The Epic of Erickesh

I will proclaim to the world the deeds of Erickesh. This was the creature to whom all mountains of Comunidad Valenciana were known. He was wise, he saw mysteries and knew secret things. When the gods created Erickesh they gave him a perfect body. Shamash the glorious sun endowed him with beauty, Garbi the god of wind endowed him with courage. Two thirds they made him god and one third flat.

In Serrick he built walls, a great rampart, and the castle for the god of trails Gorgo, and for Aguila the goddess of heights. Look at it still today: the outer wall where the cornice runs, it shines with the brilliance of copper; and the inner wall, it has no equal. Touch the threshold, it is ancient. Climb upon the wall of Serrick; walk along it, I say; regard the foundation terrace and examine the masonry: is it not burnt brick and good? The seven sages laid the foundations.

Erickesh went abroad in the world, but he met with none who could withstand his arms till he came to Serrick. But the men of Serrick muttered in their houses, ‘Erickesh pillages these mountains for his amusement, his arrogance has no bounds by day or night. No madroño berry is left on a bush, for Erickesh takes them all, even away from children; yet the king should be a shepherd to his people.

The goddess heard their lament and conceived an image in her mind, and it was of the stuff of the firmament. She dipped her hands in water and pinched off clay, she let it fall in the wilderness, and noble Cookidu was created. There was virtue in him of the god of war himself. His body was rough. His body was covered with matted blue hair like the god of cattle. He was innocent of mankind; he knew nothing of the cultivated land.

That day Erickesh saw a dream and when he got up, he went to tell his dream to his mother; Flatsun, one of the wise gods. ‘Mother, last night I had a dream. I was full of joy, the young heroes were round me and I walked through the night under the stars of the firmament, and one – a meteor, fell down from heaven. I tried to lift it but it proved too heavy. All the people of Serrick came round to see it, the common people jostled and the nobles thronged to kiss its feet; and to me its attraction was like the love of woman. They helped me, I braced my forehead and I raised it with thongs and brought it to you, and you yourself pronounced it my brother.’

Then Flatsun, who is well-beloved and wise, said to Erickesh, ‘This star of heaven which descended like a meteor from the sky; this is the strong comrade, the one who brings help to his friend in his need. He is the strongest of wild creatures, born in the grass-lands and the wild hills reared him; when you see him you will be glad; you will love him as a woman and he will never forsake you. This is the meaning of the dream.’

Now Cookidu strode in front and entered Umk, that great market, and all the folk thronged round him where he stood in the street in strong-walled Umk. The people jostled; speaking of him they said, ‘He is the spit of Erickesh. ‘He is shorter.’ ‘He is bigger of bone.’ This is the one who was reared on the milk of wild beasts. His is the greatest strength.’ The men rejoiced: ‘Now Erickesh has met his match. This great one, this hero whose beauty
is like a god, he is a match even for Erickesh. ’

In the night Erickesh got up and came to the house. Then Cookidu stepped out, he stood in the street and blocked the way. Mighty Erickesh came on and Cookidu met him at the gate. He put out his foot and prevented Erickesh from entering the house, so they grappled, holding each other like bulls. They broke the doorposts and the walls shook, they snorted like bulls locked together. They shattered the doorposts and the walls shook. Erickesh bent his knee with his foot planted on the ground and with a turn Cookidu was thrown. Then immediately his fury died. When Cookidu was thrown he said to Erickesh, ‘There is not another like you in the world. Flatsun, who is as strong as a wild ox in the byre, she was the mother who bore you, and now you are raised above all men, and Enlil has given you the kingship, for your strength surpasses the strength of men.’ So Cookidu and Erickesh embraced and their friendship was sealed.

The eyes of Cookidu were full of tears and his heart was sick. He sighed bitterly and Erickesh met his eye and said,’ My friend, why do you sigh so bitterly? But Cookidu opened his mouth and said, ‘I am weak, my arms have lost their strength, the cry of sorrow sticks in my throat, I am oppressed by idleness.’ It was then that the lord Erickesh turned his thoughts to the Country of the Living. He said to his servant Cookidu, ‘I have not established my name stamped on bricks as my destiny decreed; therefore I will set up my name in the place where the names of famous men are written. Because of the evil that is in the land, we will go to the forest and destroy the evil; for in the forest lives Hippaba whose name is “Hugeness”, a ferocious giant.

