Analytical Essay: “Gilgamesh and His Journey” – Sample Essay on Literature

Posted on May 11, 2009

The Epic Gilgamesh chronicles the journey of a king. Gilgamesh is a king that flaunts his power and enviably shows his week side in most altercations. Gilgamesh has many trials, some he fails, and some he succeeds. Gilgamesh uses his faults and the help of the gods to fuel his desire to succeed as a human.

Gilgamesh’s journey begins with the meeting of the monster that that a trapper spotted outside his city of Uruk. Its name is Enkidu; he is half man and half beast. This causes conflict in the beginning, but all is solved when the men realize their love for each other. “They broke doorposts and the walls shook. He bent his knee with his foot planted on the ground and with a turn Enkidu was thrown. “There is not another like you” who is as strong as a wild ox” now you are raised above all men, and Enlil has given you the kingship. “So Enkidu and Gilgamesh embraced and their friendship was sealed.” (69) Now that the men are allies they choose to work together.

In a dream of Gilgamesh, Enlil of the mountain, declared the destiny of Gilgamesh. (70) He was so distraught because he had yet to make a name for himself. “I will set up my name in the place where the names of famous men are written. He and Enkidu went to the forest where the monster Humbaba lived. There they began the search for the monster. Enkidu brought up the point that the forest is quite large and this monster is very mean. (71) Gilgamesh panics, he is worried about his name and what people will say about him. So they call on the God who owns the forest, Shamash. Gilgamesh sacrificed a goat to the god; Shamash accepts it and enables the men to find the monster. When the men finally find Humbaba they panic once again and Gilgamesh prays for help. “Glorious Shamash heard his prayer and he summoned the great wind.”(81) With the great help of Shamash Gilgamesh fell the monster Humbaba” Gilgamesh gained the acclaim he wished for, but if not for the help other the God and Enkidu; Gilgamesh would not have made a name for himself.

Gilgamesh cleans up after the kill and attacks the god Ishtar. She finds irresistible him so, she asks him to marry her. “Come to me Gilgamesh, and be my bridegroom: grant me seed of your body” So things as a couple go well, until Istar accuses Gilgamesh of insulting her. She complains to her father Anu, he doesn’t give her what she wants, so she steals the guardian of the underworld, the Bull of Heaven. (87) She sics the Bull of heaven on Gilgamesh, but it ravishes the town of Uruk instead. So Gilgamesh kills it in the honor of the god Shamash. Than in turn angers his new love, the god Istar. “Because they have killed the Bull of Heaven, and because they have killed Humbaba who guarded the Cedar Mountain one of the two must die”. (89) Enkidu had a dream that this would happen. “Oh my brother, such a dream I had last night. Anu, Enlil, Ea, and heavenly Shamash took council together” (89). In resentment for his life, Enkidu denounced all that had helped him, even the god Shamash. After those remarks it was decided that Enkidu was the one to die. Gilgamesh was helpless. The gods he so relied on were taking his brother. Showing that the hand that feeds can take and it can give.

“Because I am afraid of death I will go as best I can to find Utnapishtim” whom the gods took after the deluge; and the set him to live the garden of the sun; and to him alone of men they gave everlasting life.” (97) Gilgamesh journeys for a great length of time. He reaches a garden of the gods, they tell him to go back, but he keeps going. Finally he is directed to the ferryman of Utnapishtim who takes Gilgamesh to Utnapistim. Upon arrival he introduces himself and immediately askes Utnapistim how he obtained everlasting life, Utnapistim replies that Gilgamesh will know soon enough. Utnapistim tells Gilgamesh of the great flood from which he escaped. Enlil punished or granted Utnapistim and his with wife with everlasting life. Gilgamesh still pushes Utnapistim for gives of immortality. He gives Gilgamesh a task, Gilgamesh is not to sleep for six days and seven nights and he well receive immorality. He fails. Utnapistim tries to send Gilgamesh home, but Gilgamesh will not let him. He gives Gilgamesh another task, “There is plant that grows under water, it has a prickle like thorn, like a rose; it will wound your hands, but if you succeed in taking it, then your hands will hold that which restores his lost youth to a man.” (116) He finds the flower, but he left it out and a serpent took it and shed its skin and became young. So Gilgamesh took Urshanabi, the ferryman back to Uruk. When they arrived, Gilgamesh asked Urshanabi to climb the city wall and gaze at all that Gilgamesh had created. All Gilgamesh wanted was to be with his friend Enkidu forever. He failed, but in doing so he saw the good he had done for his city. He had made a name there with his citizens and in engraving his story on stone.

Gilgamesh was a man and a king with superhuman power. The underlying forces in his power were the gods. They helped him to succeed and they helped to him fail. He learned that though his soul goal was immortality, that he did not achieve, he could live and be proud of what he created in his own city. Gilgamesh did leave his mark, after five thousand years people still learn of the journey of the great Gilgamesh.

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