Reflection of the Poem Epic of Gilgamesh

Introduction

Reading poems can always be a daunting way of studying, but can also be fulfilling. I have had a first-hand experience reading Epic of Gilgamesh as part of my classwork. While it was a generally enjoyable experience, I did make certain mistakes during the action. However, I gained some critical lessons as a result of this as well. During the reading, I realized that poems appeal to people differently, since as much as I enjoyed it, some of my classmates were not interested in studying them. The poem offered insight into how ancient rulers governed their subjects and conquered other territories to expand their kingdom and protect their territory from external attacks. Based on the poem, I gained some valuable knowledge that can help me improve my literature and language level.

Information About the Author

Although the poem was originally believed to be written by Shin-Leqi-Unninni, who was regarded as the first writer in the world until the discovery of the texts of Enheduanna, no known author can be pinpointed. It is argued that the story was passed orally from one generation to another before it was written between 700-1000 years after the king’s reign. The generations of several civilizations created tale, amended them on several occasions, scripted it, and finally edited and translated them into different languages. Epic of Gilgamesh is actually one piece out of the numerous ancient stories that surround the real and mythical hero. Various generations have filled the gaps in the tale, and the process is still continuing. Hence, the poem is a contribution of many past generations.

Summary

The poem begins by praising Gilgamesh’s wisdom, a prominent leader who accomplished many goals in both personal and royalty life. Based on the poem, the piece was written by the king himself. The leader is portrayed as both human and divine, with the divinity part taking a larger portion. He also had outstanding beauty and strength, which made him attain most of the achievements he gained. Despite all these privileges, he oppressed his subjects, especially the young women and men in Uruk. The gods heard the cries of the oppressed and reacted by creating a counterfeit of him, which he did not accept easily. As opposed to Gilgamesh, Enkidu is entirely human, was born and brought up in the jungle with wild beasts, and he enjoys setting free trapped animals. After spending most of his life in the jungle, Enkidu is finally abandoned by the wild beasts, and he moves to Ukur to challenge Gilgamesh and embrace civilization. The two characters then face each other in a wrestling match in which the king emerges the winner, and Enkidu accepts his leadership.

Enkidu and Gilgamesh later developed a friendship and agreed to go to the wilderness to kill Guardian, and cut the sacred Cedar in order to achieve everlasting fame. Although the residents and his mother oppose this and plead with him to stop his quest, he continues with his plans. Along the six-day journey, he experiences unique dreams, but this does not stop him either. Enkidu becomes terrified, and he wants to return upon reaching the Cedar Forest. However, the two companions are urged by the Sun God, which had guided them on their way, to confront Humbaba. Gilgamesh kills the Guardian, and that’s when the gods become hungry with the two friends and send tribulations to Ukur kingdom. It is then decided that Enkidu has to die to save the village from suffering, which upsets the king. He rebels against his initial beliefs regarding mortality and try to find an alternative. He then decides to look for Utnapishtim, the only survivor of floods, in order to find the secret of eternal life. After the meeting, the leader is rewarded with a plant that he later loses to a snake on his way back to the kingdom. Gilgamesh illustrates that he has accepted death by stating that “for there in my bed-chamber Death does abide, and wherever [I] turn, there too will be Death” (Khan 1). Although he later understood the meaning of eternal life, he only earned relative immortality from the physical features.

Main Characters

The main character in the epic poem is Gilgamesh and Enkidu. Gilgamesh is the ruler of the Ukur kingdom, and he has both human and supernatural powers. The king is not easily advised by anybody in his kingdom, including his own family members. He has a desire to be the most famous person in the world and have eternal life. On the other hand, Enkidu was raised away from any form of civilization. He traveled to Ukur after he was abandoned by wildebeests and found extraordinary companionship in the king. Although he also has certain powers, his human nature outweighs the paranormal traits. He later becomes the sacrificial lamb after the destruction of the sacred Cedar.

Themes or Issues

The theme of death is widely portrayed in the epic poem. The Guardian, the person, mandated to take care of the sacred Cedar, is killed by the king. After his death, the villagers are slain by the Bull of Heaven. Enkidu also dies as a result of participating in the cutting of the sacred trees. The king himself tries to understand the meaning of death and how one can achieve eternal life. He states that “For such is the destiny [of mortal men,]” (Khan 3). This implies that Gilgamesh is afraid of death and wonders what happens to the dead and how he can live forever. Hence, it is evident that death is widely discussed in the tale.

Friendship is another theme that is expressed in the poem. Initially, Gilgamesh is not close to anyone in his territory. He oppresses his subjects, but this changes when he finds friendship in Enkidu. Enkidu, on the other hand, was befriended by animals. All his life, he had known wildlife as his loyal companion until he found the king. Gilgamesh and Enkidu’s friendship lasted for a long time, which affected the king when he had to die due to his own mistake.

Reaction to the Reading and Personal Impression

Overall, I find the poem exciting, as it combines both fiction and reality. In most cases, people do not listen to others advice, which ends up ruining their destiny. Gilgamesh had a promising future as a king, but his refusal to accept villagers’ opinion destroyed both his life and those of the people close to him. The poet also used a different figurative speech to ensure that the audience well understands the piece. Hence, making the epic come out as a fine piece of art.

Conclusion

Succinctly, the Epic of Gilgamesh is a poem that has two main characters. The personas play different roles as one acts like a person with two identities, while the other portrays human personality. The king, Gilgamesh, finds friendship in Enkidu, and the two bonds together. Even though the Ukur kingdom leader later becomes devasted about his friend’s death, he learned the meaning of death even if it was just the physical immortality.

Work Cited

Khan, Anika. “Gilgamesh and medicine’s quest to conquer death.” A Journal of Medical Humanities, 2019. Web.

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