In this paper, I seek to explore the identities and relationships between Gilgamesh and Enkidu in the epic poem of Gilgamesh, up through Enkidu's death. I will explore the gender identity of each independently and then in relation to each other, and how their gender identity influences that relationship. I will also explore other aspects of their identity and how they came to their identities as well, through theories such as social conditioning. I will investigate the possibility that Gilgamesh and Enkidu enjoy a homosexual relationship, since modern times allow such investigations which only 20 years ago were considered extemporaneous to ancient texts by traditions western conventions. Conversely, I will also consider the possibility of a heterosexual male-male relationship in the terms of Platonic love. In addition to this, I will touch briefly at times on the unique relationship each has to a world that is caught up in a change from nature and natural things to what we call a civilized life, or an urban life.
In the beginning of the epic poem Gilgamesh, the main character Gilgamesh is conveyed as a generally immoral human, his genesis mythically coming from the gods. "Two thirds they made him god and one third man." (19, Norton; "Gilgamesh"). He also is said to have a perfect body, which is a trait of godliness in many ancient cultures. "When the gods created Gilgamesh they gave him a perfect body." (18, Norton; "Gilgamesh). Here again it is obvious that the myth says Gilgamesh is from the same stuff as the gods. He is known for taking whatever he desires "His lust leaves no virgin to her lover, neither the warriors daughter or the wife's noble." (19, Norton; "Gilgamesh"). He has the arrogance and audacity to simply take anything that he considers in his kingdom. Clearly, at least early on in the story, the actions of Gilgamesh mirror that of his mythical genealogy from the gods, who live by a different moral code than that of civilized humans. At the same time however, Gilgamesh is certainly portrayed in the story as magnificent and capable of incredible things, such as the building of the walls and Rampart in Uruk. "Climb upon the wall of Uruk; walk along it, I say; regard the foundation terrace and examine the masonry: is it not burnt brick and good?" (19, Norton; Gilgamesh). So at the same time as the people detest Gilgamesh, it is also evident that he has done great things for civilization. This admiration so early in the story of a man who is obviously morally corrupt open up the possibility that he may at some point in the story change into something else. That change will come greatly as a result of a man in the story named Enkidu, who the gods create to be the equal of Gilgamesh and to stop his tyranny.
Unlike Gilgamesh who seems to come out of civilization from the start of the poem, Enkidu comes from nature and the wild. "Enkidu ate grass in the hills with the gazelle and lurked with wild beasts at the water holes; he had joy of the water with the herds of wild game." (19, Norton; "Gilgamesh"). It is also obvious in the poem that the gods create Enkidu as well in order to balance Gilgamesh. After a while however, a trapper finds Enkidu, which is a kind of bridge between civilized life in the city and wild life in nature. The trapper the goes to tell Gilgamesh of the one he saw who seems to be as strong and of the same genesis as Gilgamesh himself. Gilgamesh then orders that a harlot to be sent to change Enkidu in a way such that "
the game of the wilderness will surely reject him." (20, Norton; "Gilgamesh"). This is the first proof we have for Enkidu that he does have sex with women, as they spend time together in the woods. After this, Enkidu grows week and he beasts run from him. "Enkidu was grown weak, for wisdom was in him, and the thoughts of a man were in his heart." (20, Norton; "Gilgamesh"). Also interesting here is the fact that Enkidu is changed by a woman, and in...
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