The Epic of Gilgamesh is often hailed as the earliest masterpiece of world literature. More to the point, it is often seen as one of the finest myths of the ancient world. Yet the title that is typically used for this (historically un-named) legend specifically suggests that this story is an EPIC, and not a myth per se. With this in mind, your first possibility for this Blog post is to view and frame the story of Gilgamesh as an epic. Just what IS an epic, exactly, and why does this text qualify? How does it compare to other epics you know about, and what important things do we learn about the tale when viewing it through an epic lens? For your second and third options, you might hearken back to our work from last class, when we discussed the all-important theories of Aristotle (on tragedy) and Joseph Campbell (on the “monomyth” of the hero). More to the point, I would like to see you carefully and critically apply the ideas of these thinkers to The Epic of Gilgamesh. If you are interested in the key notions of Aristotle, you might show how the plot of this Mesopotamian masterpiece fits certain “tragic” modes (such as leading toward a kind of “catharsis”), or work to view Gilgamesh (or perhaps Enkidu) as a kind of “tragic hero” according to the terms laid out by Aristotle. Finally, you might tell us about how Campbell’s theories regarding the hero’s quest help us to understand the journey undertaken by Gilgamesh. What key ideas or issues get raised via a careful application of Campbell’s ideas about the stages of a hero (i.e. separation – initiation – return) to this ancient myth/epic?
The Epic of Gilgamesh was an epic that did not disappoint. I say disappoint because it did meet my personal criteria for embodying the meaning of an epic tale. To me an epic involves some sort of main protagonist who is a larger than life figure that goes on a journey to find realization. Gilgamesh is considered to be two thirds god and one third mortal, so the larger than life requirement is definitely achieved. The larger than life requirement does fulfill, at least in my opinion, the requirements for being a hero as well. Gilgamesh does have the self-realization journey for immortality, but his morals stay tried and true against many advances of the gods throughout the epic.
The journey of Gilgamesh, albeit long and ever changing, does show Campbell’s idea of monomyth where his ideology is firm, tested, and then reaffirmed throughout his journeys. Aristotle’s tragedy is very clear for Gilgamesh with the loss of his friend Enkidu as his journey is clouded by the loss of his comrade. His friend was his loyal companion and provided a retrospective for Gilgamesh to change before the end of the epic.
Overall, this epic is just like any other that I have seen in the past. One man has a journey for varying reasons, gods throw obstacles in the way to trip up the hero that ultimately fail, and the hero is changed by the end after learning how his journey has changed him. These stories are aptly named, not for their length, but for their subject matter of perseverance in worlds unlike anything we would ever hope to experience.
I like how you end your post with the view of the subjects of epics as a way of persevering in the world. Also I like how you point out that Gilgamesh stayed true to his morals when facing the gods rather than saying he kept going against the gods, because if you think about it he probably didn’t even know that he was going against them.
Men such as Aristotle and Joseph Campbell payed frame work for myths of all kinds from tragedies to creation myths and everything in between. Aristotle viewed the plot and the characters in the plot to be one of the most important parts of a myth. This can also be seen in the in the epic of Gilgamesh a Mesopotamian epic tale. This story chronicles the quest of Gilgamesh accompanied by this friend Enkidu. The plot of Gilgamesh mirrorrs many of the plots seen in ancient myths.
However, the plot of Gilgamesh more closely resembles the formula of Joseph Campbell and the progression of myths throught. This can be seen in the epic of Gilgamesh where Gilgamesh goes on a adventure for his own interest and mortality so he can live forever during the adventure his friend is killed and this changes Gilgamesh. This closley mirrors Joseph Campbell theory that the main character will go through a transformation and an accession similar to when giglamesh returns a better person no longer ravaged by his self intreast. Some parts of this epic can also find parallel with creation myths. In the epic of Gilgamesh there is a serpent which takes away Gilgamesh and his cultures ability to have ever last life. This can also be found in the bible where the serpents tempts eve and in turn takes away societies innocence. Many relations can be found between the epic of the Gilgamesh and Joseph Campbell’s and aristotles ideas of myths also with many kinds of myths including creation myths.
