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A Review of

Inanna: Queen Of Heaven And Earth

by Samuel Noah Kramer & Diane Wolkstein

 

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Summary

This book relates the myths that focus on Inanna as their central character. It speaks of her as a young woman, as a seductress, and as a bride. The most thought-provoking story is that of her descent to the Underworld and her return. Also included are hymns to her. Cover

 

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Fact Sheet

Title

Inanna: Queen of Heaven and Earth

Author

Samuel Noah Kramer & Diane Wolkstein

ISBN

0-06-014713-X (Hard cover)
0-06-090854-8 (Paperback)

Publisher

Harper & Row

Category

Non-Fiction: Ancient Cultures

Rating

StarStarStarStar

Number of Pages

200

Published In

1983

 

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Description

This book centers around myths featuring the Sumerian goddess Inanna as a central character. In addition, it contains a collection of hymns to Inanna and photographs of ancient Sumerian artifacts depicting her.

The authors of this book are a noted Sumerologist (Samuel Noah Kramer) and a professional folklorist, Diane Wolkstein. Kramer provides the knowledge of ancient legends, and Wolkstein brings them to life by casting them in the words of a storyteller. She has chosen poetic form instead of prose because she believes poetry best captures the spirit of the original text.

Here is a sample of the text from the myth of Inanna's descent to the underworld:

When she entered the first gate,
From her head, the shugurra, the crown of the steppe, was removed.

Inanna asked:
"What is this?"

She was told:
"Quiet, Inanna, the ways of the underworld are perfect.
They may not be questioned."

When she entered the second gate,
From her neck the small lapis beads were removed.

Inanna asked:
"What is this?"

She was told:
"Quiet, Inanna, the ways of the underworld are perfect.
They may not be questioned."

Eighty-six pages of this book are devoted to stories about Inanna. Twenty are used for hymns to Inanna. The rest contains reference material such as analysis of the myths about Inanna, explanation of the research that has been conducted on Sumerian culture, background information about the ancient Sumerian art that appears throughout the book, bibliography, and index.

 

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Is It Right for You?

 

You Will Probably Enjoy This Book If...

  • You are fascinated by the ancient cultures of the Near East.
  • You appreciate books featuring powerful women as their central characters.
  • You enjoy reading about mythology from other cultures.
  • You have an interest in ancient Sumer.
  • You are a Pagan who looks to Inanna for wisdom and inspiration.
  • You want to know not only the actual myths, but also background about the research and how it was pulled together.

 

This Book Probably Isn't Right for You If...

  • You don't enjoy reading text that is written in poetic form.
  • You have no interest in mythology or ancient cultures.
  • You're only interested in books that are specifically related to Near Eastern dance in some way.

 

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What I Liked, What I Didn't

 

What I Liked:

  • Unlike scholarly mythology books, this one reveals Inanna with the flair of poetic storytelling.
  • This book provides a non-intimidating introduction to Sumerian mythology because it focuses on the stories featuring one particular pivotal goddess. You can ease into an unfamiliar world with a minimum of characters and their relationships to memorize
  • For me, Wolkstein's poetic style of telling the stories strikes just the right balance between poetic repetition and moving the plot forward.
  • The story of Inanna's descent to the underworld is one of the great legends from ancient times.
  • The index at the end of the book is very helpful in locating specific passages.
  • The book is illustrated with many pictures, mostly taken from the carvings on cylinder seals. They help set the tone for the accompanying text, and help transport the imagination to 5,000 years in the past.
  • The index is detailed enough to be useful.
  • The bibliography offers many recommendations for further reading on the subject.

 

What I Didn't Like:

  • Only 86 pages of this 200-page book are actually dedicated to telling stories about Inanna, and I find myself wanting more.

 

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Conclusion

Inanna was a powerful goddess in one of the earliest major ancient civilizations. She is portrayed in mythology as multi-dimensional - as a powerful queen, a scheming thief, a lover, a vengeful person, and a vulnerable visitor to someone else's realm. The stories of her in this book offer many opportunities for reflection and journal writing.

This book provides a useful place to begin learning about both the culture of ancient Sumer in general, and the stories of Inanna in particular. The writing style is easy to read, and the stories lay a foundation for further reading.

 

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Disclosures

There is nothing to disclose. I have never had any contact with anyone associated with this book.

 

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To Buy It

 

Contact Information

Diane Wolkstein
10 Patchin Place
New York City, NY 10011-8342
U.S.A.

Phone: (+1) (212) 929-6871

Web Site: dianewolkstein.com


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