12 November 2014
Beowulf vs. Gilgamesh: A Comparison of Equally Epic Proportions
When modern readers think of the term “epic hero”, names such as Superman, Batman, and even real life figures such as LeBron James, AJ McCarron, and countless others instantly come into play. All of them have many similarities; they are all “larger-than-life” heroes who display many epic characteristics such as bravery, might, and supreme confidence. However, each is unique in his/her own way. Diving into the world of ancient literature, and one can find many more great heroes that define the term and provide countless entertaining stories of their journeys and battles throughout the primordial word. Beowulf from the self-entitled ancient epic poem “Beowulf,” and Gilgamesh from the ancient Mesopotamian epic poem “The Epic of Gilgamesh” are just two of many. Their parallelisms and differences as heroes of their respective universes provide for an immensely interesting comparison and discussion.
Beginning with the resemblances, and one can easily identify the first major bullet point: introductions. Beowulf and Gilgamesh are the kind of characters whose arrivals never go unnoticed or are done in a shallow fashion; their presence alone is enough to warrant the attention of everyone in the area. They are always hyped up to show their greatness and lore. Notice how Beowulf’s preface begins: “There was no one else like him alive. In his day, he was the mightiest man on earth, highborn and powerful,” (117). Now looking at Gilgamesh’s, and one can see a comparable opening: “He who saw the wellspring, the foundations of the land, Who knew the ways, was wise in all things,“ Further down, he is described as “two-thir...
... middle of paper ...
...resents quite the contrast.
Both Beowulf and Gilgamesh make for great representatives of the term “epic hero” by showing near legendary levels of greatness, might, and strength. However, their differences are significant enough that one can clearly identify the uniqueness of each character; such as the contrast in their selflessness, or lack thereof in Gilgamesh’s case. As stated earlier in this paper, one can analyze each of their respective epics many times over and still find interesting new arguments and discussions for both sides of the comparison.
The Epic of Gilgamesh. The Norton Anthology of World Literature, Volume A. Third Edition.
Ed. Martin Puchner et al. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2012.
Beowulf. The Norton Anthology of World Literature, Volume B. Third Edition.
Ed. Martin Puchner et al. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2012.
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