Epic of Gilgamesh
The Epic of Gilgamesh is an ancient story of Middle Eastern origin, the oldest parts are dated to c. 2100 BCE. It chronicles the life of King Gilgamesh, a demigod, and his friend Enkidu, a wild man made from clay by the gods. Gilgamesh and Enkidu slay huge monsters, meet other super men, and interact with the gods.
There are two primary versions of the story, Akkadian and Old-Babylonian, but every source version is different, and none of the earliest tablets are extant. Some of the tales in the epic are modified versions of earlier Sumerian poems.
I do not own this book, but have read a translated amalgam of sources.
Points of Interest
- Gilgamesh is described as having enormous feet and long legs beyond that of any mortal. No wonder he can't find a woman capable of giving him sons!
- It's interesting to see how Ninsun performs a burnt offering and a wine offering to the god Shamash, something that Yahweh will demand thousands of years later in the yet-to-be-written Torah.
- The monster Humbaba is describes as having breath that is death. I wonder if Tolkien used this reference for his description of Smaug in The Hobbit?
- The character Utnapishtim explains how a god told him to build a great big ship and fill it with with the seeds of life and living creatures of every kind to save him and his family from a horrible deluge whose rain covered the world. And how the ship settled on the top of a mountain and birds were let out to seek dry land. And when land was found, a sacrifice was made to the gods. Gee, does that sound like any other epic book of tales? Actually, this story is better than Noah's Ark, because Utnapishtim is sad for his dead friends and rightfully mad at the god who killed them all.
- This is the oldest extant hero-slays-the-dragon type tale.
- Some of the monsters are really cool and creative.
- The trees that grow gemstones as fruit is an interesting idea.
- Enkidu is stripped of his powers of control over the wild animals after having sex with a prostitute. More over, that's what everyone predicted would happen. Duh fuck?
- Enkidu is such a wild man that he has never drank milk or beer or eaten bread, yet he speaks the common language just fine.
- Enkidu fights Gilgamesh just cuz, then they become friends, just cuz.
- Ishtar begs Gilgamesh to marry her, not for love, but for a really nice chariot decked out with jewels.
- Gilgamesh is awfully broken up over the death of Enkidu even having only known him for a couple fights.
- I don't understand to purpose of Gilgamesh having his immortality herb stolen by a snake while he was bathing.
- And just like that, Enkidu is alive again! Though, this is probably an appendage taken from an earlier poem.
- Really downer of an ending!
- There is a lot of repetition in the story (especially in the dreams of tablet 4), I'm assuming due to some hymn aspect, but it's really annoying to have to read the same thing over and over again.
- Gilgamesh is the story's hero, not because of any good things he has done, but because he is a giant among men.
- When Gilgamesh and Enkidu find Humbaba, Humbaba calls Enkidu a traitor and says he will kill them. Then Humbaba abruptly begs to not be killed and swears allegiance to Gilgamesh, but Enkidu demands that Gilgamesh kill him so he can become famous. Humbaba then begs Enkidu to stop telling Gilgamesh to kill him and begs him to spare his life. Then, Gilgamesh kills Humbaba and takes his head as a trophy. As it is, Gilgamesh and Enkidu look like the villains here.
- jasoncolavito.com/epic-of-gilgamesh.html - English translation combined from various sources.