Clack! Bang! Swish! Auuuuugh! This is the sound of clanging armor, flying spears, and slicing swords. The sound of men howling in agony as their limbs are severed from a blood thirsty blow of the enemies sword can be heard from the four corners of the earth. This can only be described as the sound of great battle. Battle was a very important part of a man’s life back during the seventh and eighth centuries. Every battle has a man who stands out at the forefront and shines above the rest. During these two time periods there stood two great men: Gilgamesh, the selfish, lustful king, and Beowulf the proud and boastful warrior. These two men, both powerful and well-respected, embody the true essence of what it means to be an epic hero. Gilgamesh’s lifestyle and rash decisions make him the perfect candidate for a life lesson by the gods. Beowulf and his boastful nature ultimately lead him to be great in life and to later fall. Finally, the two epic heroes both share some of the same good and bad qualities, thus, making each one slight mirror images of one another.
According to Webster's, an epic hero is “a larger than life figure from a history or legend, usually favored by or even partially descended from deities, but aligned more closely with mortal figures in popular portrayals”. The hero participates in a cyclical journey or quest, faces adversaries that try to defeat him in his journey, gathers allies along his journey, and returns home significantly transformed by his journey. The epic hero illustrates traits, performs deeds, and exemplifies certain morals that are valued by the society from which the epic originates. They usually embody cultural and religious beliefs of the people. Many epic heroes are recurring characters in the legends of their native culture. Epic heroes are superhuman in that they are smarter, stronger, and braver than average humans. An epic hero can also be a warrior of some sort who performs extraordinary tasks that most find difficult. This hero is strong, smart, and brave.
Gilgamesh, although he two thirds god and one third man, has a horrible problem with greed. He is the greatest of all men, and both his virtues and his flaws overshadow one another. He is the most powerful of warriors and the most driven of all builders. Enkidu, who is perfectly matched to Gilgamesh, shows up and acts as his counterpart. He exhausts his subjects with ceaseless battle, forced labor, and arbitrary exercises of power. Shaped by the god Shamash to be very beautiful to look upon, Gilgamesh selfishly indulges himself, raping whatever woman he desires. It did not matter to him whether or not she was the wife of one of his warriors or a bride on her wedding night. The wild man Enkidu’s friendship ultimately softened Gilgamesh wicked ways, thus, making him a better man all together.
When his best friend Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh is deeply saddened and is terrified by the thought of how he will die. Putting off every...