The Ramayana Questions and Answers
by Vālmīki

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In what ways is Rama different from Gilgamesh?  Think about this in terms of a hero. Do you think of him as a hero?

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Rama and king Gilgamesh share many similarities, at least on paper. They are both political leaders. They are both part-divine (with Gilgamesh being a demigod and Rama being the seventh avatar of Vishnu). They both undertake quests away from home that serve as a kind of exile—Rama’s literal exile into the wilderness, and Gilgamesh’s self-imposed exile from his life in search of immortality. They are also both spurred onto their quests by the disappearance of a loved one: the death of Enkidu is what fuels Gilgamesh to action, and Rama’s wife Sita is abducted, which leads him on his quest.

One major difference between the two of them is that, while Rama fights against an external villain who represents the forces of darkness (Ravana, the demon king having abducted Sita), Gilgamesh’s quest is more of an internal struggle against the idea of his own mortality. There is no villain for Gilgamesh to conquer, which makes his journey more introspective. What he gains is knowledge about...

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