In “The Epic of Gilgamesh” the main character, Gilgamesh, is searching for immortality. This want is brought about by deep feelings held by Gilgamesh for his dead friend Enkidu. From this, Gilgamesh finds himself being scared of dying. This fear pushes Gilgamesh to search for the power of immortal life, which is believed to be held only by women because of the fact that they can reproduce. This takes him on a long and tiresome journey to a land where no mortal has gone before. The search by Gilgamesh is fueled by the desire to play a part in reproduction. His journey begins at Mount Mashu, the mountain which describes a woman in the part that her “paps reach down to the underworld.” Referring to two women s breast s hanging down. Before he may enter the mountain, he meets two half female, half-dragon figures guarding the entrance.
They begin asking why he has come; “No man/ born of woman has done what you have/ asked, no mortal man has ever gone into the/ mountain.” This mountain is off-limits to mortal beings, he should not be there Gilgamesh is allowed in and goes through twelve leagues of darkness before he reaches the golden garden of the goddesses. Upon arriving there he is greeted by Shamash, the Sun God, who tells him, “You will never find the/ life for which you are searching.” This upsets Gilgamesh because he has traveled so far to now just “sleep and let the earth cover my head forever?” From leaving Shamash, Gilgamesh is sent to see Siduri. “Beside the sea she lives, the woman of/ the vine, the maker of wine ” and she does not want to allow Gilgamesh to pass. Gilgamesh pleads with her that since he has seen her do not let him see death. She answers, “Gilgamesh, where/ are you hurrying to?
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You will never find that life for which you are looking.” Once again Gilgamesh hears that what he is looking for does not exist. She tells him to enjoy life to its fullest because that is what a man is there for. That does not satisfy Gilgamesh and he wishes to know where to find Utnapishtim, the only man with eternal life. To find him, Gilgamesh must locate Urshanabi, the ferry woman. She then proceeds to take him over the Ocean and over the waters of death. So Gilgamesh finds himself in Dilmun, the place where Utnapishtim resides. Utnapishtim asks why he has come. Gilgamesh proceeds to tell Utnapishtim the whole story about Enkidu dying, how far he has traveled, who he has met, and finally that he wants to know how to become immortal like him. “There is no permanence,” Utnapishtim states, “It is only the nymph of the/ dragonfly who sheds her larva and sees the sun in her glory.”
This statement is saying that only women live forever through reproduction. Utnapishtim continues to tell Gilgamesh how he got here and asks “As for you, Gilgamesh,/ who will assemble the gods for/ your sake, so that you may find that life for which you are searching?” Utnapishtim offers him a test and all he has to do is stay up for six days and seven nights. Gilgamesh can not do it, and he immediately falls asleep. Utnapishtim wakes him after seven days and tells Urshanabi to take Gilgamesh to be cleaned, then send him back to where he came from. But before Gilgamesh could leave, Utnapishtim told him of a plant underwater that would restore a man’s youth.
Gilgamesh then left to find this marvelous plant before he headed home. He found it and brought it with him. Urshanabi and Gilgamesh traveled a long way before stopping for the night. While stopped, Gilgamesh went to go bathe in a well. But, deep in that well there was a serpent. “It rose out of the water and snatched it/ away, and immediately it sloughed its/ skin and returned to the well.” Gilgamesh is left with nothing. The serpent was a symbol of a woman, and now Gilgamesh sees that he can not have the power to bear everlasting life. In short, Gilgamesh ends up dying, as all men must do. He learned that there is no immortal life for men and that women are still the only immortals because of reproduction.
In The Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh goes on journeys for renown and immortality, which results in socialization and maturation. He does not believe others when they tell him that immortality is not possible for mortals. So, with his companion Enkidu, he goes abroad into the world in search of everlasting life. Gilgamesh’s quests go not just to the known world of Mesopotamia, but also to the seas and tunnels beyond the world’s end. Gilgamesh is the mightiest of ancient kings. He rules as a tyrant, ignorant of his duties and bound by arrogance, all the while exhausting local youth and being disrespectful to the maidens.
His ultimate objective in life is to gain immortality; in the past, he has tried by building the walls of Uruk, a great rampart, and a temple of the blessed Eanna. Gilgamesh realizes that his works inside Uruk will not gain him immortality, and he decides that he must take his adventures outside the walls of the city. Each of Gilgamesh’s journeys plays an important role in progressively humanizing him. On Gilgamesh and Enkidu’s journeys, Enkidu enrages the god Enlil, by commanding Gilgamesh to kill Humbaba; he also threatens the goddess Ishtar.
Due to Enkidu’s behavior, he dies. Gilgamesh’s grief for Enkidu is his first step towards humanization. After bitterly weeping for his companion, Gilgamesh goes on a quest to find the god Utnapishtim, still in search of immortality. Along his journey, he meets other gods who encourage him to turn back and live his life to the fullest in Uruk. Gilgamesh is strong-willed and will not give up. He finally meets Utnapishtim who stresses and proves to Gilgamesh that no mortal can obtain immortality. Although Utnapishtim does tell Gilgamesh about a plant belonging to the gods, it is underwater and will restore youth. Gilgamesh goes into the water, which symbolizes rebirth. His whole being is transformed and he is fully humanized.
The Epic of Gilgamesh is a Sumerian story that dates back to ancient times; actually, it is supposedly the most erstwhile story on earth. Gilgamesh, the principal character has both godly and human features that elevate him above other people thus culminating his character as a rapist, cruel, domineering, and oppressive ruler. However, the intervention of the gods leads to the creation of Gilgamesh’s rivalry with Enkidu who lives in the forest but the two become best friends. Unfortunately, due to the wrath or disobedience to the gods, Enkidu dies. The death of Enkidu and the premonition of Gilgamesh’s death becomes a turning point in his life, which prompts him to seek immortality from the gods.
Both Gilgamesh and Enkidu are liminal characters because their lives revolve around two different worlds. On one hand, Gilgamesh has human flesh, which coexists with godly features while on the other hand; Enkidu emerges from the forest where he lives and feeds like wild animals but ends up in the human world. Through the intervention of the gods or other key characters like Shamhat, Urshanabi, and Utnapishtim among others, Gilgamesh and Enkidu not only become civilized or humans, but also their character transform. Gilgamesh is a ruthless, oppressive but handsome and wise ruler with the ability to communicate or closely relate to the gods in his land. According to the author,” two-thirds of him was divine, while one-third of him was human” (Foster 5).
Therefore, his body description or physical appearance gives him the ability to exist in the spirit or divine world. Furthermore, Gilgamesh lacks humanity because he harasses and torments his subjects by forcing them, especially men, to build his territory. Consequently, the cries and lamentation of his subjects to the gods lead to the creation of Enkidu who is as brilliant as Gilgamesh. Enkidu’s first interaction with Gilgamesh is through a fight but the match ends in a draw thus culminating into a friendship. In addition, Gilgamesh does not assault sexually the woman (bride) as he had earlier planned. Whence, the lamentation of his subjects and the appearance of Enkidu form the basis of the transformation of Gilgamesh especially his character.
Physically, Enkidu’s body has a combination of both human and animal features, which forces him to live in the forest with wild animals. His body is not only hairy, but he also feeds through breastfeeding from wild animals or through grazing and drinks in a bent position like the animals. According to Foster, “he knew neither people nor inhabited land” (6) thus describing his non-human features. Shamhat, a prostitute, seduces Enkidu and the two engage in sexual activity. Consequently, animals reject Enkidu because the sexual intercourse transformed him into a human thus ending up in the human world.
