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Gilgamesh and Enkidu, Essay Example

Pages: 1

Words: 290

Essay

Gilgamesh is a classic epic hero, and Enkidu, a powerful demigod in his own right but not always Gilgamesh’s equal, plays a key role in his life. I will show that there are distinct ways that the two are different, and distinct ways that they are the same. I will take examples of these from a segment I have selected from the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Anyone unfamiliar with the story would know right away that Gilgamesh is the first hero of the pair. That’s because he takes the first action by striking the cedar trees, and then, upon weakening with fear at the sight of Humbaba, calls upon the god Shamash, someone more powerful than he. He does not call upon Enkidu. After Enkidu is struck and nearly killed by Humbaba, Gilgamesh “returned to life” — snaps out of it — and kills Humbaba. So he achieves his goal of fighting him in the first place, but does so immediately to save and avenge Enkidu. He acts as Enkidu’s protector. For his part, Enkidu, like any good subordinate, supports Gilgamesh by bucking up his courage when Gilgamesh seems to waver before killing Humbaba.

But the two are also the same. Enkidu senses that Gilgamesh would like the servant that Enkidu isn’t because Enkidu is his friend and near equal. Enkidu, like any true friend, understands his compatriot’s mind clearly in a crisis. And they are both moved to pity for Humbaba when they first see him: they are on the same wavelength and share the same values in a critical situation. They are partners. And that is how Humbaba viewed them as well. Enkidu had no reason to believe that he would be treated with any special leniency — and wasn’t.

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