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Themes Of Gilgamesh

Paper type: Essay
Pages: 7 (1501 words)
Categories: Theme
Downloads: 41
Views: 343
  1. The Epic

[1]The Epic of Gilgamesh is the story of King Gilgamesh of Uruk who oppresses his people. As punishment, the gods send him a companion, Enkidu, who is his mirror image and becomes his good friend. Together, Gilgamesh and Enkidu defy the gods by killing the giant Humbaba, cutting down the sacred cedar forest which he guards, and killing the Bull of Heaven. Enkidu has ominous dreams of the destiny of tyrants who become slaves in the House of Death.

Enkidu finally dies of an illness sent by the gods.

Horrified by Enkidu’s death and the prospect of his own demise, Gilgamesh undertakes a quest for immortality which brings him to the abode of Utnapishtim, a virtuous man who obeys the gods and was saved by them from the Great Flood. Utnapishtim puts Gilgamesh to various tests which he fails and eventually sends him away; assuring him that he cannot escape death. A humbled Gilgamesh returns to Uruk and orders his story to be inscribed in stone.

Although the epic is several thousand years old, it never fails to fascinate contemporary readers with its account. It contains the elements of a great epic literature: fantastic geographies and exotic characters; exhausting quests and difficult journeys; heroic battles with monsters, supernatural beings and natural forces. Above all, it is a gripping story of an epic hero who is driven to meet his destiny and who rises to every challenge with courage and determination.

  1. Themes

Many themes are incorporated into the story line of Gilgamesh. There is the theme of love, friendship, death, adventure, and change to name only a few. The list goes on and on. These themes make the epic interesting and worth reading.

III. Themes Analyzed

  1. Human Nature (Insatiable desire)

It is human nature for people to want to excel in life and strive to make a name in this world for themselves.  We want to be remembered by name or for something we have done.  Most of us, who actually succeed, are forgotten about in a matter of years. However, some are remembered for tens, hundreds, and even thousands of years, because of their great intellectual achievement to feats of outstanding skill.

Gilgamesh is not only a character of a story; he is actually a portrayal of people and how they act out of human nature.  He, like many of us, does not want his existence to end when he leaves this world.  He is not content with what he has, good looks, money, and power, and desires more in life.  The Epic of Gilgamesh is a story that we, as people, can relate to.

There are similarities between Gilgamesh’s journey and our own journey through life.  Some of the texts that will be compared with The Epic of Gilgamesh, are the Bible, and Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  The characters of these stories are all have that burning desire to be successful in life, which we can relate to.  These texts span across different time periods and societies illustrating how human nature, particularly the desire to obtain more than one possesses, plays a significant role throughout written and present human history.

In The Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh seeks to gain more fame by attempting feats of great proportion.  One of the feats is the slaying of Humbaba, the giant beast who is the keeper of a forest.  By doing so, Gilgamesh becomes famous for killing the dreaded Humbaba, even though it does not pose any threat to people who stay out of that particular forest.

[2]“Together we will accomplish a work the fame of which will never die, your dream is good, your dream is excellent, the mountain which you saw is Humbaba, Now, Surely, we will seize and kill him.”

He does this for fame as well as access to the cedar trees.  After this event, he announces to every person he meets,
[3]“I killed the watchman of the cedar forest, and I killed the lions in the passes of the mountain.”

 It is in human nature to want to be recognized and receive what one think he or she may deserve.

  1. Human Nature (Change)

[4]Ackerman details how the Gilgamesh Epic and all its main characters, including Enkidu and Ishtar, are liminal in significant ways. Gilgamesh is going through a rite of passage in terms of his kingship and in terms of his acceptance of the limits of human existence. During the rite, he and Enkidu are liminal and are thereby outside normal social rules and expectations.

[5]Gilgamesh’s initial state as presented in the epic before the coming of Enkidu depicts him as an uncontrolled man of extreme emotions oppressing his people. However he changed.

This is very interesting since it shows how the characters are changing. As the passage goes, [6] “There is no permanence. Do we build a house to stand forever; do we seal a contract to hold for all time? Do brothers divide an inheritance to keep forever; does the flood-time of rivers endure?”

Another line goes, [7]“The semi-divine king seems to have no humanity at all until the Sun God sends Enkidu, a beast-man, to challenge him and then to become his best friend.”

