The Friendship of Gilgamesh and Enkidu

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The Epic of Gilgamesh is a historic story of the king of Uruk, Gilgamesh. The story depicts the short lived friendship of Gilgamesh and Enkidu. The story begins as Shamat the harlot seduces Enkidu and convinces him to go to the city of Uruk and meet Gilgamesh. From that moment on, the two were very close. They planned a trip to the forest of cedars to defeat the monster known as Humbaba so that Gilgamesh could show his power to the citizens of Uruk. However, Enkidu tried “vainly to dissuade” (18) Gilgamesh in going to the forest. Despite Enkidu’s plead, the two continued on their voyage to the forest where Humbaba lives. Once they arrived, they found the monster and killed him.

They cut down trees, “then Enkidu builds a gigantic door…as a gift to Enlil.” (44) Upon their arrival to Uruk, Ishtar the goddess of sex, love and warfare wanted to wed Gilgamesh. In spite of this, Gilgamesh did not feel the same and did not wish to marry her. Ishtar was so upset with the decision of Gilgamesh that she sent down the “Bull of Heaven” (50) to kill him. The bull ultimately met its’ demise when Gilgamesh and Enkidu killed it.

Of all of the events that occurred, the gods were not pleased. After the bull was killed and the cedar trees were cut, Enkidu had to be seen by the gods in council. Thus, the decision that Enkidu must die because of these acts was established. (53) The death of his friend is unreal to Gilgamesh. Thorkild Jacobsen points out that “…it touches him in all its stark reality, and Gilgamesh refuses to believe it.” (Thorkild Jacobsen, “And Death The Journey’s End,” 191)

Gilgamesh goes on to seek eternal life. Death had never been a topic he had to deal with. Jacobsen explains, “death, fear of death, has become an ob...

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...ves after him. There is a measure of immortality in achievement, the only immortality man can seek.” (Jacobsen, 196)

The whole reason Gilgamesh takes this journey to search for eternal life is due to the death of Enkidu, with whom he was close with. Before all of the events occurred, Gilgamesh had never thought about the topic of death. It’s as if it never crossed his mind; as though he would live forever. He went through phases along his journey. The first was not accepting reality, the second was fighting for eternal life, and the last was accepting reality. Now, his aspirations for immortality are no longer apparent as he enters the last stage.

Works Cited

Thorkild Jacobsen, "'And Death the Journey's End': The Gilgamesh Epic" “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” trans. and ed. Benjamin R. Foster, A Norton Critical Edition, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2001
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