Enkidu freely mingles with people feeding like them and becomes a nightguard, which causes him to forget quickly about the animal world. Shamhat is the first person to initiate the humanization and civilization of Enkidu because she teaches him about the human world or the ways of man. In addition, the mutual relationship between Shamhat and Enkidu turns out to be an epiphany moment in Enkidu’s life. From defiance or bravery, Gilgamesh and Enkidu fight for their lives in the hands of the gods and demons, but the big question remains, will they survive? A decision by Gilgamesh and Enkidu to loot trees from a forbidden forest climax in a curse, which transforms the character of Gilgamesh.
The god of Shamash assists the two to defeat all the demons or monsters in the forest after which they cut down trees. Nevertheless, on return to Uruk, the goddess of love falls for Gilgamesh but he turns her down leading to punishment from the sky god. Luckily, the two kill the bull meant to punish them ending the wrath of the god on the land. Therefore, the gods decide to kill Enkidu who dies after a short illness. The death of Enkidu turns out as an epiphany moment to Gilgamesh who is also supposed to die thereafter, while the death and illness of Enkidu show his existence and conversion into the human world.
The manifestation of Gilgamesh’s death and a revelation of his eventual suffering after death alter his behaviors from an evil ruler to a humane one. He embarks on a journey to avert his death or become immortal. Therefore, the character change of Gilgamesh shows that he is starting to become civilized while the fear of death connects him to the human world and not the divine world. On his journey to “immortality”, he seeks the intervention of Utnapishtim who gives him two tests but he fails both. The first test is to stay awake for seven days and nights but he is unable to pass it.
The second test is simple where he is to take a unique plant meant to rejuvenate him when he grows old but he fails the test because the serpent steals the plant leaving him helpless. Gilgamesh’s realization that he has a few days to live compels him to change his character to a fair ruler. He ends the oppression regime and asserts to respect all his subjects regardless of their position in his kingdom. Through the intervention of gods, Gilgamesh becomes mortal and powerless, which differentiates him from other gods. Gilgamesh’s mortality hinges on the transformation from the divine world to the human world. Moreover, his character as a fearful being is only human-oriented while the lowliness and humane character are due to civilization. Similarly, the gods create Enkidu in the likeness of Gilgamesh while Shamhat plays a great role in his (Enkidu) civilization.
Additionally, Enkidu is the main character involved in the transformation of Gilgamesh because, through his death, the character of Gilgamesh changes for the better. Eventually, Gilgamesh succumbs to his fate because he is mortal and has a few days to live in the human world. Finally, Gilgamesh’s subjects and the gods contribute to his human transformation or civilization. In summary, the Epic of Gilgamesh underscores the existence of Gilgamesh and Enkidu within two diverse worlds. Gilgamesh exists in both the divine and human world but eventually ends up a human being.
On the other hand, Enkidu becomes a human being when he interacts with Shamhat but he has a tragic end in the human world. Gilgamesh’s divinity disappears when he disobeys his gods and mistreats his subjects. He changes his ruling tactics and accepts humanity while he waits for his death, which is drawing near the day after the other. The epiphanies in Gilgamesh and Enkidu civilize them, transforming them into human beings. Finally, a combination of efforts from the gods and subjects as Shamhat gives Gilgamesh and his friend Enkidu a new life- a civilized, humane life.
The epic yarn Gilgamesh leaves the reader with the sour taste of pessimism when s/he finishes the book. This pessimistic ending is not the happy ending I was expecting to see considering the tragic ambiance of the rest of the story. The entire last part of the book, from Enkidu s death onward, is nothing but more sorrow for Gilgamesh. The book likes to give Gilgamesh hope. Then crush him with more tragedy. It is almost as if the more he tries, the worse it gets for him.
After Enkidu s death, Gilgamesh embarks on a crusade to bring Enkidu back to life. His quest takes him traveling across the sea of death in search of Utnapishtim. Gilgamesh spends a lot of time and effort in search of Utnapishtim. He travels to great lengths, as well as risks his life in attempting to bring life back to his lost friend. His journey finally takes him to Urshanabi. Urshanabi s presence gives Gilgamesh a spark of hope of getting his friend back. This hope is then shattered by Urshanabi when he says, The stone images are destroyed. If you had been as reverent with them as with your friend, they might have helped you cross. (p.69)
This is the beginning of a vicious cycle that Gilgamesh goes through. He gets his hopes up. Then they are destroyed, only to be brought up again. The cycle continues when Gilgamesh finally reaches Utnapishtim. Gilgamesh thinks he is very close to eternal life, but Utnapishtim annihilates that hope when he tells Urshanabi to bring Gilgamesh back across the sea of death. The final spin in the cycle starts when Gilgamesh gets the thorny plant from the river floor. To Gilgamesh, this plant is much more than hope. It symbolizes the purpose of his life: to resurrect Enkidu. At this point, Gilgamesh thinks he has finally won. He has the key to eternal life. When the serpent eats the flower, Gilgamesh is devastated. All that he worked so hard for is ripped from him.
At the end of the story, Gilgamesh is walking home, when he strikes a conversation with a local blind man. He entered the city and asked a blind man if he had ever heard the name Enkidu, and the old man shrugged and shook his head, then turned away, as if to say impossible to keep the names of friends whom we have lost. (P. 91-92) This is one of the most important conversations in the entire book. Before he talked to the man, Gilgamesh knew there was no way he was going to bring Enkidu back to life. He also knew that as long as the people remembered Enkidu and all the great things that he did, he would really live forever, in the minds and hearts of all who remember him.
The conversation is also one of the most pessimistic moments in the book. It is telling Gilgamesh that no one remembers his friend. Therefore, when Gilgamesh dies, Enkidu s memory will die with him. Even though Gilgamesh is such a Pessimistic book, there are also some important lessons that Gilgamesh learns at the end of the story. Most importantly, he learns that if he sets his mind to something, like finding Utnapishtim, he can succeed. He also learns that sometimes death is less painful to bear if you mourn, and then try to forget the dead. Gilgamesh learned the hard way that if you obsess over someone s death, that it continually grows more painful for you. However, I do not think that these lessons are so great that they make the ending optimistic. These lessons are not an even trade for Enkidu s life.
The Epic of Gilgamesh is a moving tale of the friendship between Gilgamesh, the demigod king of Uruk, and the wild man Enkidu. Accepting one’s own mortality is the overarching theme of the epic as Gilgamesh and Enkidu find their highest purpose in the pursuit of eternal life. The epic begins with Gilgamesh terrorizing the people of Uruk. They call out to the sky god Anu for help. In response Anu tells the goddess of creation, Aruru, to make an equal for Gilgamesh. Thus Aruru created Enkidu, a brute with the strength of dozens of wild animals. After being seduced by a harlot from the temple of love in Uruk, Enkidu loses his strength and wildness yet gain wisdom and understanding.
The harlot offers to take him into Uruk where Gilgamesh lives, the only man worthy of Enkidu’s friendship. After a brief brawl, the two become devoted friends. The newfound friends gradually weaken and grow lazy living in the city, so Gilgamesh proposes a great adventure that entails cutting down a great cedar forest to build a great monument to the gods. However, to accomplish this they must kill the Guardian of the Cedar Forest, the great demon, Humbaba the Terrible. Enkidu, along with the elders of the city, has serious reservations about such an undertaking but in the end, Gilgamesh and Enkidu kill the terrible demon.
