What are the similarities and differences of Enkidu and Gilgamesh in The Epic of Gilgamesh?

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MaudlinStreet | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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Similarities abound between the two, because Enkidu was created specifically as a balance to Gilgamesh. Essentially, they are mirrors of each other. Some similarities include:

  • Incredible physical strength- Gilgamesh is described as "Surpassing all kings, powerful and tall beyond all others, violent, splendid, a wild bull of a man." He routinely performs actions no other man can, & journeys of hundreds of miles take him only a day. Enkidu is described by the trapper that first sees him as "the strongest man in the world, with muscles like rock. I have seen him outrun the swiftest animals." So they both possess great size and physical strength.
  • Courage- Each man is willing to fight for what he believes in. In their first meeting, Enkidu stands up to Gilgamesh's practice of taking each bride on her wedding night. The ensuing fight proves Gilgamesh as the victor, but Enkidu surrenders willingly, & they are equals from that moment on. Together, they fight Humbaba and the Bull of Heaven, proving their combined strength and courage.
  • Mutual Love- Gilgamesh and Enkidu exhibit homosocial behavior, in that their love is a form of brotherly, masculine love that reveals the nature of male relationships in Mesopotamian culture. Gilgamesh often describes Enkidu in terms of marriage and the relationship between husband and wife, & when Enkidu dies, he mourns him like a spouse.

There are also differences between the characters as well. Because Enkidu serves the purpose of balancing Gilgamesh's  extremes as ruler, his personality must contrast.

  • 2/3 god, 2/3 animal- Gilgamesh is repeatedly described as "2/3 god", while Enkidu is clearly the archetype of the "innocent man" at the beginning fo the story. He lives with wild beasts, and is described as "2/3 animal". It is only after making love to Shamhat for 7 days that he is completely human, and no longer has the innocence of the creatures. While he is clearly supernatural, he does not have the divine aspect that Gilgamesh does.

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