I Am Here To Win is an anthology of writing by the sixth-grade students of IS 187-Hudson Cliffs School in Manhattan. The goal of this residency was to deepen students’ understanding of the people of ancient Mesopotamia by bringing creative writing strategies into the social studies classroom.
One of the best ways to understand any civilization is through their art. We started by looking at ancient Sumerian sculptures of battle scenes. We asked, Why did the ancient Mesopotamians create so many pictures of war? What were they trying to tell us?
War and violent struggle are facts of history––but the hatred of war, and the desire for peace are also a vital part of human experience. Using empathy and imagination, the students were able to communicate both the terror of battle and the desire for peace through the voices you’ll find here.
From visual art, we turned to the written word, and one of the world’s oldest stories, The Epic of Gilgamesh. We looked at one of the most famous parts of the story, where Gilgamesh fights and defeats the demon of the forest, Humbaba. We asked the students, Who is the hero of this story? Who is the villain? Is it possible to have a story without a hero or a villain? The students thought deeply about these questions, and gave voice to those thoughts in some remarkable pieces of writing.
I Knew This Day Would Come
by Havanna (6th grade)
My name is Humbaba. I am a demon who protects the forest. People thing I’m bad because I killed a lot of people, but it’s not my fault. The gods wanted me to protect this stupid forest, so I had to kill some people. But I think today is the day I will retire.
One hour later…I see this guy walking up to me with his weapon. I stare at him and he stares back. I can see he does not really want to do this. His friend was scared and it looked like he couldn’t move. Then, he made his move and I dodged him. I asked him what his name was, and he said, “Gilgamesh.” He was very strong. I didn’t want to die, but before I knew it, he cut off my head.
I knew this day would come. I knew the gods were going to be mad at me. I saw Gilgamesh’s friend happy that he had finally killed me. Now they would have all the fame in the world. I didn’t want to die, but everyone ends up dying.
I see the gods, and they all have a disappointed face, while I see the bright light shining in my eyes. I think to myself, how aren’t they blind?
Where I Belong
by Azariah (6th grade)
While Gilgamesh is fighting me, I can barely focus. Since I’m the bad one, I’m supposed to be very strong and skilled, but there are so many things going on around me. It’s like the only thing I can hear is my breathing and my heart pounding against my chest. I can only see him; my vision won’t focus on anything else. For a moment, I second-guessed myself. Then I remembered who I was. I don’t lose. I’m a fighter. A survivor. I could tell Gilgamesh was ready. He looked me in the eyes, and didn’t look away. Our eyes were locked, until…he shot his arrow. It was a perfect shot. It was aiming right for my chest.
I looked around and saw a woman. She was holding up a sign with my name on it. Like she had been waiting for me.She reached out her hand, so I took it. We walked to this circle with things surrounding us. I looked to my right, and I saw my old name. I looked to my left, and saw the battlefield. Then I blinked, and everything stopped. The only thing there was the woman. She said to me, “You are where you belong.” Then she disappeared. All around me were flames. Everything was so dark. I thought about what she’d said to me. I started to understand. Everyone who I had every hurt was there, right in front of me, waving goodbye. I turn my back and see another person. Gilgamesh. He said again, “You are where you belong.” After those last words, there was nothing but flames. Something grabbed my foot. It started to drag me through the sky.
I’m lost. I’m where I belong.