Sumerian and Babylonian god of war, the south wind, and artificial irrigation. Ninurta is the hero of a fragmentary epic poem that tells of his successful war on the dragon Kur. Following the advice of this talking weapon Sharur, Ninurta, a son of Enlil, moves against Kur, a monster often associated with the underworld. At first defeated, Ninurta returns to the battle and destroys Kur completely. Kur’s death, however, adversely affects the normal behavior of the waters, upon which the land depends for irrigation. Ninurta therefore guides the flood waters into the Tigris, and the fertility of the fields returns. Of the stones that were flung in the battle with Kur, Ninurta blesses those that had been on his side and curses the others. In many respects this myth is the forerunner of innumerable others in which the hero slays the dragon.”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

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