Search for Immortality in the Epic of Gilgamesh


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The Search for Immortality


In The Epic of Gilgamesh the main character, Gilgamesh, is searching for immortality. This want is brought about by deep feelings held by Gilgamesh for his dead friend Enkidu. From this, Gilgamesh finds himself being scared of dying. This fear pushes Gilgamesh to search for the power of immortal life, which is believed to be held only by women because of the fact that they can reproduce. This takes him on a long and tiresome journey to a land where no mortal has gone before. The search by Gligamesh is fueled by the desire to play a part in reproduction. His journey begins at Mount Mashu, the mountain which describes a woman in the part that her "paps reach down to the underworld." Referring to two women’s breast’s hanging down. Before he may enter the mountain, he meets two half female, half dragon figures guarding the entrance. They begin asking why he has come; "No man/ born of woman has done what you have/ asked, no mortal man has ever gone into the/ mountain." This mountain is off limits to mortal beings, he should not be there  Gilgamesh is alloud in and goes through twelve leagues of darkness before he reaches the golden garden of the goddesses.

Upon arriving there he is greeted by Shamash, the Sun God, who tells him, "You will never find the/ life for which you are searching." This upsets Gilgamesh because he has traveled so far to now just "sleep and let the earth cover my head forever?" From leaving Shamash, Gilgamesh is sent to see Siduri. "Beside the sea she lives, the woman of/ the vine, the maker of wine…" and she does not want to allow Gilgamesh pass. Gilgamesh pleads with her that since he has seen her do not let him see death. She answers, "Gilgamesh, where/ are you hurrying to? You will never find that life for which you are looking." Once again Gilgamesh hears that what he is looking for does not exist. She tells him to enjoy life to its fullest because that is what a man is there for. That does not satisfy Gilgamesh and he wishes to know where to find Utnapishtim, the only man with eternal life. To find him, Gilgamesh must locate Urshanabi, the ferry woman. She then proceeds to take him over the Ocean and over the waters of death.

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So Gilgamesh finds himself in Dilmun, the place where Utnapishtim resides. Utnapishtim asks why he has come. Gilgamesh proceeds to tell Utnapishtim the whole story about Enkidu dying, how far he has traveled, who he has met, and finally that he wants to know how to become immortal like him. "There is no permanence," Utnapishtim states, "It is only the nymph of the/ dragonfly who sheds her larva and sees the sun in her glory." This statement is saying that only woman live forever through reproduction. Utnapishtim continues to tell Gilgamesh how he got here and asks "As for you, Gilgamesh,/ who will assemble the gods for/ your sake, so that you may find that life for which you are searching?" Utnapishtim offers him a test and all he has to do is stay up for six days and seven nights. Gilgamesh can not do it, and he immediately falls asleep.

 Utnapishtim wakes him after seven days and tells Urshanabi to take Gilgamesh to be cleaned, then send him back to where he came from. But before Gilgamesh could leave, Utnapishtim told him of a plant underwater that would restore a mans youth. Gilgamesh then left to find this marvelous plant before he headed home. He found it and brought it with him. Urshanabi and Gilgamesh traveled a long ways before stopping for the night. While stopped, Gilgamesh went to go bathe in a well. But, deep in that well there was a serpent. "It rose out of the water and snatched it/ away, and immediately it sloughed its/ skin and returned to the well." Gilgamesh is left with nothing. The serpent was a symbol of a woman, and now Gilgamesh see that he can not have the power to bear everlasting life.

In short, Gilgamesh ends up dying, like all men must do. He learned that there is no immortal life for men and that women are still the only immortals because of reproduction.


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