  1. Human Nature (Death)

Death is an inevitable and inescapable fact of human life, which is the greatest lesson Gilgamesh learns. Gilgamesh is bitter that only the gods can live forever and says as much when Enkidu warns him away from their fight with Humbaba. Life is short, the two warriors tell each other on their way to the deadly confrontation in the Cedar Forest, and the only thing that lasts is fame. But when Enkidu is cursed with an inglorious, painful death, their bravado rings hollow.

Shamash, the sun god, consoles Enkidu by reminding him how rich his life has been, but though Enkidu finally resigns himself to his fate, Gilgamesh is terrified by the thought of his own. As Siduri the barmaid tells Gilgamesh: [8]“You will never find that life for which you are looking. When the gods created man they allotted to him death, but life they retained in their own keeping.”

Mesopotamian theology offers a vision of an afterlife, but it gives scant comfort -the dead spend their time being dead. If Gilgamesh’s quest to the Cedar Forest was in spite of death, his second quest to Utnapishtim is for a way to escape it. Utnapishtim’s account of the flood reveals how ludicrous such a goal is, since death is inextricably woven into the fabric of creation. But life is woven in as well, and even though humans die, humanity continues to live. The lesson that Gilgamesh brings back from his quest isn’t ultimately about death-it about life.

Works Cited

“Gilgamesh the King.” School Library Journal 52.2 (2006): 6060. Academic Search Premier. 22 October 2006. http://search.ebscohost.com.

Miscall, Peter D. “When Heroes Love: The Ambiguity of Eros in the Stories of Gilgamesh and David.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 68.2 (2006): 293-294. Academic Search Premier. 21 October 2006. http://search.ebscohost.com.

Ataç, Mehmet-Ali. “‘Angelology’ In The Epic of Gilgamesh.” Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions 4.1 (2004): 3-27. Academic Search Premier. 22 October 2006. http://search.ebscohost.com.

Bibliography

Books

Anonymous; story was crafted and reworked by various Mesopotamian cultures including the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, and Assyrians; original story likely dates back to around the time of King Gilgamesh of Uruk (c. 2,700 BC); 1,600 BC recension by Babylonian priest-exorcist, Sîn-leqi-unninni

Sanders, Nancy K., Trans. “Gilgamesh.” In The Norton Anthology: World Masterpieces, Expanded Edition, Volume I: 10-41

Journals

Miscall, Peter D. “When Heroes Love: The Ambiguity of Eros in the Stories of Gilgamesh and David.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 68.2 (2006): 293-294. Academic Search Premier. 21 October 2006. http://search.ebscohost.com.

Ataç, Mehmet-Ali. “‘Angelology’ In The Epic of Gilgamesh.” Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions 4.1 (2004): 3-27. Academic Search Premier. 22 October 2006.

http://search.ebscohost.com.

“Gilgamesh the King.” School Library Journal 52.2 (2006): 60-60. Academic Search Premier. 22 October 2006. http://search.ebscohost.com.

[1] Anonymous; story was crafted and reworked by various Mesopotamian cultures including the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, and Assyrians; original story likely dates back to around the time of King Gilgamesh of Uruk (c. 2,700 BC); 1,600 BC recension by Babylonian priest-exorcist, Sîn-leqi-unninni

[2] Sanders, Nancy K., Trans. “Gilgamesh.” In The Norton Anthology: World Masterpieces, Expanded Edition, Volume I: 10-41

[3] Sanders, Nancy K., Trans. “Gilgamesh.” In The Norton Anthology: World Masterpieces, Expanded Edition, Volume I: 10-41

[4] Miscall, Peter D. “When Heroes Love: The Ambiguity of Eros in the Stories of Gilgamesh and David.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 68.2 (2006): 293-294. Academic Search Premier. 21 October 2006. http://search.ebscohost.com.

[5] Ataç, Mehmet-Ali. “‘Angelology’ In The Epic of Gilgamesh.” Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions 4.1 (2004): 3-27. Academic Search Premier. 22 October 2006. http://search.ebscohost.com.

[6] Sanders, Nancy K., Trans. “Gilgamesh.” In The Norton Anthology: World Masterpieces, Expanded Edition, Volume I: 10-41

[7] “Gilgamesh the King.” School Library Journal 52.2 (2006): 60-60. Academic Search Premier. 22 October 2006. http://search.ebscohost.com.

[8] Sanders, Nancy K., Trans. “Gilgamesh.” In The Norton Anthology: World Masterpieces, Expanded Edition, Volume I: 10-41

Cite this essay

Themes Of Gilgamesh. (2017, Mar 17). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/themes-of-gilgamesh-essay

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