As Gilgamesh cleans himself and his blood-stained weapons, Ishtar, the goddess of love and beauty, takes notice of his beauty and offers to become his wife. Gilgamesh refuses with insults, listing all her mortal lovers and recounting the dire fates they all met with at her hands. Ishtar is enraged at the rebuff. She returns to heaven and begs her father, Anu, to let her have the Bull of Heaven to wreak vengeance on Gilgamesh and his city. Anu reluctantly gives in, and the Bull of Heaven is sent down to terrorize the people of Uruk. Gilgamesh and Enkidu, work together to slay the mighty bull.
Example #6 – The Syntagm of Gilgamesh
Among the numerous struggles humans undergo within a lifetime, the ultimate struggle of the human experience is to eventually contend with mortality. Kings can obtain as much physical power as they and their subjects have at hand, however even the most powerful of kings are subject to the brutal cycles of the most natural regulators. As solution seekers, humans have a great deal of trouble confronting this inevitable reality. There are, of course, numerous historical paradigms that speak to this timeless struggle. One of these is as ancient as written stories come, The Epic of Gilgamesh, an epic poem about a king who is characterized by almost all of the qualifications of a hero.
The hero is an archetype that appears in nearly every myth and undergoes general steps throughout, which makes the journey about their progression through some external or internal conflict towards some resolution. Specifically, according to Joseph Campbell’s characterization of the monomyth of the hero, there are three necessary stages of the journey. These are departure, trials, and temptations, and finally the reintegration into the familiar realm of the hero’s origin (Devinney and Thury (Whomsley) 219). The template laid out by Campbell is followed incredibly closely by many stories and myths whose hero must learn a valuable lesson, thereby teaching the lesson to the reader and fulfilling the functional role of mythology within the society that constructed the myth.
The analysis of the differences and similarities of these narratives reveal the commonality to the message conveyed. In Levi Strauss’s analysis of mythology, he makes an analogy to the nature of syntagms and paradigms in linguistics as a method of understanding the structure of mythologies (Devinney and Thury (Kirk) 263). The universal struggle conveyed by the myth is itself a paradigm, while the specific instance of the myth itself serves as a single syntagm of the paradigm. This paper will explore the syntagmatic journey of Gilgamesh and Enkidu, to then integrate this specific narrative to the general paradigm that is being addressed. To achieve this analysis, the characterizations of both figures, their adherence to Campbell’s characterization of the heroic monomyth, and the specific struggle with mortality that Gilgamesh endures after Enkidu perishes must all be thoroughly examined.
In the first part of the epic, the reader is exposed to Gilgamesh’s characterization through the words and prayers of the people of Uruk, directed towards the God Aruru, requesting a method of dealing with their harsh and tyrannical ruler, Gilgamesh. As it is written, “Though he is their shepherd and protector…Gilgamesh lets no girl go free to her bride [groom]” (George 4). The citizens of Uruk are complaining about their ruler who is supposed to be protecting them. This first characterization of Gilgamesh is a rather negative one, as it is implied that Gilgamesh is engaging in inordinately tyrannical behavior, even forcing young newlywed women to sleep with him.
It is through this request that Gilgamesh’s parallel is introduced, Enkidu, who is created by the goddess Aruru to appease the qualms of the citizens of Uruk so that a challenger of worthy capabilities can put Gilgamesh in his place and hopefully achieve a more protected society. So Aruru creates this wild man: “Coated in hair like the god of the animals” (George 5). It is important to consider Enkidu’s physical characterizations. He is very hairy and wild in nature. He is one with the animals and “knows not a people, nor even a country” (George 5). This emphasis on Enkidu’s untamed nature becomes significant as the development of the two characters progresses.
As Enkidu’s story progresses, his departure from his own familiar realm is achieved by his succumbing to his temptation of lust, as a hunter who notices that Enkidu is undoing his traps, plans to entrap Enkidu by seducing him with a prostitute. The hunter tells the prostitute, “Uncradle your bosom, bare your sex, let him take in your charms…he will see you, and will approach you” (George 7). The woman does just this and successfully beds Enkidu for six days and seven nights. This experience transforms Enkidu, as is evident by the rejection of Enkidu afterward by his animal companions. According to Campbell’s monomyth, Enkidu is accomplishing a departure from his animalistic world to a civilized one, largely guided by a powerful female role, referred to commonly within the monomyth template, as the anima (Devinney and Thury 219).
Enkidu then learns of the existence of Gilgamesh who is ruling over Uruk unnecessarily harshly and goes to the city to fight Gilgamesh in an epic fight that literally shakes the whole city (George 16). Finally, their battle comes to an end and the two find mutual respect for each other. In fact, the text even goes as far as to say “They kissed each other and formed a friendship” (George 17). The unification of these two characters prompts the beginning of their epic journey together. They seek adventure and self-magnification through victories in their conquests. First, Enkidu and Gilgamesh agree to travel to the Forest of Cedar trees to fight the notorious godly guardian of the trees, Humbaba. Their long journey leads them to their battle with Humbaba who is overcome by the two mighty figures and Enkidu eventually convinces Gilgamesh to end Humbaba’s life. He says to Gilgamesh, “finish him, slay him, do away with his power” (George 43).
Gilgamesh agrees and carries out this task as Enkidu eggs him on. It is in this scene that it becomes very evident in the enabling nature of the relationship between Enkidu and Gilgamesh. In their arrival back in Uruk, Gilgamesh’s physical characteristics tempt the lust of Ishtar, a goddess. Gilgamesh however, rejects her advances explaining that he is aware of “the fates suffered by her many former conquests” (George 47). The knowledge not to give in to lustful temptations can be understood as a trial in its own regard, and this can also be understood through the lens of Campbell’s hero and Carl Jung’s additional focus on the female anima shaping the journey of the hero (Devinney Thury 222).
The role of this temptress goddess is a familiar one to the monomyth and indeed does play a large role in the shaping of the rest of Gilgamesh and Enkidu’s journey. For, in anger of his rejection, Ishtar releases the Bull of Heaven, who comes down to earth and as he snorts, “a pit opened up, one hundred men of Uruk fell down it” (George 51). After the bull does this twice, Enkidu manages to grab hold of it and the two actually manage to defeat this bull. This scene is particularly powerful in that Enkidu and Gilgamesh are both saving the town of Uruk from death, but also achieving their self magnification by defeating such a powerful being. The accomplishments of the two speak to the seemingly limitless ability of the two men to handle external conflicts.
They seem to be able to overcome whatever struggle they encounter. It is not until the next part of the epic, that the power and abilities of Gilgamesh and Enkidu are brought into question, causing Gilgamesh to contend with the truest conflict of the epic, his own mortality. In the next part of the poem, Enkidu relays to Gilgamesh certain disturbing dreams that he has been having. In this dream, Enkidu reveals “The gods Anu, Enlil, Ea, and celestial Shamash held an assembly, Anu spoke…because they slew the Bull of Heaven, and slew Humbaba…between these two let one of them die…let Enkidu die, but let not Gilgamesh die!” (George 55). Sure enough, as time progresses, Enkidu gets sicker and more miserable, and eventually, he dies. Gilgamesh is really affected by the death of Enkidu.
He mourns and makes the whole town of Uruk mourn with him but what really gets to Gilgamesh, is that Enkidu, such a powerful being was subject to death, and this implies the possibility that Gilgamesh cannot escape this end as well. Gilgamesh states “I shall die, and shall I not then be as Enkidu?” (George 70). This confrontation with mortality is the first we see of Gilgamesh’s real worry and weakness. It begins to become clear that the heroic feats of Gilgamesh and Enkidu served the purpose to characterize these figures as triumphant in almost all realms. They are both of the most desirable, admired, and fiercest men, truly representative of the furthest limitations of the power humans (or even part god humans) can obtain.
