Wednesday, June 6, 2018

OMG: Babylonian, Sumerian and Akkadian, Part 2

I am going to spend some more time today with the Babylonian myths and focus on a couple of the personalities in particular.

Again, I am not doing this to poke holes in the scholarship of the original authors of Deities & Demigods.  We have learned a great deal more about these myths and stories than we knew back in the 1980s. AND this is not a historical text. This is a game book, it has different rules as it were.

Who's In Charge Around Here?
I do have one nitpick that I need to get off my chest and it involves Marduk.   What makes Babylonian myths well, Babylonian, is that they come from the city of Babylon.  Whose chief god was Marduk.  So who is this Anu guy?  Well...these are not easy questions.  Anu was an important god of the Mesopotamian religion and described as the father of Enlil (see the Sumerian myths) and the first main god worshiped...well ever, calling him the "Chief of all the Babylonian Deities" is a stretch.  Now if "Babylonian" = these gods and not "Babylonian" = The City of Babylon then ok.  But the chief god of Babylon was Marduk.  He was the most powerful and the one later kings of Babylon would swear fealty to; known as "Taking the Hand of Marduk".   So why isn't Marduk the 400 hp Greater God?  Well I guess this works better for this book.
Also, the physical description of Marduk has me scratching my head a bit.  None of the reliefs I have seen look like that. In fact the only other place I have seen this version of Marduk is in the Real Ghostbuster cartoon "I Am the City".
For the record. I DO think Marduk would have LOVED New York and the Ultimate City.  And I say this as a Chicagoan.



I believe the image came from descriptions of Marduk seeing twice as much/far as others, or being more than the other gods and men.

Bizzare Love Triangle
It's hard to talk about Marduk in AD&D and NOT bring up Tiamat.  Heck even in the Ghostbusters cartoon Marduk (the god of civilization) battles Tiamat the Goddess of Chaos.  Hmm.  Ok, so let's go back a bit.

The year is 1990 and young former-Physics, turned Psychology, student Tim Brannan has become disillusioned with the physics-envy in his field and wants something a little more on the start-up edge of science.   Enter Chaos Theory. The book "Turbulent Mirror: An Illustrated Guide to Chaos Theory and the Science of Wholeness" was released and I was mesmerized.   I was convinced (and still am on some levels) that my then research into human memory based on chaotic structures (see my senior honors paper and eventual Master Thesis).  I never got a far as I wanted on this.  Maybe one day.
That is not important today.  Today I want to talk about the Turbulent Mirror and Tiamat.

Now I remembered from my class in mythology some 2-3 years before that Tiamat represented Chaos.  Turbulent Mirror took this and ran with it, and took my imagination with it.

Why is Tiamat a "Lawful evil" dragon?  Shouldn't she be Chaotic Evil?
I have talked about Tiamat many times, but this post explains why I want to be Chaotic and not Lawful.

So now we have Tiamat battling Marduk and Tiamat battling Bahamut.  I used to refer to this as the "Bizzare Love Triangle" after the New Order song.  Irritated my then DM to no end.  I will need to come back to Bahamut some day.  Is he Marduk?  No. But I have no good reasoning yet.  MAYBE Marduk is the only "non-human diety" because he looks like a Dragonborn!  That would work well with what they are doing with the Dragonborn in the Forgotten Realms.

I keep Tiamat mostly as she is in the Monster Manual. Save she is now Chaotic Evil.  She always acted like it anyway.



Dragon Tales
Tiamat is not the only dragon in the Babylonian myths.
Right above Druaga is another Persian import, Dahak.
Dahak, or Zahhak or Aži Dahāka is the "three-headed dragon of death".   Wow.  How could that even be remotely ignored?

Well while Dahak certainly sounds like one of the monsters that Tiamat would produce he is from Iran and not Iraq like Tiamat is (to use the modern countries).

When my oldest son was little we grabbed every book on dragons we could find.  He loved, and still loves, dragons.  He read the stories about Dahak and decided that this was the dragon he wanted to explore more.

To that end he came up with both OSR stats and Pathfinder/3.x stats.   He is working on a 5e version too since that is now his game of choice.
For us, Aži Dahāka is the offspring of Tiamat and Demogorgon.  Part of an ancient pact to provide them both with a monster capable of great destruction.  Well, they got more than they could handle.

Funny thing is that when Liam decided to take on Aži Dahāka and I had forgotton all about Dahak in this book. I am glad I could come back to him full circle as it were.

Wow. I still have more to say about this part of the world.  Looks like a Part 3 will has to happen.

You can read Part 1 here.
You can read Part 3 here.

7 comments:

MalikRešef Tenebrous said...

I really need to reread the D&DG again, I am enjoying this series of blog posts Tim.

Konsumterra said...

Need to stat the asag leader of the rebel rock things in the mountains and anzu who stole the tablets of destiny

Also the lion bird heraldic beast on lagash(?)

Dr. Theda said...

Thank you for posting this Good Sir !!! Marduk (always depicted with his Spear (sometimes Net as well)... (Jupiter is the Planet associated with this God)... (are Namtar (Namtaru) or Lord Nergal...??

trollsmyth said...

Yeah, Tiamat is Chaotic. Maybe not even Chaotic Evil, but I tend to run her that way.

I've kinda-sorta replaced Bahamut with Abzu. Kinda-sorta. I leave out the whole, "If you damned kids don't turn down your stereo I'll slaughter the lot of you," thing which kinda short-circuits Marduk's story, but I've always felt Marduk was too tied to Babylon to be a thing in any campaign that didn't include Babylon.

Dr. Theda said...

Tiamat (Lotan... Leviathan) dwells as a "Coiled Serpent"... far beneath Alaska,,, Fault lines meet there... and a Fish Tail (according to the Asians...

Dr. Theda said...

"we studied Sumerian (Assyrian Babylonian... Neo-Babylonian and Assyrian Both similar ... ans some Akkadian)...
" Dimmer Uggu Zigala... Umu-Tiamat... Easu Easu Easu... Ba(sh)u inga"...
small sample... Sumerian

Stan Bundy said...

Speaking of Dahak, there was an interesting use of mythology in general in a SF context in David Weber's "Empire from the Ashes" Trilogy ("Mutineer's Moon", etc.) where Dahak is actually a spaceship that took the place of the moon 50,000 years ago, when its crew mutinied.

There was even an aborted attempt by AD Vision/ADV Films to make an american-funded anime of the series. And dragon motifs were everywhere in the concept art (including the continent-sized 3-headed dragon on the ship itself, hidden under the lunar regolith piled on as a disguise)

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