The Epic of Gilgamesh

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How does Enkidu act as Gilgamesh's alter ego? In what ways are their personalities similiar? In what ways are their personalities different?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Both Enkidu and Gilgamesh are valiant, powerful warriors who courageously embark on a quest to kill Humbaba, the monster that guards the Cedar Forest. They are also both passionate individuals, and they genuinely love one another. Both Enkidu and Gilgamesh make several mistakes and end up disrespecting the gods in various ways. Unfortunately, Enkidu pays the ultimate price after inciting the wrath of Enlil and Ishtar. Despite their many similarities, Enkidu and Gilgamesh have drastically different upbringings and possess different personality traits. At the start of the epic, Gilgamesh is portrayed as a tyrant who is two parts god and one part man. Gilgamesh is the omnipotent king of Uruk, and his character represents civilization and royalty.

In contrast, Enkidu is created out of clay and grows up in the wilderness. He is covered in hair, runs with the wild animals, and knows nothing about civilization until a harlot and a group of shepherds takes him in. He is also intrinsically chivalrous, while Gilgamesh is a rather arrogant, violent king. At certain points in the epic, Enkidu acts as Gilgamesh's moral compass, and his death positively impacts Gilgamesh's character. Enkidu not only protects Gilgamesh on their quest, he also gives him valuable advice and offers him companionship. By the end of the epic, Gilgamesh learns the importance of being a benevolent king and accepts mortality after Enkidu's death.

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gbeatty eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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An interesting cluster of questions.
They are both warriors, both powerful, both adventurers. They become inseparable, like good brothers or classic friends.

They differ in that Gilgamesh seems, at the poem's start, like he feels entitled. He is the ruler, yes, but he's abusing his power. His weaknesses are the weaknesses of royalty.

Enkidu, by contrast, is the wild man. He rages around wildly, so that his weaknesses are the weaknesses of the animal in man. You might say that together they are the perfect hero: civilized man and animal man.

However, there's more than that. Enki was a god of balance and of the earth, and he creates Enkidu to balance Gilgamesh.

Enkidu is also the part of Gilgamesh that dies, and that teaches him thereby the meaning of life.

(Their links end up being more symbolic than based on personality.)

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