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Figure Of The Hero Essay

1371 words - 5 pages

The figure of the hero is something that is an integral part of all religions, mythologies, and literature throughout the world. No matter what, these heroes convey a strong sense of the mentality of humanity. In literature, the figure of the epic and tragic hero is brilliantly depicted specifically in both The Epic of Gilgamesh and Shakespeare’s Hamlet in a way that maintains relevance over time.
According to, an epic hero can be described as 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, gathers allies, 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.” By definition, there are certain traits a character must fit to be considered an epic hero. The hero typically has an unusual circumstance of birth, whether this birth is dangerous or they were born into royalty. Usually, a hero will leave their family or homeland and live with others. They will also experience an event, sometimes traumatic, that leads to an adventure or quest. While on this adventure, the hero typically has a special weapon only he can wield, has supernatural help, and must prove himself many times throughout the journey. Another commonality among heroes is that they experience atonement with their father. They will either have to avenge their father or make up for his wrongdoing. And finally, when the hero dies, he may be rewarded spiritually.
The hero Gilgamesh fits many of these “requirements.” He was born under unusual circumstances. He was modeled into the ideal man by the gods and was part human, part god. “Gilgamesh was his name from the day he was born, two-thirds of him god and one third human. It was the Lady of the Gods drew the form of his figure, while his build was perfected by divine Nudimmud” (Gilgamesh 2-3). Gilgamesh also undertakes a perilous journey with his companion, Enkidu. Enkidu is an uncivilized man living in the wild. The gods, with the intention of distracting Gilgamesh from his tyranny on Uruk, created Enkidu to be his equal. Together they undertake dangerous quests that incur the displeasure of the gods. First, they travel to the Cedar Mountain to defeat its guardian, Humbaba. They are only able to do this with supernatural help from Shamash, who “roused against Humbaba the mighty gale winds” (42). Later, when the goddess, Ishtar, sends the Bull of Heaven to punish Gilgamesh for rejecting her advances, the two...

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