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What was the author's purpose in writing "The Epic of Gilgamesh" and who was...

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alldogg88 | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 18, 2008 at 11:39 PM via web

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What was the author's purpose in writing "The Epic of Gilgamesh" and who was the intended audience? 

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Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted April 20, 2008 at 12:46 PM (Answer #1)

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Gilgamesh does not have a known author, but it is the earliest recorded human epic. Only pieces of the story survive and have been cobbled together to form the story of the warrior and Enkindu (the first "sidekick" in recorded history). The intended audience is unknown, but it seems likely that it was an oral tale heard by people of all socio-economic and political backgrounds.

The writer or writers of the epic seems to have several purposes in recounting the tale. It is instructive in explaining events in history: like the Bible, Gilgamesh explains how the world was created (a very interesting comparison can be made between the epic and Genesis 1-3).

Like The Odyssey and Beowulf, texts that come far later, the heroes of each epic battle faces incredible foes (Gilgamesh, Humbaba; Odysseus, the Cyclops; Beowulf, Grendel). The tales of super-human feats seem to be designed to keep the audience in suspense. Each has a hero that is larger-than-life.

There is also an implicit moral in Gilgamesh, a warning about the lust for immortality that will go unsatisfied. Gilgamesh, and those who read of the hero's exploits, must come to terms with their limited selves, strive for acceptance, and hope for remembrance by future generations.


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