Gilgamesh is an epic of great love, followed by
lingering grief that causes a significant change in his character. It is the story of a person who is feared and honored, a person who loves and hates, a person who wins and loses and a person who lives life. Although, Gilgamesh’s journey is larger than life, yet ends so commonly with death. Through Gilgamesh, the fate of mankind is revealed, and the inevitable factor of change is expressed.
Before the coming of Enkidu, Gilgamesh was a man of
pure power. A being of which there was no equal match,
Gilgamesh boasted upon his overwhelming glory and power. However, his arrogance was accompanied with an extensive abuse of power, which led to the city of Uruk into a state of injustice and rage. Still Gilgamesh felt no despair; he lived to display to others his majestic power. The first sign of a sincere change in Gilgamesh arises as a result of the birth of Enkidu. From the beginning, a powerful link developed between man and woman. The wise Ninsun said to Gilgamesh,“You will love him as a woman and he will never forsake you”. Gilgamesh had finally met his match, a friend that would serve as his life-long companion. Upon the seal of this great friendship, Gilgamesh began to change his selfish ways. Nevertheless, he shared with Enkidu the luxuries of kindness. Setting aside his great pride and power, Gilgamesh had opened a place in his heart, and in his sumptuous life, for his beloved brother.
The second significant change in Gilgamesh was caused
by the loss of his brotherly companion, Enkidu. Gilgamesh
couln’t bear the loss of a love so powerful. Despite his
astonishing power and leadership, something in his life was
missing. Moreover, he wept for seven days and nights,
thinking his friend would come back because of his weeping.
It is in this stage of the epic that one can see the truly
sympathetic and compassionate side of Gilgamesh. The grief
in his heart had far surpassed the magnificent pride that
he had previously displayed so boldly. Enkidu’s death left
Gilgamesh frightened and confused. However, the despair in
his heart was so great that he could not rest; would he
ever be at peace? Thus, he became terrified of his own
After the death of Enkidu, Gilgamesh tries to find
immortality by trying to cross the ocean to find it.
As he sounded so pathetic he rambles of his reason for
trying to find everlasting life. Moreover, his state of
being at this part was completely different from his
arrogance from beginning of this epic. Gilgamesh has gone
from arrogant to scared. Thirdly, the death of Humbaba
changes Gilgamesh. Humbaba was evil. Many people who lived
in the city of Uruk feared Gilgamesh. Most would say that
Gilgamesh himself is, in fact, evil. In addition, he had
sex with the virgins, he does what he wants, and tends to
offend the gods. By going into the forest and facing
Humbaba, Gilgamesh makes a name for himself and changes the
views of the people in his city. However, the past of
Gilgamesh does not change but the great deed of killing
Humbaba makes him a better person because he protects his
city. Most would say that he does this only to make a name
for himself, but that is not the case. Gilgamesh does this
because of his love for Enkidu and his people.
Puzzled and searching for answers, Gilgamesh set out
on a quest for Utnapishtim. It is on this great journey
that Gilgamesh learns of a secret plant, which restores his
lost youth to a man. Once again, Gilgamesh displays his
changed character. He proclaims that he will return to Uruk
and share the plant with his people. “I will take it to
Uruk of the strong walls; there I will give it to the old
men to eat,” Gilgamesh said. Although Gilgamesh failed in
returning the magical plant to his city, the signifance of
his underlying intentions is immeasurable. Gilgamesh, the
once arrogant and overpowering king, was now thinking of
the well being of his people.
Although, it should not matter as to whether or not
our society perceives Gilgamesh as a notable hero. More
importantly, a valuable lesson of mankind is taught through
the Epic of Gilgamesh. Perhaps, it is love that binds our
world together. We learn from Gilgamesh that a powerful
companionship allows us to better analyze others and
ourselves. Thus, the relationship between Enkidu and
Gilgamesh should remain an inspiration to us all.
Like Gilgamesh, our fate is to travel the journey of life,
to slay one who is evil with the help of our gods, to
survive and mourn some of those we love, and leave the
world with as many good deeds as possible.