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The Epic of Gilgamesh

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At the heart of a tale about slaying mystical creatures, scorning a goddess, and traveling to fantastical places, lies the narrative of a profound friendship between two men. In The Epic of Gilgamesh, an ancient Mesopotamian literary masterpiece, all of its events are centered around the development of the friendship between Gilgamesh, the tyrannical and stubborn king of Uruk, and the man created by the Gods to both complement and challenge his nature: Enkidu. Each of the three dream sequences in the epic represent different stages of Enkidu’s life – one portends his birth, another foretells the actions that will ultimately lead to his demise, and the final predicts his death. In the Epic of Gilgamesh dreams are utilized as a tool to develop and complete Enkidu’s role in the story; these dreams are the driving force of Enkidu’s life cycle in that they not only prophesize both his birth and death, but also provide insights into his ultimate purpose in the epic.

Enkidu’s birth and arrival to Uruk are communicated to Gilgamesh through a series of dreams sent from “the stars of the heavens.” One night, Gilgamesh dreams of a “rock from the sky,” and the subsequent night, of “an axe,” both of which represent Enkidu. Gilgamesh’s actions in the dream, attempting to “lift [the rock] up,” but being unable to because “it weighed too much for [him]” foreshadow his initial struggle with Enkidu before realizing that Enkidu is, in fact, his “equal.” The “axe” has a more specific connotation suggesting that, aside from brute strength, Enkidu has a volatile and violent disposition (which, among other instances, the reader comes to see in tablet VII when Enkidu so sadistically curses Shamhat the Harlot). Furthermore, Gilgamesh states “like a ...

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...reflection of his final dream and death, fulfills his ultimate purpose in the epic: to reveal to Gilgamesh the imminence of death thus setting him on his epic journey to find the secrets to life and immortality. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, dreams are a pivotal driving force in not only the character development of Enkidu, but also in fulfilling Enkidu’s purpose in the story. Both tangibly and intangibly, Enkidu is able to have a lasting effect on Gilgamesh; he teaches the tyrant king humility, justice, and kindness. The epic may be a narrative about heroic feats and wild travels, but the true story is one of the dynamic between Gilgamesh and Enkidu, the closest of friends and rivals. Their tale is one of the most beautiful representations of the power of friendship—how one interaction can inextricably link two people and change the course of their lives indefinitely.
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