Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Gilgamesh, the king of Uruk, a demigod. He is the wisest, strongest, and most handsome of mortals. In earth-shaking combat, he overcomes Engidu, who has been fashioned by Aruru to be his rival. After the battle, the heroes become inseparable friends and companions through a series of heroic exploits. After Engidu dies, the grieving Gilgamesh seeks for and finds his friend in the land of the dead.
Engidu, a demigod formed by Aruru to be a rival to Gilgamesh. Vanquished by Gilgamesh, he becomes the hero’s inseparable companion and goes with him to conquer Khumbaba. Accidentally touching the portal of the gate to Khumbaba’s lair, he receives a curse from which he eventually dies. Allowed to meet the grief-stricken Gilgamesh in the underworld, he reveals to his friend the terrors of death.
Utnapishtim, a mortal who possesses the secret of life. After Engidu’s death, Gilgamesh receives from Utnapishtim the secret—a magic plant—only to lose it on his homeward journey.
Aruru, a goddess who fashions Engidu from clay.
Anu, the chief of the gods.
Ninsun, a goddess and adviser to Gilgamesh.
Ishtar, a fertility goddess who is in love with Gilgamesh.
Siduri, the divine cupbearer.
Ur-Shanabi, the boatman on the waters of death.
Ea, the lord of the depths of the waters, who grants to Gilgamesh a meeting with the dead Engidu.
Khumbaba, a fearful monster.
Character Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Damrosch, David. The Buried Book: The Loss and Rediscovery of the Great Epic of Gilgamesh. New York: H. Holt, 2007. An absorbing rendition of the origination and later discovery of the epic.
Gardner, John, and John Maier, trans. Gilgamesh. New York: Vintage Books, 1985. Each column of the actual tablets is translated, then supplemented by numerous parallel texts. An appendix analyzes the tablets in more detail, demonstrating the extreme difficulty of establishing any single version of Gilgamesh.
Heidel, Alexander. The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels. 2d ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1963. The first, and still the...
(The entire section is 292 words.)