The Epic Gilgamesh
The Epic of Gilgamesh is one of the earliest known pieces of literature. According to Sumerian tradition, he was an early ruler of the city-state of Uruk. “He is said to be the son of the god Ninsun and a mortal father, however, historians have not obtained clear details on that matter” (McCaughrean, pg.5). It is also unclear whether the King Gilgamesh actually existed, but his story still acted as “instructive text” for the people of Mesopotamia. The Epic of Gilgamesh opens with a prologue that sets off the story of Gilgamesh’s life. The narrator does not have a name, but he states, “I will proclaim to the world the deeds of Gilgamesh” (Ferry, pg. 61). Gilgamesh is a tyrant and exploits his rights as king. He is also arrogant, spiteful, restless, powerful, impulsive, and does whatever he wants to whomever. For example, “There was no withstanding the aura or power of the Wild Ox Gilgamesh. Neither the father’s son nor the wife of the noble; neither the mother’s daughter nor the warrior’s bride was safe” (Ferry, pg.4).
Gilgamesh is two thirds god and one third man, and he has beauty, strength, and is fearless. Because of these things, he lords it over the people. Some readers may say that Gilgamesh does not change throughout the story, but he does (Celi, pg.2). In the story Gilgamesh gains a friend, Enkidnu, and he makes a name for himself by killing Humbaba with the help of his mother also. Once Gilgamesh defeated Humbaba, the goddess of love and beauty, takes notice of his beauty of offers to become his wife. He refuses with insults by listing all of her mortal lovers and how they died after meeting her. Ishtar becomes enraged and cries out to her father to release the Bull of Heaven so she could get revenge. Her father says yes and he sends the bull to terrorize the people of Uruk. Gilgamesh and Enkidnu team up to slay the beast. The death of Humbaba angered Gilgamesh’s protector, Enlil, the victim of the god’s rage falls upon his friend Enkidnu. After the death of the Bull of Heaven, Enkidnu suffers for twelve long days. Finally Enkidnu dies. The one thing he is really known for is the quest to become immortal because of the death of his friend. Through all of these actions Gilgamesh’s personality changes and that makes him a better person.
Once the god kills his friend, Gilgamesh becomes very frightened. He suddenly realizes that he is not immortal. His quest of immortality consists of crossing the ocean. As he tries to find a good enough of reason of why he has to find everlasting life, he sounds pathetic. Many people feared Gilgamesh. They would consider him, just like Humbaba, evil (ancienttexts). Enkidnu is made to make Gilgamesh more human. In the very first tablet of the great epic, the gods are angry with Gilgamesh and they send down an equal of him. The equal that they send down is Enkidnu. The gods send down this creation because the people of Uruk called out to them. At the beginning of the epic all Gilgamesh was doing was terrorizing the people. Part of the reason he changes is because he has an equal. Gilgamesh and Enkidnu become close as if they were brothers. Some may question the fact of whether they were lovers or not. One may say yes. They go to sleep holding hands. Gilgamesh loves Enkidnu as if he were a woman. Once he loses his friend, Gilgamesh almost goes insane (ancienttexts). He appears to regress into a state of wilderness, which is described as wandering through the woods like a savage beast. The very friendly friendship that appeared between Gilgamesh and Enkidnu is part of the reason he changed. Basically, Gilgamesh changes because of Enkidnu. Love motivated change in Gilgamesh. Enkidnu changes from a wild man into a noble one because of Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh changes from a bully and a tyrant into an exemplary king and hero. Enkidnu puts a check on Gilgamesh’s restless powerful energies, and Gilgamesh pulls Enkidnu out...
Cited: Ferry, David. Gilgamesh. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1992. Print
McCaughrean, Geraldine. Gilgamesh: The Hero. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2003. Print.
Davis, Kenneth C. Don’t Know Much About Mythology: Everything You Need To Know About The Greatest Stories in Human History But Never Learned. New York: Harper-Collins Publishers, 2005. Print.
“The Epic of Gilgamesh.” ancienttexts. n.p. Web. 7 Jun. 2001.
“The Tablets Telling The Epic of Gilgamesh.” mythome. Untangle Incorporated. Web. 29 Dec. 2001.
SparkNotes Editors. SparkNote on The Epic of Gilgamesh. SparkNotes LLC. Web. 2004
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