It is this fulfillment of the superficial characteristics of the hero that make the latter parts of the epic so powerful. Once Gilgamesh has defeated his most challenging adversary and watched his closest friend die, he is faced with his own mortality, the one thing he encounters that is out of his control. Of course, this is not something Gilgamesh outright accepts, as is evident through the next part of the epic, where Gilgamesh desperately goes on a journey seeking immortality. The journey of Gilgamesh proceeds and he finds himself at the sea-shore where he meets a tavern-keeper. He tells his story of triumphs with Enkidu and the tavern keeper inquires, “If you and Enkidu were the ones who slew…Humbaba…and slew the Bull…why are your cheeks so hollow, your face so sunken?” George 77).
The notable changes to Gilgamesh’s appearance are important here, as they speak to Gilgamesh’s true transformation after Enkidu dies. The tavern keeper and Gilgamesh talk and eventually, Gilgamesh asks her how to arrive at the “road to Uta-Utnapishtim” (George 78). After a long journey, Gilgamesh actually is able to make it to Uta-Utnapishtim, despite this being an almost impossible task. When he arrives, Uta-Utnapishtim is curious as well as why Gilgamesh looks so defeated. “Why are your cheeks so hollow, your face so sunken…” (George 83). Gilgamesh explains that he is crushed because of the death of his friend, in fact, he puts it as “the doom of mortals overtook him” (George 84). This is addressing the immediate point.
Gilgamesh has actually been forced to confront his own mortality, completely out of his broad control. Despite Uta-napushti’s wise words about the nature and role of death, Gilgamesh presses him further and asks how he has achieved this feat of immortality. Uta-napishti explains his story. This story resembles the biblical story of Noah’s ark, as Uta-napishti is told by the gods to build a huge boat for himself and his family so that he may survive an otherwise completely decimating flood. The result of this is the God Enlil, granting Uta-napishti and his wife immortality, as it says “In the past Uta-napishti was a mortal man, but now he and his wife shall become like us gods!” (George 95). Uta-napishti then tells Gilgamesh that if he wants to achieve immortality he should endure a test. “For six days and seven nights, come, do without slumber” (George 95). What is particularly interesting about this task is that it does not involve achieving some large feat of physical strength or courage like Gilgamesh’s previous triumphs.
Rather, it is, like death, an inevitable and unavoidable aspect of life that humans must passively endure. In fact, “As soon as Gilgamesh squatted down on his haunches, sleep…already breathed over him” (George 96). One might pause at this point in some kind of confusion, as this task does not immediately seem as intense as the other feats Gilgamesh has accomplished throughout his journey. This is precisely why this task is chosen, to juxtapose all that Gilgamesh is capable of, to his utter limitations as a physically bound being. Upon waking Gilgamesh after seven days, Uta-napishti banishes Gilgamesh but tells him of a secret plant, that can make him young again. Gilgamesh, escorted by the boatman Ur-shanabi recovers the plant and decides he will take it back to Uruk. During his trip home, however, Gilgamesh bathes in a body of water and sets the plant down.
It is then that “Of the plant’s fragrance, a snake caught scent, came up, and bore the plant off.” (George 99). The snake then sheds its skin to a younger version of itself, just as the plant is intended to do. The explanation for why snakes shed their skin here is quite interesting but what is more attention-grabbing, is the aspect of chance, and the trivialness of this simple action of the snake, that dooms Gilgamesh to a mortal fate. Finally, Gilgamesh returns home, fulfilling the last aspect of Campbell’s hero’s journey, reintegration into his familiar realm and society, despite his seeming failures.
Gilgamesh is defeated, not by something much stronger, and quicker than him, but by natural events outside of his control. Namely, a wild animal stealing his plant, his own need for sleep, and his own inevitable mortality. The scene with the snake is so significant because the plant, and consequently Gilgamesh’s chances of rejuvenation, are simply taken from Gilgamesh after he endures such long and daring journeys. As such, this is truly symbolic of Gilgamesh’s whole journey and the lessons he learns. No matter the feats he accomplishes, the strength he acquires, he is bound by his physical limitations. With the epic at a close, Gilgamesh appears as if he ultimately fails. This abrupt ending sits a little uneasy, as the characterization of Gilgamesh has been so heroic and triumphant.
However, there is no better way to end this epic than the squashing of Gilgamesh’s final attempts at his unattainable goal, by a simple act of a tricky snake. The reader should understand that if Gilgamesh were triumphant in his goals, he would not be relatable to human beings. In fact, it is his limitations that make Gilgamesh truly the hero of this epic. Gilgamesh is after all two-thirds god and only one-third human. The reader can only relate to the hero in Gilgamesh that is mortal, limited, and human. This syntagm of the hero’s journey expands the paradigm of Campbell’s characterization of the hero.
That is, instead of achieving heroic status through feats of strength and will, Gilgamesh’s heroism is accomplished through the ultimate reconciliation of his own limitations. It is in this way that the categorical distinction of the hero class is broadened and that the function of this myth is fulfilled. This epic sways from the typical narrative of mythological stories, as it teaches the reader that throughout all the characterizations of god-like humans modeling the life to live, and setting the template for the hero’s journey, it is only through acceptance of human limitations that the true human hero emerges.
The story of Gilgamesh seems to relate to stories of the bible in some instances, but in others, it seems like some great writers were at work when they created this story. For instance when I read the book The line “Gilgamesh, two-thirds god and one-third human, is the greatest king on earth and the strongest super-human that ever existed”, sound similar to Jesus Christ. It makes me wonder which one of these stories is true the bible or Gilgamesh. I have summarized the book to point out which part to me is biblically related.
Gilgamesh, two-thirds god, and one-third human is the greatest king on earth and the Strongest super-human that ever existed; however, he is young and oppresses his people harshly. The people call out to the sky-god Anu, the chief god of the city, to help them. In response, Anu creates a wild man, Enkidu, out in the harsh and wild forests surrounding Gilgamesh’s lands. This brute, Enkidu, has the strength of dozens of wild animals; he is to serve as the subhuman rival to the superhuman Gilgamesh. A trapper’s son, while checking on traps in the forest, discovers Enkidu running
Naked with the wild animals; he rushes to his father with the news. The father advises him to go into the city and take one of the temple harlots, Shamhat, with him to the forest; 1 when she sees Enkidu, she is to offer herself sexually to the wild man. If he submits to her, the trapper says, he will lose his strength and his wildness. Shamhat meets Enkidu at the watering-hole where all the wild animals gather; she offers herself to him and he submits, instantly losing his strength and wildness, but he gains understanding and knowledge. He laments for his lost state, but the harlot offers to take him into the city where all the joys of civilization shine in their resplendence; she offers to show him Gilgamesh, the only man worthy of Enkidu’s friendship.
Gilgamesh meanwhile has two dreams; in the first, a meteorite falls to earth which is so great that Gilgamesh can neither lift it nor turn it. The people gather and celebrate around the meteorite, and Gilgamesh embraces it as he would a wife, but his mother, the goddess Rimat-Ninsun, forces him to compete with the meteorite. In the second, Gilgamesh dreams that an ax appears at his door, so great that he can neither do lift it nor turn it. The people gather and celebrate around the ax, and Gilgamesh embraces it as he would a wife, but his mother, again, forces him to compete with the ax. Gilgamesh asks his mother what these dreams might mean; she tells him a man of great force and strength will come into Uruk. Gilgamesh will embrace this man as he would a wife, and this man will help Gilgamesh perform great deeds.
