Gilgamesh, Oedipus the King, and The Tradegy of Sohrab and Rostam

Gilgamesh, Oedipus the King, and The Tradegy of Sohrab and Rostam

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Destiny & Character - Discuss in relation to the stories of Gilamesh,
Oedipus the king, and The Tradegy of Sohrab and Rostam.

Destiny can be defined as a predetermined course of events that is
beyond human power or control. It is considered a force which
creates, shapes, guides, rewards, and afflicts human life. The
elements of a character’s true personality and attitude make that fate
a reality and force the destiny to become the destination. The stories
of Gilgamesh, Oedipus the King, and The Tragedy of Sohrab and Rostam
all teach the readers that destiny and character are intertwined.

In Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, destiny and Oedipus’ actions
determines the ultimate fate. Oedipus tells the Messenger: “Apollo
told me once – it is my fate – I must make love with my own mother /
shed my father’s blood with my own hands” (418). Oedipus learns this
at a young age and desperately attempts to change his fate. He leaves
Corinth, where he believes his real parents reside at, thinking he is
escaping his unwanted future. Oedipus says, “I heard all that and
ran. I abandoned Corinth” (413). Instead of running away from his
troubles, he puts the element of fate into motion. As a reckless,
hot-headed youth, Oedipus ends up inflicting immortal wounds on his
own father after a mere quarrel. He is obviously ignorant of the fact
that the victim was his own father. Later, he successfully solves the
riddle of Sphinx. Again, without knowledge, he marries the widow queen
of Thebes and his very own mother, Jocasta. If he had taken the
prophecy more seriously, he would have avoided conflicts or
interactions with older people. Instead, he acts in a rash manner.
Later, Oedipus says, “Some man at a banquet who had drunk too much
shouted out…that I am not my father’s son. Fighting words!” (413).
Once he heard that rumor, he should have investigated it deeply. By
not paying attention to the oracle and family rumors, Oedipus begins
the fate that was ordained him. His own stubbornness and arrogance
lead to his fall. Oedipus says to Jocasta when he discovers he
murdered his very own father, “Oh no no, I think I’ve just called down
a dreadful curse upon myself” (412). Sophocles believed that humans
have free will yet they are limited by a larger order that controls
all things. By going against the larger celestial order, his tragic
fate was determined. Eventually, it is Oedipus who chooses his path,
the one of ignorance rather than clarity, and in doing so, he must
take responsibility for his actions.

Like Oedipus the King, the main character in Gilgamesh is also very

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self-confident and arrogant. Gilgamesh has a desire to live forever
after Enkidu, his best friend, dies. Gilgamesh says, “His fate lies
heavy upon me…he is dust and I shall die also and be laid in the earth
for ever” (36). The death of Enkidu frightens him because he fears
his own death. Even though, earlier, Enkidu comforts Gilgamesh by
saying, “The father of the gods has given you kingship, such is your
destiny, everlasting life is not your destiny” (17). Gilgamesh does
not realize that eternal life is not his destiny, this shows his
ignorance. When Gilgamesh meets Siduri, "the woman of the vine, the
maker of wine," she reminds him of the meaningfulness of being human:

Gilgamesh, where are you hurrying to? You will never find that life
for which you are looking. When the gods created man they allotted to
him death, but life they retained in their own keeping. As for you,
Gilgamesh, fill your belly with good things; day and night, night and
day, dance and be merry, feast and rejoice. Let your clothes be fresh,
bathe yourself in water, cherish the little child that holds your
hand, and make your wife happy in your embrace; for this too is the
lot of man. (34)

Yet Gilgamesh still cannot rest and is still unsatisfied with his
mortal life. He continues his journey to Utnapishtim the Faraway, the
only mortal to whom the gods have given everlasting life. With
Urshanabi, the ferryman, Gilgamesh crosses the waters of death. Like
Siduri, Utnapishtim asks Gilgamesh, "Where are you hurrying to?" (35),
and in answer to Gilgamesh's question, "How shall I find the life for
which I am searching?" he says, "There is no permanence. Do we build a
house to stand for ever, do we seal a contract to hold for all time?"
(36). Even after this, Gilgamesh still feels unsatisfied and
Utnapishtim tells him the secret of the gods. Gilgamesh learns that
he “must prevail against sleep for six days and seven nights.”
Already tired, Gilgamesh fails the task. In result, Gilgamesh dies.
His premature and ironic death can be blamed on Gilgamesh himself
because of his ignorance and his desire of everlasting life.

The Tragedy of Sohrab and Rostam is a tragic story about a son and a
father who unintentionally meet in war. Sohrab, the son, finds it his
destiny to conquer all enemies and give the throne to his father.
Sohrab says, “To brave Rostam I’ll give throne, mace, and crown / And
seat him in the place of Shah Kavus” (896). When Sohrab and Rostam
finally meet, neither knows who the other truly is. Sohrab says to
Human, “His shoulders, chest, and neck are so like mine” (915). The
two meet and fight three times: the first fight ends in a draw; on the
second day, Sohrab throws Rostam, but Rostam tricks him into giving
him a second chance; on the third day, after a furious fight, Rostam
throws Sohrab and quickly stabs him. Drawing his final breaths, Sohrab
confesses to Rostam that his only wish was to join his father and make
him the king of Iran. Rostam, realizing that Sohrab is indeed his son
by seeing an armband he had given Tahmineh to wrap around the child
when he was leaving her, embraces his son just as Sohrab dies. He
mourns the death of his son in some of the most moving passages of the

Oh, brave and noble youth, and praised among

All men, whom I have slain with my own hand! (919)

Oh, noble youth, and proud, courageous seed of pahlavans!

The sun and moon won't see your like again,

No more will sheild or mail, nor throne or crown.

Who else has been afflicted as I've been?

That I should slay a youth in my old age

Who is the grandson of the world-conquering Sam,

Whose mother's seeds from famous men as well.

It would be right to sever these two hands.

No seat be mine henceforth save darkest earth.

What father's ever done this?

I now deserve abuse and icy scorn.

Who else in all this world has slain his son?

His wise, courageous, youthful son? (921)

Both are great heroes driven by noble motives. Sohrab’s sole ambition
is to find his father and make him the king. His desire to overthrow
Kay Kavus and Afrasiyab and replace them with the much worthier
figure, Rostam, is quite justified and commendable. For him to die at
the hands of his own father is the most shocking event. Their fate
seems so unfair. Sohrab, in his final moments, blames fate, telling
Rostam that: “This was the fate allotted me…What’s happened here
is what was meant to be” (918). The Tragedy of Sohrab and Rostam is a
tragedy that teaches readers that to be victorious, one sometimes
loses as well.
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