mountains the buru-az bird had put its nest and laid therein its eggs; nearby the Anzud bird had set his nest and settled therein his young. It was made with wood from the juniper and the box trees. The bird had made the bright twigs into a bower. When at daybreak the bird stretches himself, when at sunrise Anzud cries out, at his cry the ground quakes in the Lulubi mountains. He has a shark's teeth and an eagle's claws. In terror of him wild bulls run away into the foothills, stags run away into their mountains.
  • Lugalbanda is wise and he achieves mighty exploits. In preparation of the sweet celestial cakes he added carefulness to carefulness.
  • The bird uttered a cry of grief that reached up to heaven, his wife cried out "Woe!" Her cry reached the abzu. The bird with this cry of "Woe!" and his wife with this cry of grief made the Anuna, gods of the mountains, actually crawl into crevices like ants. The bird says to his wife, Anzud says to his wife, "Foreboding weighs upon my nest, as over the great cattle-pen of Nanna. Terror lies upon it, as when wild lions start butting each other. Who has taken my child from its nest? Who has taken the Anzud from its nest?"
  • I am the prince who decides the destiny of rolling rivers. I keep on the straight and narrow path the righteous who follow Enlil's counsel. My father Enlil brought me here. He let me bar the entrance to the mountains as if with a great door. If I fix a fate, who shall alter it? If I but say the word, who shall change it?
  • A wilful plough-ox should be put back in the track, a balking ass should be made to take the straight path.
  • Let the power of running be in my thighs, let me never grow tired! Let there be strength in my arms, let me stretch my arms wide, let my arms never become weak! Moving like the sunlight, like Inana, like the seven storms, those of Iškur, let me leap like a flame, blaze like lightning! Let me go wherever I look to, set foot wherever I cast my glance, reach wherever my heart desires and let me loosen my shoes in whatever place my heart has named to me! When Utu lets me reach Kulaba my city, let him who curses me have no joy thereof; let him who wishes to strive with me never say "Just let him come!" I shall have the woodcarvers fashion statues of you, and you will be breathtaking to look upon. Your name will be made famous thereby in Sumer and will redound to the credit of the temples of the great gods.
  • Anzud flew on high, Lugalbanda walked on the ground. The bird, looking from above, spies the troops. Lugalbanda, looking from below, spies the dust that the troops have stirred up.
  • Come now, my Lugalbanda. I shall give you some advice: may my advice be heeded. I shall say words to you: bear them in mind.
  • When the city was only a double-hour distant, the armies of Unug and Kulaba encamped by the posts and ditches that surrounded Aratta. From the city it rained down javelins as if from the clouds, slingstones numerous as the raindrops falling in a whole year whizzed down loudly from Aratta's walls. The days passed, the months became long, the year turned full circle. A yellow harvest grew beneath the sky. They looked askance at the fields. Unease came over them. Slingstones numerous as the raindrops falling in a whole year landed on the road. They were hemmed in by the barrier of mountain thornbushes thronged with dragons. No one knew how to go back to the city, no was rushing to go back to Kulaba. In their midst Enmerkar son of Utu was afraid, was troubled, was disturbed by this upset.
  • Once upon a time my princely sister holy Inana summoned me in her holy heart from the bright mountains, had me enter brick-built Kulaba. Where there was a marsh then in Unug, it was full of water. Where there was any dry land, Euphrates poplars grew there. Where there were reed thickets, old reeds and young reeds grew there. Divine Enki who is king in Eridu tore up for me the old reeds, drained off the water completely. For fifty years I built, for fifty years I was successful. Then the Martu people, who know no agriculture, arose in all Sumer and Akkad. But the wall of Unug extended out across the desert like a bird net. Yet now, here in this place, my attractiveness to her has dwindled. My troops are bound to me as a cow is bound to its calf; but like a son who, hating his mother, leaves his city, my princely sister holy Inana has run away from me back to brick-built Kulaba. If she loves her city and hates me, why does she bind the city to me? If she hates the city and yet loves me, why does she bind me to the city? If the mistress removes herself from me to her holy chamber, and abandons me like an Anzud chick, then may she at least bring me home to brick-built Kulaba: on that day my spear shall be laid aside. On that day she may shatter my shield. Speak thus to my princely sister, holy Inana.
  • Why will you go alone and keep company with no one on the journey? If our beneficent spirit does not stand by you there, if our good protective deity does not go with you there, you will never again stand with us where we stand, you will never again dwell with us where we dwell, you will never again set your feet on the ground where our feet are. You will not come back from the great mountains, where no one goes alone, whence no one returns to mankind!
  • Aratta's battlements are of green lapis lazuli, its walls and its towering brickwork are bright red, their brick clay is made of tinstone dug out in the mountains where the cypress grows.

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