Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh the Flood Story.
‘Long ago I lived in the city of Shuruppak when the gods decided
to send a mighty flood to destroy all humans. Through the reed
wall of my house the god of fresh water and wisdom, Ea, warned
me. He told me to build a big boat and fill it with my family,
animals and the seeds of all plants. When the rains fell for
seven days and nights my boat alone survived the flood. So the
gods decided that my wife and I should live forever.’
To prove that he too could live forever, Gilgamesh tries to stay
awake for seven days and nights but he straightaway falls
asleep. He sleeps for seven days and nights. Each day Gilgamesh
sleeps Utnapishtim’s wife bakes a loaf of bread. He wakes up to
the smell of fresh bread but the seven loaves prove how long he
has slept and that everything decays, day by day. Faced with
this proof, Gilgamesh accepts that he cannot live forever.
The boatman Urshanabi, instructed by Utnapishtim, takes
Gilgamesh to wash, throw his lion-skin into the sea and dress in
a kingly robe. As a parting gift, Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh
where he can find, at the bottom of the sea, a prickly plant
that will make him young again.
With stones tied
to his ankles, Gilgamesh dives, finds the prickly plant, cuts
away the stones and surfaces with his prize. On his overland
journey home he leaves the prickly plant beside a cool pool when
he goes for a refreshing dip. A snake sniffs the prickly plant.
She eats it and acquires the ability to stay young by shedding
her skin and growing a new one.
to Uruk without the prickly plant but having travelled to the
edge of the world and brought back the Flood Story. He has
become a mythical king. The lapis lazuli tablets on which his
story is written can be returned to their box. This is the story
of Gilgamesh and all that he endured.