The Epic of Gilgamesh
Both the historical characters come within the realm of mythology and legend. Their fame is attributable to legend. Both men hold high places in the folk lore of many a centuries ago. Both are credited with stories of valor and heroism. Both these legendary figures possessed extraordinary physical powers gifted to them by the gods. Both the stories were initially written in the form of epic poems serenading their respective heroes. Gilgamesh was the Babylonian king of Uruk (modern day Iraq).
The people of the city prayed to the sky god Anu to provide them relief from the tyranny of Gilgamesh. One might wonder at this strange situation. On the one hand those who were ruled by Gilgamesh prayed for succor from his oppressive and harsh rule. On the other hand he assumes the role of the hero of the story. Obviously there has to be a character transformation or else the change is for simply giving a twist to the story in order to create interest. This contradiction can be a subject for research which is outside the scope of this brief paper.
The sky god provides relief in the form of a man named Enkidu who has phenomenal strength. He is to serve as a check on the desires of Gilgamesh. The two men have a bout and since no one emerges as a clear winner they become friends and travel together sharing many adventures. They slay wild beasts and soon their reputation reaches far and wide. Back in Uruk the two men kill the Bull of Heaven sent by Ishtar to destroy the city as Gilgamesh does not return her overtures for a courtship.
The gods doom Enkidu to death. A brief quote from a book is reproduced below: “Through the medium of a dream, Enkidu learns that he has been singled out for punishment. ” After Enkidu’s death Gilgamesh becomes disconsolate. He seeks the secret of immortality from the sage Utnapishtim. Gilgamesh however cannot retrieve the sea plant which has the properties of immortality as the plant is devoured by a serpent. He returns crest fallen to Uruk to live out his remaining life there.
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