7 October 2012
The Quest for Immortality
In the “Epic of Gilgamesh” translated by N.K. Sanders, Gilgamesh completes a series of many challenges and obstacles, fulfilling the conditions of an archetypal quest story. In order to fulfill an archetypal quest story, the hero or protagonist must complete a series of hurdles, on their way toward achieving their goal. In the “Epic of Gilgamesh”, Gilgamesh hunts for his main obsession, immortality, while he battles off monsters, with the help of some friends. Sensing Gilgamesh embraces too much power, the gods create a friend for Gilgamesh named Enkidu in the hopes of lessening Gilgamesh’s power. Enkidu and Gilgamesh turn out to be best friends after Enkidu loses a wrestling match to Gilgamesh. Enkidu decides to join Gilgamesh on his journey to seek immortality. Along the way the way they encounter enemies such as Humbaba, the guardian of the forest, and the Bull of Heaven. With the help of Enkidu, Gilgamesh travels a relentless journey and faces a road of trials, which carries out an archetypal quest story.
Gilgamesh and Enkidu come across the guardian of the forest named Humbaba. Believing that Humbaba is undefeatable, Gilgamesh thinks that whoever slays Humbaba will receive immortality. Gilgamesh and Enkidu attack Humbaba with a “thrust of the sword to the neck and Enkidu his comrade struck the second blow” (22). With one more strike to the belly, Humbaba falls. Hoping to achieve everlasting life, they realize that defeating Humbaba does not give them eternal life. Instead, it gives them eternal fame. Still unsatisfied, with not having found everlasting life, Gilgamesh tells his companion that “the boat of the dead shall not go down” (20) and is determined that he will never die.
The next challenge Gilgamesh faces is the Bull of Heaven, sent by Ishtar’s dad, Anu. Ishtar is the goddess of love who makes advances on Gilgamesh, wanting to marry him. Gilgamesh is wise and realizes Ishtar is the woman...