The other day I was talking about writing with someone who began pointing out the similarity of ideas behind a variety of books. I pointed out that the idea wasn’t always the important thing, what an individual author did with the idea was important. Two authors who come up with the same basic idea would write extremely different stories.
Josepha Sherman’s “The Theft of Destiny,” which first appeared in the Margaret Weis anthology Legends: Tales from the Eternal Archives is certainly not based on a new idea. In fact, Sherman’s story is a retelling of an ancient Mesopotamian myth concerning Enlil, Anzu, and Ninurta. However, Sherman relates the legend in a way that is more resonant with the modern reader.
Over the course of only a few pages, Sherman presents three different viewpoints, beginning with Enlil, who has custody of the Tablets of Destiny. Sherman follows the tablets when they are stolen by Anzu, and, by extension, begins to look at Anzu’s motivations in the theft. Ninurta, Enlil’s son, comes into the picture when his father informs the gods of the theft and his underrated son sees an opportunity to achieve something and make a name for himself.
Without delving too deeply into the mythology behind the two gods, the demon, or the Tablets of Destiny, Sherman works to provide each of them with very realistic and understandable motives for their actions. Anzu doesn’t steal the Tablets merely to set the action of the story in motion and Ninurtu chases after Anzu because he feels the need to demonstrate that he is as capable, or more capable, than the more establish deities.