The idea of finding your “soul mate” is often a worry of many, but what some people seem to forget is that your soul mate doesn’t have be to an intimate relationship it can be friendly. For example, Enkidu and Gilgamesh, from The Epic of Gilgamesh, become very good friends, best friends if you will, and they balance each other throughout their adventures. Gilgamesh is King of Uruk and a very strong man, actually the strongest man. Gilgamesh is a brave warrior, but somewhat of an overly ambitious leader. One might say to ambitious, he is even described as a tyrant but never the less a legendary king because of his accomplishments of building a great wall and other things. He is also two-thirds god and one-third mortal. Enkidu on the other hand was raised in the wild and carry those instincts he learned there with him throughout the epic.
He was hairy and strong, but later became more civilized. Enkidu looks a lot like Gilgamesh and is almost his physical equal. In the beginning of the story Gilgamesh is moderately evil. One can tell that maybe Gilgamesh is trying fill a void in himself. The goddess of love Arura attempts to help him fill this void by creating Enkidu, who is still wild at this point until Shamhat, the temple prostitute who tames Enkidu by seducing him away from his natural state. Once Enkidu comes into the picture Gilgamesh becomes less of tyrant and more heroic while Enkidu becomes more civilized. Gilgamesh and Enkidu balance each other to form a formidable unit.
First, Gilgamesh and Enkidu balance each other to form a formidable unit because of Gilgamesh’s stray away from tyranny. At the beginning of the story Gilgamesh is scary and omnipotent in Uruk. He sacrifices soldiers whenever he feels like fighting. He has sex with any women he chooses. He even takes whatever he wants from his people and kills anyone who gets in his way. The old men of Uruk start to complain, saying that a king is supposed to protect his subjects like a shepherd, not harass them like a wild ox. The gods do listen to the complaints. They tell Aruru that since she made Gilgamesh, she must now make someone strong enough to stand up to him.
Even though Gilgamesh and Enkidu become best friends, they start off as enemies. When they first encounter each other they fight. However, after they immediately forget their anger. Enkidu states that Gilgamesh is the rightful king of Uruk and pledges himself to him. Gilgamesh then pledges his friendship to his former rival. Enkidu was basically commissioned to challenge Gilgamesh so that he would have less energy to harass his own subjects. Enkidu gives Gilgamesh a peer. There is really never anymore mention of Gilgamesh being a tyrant after this.
Second, Gilgamesh and Enkidu balance each other to form a formidable unit because of the civilizing of Enkidu. When Aruru makes Enkidu to balance Gilgamesh, she takes some clay, moistens it with her spit, and forms Enkidu. He stays clear of the cities and lives in the wild with the animals. When a hunter sees him at a watering hole, Enkidu is very hairy, big and is probably pretty scary to run into in the middle of the woods. The hunter rushes back to his house to tell his father he has seen a huge man and claims Enkidu could be the most powerful in the land. The hunter’s father tells him he should go to Uruk and ask Gilgamesh to give him a temple prostitute, whose beauty will suffice to defeat Enkidu. The hunter follows his father’s advice and receives the prostitute from Gilgamesh.
He takes her into the wilderness where she gives herself to Enkidu for six days and seven nights. After this Enkidu tries to go back to the wild but the animals reject him and run away from him. Enkidu tries to run after the animals, but he is weaker and can’t run like he did before. Enkidu then becomes lost and confused, so he goes back to the Shamhat, who consoles him by enlightening him of the pleasures and wonders he will find in the city of Uruk. Shamhat tells him about music, food, festivals, and the tyrant king, Gilgamesh. As soon as Enkidu hears about Gilgamesh, he realizes how lonely he is. He wants to meet him and challenge him to a fight. When they leave for Uruk, Shamhat gives some of her clothes to Enkidu, since he has been naked up until this point. On the way there they stop at a shepherds’ house. Here he eats a meal for the first time, as opposed to grass and wild animal’s milk.
Enkidu also experiences being drunk for the first time after he drinks some beer and breaks into song, so he is also discovering music here as well. Then he bathes and anoints himself with oil and puts on new clothes. He even grabs a sword and stands guard over the shepherds’ flocks from the wolves and lions that had been eating them. One day a stranger comes through and out rages Enkidu when he tells him of wedding he is going to, where Gilgamesh will have sex with the bride before her husband does. This is what sends Enkidu into the city to fight Gilgamesh where, as I mentioned before, they fight and then gain respect for each other along with becoming best friends. Since Gilgamesh sending the prostitute completely changed the way Enkidu was living and completely civilized him, Gilgamesh is the sole reason for balancing Enkidu with not only the civilized world but himself, because Enkidu uses his attributes he learned from the wild to aid both of them along their adventures.
Third, Gilgamesh and Enkidu balance each other to form a formidable unit because of the effect Enkidu’s death had upon Gilgamesh. Ultimately, Enkidu’s friendship calms and focuses Gilgamesh and after Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh is deeply heart broken and in a way life loses all meaning to him, because the decisions to kill Humbaba and cut down the cedars to make a door way along with turning downs Ishtar’s, the goddess of love and war, marriage proposal were basically the causes of Enkidu’s death. Gilgamesh becomes tormented with the fear of his very own death. He decides that the only thing to do is to meet Utanapishtim, the one person who has been given immortality by the gods. He then quickly abandons glory, wealth, and power, all of which are worldly aspirations that he as king once centered his life around.
Then, he begins a quest to learn the secret of eternal life and goes off on a journey beyond the Eastern edge of the earth, where the sun rises, to find out the secret of immortality. Gilgamesh finally gets to speak to Utanapishtim and learns that not everyone can be immortal; the only people to get it are Utanapishtim and his wife, after they survived the flood that almost made mankind extinct. Gilgamesh then learns about the mysterious flower that will make anyone who eats young again from Utanapishtim’s wife. He even gets to the flower, but then a snake steals it. What he finds is the wisdom to strike harmony with his divine and mortal attributes. When he is finally reconciled at last to his mortality, Gilgamesh resumes his proper place in the world and becomes a better king. Enkidu’s death was his last balancing act of Gilgamesh and in turn made Gilgamesh a better person and king.
In summary, The Epic of Gilgamesh describes many life lessons. My favorite being, what we all should remember that life is precious. When Gilgamesh starts to ponder and become terrified at his own death, one starts to ponder about their very own death. It makes one start to remember how precious life is along with creating wonder about whom and why will remember them. With this lesson the world and I can start to maybe appreciate life more, along with appreciating our fellow beings and our impact on them.
In conclusion, I have demonstrated how Gilgamesh and Enkidu balance each other to form a formidable unit by explaining Gilgamesh’s stray from tyranny, along with Enkidu’s path to being civilized. I have also shown how they established a formable unit by describing the effects of Enkidu’s life and death had on Gilgamesh. The lessons this beautifully written epic teaches are universal and powerful. This is why this story has lasted as long as it has and will continue to last.
Courtney from Study Moose
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