Enkidu is gradually introduced to civilization by living for a time with a group of Shepherds, who teach him how to tend flocks, how to eat, how to speak properly, and how to wear clothes. Enkidu then enters the city of Uruk during a great celebration. Gilgamesh, as the king, claims the right to have sexual intercourse first with every new bride on the day of her wedding, as Enkidu enters the city, Gilgamesh is about to claim that right. Infuriated at this abuse, Enkidu stands in Front of the door of the marital chamber and blocks Gilgamesh’s way.
They fight furiously until Gilgamesh wins the upper hand; Enkidu concedes Gilgamesh’s superiority and the two embrace and becomes devoted friends. Though this story is very impressive, and I especially like the way the characters fall into place. For example, when the people of Uruk did not like what Gilgamesh was doing they ask the god’s foe for help, and Enkidu was created to counter Gilgamesh, but instead, they became friends. On a whole I like the story I found it to be very eye-opening.
“The Epic of Gilgamesh” is a didactic story set out to expose the inevitability of death. The true meaning of this story is sometimes overlooked because the story is told in heighten language not easily understood. The epic hero in this story is Gilgamesh; he undertakes a quest for knowledge that is overshadowed by his ignorance.
The tragic death of Enkidu, Gilgamesh’s trusted companion forces the epic hero to change his perception of death. To overcome great obstacles one must be willing to put their ignorance aside. Tzvi Abusch analyzes “The Epic of Gilgamesh” in his article “The development and meaning of the Epic of Gilgamesh”. Abusch’s explication of Gilgamesh’s identity, friendship, achievements, and ignorance towards death lacks substance. Abusch perceives Gilgamesh to be a man, hero, king, and god who acts in a manner that accords limits and responsibility imposed upon him by his society.
Abusch illustrates that: “Gilgamesh is aggressive and courageous, even impetuous, and he shows little or no concern for his own safety and focuses all of his energy upon battle, obligation, honor, and victory” (3). The author explains that even with the greatest power and achievements there is no humanly possible power that is able to withstand death. Abusch’s analysis talks about Gilgamesh coming to terms with his nature and learns about death. The main conflict in the article is between Gilgamesh being an epic hero and his ability to obtain moral growth.
Example #9 – The Role of Women in Man’s Downfall in Gilgamesh and the Hebrew Bible
Women have often been portrayed as a weakness for the male gender in various societies. The female theatrics and lies have been the source of the downfall for many men, as they have been depicted in ancient epics and Biblical stories. For instance, the Holy Scripture in the book of Genesis describes Eve, the first woman and the primary cause for Adam to eat the forbidden fruit and, in the process, disobeying God. Imperatively, the consequences of such misguidance by the females have often led to suffering and despair of the opposite gender, where famous women misled their mighty male partners owing to their beauty and sexual power. One of the crucial tools of destruction used therein is sexual consciousness, where sexual promises serve as an instrument of seduction.
Women in the epic of Gilgamesh and the Hebrew Bible have been depicted in the manner illustrated above, that is, they are shown to have misled multiple mighty men from doing good. The two stories present females as wise and powerful, but on the flip side, the source of temptation and ruin. As illustrated above, women in fables and Biblical stories have been depicted as individuals of magnificent power and wisdom. Conversely, they play a central role in the hindrance of success by mighty men to serve a good cause in society. The epic of Gilgamesh portrays two females, who are an epitome of wisdom and in a complex twist of events manipulate the men they interact with and lead them to an eventual downfall.
One of them is Priestess, the first woman to have tamed the wild, namely Enkidu. More specifically, Princess Shamhat went to the wilderness and stripped herself naked in a bid to entice this man to sleep with her (Greenblatt and Carol 11). As a result, Enkidu remained erect for seven days, after which he gave in to the sexual demand and made love to the sorceress. The love-making act by Enkidu and Shamhat proved to be his source of downfall since the former was rejected in the wilderness (8). After accomplishing the mission of taming Enkidu, the princess returned to her normal life, while Enkidu was rejected in the wild. In this regard, it is evident that it is she who succeeded in taming him, the act that became his prominent downfall.
The second woman playing a central part in the Epic of Gilgamesh to have misled a man is Shiduri, the tavern-keeper. Gilgamesh met her while wandering in the wilderness, the main purpose of which was seeking immortality for himself. In the text, Shiduri is portrayed as a person of great wisdom; she ever offers her ideas to King Gilgamesh by questioning his judgment regarding life (35). Thus, for instance, she informs him that he should forget his grief and focus on enjoying every single day since death is inevitable. However, the man refuses to follow these recommendations and finally ends up suffering and failing miserably in his quest to live forever.
Similarly, The Hebrew Bible depicts women as individuals who have the power of misleading men. Through various illustrations provided therein, it is evident that females are indeed the source of the downfall for males, an illustrative example provided therein is that from the story of Samson and Delilah. In brief, Samson is a prolific Nazarite warrior, who is extensively depended upon by his tribemates. The secret source of this man’s strength lies in his hair, but Delila, using lies and sexual attractiveness, convinces him to reveal to her the source of his power. He does so, and it eventually translates to the woman cutting off his hair and, in the process, ripping him of his authority and strength.
The two above analyzed stories present women as persons of much wisdom and power; but on the flip side, they are also the primary source of temptation and ruin for their male counterparts. By means of lies and their sexual power, females control and manipulate men, using them for their own good. The stories in Gilgamesh and texts are taken from the Hebrew Bible, as exemplified by Samson and Delilah, affirm that women were indeed the source of men’s ruins. Thus, Shiduri from the Epic of Gilgamesh is portrayed as an individual of extensive intelligence and life wisdom, but she uses it for nothing else except for the downfall of the King of Gilgamesh. Similarly, the Biblical story mentioned above depicts Delila as the cause of Samson’s destruction.
Indeed, women have been historically shaped in literature as sorceresses and manipulators, and men, although portrayed as the stronger gender, have been described as easy victims of the wisdom of their weak female counterparts. Although males are indeed the central characters in many Biblical texts and the Epic of Gilgamesh alike, the role of women therein can hardly be overestimated. Despite the negativity associated with women in the two posts, it can be justified that women play a crucial role in society. Siduri depicted to be a wise woman who has good intentions to help.
Example #10 – Evaluation of the Story of Gilgamesh
The creation of an intriguing plot must involve at least one major character whose own actions and external interactions dictate his or her development. External interactions between round characters, static characters, and environmental or supernatural activities, within the plot, affect the decisions of the major character, providing the foundation for the storyline to proceed. These decisions also mold the character’s thoughts, values, and will, thereby, influencing future choices. Through this pattern of cause and effect, an author can sculpt a character in any way he or she desires. This character building and storytelling technique is nothing new in the history of literature, as it appears in the oldest written story known to man, Gilgamesh.
In this classic epic, an unknown author employs these techniques to illustrate and develop the characteristics of the two major characters, Gilgamesh and Enkidu, in their march towards their destinies. Gilgamesh exemplifies character development through the arrival and death of his best friend, Enkidu. At first, the people of Uruk describe their ruler Gilgamesh, with resentment of his actions. They complain “His arrogance has no bounds by day or night. No son is left with his father, for Gilgamesh takes them all-yet the king should be a shepherd to his people. His lust leaves no virgin to her lover, neither the warrior’s daughter nor the wife of the noble; yet this is the shepherd of the city, wise, comely, and resolute.” This causes the god of Uruk, Anu, to create Enkidu, a companion, and diversion for Gilgamesh. Immediately after their friendship begins, Gilgamesh’s selfish character commences its change to a more giving and gracious leader.
