Thespis: Ritual, Myth, and Drama in the Ancient Near East

By Theodor H. Gaster | Go to book overview

3. The Myth of Telipinu

INTRODUCTION

A. SYNOPSIS

§1 . Closely related to the Yuzgat Tablet, and representing a variation on the same theme, is the Myth of Telipinu, which is preserved in at least three versions and in a number of mutually complementary texts.1 This too deals with the seasonal desolation of the earth, but the calamity is here attributed not to any violent removal of the god of fertility but to his withdrawal in high dudgeon for some unspecified reason. The text is concerned primarily with the measures adopted to appease his anger and procure his return; and since these consist in the performance of an elaborate magical ceremony, it follows that it is primarily of ritualistic character.

§2 . Four elements may be distinguished. First, there is a description of the disaster which attends the disappearance of Telipinu, of various abortive searches that are made for him, and an account of his actual recovery (§§I-- Va). The effect of his disappearance is related in terms which leave no doubt that what is being described is the dreary winter season. Houses are said to be filled with soot and smoke, the embers (or logs) of continuous fires accumulating on the hearth. In the barns, the cattle huddle together. On hillside and pasture everything is bleak and bare. The trees are denuded of leaves, and the springs are frozen over (lit. dried up). Men and gods are faced with starvation.

It is in this situation that the Sun-god intervenes by inviting all the gods to a banquet at which the deity of the weather points out that the current disaster is due to the angry withdrawal of his son Telipinu. Thereupon the gods "great and small" conduct an extensive search for him; and when this proves abortive, the Sun-god sends out an eagle to explore the mountains and valleys to the same end. The eagle, however, sends back word that no trace of the missing god can be found.

At this stage, feminine influence comes into play. The great Mother Goddess,2 alive to the emergency and seemingly impatient of the measures thus far adopted, resolves to employ her own devices.2a She therefore despatches a bee, instructing it to find Telipinu, sting him, cleanse him with its wax,

____________________
1
Our text is composite. For details, see CCCXLVII.
2
On this goddess (dMAḪ), see Comm., Yuzgat §IV.
2a
In one version, she first instructs the Weather-god, father of Telipinu, to conduct a search, but this, too, proves abortive. In another version, the services of the thunder seem first to be enlisted.

-353-

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Thespis: Ritual, Myth, and Drama in the Ancient Near East
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Foreword vii
  • Author's Preface ix
  • Table of Contents xiii
  • Part One 1
  • Chapter One - The Components of Drama 3
  • Chapter Two - The Seasonal Pattern in Ritual 6
  • Chapter Three - The Seasonal Pattern in the Ancient Near East 34
  • Chapter Four - The Seasonal Pattern in Myth 49
  • Chapter Five - The Seasonal Pattern in Literature 73
  • Part Two 109
  • Canaanite Texts 113
  • Appendix - Unplaced Fragments 223
  • Introduction 225
  • Introduction 257
  • Hittite Texts 315
  • Appendix 336
  • Introduction 337
  • 3. the Myth of Telipinu 353
  • Egyptian Texts 381
  • Introduction 405
  • Act One 407
  • Act Four 409
  • Act Six 410
  • Hebrew Texts 413
  • Greek Texts 429
  • The English Mummers' Play 439
  • Appendix - Philological Notes 445
  • Index of Motifs 461
  • Index of Subjects and Authors 467
  • Bibliography 483
  • Abreviations 497
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