The epic of Gilgamesh is a fascinating tale that was written about three millenniums ago. The story is about the human history and tells more about the meaning of life. Gilgamesh is a demigod with unstable complexity of two parts god and one part man. He is seen as the greatest of every man kind and the king of Uruk.
The epic of Gilgamesh commences with a frame convention revolving around Gilgamesh’s life. He is said to be exceptionally strong, physically built and above all he is filled with wisdom. However, the epic unleashes his kingship as a dictator who overruled his subjects, committing vices including the defilement of any woman he fancied. He also enslaved his subjects through forced labor and oppression so as to accomplish the completion of his projects like the magnificent ziggurat towers, high-parameter walls around his city and the laying out of fields and orchards. With regards to the oppression and the groaning of his exhausted subjects, the gods considered keeping Gilgamesh in close observation by introducing him to a wild man by the name Enkidu who became a close ally of Gilgamesh. He made his findings and used stone tablets to keep an archive.
Tablet one introduces the epic by giving a detailed description of Gilgamesh’s life. The archaic Enkidu created by the gods is seen to be associated with wild animals and covered with fur. He is accused by a hunter for having uprooted baits. A temple harlot by the name Shamhat comes in play to seduce Enkidu. Determined to salvage his life, he ignorantly falls for the prostitute’s witty mischief. However, this encounter imminently civilizes him, and she organizes a meeting with Gilgamesh. The tablet also introduces Gilgamesh’s mother Ninsun, a minor goddess well known for her wisdom.
The second tablet confirms Enkidu’s relocation to Uruk where a harlot assists and familiarizes him with human diet. He encounters Gilgamesh and their friendship blossom as a result of a wrestling bout in which Gilgamesh turns out to be more superior to Enkidu. The first trip was to the forest where they would ultimately bring to an end the life of a powerful and monstrous demigod Humbaba. This was a plot by Gilgamesh to reinforce his fame, however, the elders and Enkidu warned him against his intentions. Despite the warnings, Gilgamesh is seen to be unmoved and proceeds in his pursuit of Humbaba.
Tablets three and four somewhat merges the initial arrangements and the journey itself. Gilgamesh is warned against cutting the cedar trees or killing Humbaba, but due to his persistence and belief, he is given the necessary support. A visit to his mother Ninsun reinforces his protection through the sun- god Shamash. Enkidu who is now the adopted son to Ninsun eventually accompanies Gilgamesh. Instructions are left by Gilgamesh for the governing of the Uruk city when he is away. Finally, they took off after invocations, sacrifices, prayers among other preparations but continued performing the rituals from time to time. Gilgamesh got consolations from Enkidu after experiencing five frightening dreams. Enkidu considered these as appropriate omens, and that they were ultimately going to slay Humbaba. As they get closer to the forest, they hear a bellowing sound of the forest monster. They opt to pause and take a breath encouraging each other on becoming victorious in the mission.
Approaching the forest, they stand in awe before the vast gates of the forest. They enter the enormous forest only to experience gigantic footsteps of the ogre crisscrossing the forest paths. They are filled with fear as they are threatened by insults of the monster. The inhabitants of the forest include among others the goddess Ishtar. Tablet five of the epic proceeds to give the unfolding events of the battle and Humbaba alleging that Enkidu is a traitor and promises to kill Gilgamesh and subsequently feed his remains to the avian creatures. The encouraging comments from Enkidu eventually kick off the battle. The sky above darkens as mountains rumbled and Humbaba lynched by a combination of thirteen winds sent by Shamash. Despite the monster’s plea for pity, the two heroes proceeded with their quest of rendering the ogre dead. Although they got curses from the dying Humbaba, they also used cedar poles to construct a raft for crossing river Euphrates with a package of Humbaba’s head. The Enlil temple gates also benefited from these huge trees.
