Home    Number 6, 2023

Sumerian Poem about Lugalbanda and Parallels for One of Its Episodes

[Shumerskaia poema o Lugal’namde i paralleli k odnomu iz ego epizodov]

DOI: https://doi.org/10.31857/S0869541523060131


Type of publication: Research Article

Submitted: 23.05.2023

Accepted: 29.06.2023

About author(s)

Yuri Berezkin | http://orcid.org/0000-0001-6001-7339 | berezkin1@gmail.com | Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera), Russian Academy of Sciences (3 University Emb., St. Petersburg, 199034, Russia)


Sumer, Lugalbanda, Rigveda, European folklore, comparative folklore studies, fairytale


This article begins with the paraphrase of the Sumerian poems “Lugalbanda in the Mountain Cave” and “Lugalbanda and the Anzu Bird”. The retelling is made by Rim M. Nurullin who consulted the recent studies related to these texts. A parallel between “Lugalbanda in the Mountain Cave” and the Rigveda is specifically discussed. Further, a classification of episodes found in the narratives recorded in Eurasia and America ca. A.D. 1850–1950 that contain the same motifs as the episode of Lugalbanda’s meeting with the Anzu bird is provided. The area distribution of two main variants is revealed. According to the first one, a man kills a serpent that was going to devour the nestlings of a mighty bird, and the grateful bird helps him. This variant is attested from Algeria to India and from Manchuria to the Carpathian-Balkan region. The American parallels also exist. According to the second variant, the man cares for nestlings (feeds them, covers from a storm, etc.) while the serpent is not mentioned. In the Sumerian poem, the hero decorates the nestlings. Concerning late traditions, such an episode being rare in the south (from the Maghreb to India) is predominant among the Eastern Slavs, Baltic Finns, and probably Balts. Rare Siberian cases are scattered from the Northern Khanty to Asiatic Eskimo. Considering the American parallels, the first variant looks like the earlier one. The basic motif of a hero who helps the nestlings is an example of a narrative element that had spread at least in the Terminal Paleolithic and has survived until recent times when it was incorporated into the fairytales.

Funding Information

Russian Science Foundation, https://doi.org/10.13039/501100006769 [grant no. 21-18-00232]


Berezkin, Y.E. 2023. Shumerskaia poema o Lugal’namde i paralleli k odnomu iz ego epizodov [Sumerian Poem about Lugalbanda and Parallels for One of Its Episodes]. Etnograficheskoe obozrenie 6: 211–227. https://doi.org/10.31857/S0869541523060131 EDN: MPCXIX

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