The Epic of Gilgamesh

We see Gilgamesh grow from a boy-king, whose life is unexamined and whose lusts are unchecked. His arrogance grew to overshadow his people, until Enkidu arrives. Boldly, Enkidu checks Gilgamesh’s lusts and beats him in single combat, the first and only man ever to have done so. The two become fast friends, and it is their friendship that carries the narrative of the Epic through their conflicts with humbawa, the forest giant, the bull of heaven and the gods themselves. Of course, incurring the wrath of the gods is never a good idea; Enkidu pays for their hubris with his life. The story then changes focus; now alone, Gilgamesh’s fear of death and decay is heightened by dreams of his friend in the realm of death, having nothing to eat but dust. Gilgamesh is driven to pursue the ferryman who guards the way to the gods and Gilgamesh’s ultimate goal – immortality.
Ultimately Gilgamesh dies a mortal death, but his ceremony is grand and his memory is elevated to the status of a Deity.

Like all mythologies, the Epic of Gilgamesh is not just an entertaining story but a moral one. Everything is representational; Gilgamesh and Enkidu represent the two halves of Man Himself, civilized and wild. We see Enkidu’s strength fade as the wild man languishes in city life, as we see Gilgamesh’s hubris increase as his deeds grow bolder. Typically, the meanings are multilayered – they are not just two halves, they are also two people, and their friendship means more to them even than Divine Consequence.

After Enkidu has died, Gilgamesh begins to pursue immortality. Though again filled with hubris, his yearning touches the hearts of all mortals – to escape the ravages of time, to be young and strong forever, to never fade or wither away. Though true immortality escapes him, his name lived on for a thousand years before being committed in cuneiform tablets, thus cementing his name in history forever.

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