Death and dying are two of the most common fears among people fictitious and non- . People want to make their mark on the world so that their images may live on even after they die. Gilgamesh, from the “Epic of Gilgamesh,” is no different. In this ancient poem, Gilgamesh begins as a ruthless brute who answers to no one until he meets his match, a man named Enkidu. He and Enkidu proceed to take on heroic feats so that Gilgamesh may gain pride, glory, and—ultimately—immortality. Because of these superhuman tasks, the goddess Ishtar becomes enraged and kills Enkidu which sends Gilgamesh into a weeklong depression from which he emerges with a new passion for the pursuit immortality. Gilgamesh’s fear of being forgotten drives him to believe that he may achieve immortality through superhuman acts, but he realizes that he can live on in the hearts and on the tablets of his people.
Early in “Gilgamesh,” Gilgamesh and Enkidu slay the Cedar Forest guardian Humbaba, and the Bull of Heaven. According to Gilgamesh, killing these creatures would help him reach his goal of immortality; however, these actions cost the life of Enkidu which instills a new and rawer fear in Gilgamesh. In Jared Christman’s article, “The Gilgamesh Complex: The Quest for Death Transcendence and the Killing of Animals,” he states that the killings of animals sprouts from Gilgamesh’s fear of death and the vitality that he can get from within said animals (Christman 301). In committing “zoocide” Gilgamesh feels that he can defeat death (Christman 298). Christman goes on to say that after Enkidu’s death, Gilgamesh travels to Utnapishtim so that he can learn how to progress in his “quest for death transcendence.” Thinking that he has done greatness, Gilgamesh prattles off all the beasts that he and Enkidu have slain.
However, it is this pride and impulse to kill that causes his greatest friend to die. Anu proclaims “because they have killed the Bull of Heaven and because they have killed Humbaba…one of the two must die” (Norton Anthology 26). This is not the only time that Gilgamesh lets impulse serve as a barrier between him and his people.
Young age can represent many characteristics depending on the person of discussion. In Gilgamesh’s case it is indicative of greed and relentlessness. He is relentless to the people of his kingdom as “no son is left to his father…and no virgin to her lover,” for Gilgamesh takes them all. This young age is important in the evaluation of the transformation that Gilgamesh endures during the course of the epic.
After Gilgamesh meets with Utnapishtim, he is enlightened of the whereabouts of a plant that can grant him immortality. Once again he embarks on a futile journey in order to find a plant and reach his goal. Contrastingly though, Enkidu is offered immortality by Ishtar and denies it. Hope Nash Wolff, of Harvard University, wrote an article entitled “Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the Heroic Life,” that examines Enkidu’s reasoning. Wolff asserts that...