Essay about Beowulf And Gilgamesh

Essay about Beowulf And Gilgamesh

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Comparative English Essay

Compare the Beowulf poet's presentation of the battles with Grendel and his mother with the Gilgamesh poet's depiction of Gilgamesh' battles with Huwawa and the Bull of Heaven.

Fame and glory have been the most admirable characteristics in the middle Ages and even before Christ in the ancient civilizations. The epics of Gilgamesh and Beowulf are stories of heroism and immortality gained through fame. The aim of the main characters, Beowulf and Gilgamesh, is to be a good warrior by being courageous, respectful and prudent, a protector and servant to their king (only in the beginning of Beowulf, as he later becomes king and Gilgamesh already is) and their country. In both poems the fights of the main characters with supernatural monsters and creatures in order to gain fame or to protect themselves are central scenes where Gilgamesh and Beowulf prove their heroism and the social codex of their society becomes perfectly clear. Therefore I will compare the battles of Gilgamesh with Huwawa and the Bull of Heaven, and Beowulf with Grendel and his mother and analyze the different meanings of the fights and their relevance for the whole epic.

First I will cover the fights in the Gilgamesh epic, beginning with Gilgamesh' and Enkidu's fight with Huwawa, the "guardian demon" (p. 25, line 14).
Gilgamesh sets out to kill Huwawa to "cut the Cedar down and win the glory" (p. 19, line 12). Huwawa is described as supernatural, as evil, and at the same time he is guarding a forest; he is nature. "Huwawa's mouth is fire […] the demon hateful to the sun god." (p. 20, line 1-4). The gods hate Huwawa and to kill him is glorious and therefore Gilgamesh sets out to fight him. The monster lives in the "Cedar Forest that...


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...gh he offers himself as a servant) or using the same weapons (killing Grendel in a hand-to-hand fight), but they are in a social, civilized system and therefore win over their enemies. Gilgamesh also don't fight because they have to, but because they want to gain fame, which is a kind of immortality. The monster enter the hero's life "from the outside, accidentally, challenges which in other circumstances he [Beowulf] might not have taken up, enemies from whom he might have been distracted or deflected." (Beowulf, xix) Therefore the fights are tools to demonstrate the principle rules of the two somehow similar societies and to show the importance of the heroic code that guides their life, "For every one of us, living in this world means waiting for our end. Let whoever can win glory before death. When a warrior is gone, that will be his best and only bulwark." (p. 46)

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