Heroism in Gilgamesh
Heroism entails several things; a selfless act, courage, or the accomplishments of bold and daring expeditions. A hero can often be of divine ancestry. But every hero has faults and these faults along with heroic deeds make the man, or woman; a hero.
Gilgamesh loved his friend Enkidu more than he loved himself. A phrase indicating this love for Enkidu is on page 35:
"We must go down into the forest together./. . .I will go before you/And protect you. Enkidu followed close behind"
This was a selfless act. Enkidu was afraid, or more likely cautious, so he allowed Gilgamesh to take the lead. This particular instance shows the leadership and initiative of King Gilgamesh. Faced with a challenging situation his leadership qualities engage in a heroic gesture of friendship.
After Enkidu's death, Gilgamesh was confronted with the Scorpion people. This must have been a diffuclt situation for the king: Would he show reverence to them or be arrogant and refuse? As a king the hardest thing he could do would be to show subjection to another being, short of a god. This is heroic in itself because of the fact that the Scorpion people could have killed him easily. The passage on page 57 shows us what transpired:
"The Scorpion people who guard its gate,/Whose knowledge is awesome, but whose glance is/death./When he saw them, his face turned ashen with/dismay,/But he bowed down to them, the only way to shield/himself"
Instead of approaching the Scorpion people and demanding entrance into the mountains of Mashu, he approached with a humble spirit. Gilgamesh's meekness in his approach to the gate caused the Scorpion people to wonder why he was there and after his explanation, they let him pass.
Even acts of ignorance can be examples of heriosm, a passage on page 66 is a prime example of this:
"Coming upon some stones that stood in his way/He smashed them into a thousand pieces."
Why was this an ignorant act? Because Siduri had told him earlier that these stones belonged to Urshanabi, the boatman. But Gilgamesh was uncaring about the property of others, and when Urshanabi revealed this to him he sat on the ground resting, obviously contemplating his stupidity. Gilgamesh's bravery stood out as he pleaded with Urshanabi on page 67:
"I know I have broken them;/What difference now./I only want to speak to Utnapishtim,/To reach his shore./Can you help me?"
Gilgamesh's brave question was asked only when he had no other choice. This was heroic because of humilty on his part.
The King, Gilgamesh, was a mortal man in the end, and this mortality had flaws in it like every other human being on the earth, even today. Gilgamesh was arrogant, and headstrong. When he wanted to do something he did it; no...