The Epic of Gilgamesh Questions and Answers

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In The Epic of Gilgamesh, what does Endiku teach Gilgamesh?

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Nate Currier eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The most important lesson that Enkidu teaches Gilgamesh is the value of humility. At the beginning of The Epic of Gilgamesh , the king of Uruk is described as a tyrannical ruler, with some versions of the story going so far as to say that he partook of prime nocte rights with the city’s women. The goddess Aruru, answering the prayers of the people, molded Enkidu from clay and water, and put him in the forest where he grew into his own as a wild man. Later, Enkidu becomes somewhat domesticated by sleeping with the temple prostitute Shamhat. It is described as a loving relationship, although...

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My personal view is that Enkidu teaches Gilgamesh only indirectly, through his death, about what it is like to loose a loved one. Otherwise, Enkidu seems to have similar character flaws to his companion, encouraging the king to forego mercy and defy the gods by slaying Humbaba, and insulting Uruk's patron goddess, Ishtar. My suspicion is that Enkidu's death comes home to Gilgamesh most forcefully after he meditates upon the flood story. The parallel between the senseless slaughter of the flood that evokes the gods' grief and the unnecessary violence of the two heroes that leads directly to Enkidu's death and the king's extreme reaction is unmistakeable. The requirement to show mercy and deal justly with both subjects and enemies is driven home to Gilgamesh by his own experience of senseless loss. Consequently, the long list of the king's achievements in the introduction to the epic deliberately omits any mention to the slaying of Humbaba and the Bull of Heaven, focusing rather on what the Gilgamesh has done to safeguard and protect the lives of his people. Gilgamesh finally learns that it is better to save life, like Ea, than to follow Enlil on a path of thoughtless destruction.

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