The author reflects this change through the attitudes of the people of Uruk. Instead of complaining about Gilgamesh’s faults, their praise and loyalty become more frequent, such as the town’s celebration following Gilgamesh and Enkidu’s defeat of the mighty Humbaba. Most importantly, Enkidu’s companionship serves only to unfold future events for which Gilgamesh’s character can develop. Perhaps Enkidu’s greatest effect on Gilgamesh’s character occurs with his death. This loss of companionship shows the reader the actual evolution of Gilgamesh since the beginning of the story while continuing to pave the road for future development. Up to the death of his only friend, Gilgamesh thought of himself as invincible and immortal.
With Enkidu’s demise, Gilgamesh falls into a state of misery and realization. Instead of returning to his old selfish ways, his agonizing sorrow and newfound recognition of mortality send him on a new quest to defeat fate. He states “How can I rest, how can I be at peace? Despair is in my heart. What my brother is now, that shall I be when I am dead. Because I am afraid of death I shall go as best I can to find Utnapishtim-for he has entered the assembly of the gods.” This journey ultimately leads to the failure of Gilgamesh in his journey to defeat his fate, yet befalls upon him a sense of humility and acceptance of his destiny. Although many other factors contribute to Gilgamesh’s development, the author uses his best friend Enkidu to mold a selfish and brazen ruler into a humble, mature, and unforgotten hero.
Other notable characters taking part in Gilgamesh’s development include Ishtar and Utnapishtim. These static characters do not develop throughout the story, but instead, serve only to propel Gilgamesh towards his fate. Ishtar, daughter of the god Anu, contributes to his development through her proposed desire to marry him. His denial of her proposal accomplishes two very important objectives in the protagonist’s growth and change. Not only does the denial set forth a chain of events that would ultimately lead to the fall of his best friend, but also, it serves as a landmark to highlight Gilgamesh’s development through Enkidu. The ruler of old, without his peer, most likely would have accepted her offer. Yet, the more developed hero denies her, as he already possesses a close relationship. Through Ishtar’s involvement in the cause and effect patterns of the plot, Gilgamesh’s slowly changing character shines through.
Utnapishtim, the survivor of the Great Flood, provides the challenges by which Gilgamesh tries to attain immortality. His role functions as a stimulus to the hero’s realization of his inability to control fate. Utnapishtim states “What is there between the master and the servant when both have fulfilled their doom-the judges -and the mother of destinies-together they decree the fates of men. Life and death they allot, but the day of death they do not disclose.” Utnapishtim and his challenges propel the epic hero towards his final step in growth and the ultimate realization that one controls all but one’s destiny.
Although Enkidu emulates some attributes of static characters in that his actions serve to drive Gilgamesh’s development, his character also evolves from its original form. When the gods create him, Enkidu’s character possesses many animalistic qualities. “He was innocent of mankind; he knew nothing of the cultivated land. Enkidu ate grass in the hills with the gazelle and lurked with wild beasts at the water holes; he had the joy of the water with the wild game.” Enkidu’s wild spirit dictates the need to assist his befriended animals caught in a hunter’s traps. In turn, the trapper addresses Gilgamesh with his problem of sprung traps. The ruler instructs him to take back a harlot in order to persuade Enkidu from the game of the wilderness.
This harlot serves as a major static character fueling Enkidu’s development. His enlightenment of civilized life becomes a precursor to his eventual and fateful meeting with Gilgamesh, where he learns of his limitations in strength and abilities through a crushing defeat at the hands of the ruler of Uruk. Just as Enkidu most dramatically facilitates Gilgamesh’s development, the reverse can also be true. As their companionship grows, Gilgamesh’s over-confidence and carelessness cause him to set out on many dangerous adventures, such as the quest to slay the might cedar giant Humbaba. Two new qualities arise here in Enkidu’s character from Gilgamesh’s actions. His devotion and blind loyalty to his human friend supersede his animalistic independence.
At the same time, this once fearless animal begins to experience fear of death. He states “O my lord, you do not know this monster and that is the reason you are not afraid. I who know him, I am terrified-you may go on if you choose into this land, but I will go back to the city.” However, when Gilgamesh responds with a plea for assistance in defeating the monster, Enkidu’s loyalty overpowers his fear. Nevertheless, Gilgamesh’s blind and ignorant confidence ignite Enkidu’s realization of mortality. The gods deal with Enkidu a different fate. They strike him down with sickness due to his assistance in the killing of the Bull of Heaven and Humbaba. Interestingly though, before he dies, he states “My friend, the great goddess cursed me and I must die in shame. I shall not die like a man fallen in battle-happy is the man who falls in battle.”
This quote sums up Enkidu’s total transformation from animal to human and his acquisition of heroic values, such as honor, through his friendship with Gilgamesh. Throughout the epic novel of Gilgamesh, the cause and effect nature of the plot, affect the development of the major characters Gilgamesh and Enkidu. The character development, in turn, advances the plot towards its theme of fate. This vicious cycle repeats itself numerous times as the story and characters feed off each other. This remarkable ancient literary work displays one of the most clever and fascinating uses of character and plot development and serves as a guideline for modern writing.
Example #11 – A Theme of Brotherhood in the Epic of Gilgamesh
In the Epic of Gilgamesh, there is Gilgamesh, half man half demigod whose ultimate goal is to reach immortality, and then there’s Endiku, who was made from clay and water by Aruru who lived with the wild. The whole creation of Endiku was made to rid Gilgamesh of his arrogance and Gilgamesh’s quest for immortality is what ultimately led him to meet Endiku and the genuine kinship between those two is libertarian. Everything is shared and the premise of the brotherhood is entirely charitable. The companionship between the ruler Gilgamesh and the man of the steppe, Enkidu, was not a genuine and equivalent kinship. Loyalties and forfeits to that fellowship were unbalanced. Companionship is passed on in more than one path in Gilgamesh.
The fellowship among Enkidu and the creatures of the steppe is the principal case of kinship. Enkidu lived with the creatures, as one of them. He liberated them from the devices the seekers set. Ninsun was correct, and the kinship between Gilgamesh and Enkidu was one of incredible dedication and trust. The development of the kinship among Gilgamesh and Enkidu was exceptionally unexpected. After gathering, they battled wildly, ceased, and grasped. This conciseness gives a quality of inventiveness to the relationship, yet that is later broken by their steadfastness to each other in the accompanying scenes. Furthermore, they were companions, they had grasped and made their promise to remain together in every case regardless of the obstacles but the flaws of this brotherhood will soon come to fruition. Overall the brotherhood was a bad thing because it ultimately got Endiku killed for Gilgamesh’s deeds.
The arrangement of companionship among Gilgamesh and Enkidu was exceptionally stunning. When they met one another, they began to battle. This occasion would have driven individuals to imagine that their companionship wouldn’t work out and that they would-be foes. As the book intrigues our imagination, we as a whole discover this is demonstrated off base by their dependability to each other. A case of this would be the accompanying statement, ‘And they were friends: They had embraced and made their vow To stay together always, No matter what the obstacle”. The most ideal way the creator depicted this steadfastness is by demonstrating their friendship and consolation to each other. When one of the companions indicated shortcoming, the other fortified boldness and helped them to remember their fellowship and how they will dependably be as one.
