Basic Information

Type/Species: Great Serpent
Origin: Hittite Mythology, [1] Hittite-Hurrian Mythology [3]

About Illuyankas / Illujanka

Illuyankas was the monstrous serpent or dragon of the Hittite myth, [3] sometimes described as a snake-demon. [4] He was the perennial enemy of the storm deity, [3] or weather-god, [4] sometimes named as Taru (the Hittian name) [1] or Teshub (the Hurrian name). [5]

In all variations of the Illuyankas-slaying myth cycle, the storm god acquired aid to defeat the monstrous dragon. In some cases, the assistance came from the daughter of the storm deity, the goddess Inara, and a mortal man named Hupasiyas. [2] In other versions, Taru's son provided the help. [6]

The dragon Illuyankas appeared in the Hittite mythology of ancient Mesopotamia [6] and likely informed later dragon-slaying myths, including the Canaanite myth of Baal and Leviathan and the Greek myth of Zeus and Typhon. [4] Illuyankas was the equivalent of Tiamat of Mesopotamian mythology and Leviathan of Hebrew mythology. [1]

The Downfall of Illuyankas by the Feast

Illuyankas defeated the storm god in battle at Kiskilussa. [3] The serpent nearly overcame the storm deity, putting all of creation at risk, so the weather god sought the aid of humanity and the other gods. [5] The serpent was a constant threat to everything. [3]

Inara, on the instructions of her father, provided a grand feast with an abundance of alcohol, [3] with a constantly replenishing fare. [6] She found a mortal hero, named Hupasiyas, [3] to trick the dragon, [6] and he agreed to help her so long as he could become the goddess's lover. [3] She then hid Hupasiyas and went to the the serpent's lair to entice Illuyankas to join the feast she prepared. [3]

Illuyankas and his family proceed to the feast, [3] and they become so bloated and drunk in celebration [6] that Hupasiyas alone was able to bind the entire family of dragons. [5] Then the storm god himself appeared and slaughtered them, [3] and scattered their remains all over the earth, [6] preserving all of creation for another year. [3]

The Downfall of Illuyankas by Dowry

Another variation on the Illuyankas cycle began with the dragon conquering the storm deity and stealing his heart and eyes. [3] Alternatively, the threat to the creation was presented through Illuyankas encircling all the deities in his vast coils to swallow their eyes and hearts, rendering the entire pantheon powerless. [6] In either case, the weakened weather deity married a woman of the lower classes, and together they had a son, [3] who succeeded in retrieving his father's eyes and restoring him. [5] The son took the daughter of Illuyankas as his lover, [6] and either married her and asked for the missing heart and eyes of the storm god as a dowry [3] or persuaded her to retrieve the eyes and hearts of the entire pantheon for her lover. [6]

In either case, as soon as the gods were again complete, [3] the battle began again, [6] and the storm deity ascended in the sky to attack the chaotic dragon of the sea, [3] and Illuyankas was destroyed. [6] In some variations, the weather god's son announced his loyalty to the dragon, his father-in-law, which brings down his father's wrath and leads to the son's death. [3]

The Festival of the New Year

People recited the tale of the battle between Illuyankas and the storm god at the Feast of the New Year, purulli. [4] In some variations of the Illuyankas myth, the storm deity called for the feast of purulli after his initial defeat to honor of the prosperity of the people and the fertility of the land. [3]

Teshub or Taru the storm deity represented the time of crops and harvest, while Illuyankas was the serpent of the wintertime. [5] Thus, each new year began with the destruction of Illuyankas, or the end of winter. [4]

Physical Description

Illuyankas was a gigantic serpent, [7] a dragon of chaos, represented as a vast serpentine monster with multiple heads. [6]

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Footnotes

  1. Cotterell 208
  2. Cotterell 209
  3. Leeming 194
  4. Lurker 164
  5. National Geographic [Essential] 51
  6. Rose [Dragons] 189
  7. Turner 234

For more information on footnotes and references, please see the bibliography.