Beowulf and Gilgamesh
Monsters, timeless tales, heroes, and villains. All of these are factors of the epic tales of "Beowulf" and "Gilgamesh". These stories have a profound meaning to the people of England, just as the "Iliad" and "Odyssey" have a deep meaning to the ancient people of Greece. We will explore the varied similarities and the differences that both these epic stories contain.
Both "Beowulf" and "Gilgamesh" have several similarities. For example, both Beowulf and Gilgamesh battle a monster. In Beowulf's case, he battles a monster called Grendel. Gilgamesh, battles a monster by the name of Humbaba. However, Beowulf, unlike Gilgamesh, fights several monsters just for the sake of fighting. "I drove five great giants into chains, chased all that race from the earth. I swam in the blackness of night, hunting monsters out of the ocean, ...view middle of the document...
Gilgamesh did something similar to that of "Beowulf". "And late that night he reached again to see if he was yet asleep, but there was only quiet breathing. The stars against the midnight sky were sparking like mica in a riverbed. In the slight breeze the head of Humbaba was swinging from a tree" (Lines 50-55, 54). Despite the many similarities, there were differences in the way that they conducted themselves in combat. Beowulf, unlike Gilgamesh, did not use a weapon to claim his prize. Beowulf used raw power to sever the arm of his monster; whereas, Gilgamesh used an ax to claim the head of Humbaba.
The monsters from both of the epic stories have one thing in common. They were both rocked out of their deep slumber. In "Beowulf", " . . . A powerful monster, living down in the darkness, growled in pain, impatient as day after day the music rang loud in the that hall" (Lines 1-4, 21). Grendel was stirred and from his layer, and from then on, would go and torment those of Herot-Hall. Humbaba was also woken up from his sleep, but in a different way. "At dawn, Gilgamesh raised his ax and struck at the great cedar. When Humbaba heard the sound of falling trees, he hurried down the path they had seen but only he had traveled" (Lines 1-5, 53). Humbaba confronted Gilgamesh on the road, on Humbaba's own turf. Whereas Grendel was confronted by Beowulf in a different setting.
Both of these stories are very similar, yet very different. There are several examples of what is and isn't in common between the two tales. But, there is enough common ground that these tales meet on, that put them in a classification of their own. These are not just "folktales"; these are a part of an ancient and rich culture. These two epic tales also have a message for the modern world, which is as relevant today as it was
in the ancient world. That message is simple; bravery, boldness, and heroisms will always live on.