As the story goes on, King Gilgamesh of Uruk is portrayed to be in adult masculinity and better than every other man in both excellence and quality. There was nobody who could coordinate with him in the antiquated Mesopotamian culture. The unsatisfied longings of his divine being nature couldn’t locate a reasonable mate for him in adoration or war. What’s more, his unsatisfied daemonic vitality made the general population of Uruk unsatisfied with his rule. Since he was deficient with regards to love and fellowship, Gilgamesh swung to overabundance and guilty pleasure, and he praised his triumphs with a lot of debased celebrating, which irritated the people in the city just as the divine beings in the sanctuaries. Due to his onerous principle, the general population requested assistance from the divine beings since they expected that some time or another Gilgamesh would request a larger piece of his awesome legacy, challenge the divine beings, and even shake the mainstays of paradise in the event that he was not controlled.
In this way, to counter the risk, the divine beings concocted an arrangement of making Enkidu, who was the perfect representation of Gilgamesh. They trusted that the Lord would redirect his perilous energies toward that rival in this way quit testing paradise. The divine beings at that point influenced Enkidu from dirt and left him in the wild to live to and eat as the creatures do. The ending is found by Shamhat the Harlot, a local prostitute. Enkidu is changed by Shamhat, the whore, from a creature to a human. His experience with the whore was his advancement of masculinity. As the whore enlightens Enkidu concerning Gilgamesh, Enkidu feels a requirement for a sidekick and he chooses to meet Gilgamesh.
In the meantime, Gilgamesh had a fantasy to advise him that he will get a companion whom he will hold onto as a spouse. In his fantasies, as Ninsun, his mom, translated, ‘there will come to you a powerful man, a confidant who spares his companion, he is the mightiest in the land, he is the most grounded’. With now knowing this Gilgamesh is intrigued with the idea of having an equal, a soulmate. Enkidu helps put Gilgamesh’s power into balance. Gilgamesh was a ruler who was hated by the inhabitants of his city of Uruk because of his abuse of power. In his regime, “there was no rival who could raise his weapon against him…Gilgamesh didn’t leave a son to his father, He didn’t leave a girl to her betrothed!” The seduction by Shamhat on Endiku ultimately is what caused the death of Endiku because if Gilgamesh had never treated his people badly and had so much arrogance and if Shamhat had never seduced Endiku everything would have been different.
The bond between Gilgamesh and Endiku proves strong as time goes on and they go on more and more adventures. At first, the bond between the two was weak until Gilgamesh decided that the two should go to the cedar forest to cut down some trees so that they could build a monument for the gods. The nearby cedar forest is forbidden to mortals and it is also home to a demigod monster named Humbaba. Upon entering and cutting down trees from the forest the two companions soon meet the monster and a fight breaks out between Gilgamesh, Endiku, and Humbaba. With assistance from Shamash, the sun god, they killed Humbaba and made their way back home.
In the meantime, the goddess of love, Ishtar gains lust for Gilgamesh and after he disses her, filled with rage, she asks her father Anu, the god of the sky, to punish him by sending the bull of heaven, The bull brings with it, seven years of famine. After a battle with the bull. Gilgamesh and Endiku kill the bull and this makes the god gather in council to discuss the punishment for the two and they decided to punish Gilgamesh by killing Endiku. Endiku becomes sick and suffers immensely. He shares his vision of the underworld with Gilgamesh and after he dies, Gilgamesh becomes heartbroken.
In the Epic Of Gilgamesh, we can watch a few connections however the one between Gilgamesh and Endiku is the most critical. The two men, who are similarly solid, want to join their qualities and shortcomings, their bravery and dread; they are becoming together both candidly and physically making an incredible group. Gilgamesh feels a colossal void after Endiku’s passing, and in his despondency to the city guides, he discharges his musings and emotions about his association with Endiku. The relationship they have is that of the two perfect partners, they accentuate sharing and thinking about one another.
Example #12 – interesting ideas
Can anyone give me an example of suffering in the epic Gilgamesh, and how it made Gilgamesh a stronger person? Like a quote, just something, an example.
Answer. The Gods Are Dangerous
Gilgamesh and Enkidu learn all too well that the gods are dangerous for mortals. Gods live by their own laws and frequently behave as emotionally and irrationally as children. Piety is important to the gods, and they expect obedience and flattery whenever possible. They can often be helpful, but angering them is sheer madness—and a character’s reverence for the gods is no guarantee of safety. Thus, the world of The Epic of Gilgamesh differs markedly from that of the Judeo-Christian tradition, in which God is both a partner in a covenant and a stern but a loving parent to his people. The covenant promises that people will receive an earthly or heavenly inheritance if they behave well. The Judeo-Christian God represents not just what is most powerful but what is morally best—humans should aspire to imitate him.
These differences are noteworthy because Gilgamesh also shares certain common elements with the Judeo-Christian Bible. Both Gilgamesh and parts of the Bible are written in similar languages: Hebrew is related to Akkadian, the Babylonian language that the author used in composing the late versions of Gilgamesh. The Bible comes from the same region as Gilgamesh and shares some of its motifs and stories, such as the serpent as the enemy who deprives humans of eternal life and, most importantly, the flood. In both the Bible and Gilgamesh, disobedience to a god or gods brings dire consequences.
Although we never learn exactly why the gods unleashed the great flood in Gilgamesh, we know why Ea rescues Utnapishtim and through him all the creatures and people of the world. As the god of wisdom and crafts, Ea is responsible for human attributes including cleverness, inventiveness, and creativity, which enable people to survive independently. Ishtar, too, while a fickle friend, presides over sexual desire, fertility, nurturance, agriculture, and domesticity, which ensure humankind’s future. For the Mesopotamians, piety and respect for the gods are not true moral obligations. Rather, piety and respect suggest a practical acknowledgment of nature’s power and serve to remind humans of their place in the larger scheme of things.
Conflicts…….Gilgamesh experiences both external and internal conflicts. The external ones include conflicts with the gods, Humbaba, and the Bull of Heaven. The internal ones include his difficulty coping with the loss of Enkidu and overcoming the fear of death.
Climax…….The climax of the epic occurs when Enkidu dies. His death is a turning point in the life of Gilgamesh; it sends him on a quest that educates and matures him.
I have to write an entire page about what that story taught about human nature and the human condition. Also what it teaches us about the nature of gods and their relationship with humans. Can someone help me out a little because I honestly am having a hard time answering this?
Answer. At the start of the narrative, Gilgamesh and Enkidu are presented as somewhat inhuman. Gilgamesh is “a god and man” (15), but his characteristics are more godlike. Enkidu is “an animal and man” (15), but is more animal than man. The relationship that forms between Enkidu and Gilgamesh is the most important event in the entire narrative. Actually, we can say that the entire narrative is based on that friendship and the effect that this friendship had on both Enkidu and Gilgamesh. For the first time each of these two characters finds another who is equal to him and, in a way, completes him: Gilgamesh “saw himself in the other, just as Enkidu saw Himself in Gilgamesh” (24).
The two characters become inseparable, growing to love each other as brothers who are willing to sacrifice anything for the sake of the other. Therefore, when Gilgamesh decides to go off to fight Humbaba who, he believes, has taken away his strength Enkidu goes too. This is despite the fact that he is afraid of confronting Humbaba and is sure that this confrontation will end in death. But rather than let his friend go alone, he overcomes his fear and accompanies him, even though he knows that it probably means sacrificing his life. Again, when Gilgamesh insults Ishtar who responds by sending the Bull of Heaven down on the friends, Enkidu stands by his friend and fights the Bull. What this means is that he willingly faces any type of danger, no matter how severe it is, out of loyalty and love for his friend.
