6 Gilgamesh’s Plant of Rejuvenation and Qāṭīne’s Sīsīsāmbur
Although the latest Gilgameš
Right from its very discovery and decipherment, connections were seen between it and the Biblical story of Noah
In any reconstruction of how the ancient corpus of Babylonian
literature could inform the literary creativity of the other civilizations it is necessary (a) to allow for existence of common narrative patterns and motifs and (b) to postulate intermediate landing stages in Aramaic , Phoenician, Hellenistic Greek. (George 2003, 70)
It is suggested that the postulated intermediate landing stage in Aramaic
Until recently, the modern Assyrians
The most significant part of this oral folklore and what is of concern here is “Zmīrta D’Qāṭīne,”
6.1 The Genre of Qāṭīne
The village minstrel or the troubadour would take four to seven consecutive nights—depending on the individual—to complete the epic. Unlike other short heroic songs, the minstrel would stop singing the verses, at certain dramatic points, only to continue with the story through prose narrations. These prose intervals are used to create special moments of suspense. Contrary to other heroic songs, Zmīrta d-Qāṭīne is not danced to; all gather around the minstrel with anticipation to learn what is to unfold next.
Although Donabed’s thorough study demonstrates that Zmīrta D’Qāṭīne is worthy of the title ‘epic’ and see it befitting of the genre (Donabed 2007), one must be careful and recognize that the modern Assyrians
6.2 The Language of Qāṭīne
The minstrels of Zmīrta D’Qāṭīne employ the Modern Assyrian
The Modern Assyrian
Early scholarship erroneously advanced the idea that Assyrian was first written down by Rev. Justin Perkins, a missionary of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in the winter of 1834–1835 (Stoddard 2004, 3). Murre-Van De Berg, however, has correctly argued for an earlier period and pinpoints this to the late sixteenth century (Murre-Van de Burg 1998). Ashitha on the other hand is convinced that this was done much earlier, relying on an Assyrian
6.3 The Name Qāṭīne
Hozaya believes the name Qāṭīne is derived from the Akkadian
Qāṭīne qāṭe ṭûre
Kūl sanbūlte pampūlte
ʾu-kūl sanbūlte ḫa drāʾā
Qāṭīne the mountain leaper
Each (side) of his moustache is a cubit
And (a cubit) each of his shoe, and boot
(Adam 2001, Audio Recording)
ānā wēn gûra m-gûre
petwānī6 zā’ed l-ḫûre
I am the (ideal) warrior among warriors
The width of my chest extends the height of poplars
(Qasrani and Daresh 1998, Audio Recording)
This can only be explained if one realizes that the name Qāṭīne is nothing but a pun referring to the mortal aspect of a mortal possessing supernatural powers.
6.4 The Zmīrta D’Qātīne
Qāṭīne’s paternal lineage is not known and the bare mention of his father is avoided, while a prominent emphasis is made on his maternal pedigree.7 Qātīne’s mother is of royal blood and she is the king’s sister. How exactly she falls pregnant is not clarified, but the king has been warned about the birth of his nephew and he fears Qātīne—who demonstrates extraordinary deeds right from his birth—for he is warned that he will grow to usurp his throne
Tū Tʾūma tū Qāṭīne
Tīwēna ḫālā ʾu-štāyā
Ban bahāse bedrāya
Aydīle gāwra m-gūre
ʾu-petwāne zā’ed l-ḫūre
Šāwērre bāzā d-šwērrī
Šātēle qadḫa d-štēlī
ʾu-gūrūte maḫ də-dīyī
ʾu-raḫmūte maḫ də-dīyī
T‘ūma sat, so did Qāṭīne
They are sitting, eating and drinking
Talking of heroic deeds
Who is (an ideal warrior) among warriors
whose chest extends the height of poplars
To leap the jump which I have leaped
To drink the chalice I have drunk
Whose manhood is my equal
Whose friendship8 equals mine
(Qasrani and Daresh 1998, Audio Recording)
Qātīne accepts the challenges and always seeks the counsel of his mother and sister before embarking on his heroic journeys:
Way yemmī pīlī zwāde
Way ḫātī wūdlī kāde
ḫdā ʾūrḫa mpelta l-bālī
mḫūzdāwēn l-Tʾūma ḫālī
Oh mother, bake me supplies
Oh sister prepare me cakes
My mind is set on a journey
I have been challenged by my uncle Tʾūma
(Qasrani and Daresh 1998, Audio Recording)
The challenges are numerous. Perhaps the most significant would be Qātīne’s battle with Yûʾānis the Armenian who had eloped with his beautiful aunt, and the battle with Lēlīta accompanied by Xūlikkū, his other uncle whom is captured in the forest mountain by Lēlīta
ʾayma-le gawra d-gūre
d-šāwērre gāre gāre
pā’ed men peṭḫa l-peṭḫa
šātēle demmā w-qadḫa
ʾāsēq l-karma d-Lēlīta
‘āwēd bāqā d-rēḫāne
dāre b-ʾīda d-pātyāne
ʾāyne gūhre pātēḫ lay
mīte d‘-qawrq mnaḫem-lay
Who is (an ideal) warrior among warriors
To leap from rooftop to rooftop
Cross from meadow to meadow
Drink the blood and the chalice
Climb up to Lēlīta’s orchard
The fearsome Lēlīta
To grab a bunch of basil
And hand it to those laying (on their deathbed)
So it opens the eyes of the blind
And raises the dead from the grave
(Hozaya 1996, 78)
On his way to Lēlīta, Qāṭīne is approached by a rabbit proposing to befriend him.9 He utterly refutes her proposal. Once Qāṭīne reaches Lēlīta’s orchard, he challenges her to a fight: Lēlīta is to strike first and she does this with her
Many challenges are placed before Qāṭīne by his uncle Tʾūma, but all of Tʾūma’s plots fail and Qāṭīne always comes out as the victorious hero. However, the wounded Lēlīta curses Qāṭīne just before her death. Lēlīta’s curse is for Qāṭīne to die as a young unwedded bachelor. The curse is fulfilled when Qāṭīne is wounded when a shepherd shoots an arrow in his back as he was about to set off on another challenge.
