Final Essay for Epic of Gilgamesh
February 19, 2013
The Epic of Gilgamesh serves as a great looking glass into a long lost culture in which most artifacts are lost. The story centers on Gilgamesh, a ruthless king who is two thirds god and one third man. As king, he does not meet his potentials of leadership as he is often self-centered and sometimes depicted as inhumane. When his dear friend Enkidu dies, he sets off to find immortality. He eventually fails, but during his journey, he came to terms with his mortality and became a more compassionate person. Even though the main characters are men, the women play small but vital roles along his journey. The women in ...view middle of the document...
He confesses that “it’s attraction was like the love of a woman. They helped me, I braced my forehead and I raised it with thongs and brought it to you, and you yourself pronounced it my brother (page 66).” He told his other dream where, “in the streets of strong-walled Uruk there lay an axe; the shape of it was strange and the people thronged round. I saw it and was glad. I bent down, deeply drawn towards it; I loved it like a woman and wore it at my side (page 67).” The reason for his confusion can stem from the fact that Gilgamesh loves the meteor and the axe like a woman, but they are both sex objects he does not understand. With his dreams revolving around the idea of love and femininity, this could be another reason why Gilgamesh seeks out a woman to interpret the dreams. Ninsun then interprets the dreams for him, saying that it foretells a friend coming. She tells Gilgamesh that he will, “love him as a woman and he will never forsake you. This is the meaning of the dream (page 66).” She is the one responsible for informing Gilgamesh on Enkidu’s arrival. This form of vital information from his mother is a way for her to civilize him. It distracts him from tormenting the city as he listens to the messages given to him. His mother promises something new that somewhat challenges his manhood unlike his current activities that seem very one-sided and in his favor. He now has something new to look forward to that could possibly defy him and concentrates on that.
Another example of how women in this epic are sources of civilization is revealed in the chapter, “The Coming of Enkidu.” Enkidu was created by the gods to be an equal of Gilgamesh. Born wild and uncivilized, he was hairy and lived with the animals. After an encounter with a shepherd, a harlot from the “temple of love” was brought to civilize Enkidu. The shepherd told the harlot,” teach him, the savage man, your womanly ways, for when he murmurs love to you the wild beasts that shared his life in the hill will reject him (page 64).” After teaching him for six days and seven nights of her womanly art, Enkidu was indeed rejected from his animal friends “for wisdom was in him, and the thoughts of a man were in his heart (page 65).” Feeling alone and unwanted, Enkidu returned to the harlot and allowed her to take him to the enlightened world. On the way, she clothed him, fed him, had him drink wine and treated him more as a child than a lover. This example illustrates one way that women were able to civilize men in this epic. The reason Enkidu returned to the harlot was simply because he liked her. The experience she gave to him was a positive one, one that was receptive and pleasurable. Enkidu returns to her in the hopes that she will give him more instruction and because she is the only person that will talk to him. This is a new relationship to him because it is already predicated to this woman taking charge and teaching him new ideas, customs, and how to live life as a real man. ...