Was Enkidu better off in his original savage state or as a civilized man?

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noahvox2 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This strikes me as a really interesting question. In Tablet 1 of the Gilgamesh epic, we hear that the goddess Aruru creates Enkidu, who initially lives in the wilderness among the animals. After he has sexual relations with Shamhat, this causes him to become weakened; the animals will no longer remain near him and "his running was not as before" (Maureen Gallery Kovacs translation). Although his physical strength was diminished, his mental capacities were increased: "his understanding had broadened". Enkidu's newfound awareness leads him to seek "a friend", who eventually turns out to be Gilgamesh.

With Enkidu at his side, Gilgamesh accomplishes mighty deeds. Unfortunately, in the course of their adventures, Enkidu dies. Thus, the question raised here is perhaps similar to the one faced by Achilles in Homer's Iliad. Achilles had a choice of living a long life or dying young and being covered with glory. The story of Enkidu presents us with two types of lives: a life in the wilderness living in harmony with the animals or a life in the city living in a society with our friends. Perhaps if Enkidu had remained in the wilderness he would have kept his life. On the other hand, he would not have met his friend and helped him perform glorious deeds.