Heroes and their sidekicks have been a consistent motif in mythology from the very first civilization, to the ancient Greeks, and even to popular culture now. Three specific stories with very similar hero-sidekick themes are the relationships between Gilgamesh and Enkidu in the Epic of Gilgamesh, Achilles and Patroclus in the Iliad, and Batman and Robin in the graphic novel Death in the Family. This essay will explore the similarities and differences between these important pieces of literature.
The three mythologies are quite different in relation to the three pairs’ relationships with each other. The Iliad takes place during the Heroic age on the Peloponnese and the kingdom of Troy. Achilles knew Patroclus since they were children. They shared a great bond so intense that some interpret the two as lovers. (Editorial Board) Patroclus seems to be one of the only people Achilles respects out of the entire Achaean army. Achilles comes off cold and distant to all the other soldiers, but when he is alone with Patroclus he becomes more cheerful and understanding. (Homer) Patroclus knows he is inferior to Achilles and is loyal in his role as a sidekick. This is shown when Patroclus stays loyal to Achilles by following him in his act of refusal to fight for Agamenon against the Trojans. Patroclus’s purpose is to show a companionate side to Achilles. Their relationship gives Achilles a more human aspect, as opposed to the selfish, prideful, brute he comes off as when dealing with the rest of the Achaeans. Patroclus seems to be one of the only things in the world Achilles cared about outside of his own personal glory. When the Trojans came to the Achaean camp to try to destroy their ships, Achilles refused to join the battle even after Patroclus pleads him to fight. Achilles still refuses, but allows Patroclus to wear Achilles’ armor to impersonate him. Achilles agrees on the condition that Patroclus only to fights to defend the camp and not advance to an attack on Troy. (Homer) This shows that Achilles cares more about his pride then his friendship, but cares enough about Patroclus to give him his armor to keep him safe. Patroclus slaughters every Trojan he encounters including Zeus’s son, Sarpedon. The Trojans retreat and Patroclus knowingly disobeys Achilles’ command and pursues them. (Homer) A sidekick’s defiance usually never ends well. Zeus in grief of his fallen sun, allows Apollo to enter the battle and wound Patroclus right as he is about to confront Hector. Hector then kills Patroclus. (Homer) Patroclus’s death infuriates Achilles as he returns to the battle with bloodlust for the man who took his best friend’s life. Without Patroclus, Achilles lost all cheer and humanity. He then only cared for vengeance. Achilles goes to the gates of Troy and challenges Hector to a one on one fight. Achilles kills Hector and ties his body to his chariot and drags him in the dirt back to his own camp. (Homer) Before Patroclus’s death, Achilles was thinking about going back home and living a long, peaceful life. However, once he died, Achilles discarded thoughts for peace and rejoined the Achaeans even after his revenge was complete. Patroclus represented Achilles’ desire to forsake glory for a long life and go against his fate. When Patroclus died, so did his desire for peace.
The Epic of Gilgamesh takes place ancient Mesopotamia in the city of Uruk and surrounding area. Gilgamesh and Enkidu’s relationship started off much different than the sidekick relationships in the Iliad and Under the Red Hood. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh goes through life raping women and doing as he pleases as the half-god king of Uruk. He does this until the elders complain to the gods about how cruel Gilgamesh is and the gods create Enkidu to be his near equal. (Daley) Enkidu’s creation was a direct result of Gilgamesh’s cruelty. They meet when a prostitute brings Enkidu to Uruk to defend a bride from being raped...
Cited: * Dalley, Stephanie. Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2000. Print.
* Homer, Robert Fagles, and Bernard Knox. The Iliad. New York, N.Y., U.S.A.: Viking, 1990. Print.
* Starlin, Jim, Jim Aparo, and Mike DeCarlo. Batman: a Death in the Family. New York, NY: DC Comics, 1988. Print.
* SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on The Epic of Gilgamesh.” SparkNotes.com. SparkNotes LLC. 2004. Web. 15 Nov. 2010.
* Editorial Board, World History of Male Love, "Greek Mythology", Achilles and Patroclus, 1999 <http://www.gay-art-history.org/gay-history/gay-literature/gay-mythology-folktales/homosexual-greek-mythology/achilles-gay/achilles-patroclus-gay.html>
* Batman Issue #422
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