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Immortal Life vs. Immortal Name: Gilgamesh and Beowulf

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Length: 1447 words (4.1 double-spaced pages)
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Immortal Life vs. Immortal Name: Gilgamesh and Beowulf

Death. Fate. Immortality. Destiny. All are subjects that we tend to avoid. While most of us hope for life after death, we tend not to dwell on this subject because we are uncomfortable with the unknown. On those rare occasions when we allow ourselves to think about the fact that our days are numbered, we wonder if death can be cheated and immortality gained. Some have suggested that being remembered is just as enduring as living forever. Thoughts of destiny and the here after are not new. They have engaged the hearts and minds of men for ages. Two ancient stories that deal with this subject matter are The Epic of Gilgamesh and Beowulf. In these texts, the main characters, Gilgamesh and Beowulf, are obsessed with their fate. To the degree that these epics accurately reflect the society and culture of their own eras, one can see that men of these ancient times were as concerned about their ultimate destiny as we are. The epic stories of Gilgamesh and Beowulf illustrate that men and women throughout the ages have been keenly aware of their own mortality and that they long to live on eternally, if only in the memory of others.

In the beginning of The Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh, the ruler of ancient Uruk, is blessed with the gift of foresight. He has numerous dreams about his destiny and is very accepting of the fate that the gods have given him. The gods give Gilgamesh a dream and Enkidu interprets Gilgamesh’s vision ...


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... his destiny.
Beowulf, and eventually Gilgamesh, end up gaining everlasting life through their monuments and the good deeds that their people will remember them by. The ancient societies depicted in The Epic of Gilgamesh and Beowulf are no doubt representative of the actual societies that existed during those time periods. These ancient people were greatly concerned with issues such as death, fate, and destiny. People of ancient times and modern realize that even though one cannot escape death, one can to some degree achieve immortality, if only in the memories of those left behind.

Works Cited

Liuzza, Roy M., trans. Beowulf. Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 1999.

Sandars, N. K., trans. The Epic of Gilgamesh. New York: Penguin, 1972.

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