The point of the story where it becomes very clear that both friends have reached humanity is the scene of Enkidu’s death. For his part, Enkidu feels a great fear that he is dying, as well as feeling sorrow that he is leaving Gilgamesh behind. He tells his friend, “You will be left alone” (49). Further proof of the fact that Enkidu has reached humanity is his own admission of the fact. So, when he is grieving for his life and for his friend who would be left all alone, he says of the prostitute: “She made me see
Things as a man and a man see death in things” (49). Here Enkidu admits that, before meeting the prostitute, he did not think of himself as a man. Actually, he really had no knowledge of himself as a human. As a consequence of their meeting, however, as well as his friendship with Gilgamesh, he has become a man. And, it is as a man that he feels sorrow and fear at his death. Gilgamesh’s reaction to his friend’s death is very human and extremely typical of human behavior to the present day. Therefore, in the very beginning of the scene when Enkidu tells him that he is dying, Gilgamesh’s first reaction is denial:
“My friend, it is the fever only” (46). This is followed by his remembering the times they shared together and, regret for not having made the most of it. What this means is that he regrets not having taken the opportunity to express to Enkidu what he felt for him when he had the chance to:
“Gilgamesh knew his friend was close to death.
He tried to recollect aloud their life together
That had been so brief, so empty of gestures
They never felt they had to make” (48). This is followed by a prayer to his mother, the goddess Ninsun, to let his friend live. What we see here, denial, memories, regret, and prayer, are all very human emotions. These emotions are aroused in Gilgamesh by his friend, the closeness they shared, and the fact that he is about to lose this friendship and closeness. Therefore, it is through his relationship with Enkidu that Gilgamesh discovers the human side of him. This humanity, and the fact that he has achieved it is stressed also by the fact that he cries for the first time ever. Enkidu himself comments on this by saying:
“Your eyes have changed. You are crying. You never cried before. It’s not like you” (50).
Gilgamesh’s final reaction to his friend’s death is to bring him back to life and to guarantee also his own immortality by finding the secret of life. He sets off on a long and dangerous journey with this aim in mind. At the end of this journey, he finds the plant that contains the secret but, before he can do anything with it, the serpent eats the plant. Here Gilgamesh’s humanity becomes complete because he is forced to recognize his weakness. And knowing that he is weak and unable to fight fate and the gods is knowing that he is human and limited in his abilities. He finally learned that “he lacked the power to bring him (Enkidu) back to life” (11).
I have to do some research so I can know this for a test but I found things saying that he lived around 2500 BCE, 2600 BCE, 2700 BCE, and stuff like that. I need to know when he really lived because it will be a question on my test. Is it even known when he lived?
Answer. Gilgamesh was a historical king of Uruk in Babylonia, on the River Euphrates in modern Iraq; he lived about 2700 B.C. Although historians (and your textbook) tend to emphasize Hammurabi and his code of law, the civilizations of the Tigris-Euphrates area, among the first civilizations, focus rather on Gilgamesh and the legends accruing around him to explain, as it were, themselves. Many stories and myths were written about Gilgamesh, some of which were written down about 2000 B.C. in the Sumerian language on clay tablets which still survive; the Sumerian language, as far as we know, bears no relation to any other human language we know about.
These Sumerian Gilgamesh stories were integrated into a longer poem, versions of which survive not only in Akkadian (the Semitic language, related to Hebrew, spoken by the Babylonians) but also on tablets written in Hurrian and Hittite (an Indo-European language, a family of languages which includes Greek and English, spoken in Asia Minor). All the above languages were written in the script known as cuneiform, which means “wedge-shaped.” The fullest surviving version, from which the summary here is taken, is derived from twelve stone tablets, in the Akkadian language, found in the ruins of the library of Ashurbanipal, king of Assyria 669-633 B.C., at Nineveh.
The library was destroyed by the Persians in 612 B.C., and all the tablets are damaged. The tablets actually name an author, which is extremely rare in the ancient world, for this particular version of the story: Shin-eqi-unninni. You are being introduced here to the oldest known human author we can name by name! Gilgamesh was a real king. ‘Exactly’ when he lived is not known and quite a bit of ‘literary license’ has undoubtedly been added to make his story more exciting.
Anyone that’s read Gilgamesh?
- The origins and discovery of the story itself?
- Insights deduced from the story about Sumerian culture: include observations about how it was different from Egyptian culture?
- What is the moral lesson of the tale?
- Gilgamesh established the epic as a defining Western literary trait. What is an epic and what other heroic epics are there in the Western literary tradition?
Answer. Gilgamesh, also known as Bilgameṣ in the earliest text, was the son of Lugalbanda and the fifth king of Uruk (Early Dynastic II, the first dynasty of Uruk), ruling circa 2700 BC, according to the Sumerian king list. He became the central character in the Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the best-known works of early literature, which says that his mother was Ninsun (whom some call Rimat Ninsun), a goddess. The epic hero Gilgamesh is described at the beginning of the poem as two parts god and one part man.
According to the Tummel Inscription, Gilgamesh, and eventually, his son Urlugal rebuilt the sanctuary of the goddess Ninlil, located in Tummal, a sacred quarter in her city of Nippur. In Mesopotamian mythology, Gilgamesh is credited with having been a demigod of superhuman strength who built a great city wall to defend his people from external threats. Also in the “Epic of Gilgamesh” talks about a man who survived “The great flood” similar to the story of Noah.
In the Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh is credited with the building of the legendary walls of Uruk. An alternative version has Gilgamesh, towards the end of the story, boasting to Urshanabi, the ferryman, that the city’s walls were built by the Seven Sages. In historical times, Sargon of Assyria claimed to have destroyed these walls to prove his military power.
Fragments of an epic text found in Me-Turan (modern Tell Haddad) relate that Gilgamesh was buried under the waters of a river at the end of his life. The people of Uruk diverted the flow of the Euphrates River crossing Uruk for the purpose of burying the dead king within the riverbed. In April 2003, a German expedition discovered what is thought to be the entire city of Uruk—including the former bed of the Euphrates, the last resting place of its King, Gilgamesh.
Despite the lack of direct evidence, most scholars do not object to the consideration of Gilgamesh as a historical figure, particularly after inscriptions were found confirming the historical existence of other figures associated with him: kings Enmebaragesi and Aga of Kish. If Gilgamesh was a historical king, he probably reigned in about the 26th century BC. Some of the earliest Sumerian texts spell his name as Bilgames. Initial difficulties in reading cuneiform resulted in Gilgamesh making his re-entrance into world culture in 1891 as “Izdubar”.
In most texts, Gilgamesh is written with the determinative for divine beings (DINGIR) – but there is no evidence for a contemporary cult, and the Sumerian Gilgamesh myths suggest the deification was a later development (unlike the case of the Akkadian god-kings). With this deification, however, would have come an accretion of stories about him, some potentially derived from the real lives of other historical figures, in particular Gudea, the Second Dynasty ruler of Lagash (2144–2124 BC).
Whether based on a historical prototype or not, Gilgamesh became a legendary protagonist in the Epic of Gilgamesh. The name Gilgamesh appears once in Greek, as “Gilgamesh” (Γίλγαμος). The story is a variant of the Perseus myth: The King of Babylon determines by an oracle that his grandson Gilgamos will kill him, and throws him out of a high tower. An eagle breaks his fall, and the infant is found and raised by a gardener.
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