The Epic of Gilgamesh is considered one of our first recorded literary pieces and I think it has shaped and influenced our present day lives in many ways. One thing that really caught my attention about this piece is the description of the main character, Gilgamesh. Very similar to movies and stories today, Gilgamesh, is described as a beautiful man.
They mentioned him having the perfect body, “endowed” with beauty, courage…. and his beauty being perfect compared to others. He is described as being someone everyman wants to be, someone you can only dream of, they take it a step further and say he is two-thirds God and one-third man. He is the ultimate movie star.
I think this began defining beauty and the type of person we would expect to see in stories, plays & movies. Gilgamesh is a manly man who is not perfect, he is relatable but he is also something you could never be. It leaves you wanting to be like someone you never could.
How might our stories and movies be different if we didn’t set this standard of beauty with our first piece of written literature?
The story and quest is timeless and we see the same framework used today in many movies, novels…etc. The creation of friendships, enemies becoming friends, death, questioning life, all are common in books and movies today. Gilgamesh’s questions about life and dealing with death reminded me of books like, “Tuesdays with Morrie”, or the movie “My Girl.”
Both of these movies deal with the lost of a friend and take you through a dark period of grief and reflection. Last year I watched a movie called “Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The lighting thief.” I couldn’t help but notice a very similar concept… a boy is part god and part man, defying the Gods, but also seeks the Gods for wisdom and later becomes a hero. Throughout the story he is questioning the problems in his own life, but at the end he realizes decisions were made in his best interest. It seems that this type of literature has heavily influenced the Greeks as well.
Another influence that is mentioned when people talk about the Epic of Gilgamesh is the similarities between characters in the story and “characters” in a modern day Bible. Utnapishtim seems very similar to Noah, he tells a story of the human society being beyond redemption and being
punished by a great flood.
Utnapishtim is instructed to build a boat, bring on all creatures and becomes a hero after the great flood. If this story has influenced the modern day bible, then its influence on modern times is priceless. The story of Noah is one of the most popular bible stories ever and is still being reinterpreted today. Within the next 24 months there is a big budget movie called “Noah” starring Russell Crow and Anthony Hopkins coming out. Over time, I think we will continue to recreate these stories and see them retold from different perspectives.
Something that I find particularly interesting is how popular this story has become with Ancient Alien Theorists. The History Channel show, Ancient Aliens, goes into great detail about the Epic of Gilgamesh. They believe that what we consider as old myths and stories were once considered stories about our actual past.
Is it a coincidence that the book of Genesis in the Bible has a very similar flood story?
A great flood, a man who is not perfect given the order to collect animals, abandon riches, the flood seems to punish mans sin. There is an obvious relationship, is it possible that the Hebrew bible “borrowed” from this mythological story? Years ago in Iraq they found what many people believe could be King Gilgamesh’s tomb. If he really existed, is there any truth to the story? Is it simply a myth?
~ Brandon Barros