Illustration of Gilgamesh's face

The Epic of Gilgamesh

Start Free Trial

In The Epic of Gilgamesh, how and why was Enkidu killed?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Enkidu was the savage man, made of clay to be Gilgamesh's equal force and help to temper Gilgamesh's extraordinary power. Enkidu travels with Gilgamesh and they enjoy many adventures together; eventually, they travel to kill the Great Bull of Heaven, which was sent by the Gods to kill Gilgamesh for refusing Ishtar's affections. His actions directly or indirectly result in his death, as he has a dream in which the Gods hold court and sentence him to death, despite his being secondary to Gilgamesh himself:

'O my brother, such a dream I had last night. Anu, Enlil, Ea and heavenly Shamash took counsel together, and Anu said to Enlil, "Because they have killed the Bull of Heaven, and because they have killed Humbaba who guarded the Cedar Mountain one of the two must , die." Then glorious Shamash answered the hero Enlil, "It was by your command they killed the Bull of Heaven, and killed Humbaba, and must Enkidu die although innocent?" Enlil flung round in rage at glorious Shamash, "You dare to say this, you who went about with them every day like one of themselves!"'
(The Epic of Gilgamesh, Assyrian International News Agency)

Enkidu falls ill and becomes angry, cursing both his lover Shamhat and the door which he built with his own hands. He recants his curse against Shamhat after a dream visitation from the God Shamesh. His death is mourned by Gilgamesh, and inspires a quest for immortality. Enkidu is cursed by the Gods for directly interfering with their tests and punishments, since they intended Gilgamesh to endure them alone. He is perhaps the first and original "sidekick" character, a person of bravery and honor who assists the hero protagonist and is unjustly punished for that association.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial