Ever since early human beings have learned to communicate with one another, they have been telling stories to entertain themselves, give themselves some sense of the world they live in, and add some type of meaning to life. As language evolved and writing developed, a lot of stories that were originally passed down orally throughout time became the world’s first pieces of literature. Literature that is fine written stands the test of time. A fine well written piece of literature should resonate with the reader long after they have finished the reading.
It should have an impact with its audience to the extent that it they might see themes from the story reflected onto their own lives no matter the time period that they are living in even if the text is a million years old. The story should provide lessons that the reader can integrate into key aspects of their lives. Gilgamesh, one of the earliest known pieces of literature, is the type of story that does just that.
Even though it was written several thousand years ago, there are several themes and universal truths within the Epic of Gilgamesh which are contemporary, and are still very much applicable in today’s society.
The motivation of love as a driving force is a theme that is used throughout the Epic of Gilgamesh. Although the romantic love between a man and a woman in the traditional sense seems to be missing a bit in the story, it more than makes up for it in the platonic brotherly friendship between Gilgamesh and Enkidu.
Originally created to balance out Gilgamesh’s power and end his reign as tyrant, Enkidu became Gilgamesh’s best friend after seeing they were evenly equalled in a fight. Enkidu was not only just a friend to Gilgamesh, he was a driving factor to Gilgamesh’s character development from brutal tyrant to grand hero. The theme of the love of friendship driving a person to better themselves is a theme that is prevalent throughout many stories being told in culture today. Examples include cinematic blockbusters such as Star Wars, Toy Story and even the Fast and the Furious movies. Although a person might argue that these movies made for entertainment and hold no value on storytelling, these people tend to forget that, “films are narratives. Film is a medium through which stories are told.” (Berger) These are the stories that a large amount of the civilized population are watching and getting lessons from. In fact, Woody from Toy Story somewhat holds a similar character to Gilgamesh. Much like Gilgamesh, Woody was the leader of his people, “who saw …the ways of all things, the foundations of the land”. (The Epic of Gilgamesh). Woody controlled and planned everything that happened, until Buzz Lightyear entered the story. Originally seen a rival to Woody, Buzz shows the selfish jealous maniacal Woody the power of friendship. Woody saved Buzz from being blown up after learning to see buzz an equal. Many young children have watched this movie and have picked up on the lesson that leaders shouldn’t be selfish and that a good friend can teach anyone that a kind heart can go a long away. The same way people listened to and read Gilgamesh thousands of years ago and learned the same lessons.
Leading on from the theme of the love of friendship, the theme of responsibility closely follows. In the story Gilgamesh loses his best friend Enkidu. The loss of his best friend indirectly teaches Gilgamesh what is most valuable in life. He realizes that his reckless lifestyle is unsustainable and leads to tragedy. Much like another story that is constantly being retold through multiple forms of medium, the origin story of Spider-Man. Peter Parker was a nerdy kid who was bestowed incredible super powers. Initially Peter used his super powers for the purpose of making money, then one day he made the mistake of letting a thief run away. The thief went on to shoot his uncle. From that moment Peter realized that with great power comes great responsibility.