Personal Transformation from Gilgamesh to Chihiro
Regardless of the setting and the time, maturity and development are key processes that reshape individual’s character. Although on the surface, Hayao Miyazaki’s film, Spirited Away and The Epic of Gilgamesh have nothing in common based on their different historical and geographical settings, they are tied together by the genre called “Bildungsroman”. A genre that focuses on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood, also known as a coming of age novel. The film, Spirited Away, is about Chihiro, a young girl who is taken down an unusual road by her parents while moving to a new home in an unfamiliar town. Their curiosity leads them into what appears to be an abandoned amusement park. As they explore, they come across an unattended food stand and the parents help themselves; later as the sun sets, they are transformed into pigs by some sort of sorcery. Chihiro is left alone to figure out how to free her parents and escape this unknown world. Thankfully, she finds companionship in a boy named Haku who guides her through the obstacles she has to face along the way. The Epic of Gilgamesh begins in a similar manner as Gilgamesh, the king of Uruk appears to be an unfit leader for his city. As the city continues to resent their leader, the gods of Uruk decide to create Enkidu, a companion and diversion for Gilgamesh. Immediately after their friendship begins, Gilgamesh's selfish character is transformed into one of a more giving and gracious leader. These personal transformations interconnect the two stories that appear to be unrelated at first glance.
The most essential similarity between The Epic of Gilgamesh and Spirited away is the companionship they find which begins their transformation. Without their companions, neither Chihiro nor Gilgamesh would be able to overcome their obstacles and develop into stronger characters. As the abandoned amusement park turns into a spirit world upon nightfall, Chihiro meets a young boy named Haku. Having been in her place previously, he instructs her on what to do in order to survive within this world and eventually save her parents. He guides her to the bathhouse for the millions of Shinto Gods that inhabit this spirit world. Following Haku's instructions enables her to find Yubaba who can give her the job she will need to stay alive and function. Through her stay there, she discovers that Haku is actually a dragon under the employ of the evil witch Yubaba, who provided her with a job as well. She is able to free him along with herself as she realizes that Haku is actually a river spirit she fell into as a child. Haku responds with excitement after she tells him, “You did it, Chihiro! I remember! I was the spirit of the Kahaku River” (Miyazaki). She not only liberates him at this moment, but she completes her process of adulthood and finding a way home for herself. Chihiro began her journey through the spirit world simply looking for a way out, yet she was able to accomplish a lot more. None of it being possible without her guide, Haku. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh finds a similar friendship within his wild equal, Enkidu. Enkidu's companionship is essential in order for Gilgamesh's character to develop. Enkidu's greatest effect on Gilgamesh's nature occurs upon his death. Until 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 realizes what he must do. He states, "How can I keep silent, how can I stay quiet? My friend, whom I loved, has turned to clay. Shall I not be like him, and also lie down, never to rise again, through all eternity" (Epic of Gilgamesh 78)? Witnessing his friend die made Gilgamesh realize his fear of death and he therefore sets on a journey to find Uta-napishti, who has discovered the secret to immortality. Instead of returning to his old selfish ways, he takes on a quest...
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