What are the journey motifs in the Epic of Gilgamesh?

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MaudlinStreet eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The journey appears in many forms in the epic, physical and psychological. Perhaps the first journey is Enkidu's: from primarily animal to primarily man. This is taken in steps, from making love to Shamhat to breaking bread with other men. The next journey is physical, as Gilgamesh and Enkidu travel to defeat Humbaba. This journey is narrated in a repetitive cycle, which will be reflected when Gilgamesh journeys alone later in the poem. Of course, having defeated Humbaba, the pair must journey back to Uruk. This journey is narrated as a reverse of the first. The final journey is Gilgamesh's, both physical (seeking out Utnapishtim and traveling great distances alone) and psychological (seeking immortality but eventually realizing man is unique by the very fact of his mortality). We see a transformation similar to (but much slower than) Enkidu's original metamorphosis from wild to civilized, as Gilgamesh moves from a selfish tyrant to a caring and benevolent leader.