The story of Gilgamesh, king of Uruk, and his companion, Enkidu, a civilized wild man, falls essentially into two halves: during the first half of the Epic, Gilgamesh meets Enkidu and the two defeat both Humbaba the giant in the Forest of the Cedars and the Bull of Heaven, who Ishtar has sent to plague Uruk. After their victories the gods decree that Enkidu must die. In the second half of the epic, prodded by Enkidu's death, Gilgamesh pursues the secret of immortality first in the garden of the gods and then with Utnapishtim, the Mesopotamian Noah, who recounts his own story of survival during the great flood that destroyed humanity. Although Gilgamesh fails to gain eternal life, he ends his journeys a wise man and celebrated ruler.
The Motif of the Journey and the Search for the Meaning of Life
On one hand, at its foundation, the Epic of Gilgamesh is a story of action in the world and of movement out into the physical realm. After their meeting, Gilgamesh and Enkidu travel out into the sacred and mysterious Forest of the Cedars to face Humbaba, the embodiment of evil. They then return to Uruk to face the Bull of Heaven, who comes as the wrath of Ishtar, goddess of love and war. Both Gilgamesh and Enkidu are men of action who define life according to the obstacles they overcome, and they find their greatest fulfillment in facing challenges. On the other hand, the outward journeys of Gilgamesh and Enkidu in the first half of the...
(The entire section is 1653 words.)
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