In tablet six, Ishtar, Anu’s daughter, sets up a revenge mission. Anu, the famous god of firmament to send the Gugalanna, tentatively referred to as the heaven’s bull, to assist her in her quest. Her complaints were rejected by Anu, hence Ishtar sort to pursue other outrageous plans and erupts into a full-blown tantrum. She finally gives in after her alternative plans hit a dead end. However, the said Bull of Heaven is directed to the city of Uruk to ravage the entire city by opening the grounds to swallow around three hundred men as well as reduce the levels of the river Euphrates. The beast is finally killed by, Enkidu with the assistance of Gilgamesh, who opted to offer its heart to the Shamash: the god of the sun. Their heroism was followed by a widespread celebration in Uruk. That night, Enkidu awakens amidst an inauspicious dream and inquires about the council’s meeting from Gilgamesh.
Enkidu’s dream is described on records found on the seventh tablet. In a meeting, the gods unanimously decide on slaying either Enkidu or Gilgamesh, for killing both Humbaba and the Gugalanna. Enkidu is, however, marked as the preferred candidate to die in the controversial scenario. Enkidu then reacts to this decision by cursing the temple harlot and the hunter for persuading him out of the wild. He is reminded by the sun-god on the civilized life he learnt from the prostitute. Although Gilgamesh plans to bestow a veritable honor to his friend’s final send off, he is displeased by the decision of the council and later embarks on wandering the wild in distraught. Enkidu also curses the temple gate of Enlil fashioned by the gigantic cedar tree from the forbidden forest. He finally retracts his curse to the harlot after careful consideration of Shamash’s words. The following morning, he awakens with another nightmare hence opts to have died at the battle ground. Enkidu finally dies, after twelve days of confinement in bed.
A lengthy lamentation was delivered by Gilgamesh and called upon every creature to accompany him in moaning his heroic friend. The funeral details are well recorded on the eighth tablet where Gilgamesh is seen to be shattered by the imminent death of Enkidu, and he is torn in sorrow. He relentlessly offers to curve a funeral sculpture in memory of his friend. He, therefore, summoned every artisan in the city to organize a decent and respectful reception for Enkidu in the domain of the deceased. He expresses his previous passion for Enkidu by staying by the corpse until it decomposes then offers offerings to the sun-god. Finally, Gilgamesh sets off to the wilderness (tablet nine) where he grieves for Enkidu. His mind ponders on whether to die while desolate with much sorrow. Fearing for death, he seeks out for the fabled Utnapishtim who was a survivor of the worst catastrophic floods that almost wiped out the entire universe. He seeks to learn the secrets of immortality. He encounters obstacles in his journey including lions, mountains and darkness, and he majorly used the lion skin as a source of clothing. He finally encounters two horrible scorpion men manning the entrance of the identical apices of the Mashu mountain. He is interviewed and allowed to cross the mountains on roads specifically denoted or believed to be for the sun. Gilgamesh then reaches his destination, garden paradise, which is endowed with much jewel.
The tenth table describes’s encounter with Utnapishtim. Urshanabi is a ferryman introduced to him by alewife Suduri. Gilgamesh manages to reach the island where Utnapishtim dwells, with the aid of the ferryman. He tells his story to the legend. He is reprimanded and warned of the futility of fighting the common fate of humans. The legendary proceeds to give him a tale of the floods that saw him survive the disastrous catastrophe of all times (eleventh tablet). His inability to conquer sleep derails his immortality quest. After a royal treatment by Utnapishtim’s wife, he is then told about the boxthorn-like plant that will render him young again. He obtains the plant from the bottom of the sea and plans to test it first on an old man. He loses the plant to a serpent that sheds off its skin after taking the plant. Gilgamesh weeps due to his fruitless efforts and later embarks on a return journey to Uruk. The story, therefore, ends with Gilgamesh questioning Enkidu about life in the underworld.
Sandars K. Nancy. The Epic of Gilgamesh: An English Version with an Introduction. 1960. London: Penguin Classics, 1972. Print.