The Epic of Gilgamesh is a classic tale from Mesopotamia and among the earliest recorded literary works, some scholars believe that it came out as a string of Sumerian fables and tales about their king (Gilgamesh) who they widely regarded as a hero. The tales are arranged into twelve chapters and revolve around Gilgamesh and his closest friend, Enkidu. Enkidu has a wild personality and was created by the gods to equal the king’s strength to prevent him from oppressing the people of Uruk.
These two companions partake in perilous quests that seem to anger the gods, they begin with the journey to the Cedar Mountain to conquer Humbaba, they later kill the Bull of Heaven that goddess Ishtar had sent to discipline the king for resisting her advances. The latter sections of the tale revolve around the king’s distress after the death of Enkidu and this takes the form of a pursuit for mortality.
The aim of the paper is to describe how Gilgamesh and Enkidu are opposite and the role this theme plays throughout the work.
From the onset of the story, we see that Gilgamesh and Enkidu are opposite in origin and even in their way of thinking. Enkidu had been living in the wild and was comfortable living with the animals who were his friends. Gilgamesh, on the other hand, lived among people in the complex city but due to his obstinate behavior, was estranged from his followers. Enkidu was brought up in the wild by animals while Gilgamesh lives in opulence. When they get to meet, they become great friends and this is based on the assumption that opposite sides attract. The king is half-human and half godly and must accept his own mortality through his friendship with Enkidu, who, in contrast, is wild and has a bond to all life.
It is through the interaction with his opposite man, Enkidu, that Gilgamesh learns to evaluate his conduct and starts to change (Peel, para. 3).
Gilgamesh is devoted to separation and is well-known for building walls, he aims at establishing himself at the expense of others but Enkidu is devoted to union and fights to bring together opposite sides to have peace and co-existence. When they come together, Gilgamesh and Enkidu confront their known world, the power of the gods, and the revered creatures of nature. The moral lesson from their union and subsequent working together is that life flows through unions of opposites (Peel, para. 5).
The union between these two men led to a balance between them as the friendship benefited one another, this friendship was so strong that Enkidu lay down his life to protect the king. During his reign as King of Uruk, Gilgamesh was not liked by his subjects and his lack of consideration led him to rape and murder randomly, thus, people lived in fear. When matters got out of hand, he pleaded with the gods for assistance, this is when Enkidu was created, an apposite of the king who would equal his temper and strength. Together, these two opposites set on many adventures fought several battles together, and were always level on strength. When they returned, the goddess Ishtar noticed the change in the king’s conduct and appointed him her personal companion. Gilgamesh knew that accepting this position would lead to his death and was unwilling to take the offer. Angered by his negative response, the goddess sent the Bull of Heaven to create destruction and panic on earth, and once again, the two friends came together and killed the Bull. The Queen later killed Enkidu after he had hurled the Bull’s leg at the goddess. The binding of the opposites seemed to have created a strong bond that only death could have separated (Berry, para. 2).
The union of Enkidu and Gilgamesh promotes the theme of love. It is through love that Enkidu acts as the protector of Gilgamesh, he is sent by the gods to come and help him and once they had become friends, fight many battles together. In the latter stages of the tale, we see Enkidu again exhibit love and sacrifice his own life to save the earth.
The Epic of Gilgamesh influenced many works done in later years, there are numerous verses, themes, and episodes replicated in other classical works, and these point to the degree of influence that this tale had. Examples of such works include Odyssey, a Greek poem attributed to Homer. The story of Nebuchadnezzar’s madness from the book of Daniel in the Bible is also thought to have been influenced by this tale.
Another influence occurred in the Alexander the Great fable in Syrian traditions, Alexander roams through a region of dimness and terror while seeking the water of life. He comes across strange occurrences, gets the water, but like Gilgamesh, fails to turn into an immortal being. He also arrives at the spot where the sun rises from the Earth.
Berry, Kristen. (2010). Analysis of Gilgamesh. Web.
Peel, Janette. (2008). The Story of Gilgamesh. Web.