Gilgamesh; an Epic Open to Different Adaptations and Interpretations Name:
November 20, 2013
According to Timothy Carnahan, the epic of Gilgamesh is a very old epic dated from somewhere between 2750 and 2500 BCE and was written on clay tablets, which were found in the Ancient Sumeria, (Carnahan, Epic of Gilgamesh). This means that the language in which it was written was ancient as well. In this paper it will be argued that the epic of Gilgamesh is open for both adaptation and interpretation by comparing the versions of this epic by Yusef Komunyakaa and by Stephen Mitchell. First the meanings of the words adaptation and interpretation will be given. According to Macmillan Dictionary adaptation means: “A film, TV programme etc. that has been made from a book or play” and “The process of changing something so that it can be used for a different purpose”, (adaptation - definition of adaptation by Macmillan Dictionary). The meaning of interpretation is as follows according to Macmillan Dictionary: “An explanation of the meaning or importance of something” and “A way of performing a piece of music, a part of a play etc. that shows how you understand and feel about it”, (interpretation - definition of interpretation by Macmillan Dictionary). In the excerpt of the version of Yusef Komunyakaa, which is scene four, the meeting of Gilgamesh and Siduri is described in a different way than it is described in the version of Stephen Mitchell. For example the name of Siduri is written like this in the theatrical adaptation, whereas in the version we read in class it is written as Shiduri (Komunyakaa, Scene 4) & (Mitchell, p.165). In another source the woman’s name is written as ˇSiduri (Worthington, p. 405). These adaptations are probably because of the translation. I say adaptations because of the translations, since something is adapted to use it in another language, in other words to use it for a different purpose. Names are always hard to translate. It is difficult to decide whether a name should be translated or whether it should remain in the original language. As I do not know how the name was written in the original language, I cannot argue whether the writers have used a translated name or one of them has translated the name and the other writers have kept it in the original language in which it was written. In addition, in Worthington’s article he discusses that names are very important in literature. Therefore it is essential to use original names or, when translating texts, to use proper names in that language, in other words the meaning, tone, difficulty etc. of the name should be close enough to the original. Worthington suggests that good names in literature will not be forgotten easily, because he says that “keeping one’s name alive after death, was often seen as a partial form of immortality” (Worthington, p. 403). That makes choosing a good name both, important and difficult. The writer of Gilgamesh, though, has done good, because nowadays most people know this name. Another thing that we should keep in mind is that the ancient language in which the epic of Gilgamesh had been written had different characters than we use in any language nowadays. This makes it even harder to translate the clay tablets into a current language. As translation from one language to another is very difficult in itself even now, it is hardly imaginable how this epic has been translated into a different language, because it is hard to find an equivalent of a word in another language. For example the Dutch word ‘gezellig’ does not have an equivalent in any other language. The meaning of it is close to be present in a comfortable atmosphere, to have fun. So, it is imaginable that the epic of Gilgamesh is an epic that is open for adaptation because of the differences of languages. The events that happen during the scene given in the excerpt of Komunyakaa are different from Mitchell’s version of it, which is...
Bibliography: "adaptation - definition of adaptation by Macmillan Dictionary." Macmillan Dictionary and Thesaurus: Free English Dictionary Online. Macmillan Publishers Limited, n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2013. .
"interpretation - definition of interpretation by Macmillan Dictionary." Macmillan Dictionary and Thesaurus: Free English Dictionary Online. Macmillan Publishers Limited, n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2013. .
Carnahan, Timothy. "Epic of Gilgamesh." Academy for Ancient Texts. Ancient texts library. N.p., 2001. Web. 28 Oct. 2013. .
Komunyakaa, Yusuf, and Chad Gracia. "From Gilgamesh." JSTOR. The Johns Hopkins University Press, n.d. Web. 17 Sept. 2013. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3805721
MARTIN WORTHINGTON (2011). On Names and Artistic Unity in the Standard Version of the Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 21, pp 403-420 doi:10.1017/S1356186311000423
Mitchell, Stephen. Gilgamesh. London: Profile, 2004. Print.
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