Friendship in the third millennium BC must have been way different then how we see friendship today… Or is it? When you have a friendship with someone, you “fill their gaps” of what they don’t necessarily have. N. K. Sandars demonstrates that “filling of the gaps” in The Epic of Gilgamesh. The friendship of Gilgamesh and Enkidu benefits them both greatly by making up for each other’s limitations. You see this when they become stronger together to fight Humbaba and the Bull of Heaven, when Enkidu rationalizes with Gilgamesh and when Gilgamesh inspires Enkidu to become less of a cowardly man.
When two men fight with each other; there is strength, and with strength comes protection. There are two evident situations in the Epic, when Gilgamesh and Enkidu fight with each other and protect each other. When they conquer Humbaba, Enkidu is the one to protect Gilgamesh as they walk towards the cedar forest: “Let Enkidu lead the way… Let Enkidu protect his friend, and guard his companion…”.
Enkidu knowing how to get to the cedar forest makes up for Gilgamesh’s limitation of NOT knowing the path. Since Gilgamesh is ? God, he makes up for some of the strength that Enkidu lacks.
“When two go together each will protect himself and shield his companion,” Sandars implies how protection and strength are equal to each other, just like Gilgamesh and Enkidu are equal to each other in their friendship. Another concrete example of how Gilgamesh and Enkidu’s friendship come hand in hand with strength and protection is when they fight the Bull of Heaven after Ishtar gets insulted from the rejection of Gilgamesh.
When Ishtar got the Bull of Heaven to “destroy Gilgamesh” , Gilgamesh and Enkidu team up again for one last battle, and their united strength is shown.
“My friend, we boasted that we would leave enduring names behind us. Now thrust in your sward between the nape and the horns” (88) Enkidu is telling Gilgamesh that they want to leave behind their names in glory. They want everyone to know how they fought together and won together, as companions. And in order to prove that, Enkidu is advising Gilgamesh to kill the Bull of Heaven. In The Epic of Gilgamesh, the friendship that these two men possess for each other shows how good of a team they make together because they make up for each other’s limitations during battle.
However, Enkidu doesn’t only protect Gilgamesh, he also rationalizes with him. At the beginning of the Epic, Gilgamesh is known, in the town of Uruk, to sleep with all the women before they get married to their rightful husbands. The town of Uruk gets very frustrated with Gilgamesh and that is how Enkidu is born. The people wanted the Gods to “create his equal; let it be as like him as his own reflection, his second self, stormy heart for stormy heart” . This shows us that Enkidu was made specifically to rationalize with Gilgamesh and to make him more of a humble man.
In the first chapter, we see that Enkidu literally “stood in the street and blocked the way” of Gilgamesh and a new bride. When Enkidu explains himself and rationalizes with Gilgamesh on not sleeping with the bride, their “friendship was sealed” . When Ishtar tries to marry Gilgamesh, we can see how the friendship with Enkidu has influenced his limitation to become more rational about sleeping with woman. “How would it go with me? ”(86) Gilgamesh asks Ishtar. He doesn’t see why Ishtar would want to marry him while she has all of these men that she sleeps with and then abandons.
“Which of your lovers did you ever love forever? ” He asks her again. We notice that Gilgamesh is now level headed with the idea of not sleeping with every woman he sees. The whole journey that Gilgamesh and Enkidu experience in this Epic shows how Gilgamesh has changed from being an arrogant, cheating man to a more rational, humble and charitable man. This is all thanks to the advice and opinions of his best friend, his companion Enkidu. Nevertheless, Enkidu isn’t a perfect “second half” to Gilgamesh either. His cowardly self is influenced by his best friend throughout The Epic of Gilgamesh.
One of the limitations that Enkidu acquires is being a coward. Before they get close to Humbaba in the cedar forest, Enkidu calls out to Gilgamesh “Do not go down into the forest; when I opened the gate my hand lost its strength” . Sandars is portraying Enkidu to be scared of going to fight Humbaba at this moment. Gilgamesh “fills his gap” by inspiring him to be more courageous and heroic and ensure that he will be safe: “Dear friend do not speak like a coward…Hold close to me now and you will feel no fear of death… we will go down together into the heart of the forest…” .
Enkidu quickly learns from Gilgamesh’s words and later encourages him: “Forward, attack, son of Uruk, there is nothing to fear” . The inspiration that Gilgamesh gave Enkidu was so powerful encourages his best friend to kill Humbaba and “Afterwards we can search out the glory and the glamour,” . Gilgamesh and Enkidu have a great bond, and with that bond, they learn from each other in all situations that they face.