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Gilgamesh: The First Epic Hero Essay

Throughout literature there are many heroes. However, the Epic of Gilgamesh was the first written epic, making Gilgamesh the first recorded epic hero. Gilgamesh possesses many qualities traditionally associated with epic heroes, and fits the mold perfectly. These five qualities are that the hero is born under unusual circumstances, he or she leave their family to live with someone else, an event occurs that leads to an adventure or quest, the hero has divine or supernatural assistance, he or she faces many obstacles on an adventure, and he or she has a fatal flaw. Gilgamesh was born two-thirds god, and one-third man, giving him supernatural abilities. These abilities made him arrogant, and although it is not now, back then it was respected. While Gilgamesh was respected, many people disliked him. Because of this, Gilgamesh was challenged by the gods. They sent a wild man named Enkidu to see if Gilgamesh would be able to overcome him.

This was the first of many obstacles that Gilgamesh has to face through the course of the epic. When Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh travels into the wild in search of Utnapishtim. This is the beginning of his quest. While on this journey, Gilgamesh encounters giant scorpions, and a woman that tries to stray him from his path, but he perseveres. These events all correlate with the mold for an epic hero. Also in his journey, Gilgamesh meets Utnapishtim, who tells him the story of the flood, and how he was rewarded with eternal life. After Gilgamesh insists on receiving eternal life, Utnapishtim challenges him to stay awake for one whole week. He fails the test, and is asked to leave.

Right before he leaves Utnapishtim’s house, Utnapishtim’s wife tells him about a plant that restores youth. Hearing this, Gilgamesh continues his quest, and finds the plant. Late one night, a snake takes the plant from the Gilgamesh’s camp, and sheds his skin, restoring his youth. On the quest, Gilgamesh became almost completely consumed with his search. This characteristic could be seen as his fatal flaw, because it causes him many near death experiences. Also, the gods assisted him with his endeavors. These, and all of the other traits stated, prove the statement that Gilgamesh was an epic hero, and does fit the mold.


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