6.5 Parallels, Points of Contact and Influences
As already indicated in this chapter, this marvelous oral epic of Qāṭīne has not been fully documented, and what has been presented here is based on the few recordings this writer has managed to gather over the last few years. It is through these few incomplete recordings that we have managed to render a brief comparative overview of both Qāṭīne and Gilgameš
Zmīrta D’Qāṭīne, like Gilgameš
Qāṭīne’s birth is identical to that of Gilgameš
There is resonance in many passages that seem to be in agreement almost verbatim, for example:
Who is the finest among men?
Who the most glorious of fellows?
is the finest among men!
Gilgameš the most glorious of fellows!
(George 1999, 54)
ʾaynile gawra m-gūre
ʾaynile berya m-gūre
ʾāna-wēn gawra m-gūre
ʾāna-wēn berya m-gūre
Who is man amongst men
Who is born of men
I am man amongst men
I am born of men
(d ' Wila 1988, Audio Recording)
If we restore the fragmentary line of 127 from the Standard Babylonian
ina ku-bur zib-ba-ti-šú [ka]-bu-us-su [id-di]11
And, like the CAD, translate the passage as: “with the thick part of his tail he flicked his excrement,” we will then have both Xumbaba and Lēlīta using the
Qāṭīne battles with Yûʾānis, the Armenian
Gilgameš is approached by Ištar whom he refutes just as Qātīne refutes the Rabbit’s proposal to befriend/love her. Rabbit’s fertility is taken to represent the mother goddess in many cultures, and Qāṭīne’s Rabbit is none other than Gilgameš’s Ištar.
Other than opening passages in the mountains, and digging wells in the uplands like Gilgameš
These similarities between Qāṭīne, Gilgameš
I dedicate this paper to Mr. Khnanya Qasrani, he was the first bard that introduced me to this literary oral epic. Mr. Qasrani provided us, the refugee children, with the only form of entertainment during those cold winter nights of an Iranian refugee camp. I would also like to dedicate this paper to Mr. Jorje Darash, of the Assyrian Academic Society of Tehran, for recognizing the importance of Assyrian oral literature, and recording Mr. Khnanya Qasrani.
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This writer struggled to find the meaning of ‘Ṣəwarta,’ until he traveled to Iraq and recorded an elderly villager in the Assyrian village of Deregni, and learned that it is used to refer to a passage located on the peak of a mountain.
Assyrian literary oral traditions have not yet been subjected to a study from a literary perspective, therefore there are no agreed English translations of the terms.
In modern Assyrian dictionaries, Qāṭīne—a cognate of Akkadian qatānu and Hebrew קטו—is found under qṭn, as qaṭṭīna with a ptāxā vowel causing the gemination of the “ṭ”. The change of the short ptāxā vowel to a long zqāpā vowel, and the loss of gemination is a phenomenon of the modern Assyrian language, see (Murre-Van de Burg 1999), see also (Hozaya 1999, 20).
In a private conversation with Rabi Daniel Dawed Bet Benjamin, the chief editor of Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies’ Assyrian section, he suggested that “petwānī” should be understood as “the distance of my leap” and not as “the width of my chest.” To me they both seem plausible and they both emphasize the physical abilities of Qāṭīne.
This brief outline is based on the recordings of the following minstrels: Mr. Khnanya Qasrani (Wellington, NZ), Mr. Taoma d-Wela (Dohuk, Iraq), Mrs. Regina Tawar (LA, California), Mr. Dawed Adam (Stockholm, Sweden), Mrs. Awigo Sulaqa (London, UK), and Mr. Delman Givargisov (Tiflis, Georgia). I would like to recognize the assistance of Prof. Geoffrey Khan, Mr. Jorje Darash, and the Assyrian Academic Society of Tehran for furnishing me with some of these recordings.
This can also be translated as “whose sexual performance,” “whose libido” equals mine. The noun is derived from the root rḫm, which can mean to love, to befriend, to be merciful, but in Assyrian oral literature, especial the Rāwe genre, sexual connotation is always implied, thus rḫīmalī would mean “I made love to her” rather than “I befriended her” or “showed her compassion.”
Again the same verb “rḫm” is used, which could also have sexual connotations.
Mesopotamian sheep have fatty tails. Their feces, especially during the winter periods, get stuck on the wool of their tails and eventually form a sizable rock-like ball.