Free Epic of Gilgamesh Essays: Themes of Gilgamesh


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Themes of the Epic of Gilgamesh  


Many themes are incorporated into the story line of Gilgamesh. These include three very important concepts: death is inevitable, immortality is unachievable, and friendship is a necessity.

One of the main themes in the epic is that death is inevitable, which is shown through Enkidu's death. When Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh becomes very worried, because he realizes for the first time that everyone is going to die at some point in time. The fact that Enkidu is a close friend makes it even more visible to Gilgamesh that everyone is mortal. Then, along with this realization, comes the theme of denial. Gilgamesh does not want to accept the fact that he will die.  He denies the truth, because he does not want to think about the truth or cope with the tragedy that has struck him. "And he-he does not lift his head. 'I touched his heart, it does not beat'" (Tablet VIII, Column II, 15-16). "'Me! Will I too not die like Enkidu? Sorrow was come into my belly. I fear death; I roam over the hills. I will seize the road; quickly I will go to the house of Utnapishtim, offspring of Ubaratutu. I approach the entrance of the mountain at night. Lions I see, and I am terrified. I lift my head to pray to the mood god Sin: For...a dream I go to the gods in prayer: ...preserve me!'" (Tablet IX, Column I, 3-12).

The theme of death being inevitable leads to another theme, similar to the first. This is that immortality is unachievable, shown through similar examples as the first theme. Gilgamesh realizes that immortality is not obtainable after his quest for it. He discovers that the quest was pointless, because he will die regardless of the steps to prevent his death in the future. "'Never has a mortal man done that, Gilgamesh'"  (Tablet IX, Column III, 8). "'The fate of mankind overtook him... In fear of death I roam the wilderness...Me, shall I not lie down like him, never again to move?'" (Tablet X, Column II, 3, 8, 13-14). "'From the beginning, there is no permanence'"  (Tablet X, Column VI, 32).

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The last main concept in the epic is that friendship is a necessity, shown through the bond of Enkidu and Gilgamesh. Both men are supportive of each other, always looking out for and encouraging one another. For example when Enkidu and Gilgamesh are fighting the Bull of Heaven and Humbaba, they work together.

  "'Hurry up, step up to him, do not let him go. Climb to the woods, [do not be afraid]'" (Tablet IV, Column V, 43-44). "They cut off the head of Humbaba" (Tablet V, Column VI, 47).  


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