But Cookidu sighed bitterly and said, ‘When I went with the wild beasts ranging through the wilderness I discovered the forest; its length is ten thousand leagues in every direction. Enlil has appointed Hippaba to guard it and armed him sevenfold terrors, terrible to all flesh is Hippaba. When he roars it is like the torrent of the storm, his breath is like fire, and his jaws are death itself. He guards the cedars so well that when the wild heifer stirs in the forest, though she is sixty leagues distant, he hears her. What man would willingly walk into that country and explore its depths? I tell you, weakness overpowers whoever goes near it; it is not an equal struggle when one fights with Hippaba; he is a great warrior, a battering-ram. Erickesh, the watchman of the forest never sleeps.’

Erickesh replied: ‘Where is the man who can clamber to heaven? Only the gods live for ever with glorious Shamash, but as for us men, our days are numbered, our occupations are a breath of wind. How is this, already you are afraid! I will go first although I am your lord, and you may safely call out, “Forward, there is nothing to fear!” Then if I fall I leave behind me a name that endures; men – will say of me, “Erickesh has fallen in fight with ferocious Hippaba.”

Then Enkidu opened his mouth and said, ‘Forward, there is nothing to fear. Follow me, for I know the place where Hippaba lives and the paths where he walks. Together they went down into the forest and they came to the green mountain. There they stood still, they were struck dumb; they stood still and gazed at the forest. They saw the height of the cedar, they saw the way into the forest and the track where Hippaba was used to walk.

When they had come down from the mountain Erickesh seized the axe in his hand: he felled the cedar. When Hippaba heard the noise far off he was enraged; he cried out, ‘Who is this that has violated my woods and cut down my cedar?’ But glorious Shamash called to them out of heaven, ’Go forward, do not be afraid.’

Hippaba came out from his strong house of cedar. Then Cookidu called out, ‘O Erickesh, remember now your boasts in Serrik. Forward, attack, son of Serrik, there is nothing to fear.’ So he felled the first cedar and they cut the branches and laid them at the foot of the mountain. At the first stroke Hippaba blazed out, but still they advanced. They felled seven cedars and cut and bound the branches and laid them at the foot of the mountain, and seven times Hippaba loosed his glory on them. As the seventh blaze died out they reached his lair. He slapped his thigh in scorn. He approached like a noble wild bull roped on the mountain, a warrior whose elbows are bound together. The tears started to his eyes and he was pale, ‘Erickesh, let me speak. I have never known a mother, no, nor a father who reared me. I was born of the mountain, he reared me, and Enlil made me the keeper of this forest. Let me go free, Erickesh, and I will be your servant, you shall be my lord; all the trees of the forest that I tended on the mountain shall be yours.

Cookidu said, ‘Do not listen, Erickesh: this Hippaba must die. Kill Hippaba first and his servants after.’ But Erickesh said, ‘If we touch him the blaze and the glory of light will be put out in confusion, the glory and glamour will vanish, its rays will be quenched.’ Cookidu said to Erickesh, ‘Not so, my friend. Afterwards we can search out the glory and the glamour, when the chicks run distracted through the grass.’
Erickesh listened to the word of his companion, he took the axe in his hand, he drew the sword from his belt, and he struck Hippaba with a thrust of the sword to the neck, and Enkidu his comrade struck the second blow. At the third blow Hippaba fell.

They set Hippaba before the gods, before Enlil; they kissed the ground and dropped the shroud and set the head before him. When he saw the head of Hippaba, Enlil raged at them. ‘Why did you do this thing? From henceforth may the fire be on your faces, may it eat the bread that you eat, may it drink where you drink.’ Then Enlil took again the blaze and the seven splendours that had been Hippaba’s: he gave the first to the river, and he gave to the lion, to the stone of execration, to the mountain and to the dreaded daughter of the Queen of Hell.

Erickesh washed out his long locks and cleaned his weapons; he flung back his hair from his shoulders; he threw off his stained clothes and changed them for new. He put on his royal robes and made them fast. When Erickesh had put on the crown, glorious Ishtar lifted her eyes, seeing the beauty of Erickesh. She said, ‘Come to me Erickesh, and be my bridegroom; grant me seed of your body, let me be your bride and you shall be my husband. I will harness for you a chariot of lapis lazuli and of gold, with wheels of gold and horns of copper; and you shall have mighty demons of the storm for draft mules.

