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Noisy Epics - varnamvarnam
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Noisy Epics

The other day Amit at Digital Inspiration had a post about iSerenity, which “offers a relaxing web-based environment with soothing sounds and images designed to reduce stress and calm nerves.” If this site was available to ancient Babylonians and Sumerians, Western civilization would have got different myths.

The Babylonian epic Enuma Elis describes the reason for a major conflict – noise. Apsu, one of the primeval gods cannot sleep since his offsprings are making noise. So he has a simple solution: kill his noisy offsprings. The dossier containing this plan gets leaked and one of the offsprings, Ea, comes up with a brilliant solution: kill the person who is complaining. The offsprings win and Apsu gets killed.

Before the Enuma Elis, the Sumerians had a epic called Atra-Hasis. In this epic, the gods want to destroy humans because they have become noisy and the gods can’t get sleep. They try various tricks – plague, famine, and, drought; nothing works. The gods then take the draconian step of unleashing a flood. Again the dossier containing the plan gets leaked to Atra-Hasis by one of the gods, Enki. Thus Atra-Hasis builds a boat, carries animals and survives the flood which lasted seven days.

The Enuma Elis are Atra Hasis are important for their creation myths as well. In Enuma Elis, the creation of humans is a minor plot device. They were created by one of the gods, Marduk, to free gods from hard labor and this was the final act of creation. Atra-Hasis too explains how humans were created – from clay and wisdom. All these literary tropes, including that of a man surving the flood, were adopted by later near east religions.

References: MMW2 (Lecture 3), Enuma Elis , Atra-Hasis, Creation Stories of the Middle East By Ewa Wasilewska

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