Enkidu acts as a foil to Gilgamesh. What do you learn about Gilgamesh's strengths and weaknesses in looking at his relationship to Enkidu?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In the anonymous epic of Gilgamesh, Enkidu serves as a moral compass for the young ruler of Uruk. Gilgamesh, as we first see him, is an example of absolute rule untempered by any sense of responsibility. He cares for no one but himself and nothing but his own pleasure. Enkidu, with his close connections with gods and nature, has not been corrupted by luxury. He is described in Tablet VIII:

Enkidu, . . . your mother is a gazelle,
and . . . your father who created you, a wild ass.
[You were] raised by creatures with tails,
and by the animals of the wilderness, with all its breadth.

In his friendship for Enkidu, and his mourning at the loss of Enkidu, Gilgamesh gradually develops a sense of empathy with his subjects and attitude of responsibility as a ruler. His experience with undergoing suffering and deprivation and his understanding of mortality in his quest after the death of his friend make him a wiser and juster king.


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