The Epic of Gilgamesh

Where is “Uruk”? Say the name out loud and listen closely. Some things never change, even if the spelling does.

In Gilgamesh, who are Gilgamesh and Enkidu? If they are metaphors for something else, what would that be? What is the nature of their relationship? Are they a Doppelganger? Do they remind you of any other stories from ancient (or modern) literature? If so, which stories?

 

Uruk is in Southern Iraq, along the Euphrates, which plays an important part in The Epic of Gilgamesh. Reading Gilgamesh, if not for the mention of the Euphrates, one might think Uruk were somewhere other than the Middle East, since the forest plays such an important part in the story, and you do not typically think of forests when you think of Iraq.

Gilgamesh is a boisterous king, two-thirds god, who is very proud of his walled-city of Uruk. Enkidu is a wild beast-man, created by the gods from clay in order to oppose and/or tame Gilgamesh. Enkidu and Gilgamesh end up becoming the best of friends. Then Enkidu dies, which profoundly impacts Gilgamesh, to the point that Gilgamesh grows his hair out and wears wild furs like Enkidu did. I guess in this sense you could consider them doppelgangers, but other than that, I would not say they are. I normally consider a doppelganger to be a double, a duplicate, an exact copy—which Enkidu and Gilgamesh are not. If anything, they are more polar opposites: Gilgamesh being the narcissistic man, and Enkidu being the naturalistic force of nature.

For some reason, while reading of Gilgamesh’s larger-than-life adventures, I sometimes caught myself thinking of Achilles from Homer’s Iliad—specifically Brad Pitt’s portrayal of him in the 2004 movie Troy; which is weird, because I have not seen that movie in years. Beyond that, there was an underlying sense of familiarity with the entire Epic of Gilgamesh, as if I had heard it all before. This is most likely because all of these great stories can probably trace their roots back to the same oral history, so they all share motifs and archetypes. If I were more studied, and if I had more than three days to read over the Epic of Gilgamesh, I might be able to place my finger on all these feelings of familiarity and which stories from ancient and modern literature Gilgamesh reminds me of.

Advertisements
The Epic of Gilgamesh