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Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 101

So ends the story of Gilgamesh in the form which survives to us.

The journey of Gilgamesh to the Island of the Blessed recalls the journeys made by Odin, Hermod, Svipdag, Hotherus and others to the Germanic Hela. When Hermod went to search for Balder, as the Prose Edda relates, he rode through thick darkness for nine days and nine nights ere he crossed the mountains. As Gilgamesh met Sabitu, Hermod met Modgudur, "the maiden who kept the bridge" over the river Gjõll. Svipdag, according to a Norse poem, was guided like the Babylonian hero by the moon god, Gevar, who instructed him what way he should take to find the irresistible sword. Saxo's Hother, who is instructed by "King Gewar", crosses dismal mountains "beset with extraordinary cold".[217] Thorkill crosses a stormy ocean to the region of perpetual darkness, where the ghosts of the dead are confined in loathsome and dusty caves. At the main entrance "the door posts were begrimed with the soot of ages".[218] In the Elder Edda Svipdag is charmed against the perils he will be confronted by as he fares "o'er seas mightier than men do know", or is overtaken by night "wandering on the misty way".[219] When Odin "downward rode into Misty Hel" he sang spells at a "witch's grave", and the ghost rose up to answer his questions regarding Balder. "Tell me tidings of Hel", he addressed her, as Gilgamesh addressed the ghost of Ea-bani.

In the mythical histories of Alexander the Great, the hero searches for the Water of Life, and is confronted by a great mountain called Musas (Mashti). A demon stops him and says; "O king, thou art not able to march through this mountain, for in it dwelleth a mighty god who is like unto a monster serpent, and he preventeth everyone who would go unto him." In another part of the narrative Alexander and his army arrive at a place of darkness "where the blackness is not like the darkness of night, but is like unto the mists and clouds which descend at the break of day". A servant uses a shining jewel stone, which Adam had brought from Paradise, to guide him, and found the well. He drank of the "waters of life" and bathed in them, with the result that he was strengthened and felt neither hunger nor thirst. When he came out of the well "all the flesh of his body became bluish-green and his garments likewise bluish-green". Apparently he assumed the colour of supernatural beings. Rama of India was blue, and certain of his monkey allies were green, like the fairies of England and Scotland. This fortunate man kept his secret. His name was Matun, but he was afterwards nicknamed "'El-Khidr', that is to say, 'Green'". What explanation he offered for his sudden change of appearance has not been recorded.[220] It is related that when Matun reached the Well of Life a dried fish which he dipped in the water was restored to life and swam away. In the Koran a similar story is told regarding Moses and Joshua, who travelled "for a long space of time" to a place where two seas met. "They forgot their fish which they had taken with them, and the fish took its way freely to the sea." The Arabian commentators explain that Moses once agreed to the suggestion that he was the wisest of men. In a dream he was directed to visit Al Khedr, who was "more knowing than he", and to take a fish with him in a basket. On the seashore Moses fell asleep, and the fish, which had been roasted, leapt out of the basket into the sea. Another version sets forth that Joshua, "making the ablution at the fountain of life", some of the water happened to be sprinkled on the fish, which immediately leapt up.[221]

The Well of Life is found in Fingalian legends. When Diarmid was mortally wounded by the boar, he called upon Finn to carry water to him from the well:


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