Dead Names, Dead Dog: The Head of Huwawa, Part 0

It occurred to me after the previous post that many readers might not know the tale by which Huwawa reaches us. Thus, it might be fruitful to explore his role in the original source, The Epic of Gilgamesh. I’ve dipped into a few texts, so what follows might be considered a composite Readers may contrast this with “Simon’s” depiction of Humwawa in the Necronomicon.

As we begin, the god-king Gilgamesh is speaking with his friend, the beast-man Enkidu. He proposes that the two of them go to the cedar forest to kill the giant Huwawa. Appointed by the storm-god Enlil to guard the forest, Huwawa possesses a number of monstrous traits, most notably a monstrous roar, preternatural hearing, and fiery breath. He is known for attacking anyone who enters the forest.

Let’s step back and give this some perspective. That forest is really far away – hundreds of leagues or across several mountain ranges, depending upon your source. The question becomes why exactly killing Humwawa is so important to the king of Uruk. Sure, Huwawa is described repeatedly as evil, but he doesn’t seem to be bothering anyone who doesn’t go into those woods, much less menacing the city itself. In addition, the sun-god Shamash or Utu really dislikes the giant for reasons that are never explained.

The real driving force behind the expedition, however, is Gilgamesh’s drive for glory. He sees the pain, suffering, and death that is the lot of all humans around him. Before death takes him, he will make a name for himself by slaying the giant, hosting a huge New Year’s celebration thereafter. His mother, Ninsun, asks the sun god for mercy for her son with a restless heart, but receives no consolation from him. In the meantime, Gilgamesh has huge weapons forged and plans a gate that he will build out of a huge cedar tree from the forest. It’s clear that he’s mostly in this for himself.
After these preparations are in place, Gilgamesh and Enkidu set out on their grand trip. Gilgamesh pauses to make offerings to the gods each night, asking them to send him a dream portending the future. Each time, he has a nightmare, which Enkidu interprets as a sign that they will be victorious. After much effort, they arrive at the forest.

Next, Gilgamesh and Huwawa have an epic battle – or maybe not. More later.

Published in: on September 13, 2006 at 9:31 pm  Comments (5)  

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  1. […] Dead Names, Dead Dog: The Head of Huwawa, Part 0 […]

  2. […] So, after these last four sections, we arrive once again at Dead Names: His face was depicted as a mass of entrails, specifically the small intestines. I believe that the glyph of Humwawa in the Necronomicon showing his face as a mass of entrails is probably how he was perceived in later Sumerian and Babylonian mythology, and further, that only his head is shown in this glyph may be an allusion that the monster was beheaded. […]

  3. […] is Schwartz’s derivation of two of the names – they originate in the Sumerian and Akkadian Epic of Gilgamesh.  In fact, they seem to be the names of  two of its most prominent figures – Gilgamesh and […]

  4. […] about Huwawa, or Humwawa, or Humbaba in the Necronomicon? Just to be different, we have Part 0, Part .5, Part 1, Part 2, and Part […]

  5. […] about Huwawa, or Humwawa, or Humbaba in the Necronomicon? Just to be different, we have Part 0, Part .5, Part 1, Part 2, and Part […]

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