Both the Mahabharata and the Epic of Gilgamesh are ancient stories with a heroic character at their center. Arjuna and Gilgamesh are both on some sort of journey and display qualities of a traditional literary hero, but in my opinion, Arjuna is the more hero-like man. Arjuna is incredibly disciplined. While being trained with his brothers and cousins by the great teacher Drona, he is the only one who can focus singularly on his target and shoot it with his bow. He is also selfless, for when Arjuna wins the hand of the Princess during an archery competition he shares his wife with his four brothers, like his mother asked. Most heroes possess a special set of skills that helps them in their quest, and Arjuna definitely fulfills that requirement. While training, Arjuna hits his target perfectly and his guru, Drona, tells him that "No man in the world shall be your peer as an archer!" Arjuna also has a strong sense of duty, which is critical for most heroes. When he is questioning whether or not he should fight against his cousins, he calls out to his teacher and great-uncle: “Krishna, how can I fight against Bhishma and Drona with arrows when they deserve my worship? It is better in this world to beg for scraps of food than to eat meals smeared with the blood of elders I killed.” Krishna then explains to Arjuna the concept of Dharma, or cosmic duty, and he follows through with the war and regains the kingdom for himself and his brothers.
Gilgamesh, on the other hand, possesses far fewer heroic qualities. He is both strong and brave, “Surpassing all other kings, heroic in stature, brave scion of Uruk, wild bull on the rampage!” On the other hand, though, Gilgamesh goes on his quest for largely selfish (but understandable) reasons. After losing his friend Enkidu, he leaves in search of the secret to eternal life. He did not go on this journey to help anyone else or fulfill his “duty,” and that isn’t a very heroic thing to do. Overall, I think it’s...
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