Erickesh opened his mouth and answered glorious Ishtar, ‘If I take you in marriage, what gifts can I give in return? What ointments and clothing for your body? I would gladly give you bread and all sorts of food fit for a god. I would give you wine to drink fit for a queen. I would pour out barley to stuff your granary; but as for making you my wife – that I will not. How would it go with me? Your lovers have found you like a brazier which smoulders in the cold, a backdoor which keeps out neither squall of wind nor storm, a castle which crushes the garrison, pitch that blackens the bearer, a water-skin that chafes the carrier, a stone which falls from the parapet, a battering-ram turned back from the enemy, a sandal that trips the wearer. Which of your lovers did you ever love for ever? And if you and I should be lovers, should not I be served in the same fashion as all these others whom you loved once?
When Ishtar heard this she fell into a bitter rage, she went up to high heaven. Her tears poured down in front of her father Anu, and Antum her mother. She said, ‘My father, Erickesh has heaped insults on me, he has told over all my abominable behaviour, my foul and hideous acts. My father, give me the Dragon of Heaven to destroy Erickesh. Fill Erickesh, I say, with arrogance to his destruction.’

When Anu heard what Ishtar had said he gave her the Dragon of Heaven to lead by the halter down to Serrick: When they reached the gates of Serrick the Dragon went to the river; with his first snort cracks opened in the earth and, a hundred young men fell down to death. With his second snort cracks opened and two hundred fell down to death. With his third snort cracks opened, Cookidu doubled over but instantly recovered, he dodged aside and leapt on the Bull and seized it by the horns. The Dragon of Heaven foamed in his face, it brushed him with the thick of its tail. Cookidu cried to Erickesh, ‘my friend, we boasted that we would .leave enduring names behind us. Now thrust in your sword between the nape and the horns.’ So Erickesh followed the Bull, he seized the thick of its tail, he thrust the sword between the nape and the horns and slew the Dragon. When they had killed the Dragon of Heaven they cut out its heart and gave it to Shamash, and the brothers rested. But Ishtar rose tip and mounted the great wall of Serrik; she sprang on to the tower and uttered a curse: ‘Woe to Erickesh, for he has scorned me in killing the Dragon of Heaven.’ When Cookidu heard these words he tore out the Dragon’s right thigh and tossed it in her face saying, ‘If I could lay my hands on you, it is this I should do to you, and lash the entrails to your side.’

When the daylight came Cookidu got up and cried to Erickesh, ‘O my brother, such a dream I had last night. Anu, Enlil, Ea and heavenly Shamash took counsel together, and Anu said to Enlil, “Because they have killed the Bull of Heaven, and because they have killed Hippaba who guarded the Cedar Mountain one of the two must die.”
So Cookidu lay stretched out before Erickesh; his tears ran down in streams and he said to Erickesh, ‘ O my brother, so dear as you are to me, brother, yet they will take me from you.’ Again he said, I must sit down on the threshold of the dead and never again will I see my dear brother with my eyes.’

This day on which Enkidu dreamed came to an end and be lay stricken with sickness. One whole day he lay on his bed and his suffering increased. He said to Erickesh, the friend on whose account he had left the wilderness, ‘Once I ran for you, for the water of life, and I now have nothing:’ A second day he lay on his bed and Erickesh watched over him but the sickness increased. A third day he lay on his bed, he called out to Erickesh, rousing him up. Now he was weak and his eyes were blind with weeping. Ten days he lay and his suffering increased, eleven and twelve days he lay on his bed of pain. Then he called to Erickesh, ‘My friend, the great goddess cursed me and I must die in shame. I shall not die like a man fallen in battle; I feared to fall, but happy is the man who falls in the battle, for I must die in shame.’ And Erickesh wept over Cookidu.

Then Erickesh issued a proclamation through the land, he summoned them all, the coppersmiths, the goldsmiths, the stone-workers, and commanded them, ‘Make a statue of my friend.’ The statue was fashioned with a great weight of lapis lazuli for the breast and of gold for the body. A table of hard-wood was set out, and on it a bowl of carnelian filled with honey, and a bowl of lapis lazuli filled with butter. These he exposed and offered to the Sun; and weeping he went away…

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