Enkidu and Gilgamesh

Enkidu and Gilgamesh

Gilgamesh is a tyrant king who is two thirds a god and the rest man, and he rules his kingdom in an arrogant and selfish manner. He does what he wants and this is portrayed in his escapades of rape of virgins and the execution of the men. He is driven by lust and he neither distinguishes the daughter of his warriors nor even the wife of the nobles in his country. The gods are displeased with his behavior and they create Enkidu to counter Gilgamesh’s tyranny. Gilgamesh and Enkidu engage in a fierce battle where they almost kill each other. At the end of the battle they recognize and accept each other’s strength and the level of determination and this becomes the basis of a beautiful loyal friendship (Kane).

The story begins with Gilgamesh who is the king of Uruk, and his oppression of his people especially the women. He also imposes hard labor for the men who undertake to build his projects in his dynasty and exhausts them through games and tests of strength. The people cry to the gods to help them from this oppression and they create a Wildman named Enkidu as an equal to Gilgamesh in order to defeat him and save the people. Enkidu is brought to civilization from the wild after being seduced by a temple harlot, and makes love to her for seven days and later becomes a night watchman (Reece). This is where he learns of the horrendous things that Gilgamesh does and vows to challenge him. They engage in a fierce battle that shakes the city and after Enkidu is wrestled to the ground he acknowledges Gilgamesh’s might, and that he is the rightful ruler of Uruk. A friendship is born and is endorsed by Gilgamesh mother Ninsun who declares Enkidu as the faithful companion of her son (Davis Harrison and Johnson).

The relationship that ensues later is seen as erotic from their language and their actions of kissing and embracing, and this leads to the belief that they are lovers. Enkidu tells Gilgamesh that immortality was not his destiny but kingship was. They therefore engage in an adventure a quest of fame to slay the guardian of the cedar forest who is a demi-god called Humbaba. In this adventure, Enkidu plays the role of a tamer of Gilgamesh urges of destruction and turns his energies into the accomplishment of great things and making of history not only for his name, but for his city as well (Kane). Before they go on their adventure, they ask for blessing of the people of his city. The elders of the city caution him against the fierce power of Humbaba. They also advise him to not to rely on his power alone, but to utilize Enkidu’s knowledge of the wilderness as he could navigate through the forest and find water in parched land (Reece). Gilgamesh and Enkidu later become brothers after Ninsun officially adopts him when they go to her for blessings, in their quest to kill the demon Humbaba. Enkidu offers courage to Gilgamesh that they would defeat Humbaba when his courage falters and also Gilgamesh supports Enkidu that they would stand together and fight when the time came (Anon).

In their journey they offer various sacrifices to the god Shamash, who detests Humbaba, for protection in their quest. When Gilgamesh has a frightening dreams, Enkidu interprets them and tells him that he should not fear as the dreams as they were a good sign for their conquest of Humbaba and blessings from god Shamash and his father Lugulbanda. Shamash later appears to them and advices them to make haste to fight the demon as it was most vulnerable with it wore one cloak (Kane). They later provoke Humbaba to battle and with Shamash’s help they are able to bring the demon to its knees. As Gilgamesh prepares to strike the final blow, Humbaba cries for mercy and offers to be Gilgamesh servant. Enkidu, due to jealousy that Humbaba would steal his love from Gilgamesh, cruelly advices Gilgamesh to kill Humbaba quickly before his master Enlil found out. Humbaba is killed and the cedar trees are cut down and used to make the gates of the city as a monument of their conquest of the god Humbaba. This battle portrays that friendship and belonging to a community can help overcome any obstacle that is ahead and this is shown by the support and the positivism in the interpretation of Gilgamesh dreams by Enkidu. It is this courage that finally leads to their victory and fame in their battle (Davis Harrison and Johnson).

When the goddess Ishtar unleashes her anger to Gilgamesh by releasing a bull to trample him down, Enkidu helps Gilgamesh to defeat the beast. Even though they were famous for slaying a demi-god, Enkidu shows utter disrespect to Ishtar and threatens to kill her (Reece). This angers the gods and Enkidu is struck by illness that leaves him agonizing for twelve days before he dies.  The death of Enkidu lays heavy on Gilgamesh as he loses a dear friend and brother, and this sets him out on another adventure for a plant to make him immortal (Anon).

Works cited

Anon “The epic of Gilgamesh”. Sparknotes.com. n.d. web. 20th September 2012

Davis, Paul.  Harrison Gary and Johnson, David M.  Bedford Anthology of World Literature. Compact edition. Web. 20th September 2012

Kane, Paul. “Gilgamesh And The Limits Of Mortality.” Raritan 13.1 (1993): 126. Academic Search Premier. Web. 20 Sept. 2012.

Reece, Spencer. “Gilgamesh.” Poetry 196.1 (2010): 67-74. Academic Search Premier. Web. 20 Sept. 2012.

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