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The Epic of Gilgamesh

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Donovan Crowe

Prof Edson


5 October 2017

Crazy People Aren’t to Blame for Their Actions

         In life, it may sometimes seem that everybody is a jerk, but it is not their fault, they are simply the bi-product of their own environments.  In, the Epic of Gilgamesh, the main character, Gilgamesh, spends his entire life trying to prove to himself and others that he is the most superior because of his difficult childhood.  As a child his feet were bound and he was left to die in a forest so now he over compensates with masculinity in any way that he can, whether it be  fighting all the townspeople to prove his masculinity, or sleeping with their brides to assert his dominance.  In either case, Gilgamesh demonstrates the importance of a good childhood and the negative effects that can result from horrendous parenting.  Gilgamesh’s attitude is so bad that his best friend, Enkidu, seems to be introduced into the story with the sole purpose of changing Gilgamesh.  In his interactions with others, Gilgamesh is repeatedly attempting to assert his dominance.  Gilgamesh is constantly trying to prove himself in order to hide his insecurities.  

Gilgamesh’s fame is most important in his life.  When Gilgamesh and Enkidu are about to go into battle, Gilgamesh reported that, “If I should fall, my name will be secure... It was Gilgamesh who fought against Humbaba!” (George 47). Gilgamesh was not worried about dying because he has already established his fame.  Likewise, when thinking about the things in his life, Gilgamesh’s only tangible thing of importance was his fame.  Though his life did not flash before his eyes, he still experienced a panicked state where he is forced to recount all the important things in his life.  And the first thing that he comes up with is that he has earned his glory.  He knows that his fame has been cemented into the minds of the townspeople.  .  Gilgamesh also tells us the importance of his fame when he declares that if he is successful in his quest to defeat Humbaba then he will do the following, “I will celebrate the new year twice over, I will celebrate the festival twice in one year” (George 24).  He uses repetition to emphasis the fact that he feels that his fame and glory is something more important than a national holiday.    Gilgamesh is basically saying that if he succeeds then his success will be the most important thing that has ever happened in Uruk.  Which may be the case, but that doesn’t mean that it definitely will, it actually just means that this is something very difficult that Gilgamesh should be taking seriously. But instead Gilgamesh is already starting to claim that he is superior to Humbaba.

Gilgamesh takes credit for whatever he can.  Gilgamesh is only strong and impressive because he has divine blood.  All of the physical tasks that he accomplishes are only due to his godly powers.  But he doesn’t hesitate to take credit for even the slightest thing that he does.  After he killed Humbaba, he made sure that everyone in town knew about it, and he even ends up being cocky about the fact that he’s divine.  It’s not like he is half god and half human, as he states that he is 2/3 god and 1/3 human (George 2).  This obviously shouldn’t happen because one of his parents was divine and the other wasn’t so we see that he can’t even let his superiority just be normal, he takes it to a whole different level.  This is, illustrated by the way that the tablets describe Gilgamesh, “Gilgamesh surpasses all other kings, heroic in stature…Gilgamesh, that tall, magnificent and terrible”(George 3).  The repetition of this helps to emphasis how Gilgamesh thought it was important to be thought of as ideal.  And in order to think that, he has to shower himself in compliments.  The compliments that he picked were the ideals of everyone during his time period so he really was claiming to be a god of sorts.  As king, he is already the most powerful man in Uruk so there already was no contesting the power of Gilgamesh.  

Gilgamesh sees himself as the best thing that the city has.  In the beginning when Gilgamesh is still very oppressive, George emphasizes the importance of Gilgamesh’s tyrannical ways by using repetition when he writes, “But [Gilgamesh] lets no daughter go free to her mother…But [Gilgamesh} lets no girl go free to her [bridegroom]” (3).  Gilgamesh could have two different rational for sleeping with the brides before they are married. First, he could be the only one in the entire world that is good enough to sleep with these virgins.  Of course there is no one more qualified for the task than the most amazing man in the world.  Second, he could see these beautiful women in their prime and not be able to fight off his lust.  It would be easy for Gilgamesh to justify sleeping with them because in his mind he is doing them a favor by letting them sleep with him.  This plays into the idea that he is the king and he should have the finest of everything.  

Enkidu’s intended purpose was to make Gilgamesh better person.  Anu becomes so enraged with the way that Gilgamesh is acting that he goes to the same god that created humans, Aruru, and begs him to help him out; “[let her create the equal of Gilgamesh], one so mighty in strength, and let him vie [with him], so Uruk may be restored!” (George 2).  Enkidu may have been created a beast but that doesn’t stop him from being powerful enough to change Gilgamesh’s heart as we see Gilgamesh lamenting Enkidu’s death at the end of the book (George 55).  But we also have to acknowledge the fact that Gilgamesh’s problem becomes so great that the gods have to create Enkidu in order to change Gilgamesh.  Divine intervention only happened in the old days for people with serious problems. Enkidu’s only purpose in the book is to get Gilgamesh to stop being such a tyrant of a king.  Throughout the book, Enkidu is able to change Gilgamesh’s opinion.  He gets Gilgamesh to kill Humbaba (George 52), stop sleeping with the townspeople’s brides, and humbles him by almost defeating Gilgamesh in battle (George 16).

Gilgamesh never accepts his mortality and remains cruel until the day he dies.  When Enkidu was dying, it became hard for Gilgamesh to function because he had this example of what happens to everyone right in front of him.  Though he hid from Enkidu for a few days, he eventually faced his fears and visited with Enkidu on the sixth day (George 55).  But even after the visit, Gilgamesh still resented the idea that he could die.  Enkidu’s death bothered him to the point of which he became depressed, but though he had never learned how to live for the permanent things in life, he still kept on finding material things to satisfy his desires.



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