The story of Gilgamesh fits the criteria of an epic for multiple reasons. It is written in the format of an epic, and holds the central elements of an epic story. Gilgamesh is told in the form of a long poem that deals with a heroic figure. Part of what makes this story an epic, is the fact that there are multiple stories which are told about Gilgamesh.
The first story begins with Gilgamesh as an unruly king who the Gods try to match with Enkidu, who he becomes great friends with. They then set out to destroy Humbaba which is accomplished. On their way back Gilgamesh enrages Ishtar who unleashes the Bull of Heaven who they also slay. Enkidu then becomes ill and eventually dies. This prompts Gilgamesh to wonder outside of his kingdom and search for something that will make him immortal. Along this journey Ur-Shanabi the boatman tells him the story of the great flood that the Gods caused. At the end he finds what he is searching for only to have it stolen by a snake, and gives up his search after seeing an omen.
I think that these multiple stories of Gilgamesh’s heroic battles and his journey for something supernatural that ultimately leads him back home makes this poem an epic.
The interesting thing about Gilgamesh that it embodies both a hero myth as well as a tragedy. However it is quite obvious in the beginning that the author wants the reader to see him as a heroic figure. He wrote that Gilgamesh was “…Superior to other kings, a warrior lord of great stature.” There are more aspects to this story that paint Gilgamesh in the light of Jospeh Campbell’s Monomyth: (1) the seperation is displayed through his atonement with his father and his desire to go off and journey (2) Gilgamesh becomes enlightened when he learns the secret of the gods and is given the task of attaining the elixir which serves as the initiation (3) Gilgamesh, although unsuccessful, returns home the same way he had left.
As you can see the critical issue that may leave doubts about whether Gilgamesh is a heroic myth is his failure in his mission. Despite being “strong as a star from heaven” he was unable to complete his task and returned home the same way he had left. Does it make this myth a tragedy? I do not think so. There was little sin or bad behavior related and no destruction or rebirth. So perhaps this fits most closely in Joseph Campbell’s monomyth formula but it also pokes holes in his theory; Gilgamesh is one of the most widely known myths and it does not fit perfectly into a monomyth due to discreet differences.
I like how you included what Gilgamesh did not have. It is always interesting when your able to point out those differences. I tend to look for similarities vs. differences so it is really interesting to see someone else’s point of view. Do you think, perhaps, it does contain a little bit of rebirth? Since Enkidu is a wild man then changes into a “normal” person, does that hint towards rebirth or just a change in character? I think rebirth of Enkidu is a bit of a stretch, but interesting enough to think about! Great job, you got me thinking!
Gilgamesh is certainly an epic based on the style in which it is written. It is written not as a story but instead as a poem, much like the epic The Odyssey written by Homer. Gilgamesh is a hero character and I believe that you can break down this epic into two hero’s journeys as opposed to one. The first journey is when Gilgamesh and Enkidu venture out into the forest to kill the god. This shows the separation-initiation-return as he leaves his village to venture into an unknown forest and eventually returns with the power and pride of killing a god. The second journey takes place after Enkidu’s death when Gilgamesh leaves his village once again to search for eternal life, and returning with that gift. Along with the hero’s journey, there are elements of tragedy in the death of Gilgamesh’s greatest friend Enkidu. His death throws Gilgamesh into sadness and then spurs his second journey.
I enjoyed reading your comment on the epic of Gilgamesh. It was cool how you thought to break down both stories (poems) and see them as two hero’s journeys. To me an epic is a poem, which shows some sort of tradition from past history. I believe an epic reinstates a piece of history and explains who or what the hero was. Reading this story, it showed one point, how Gilgamesh was a hero, by stating that he did not leave the boys or girls alone. Reading the side notes, I had a better understanding of what was going on in this story. The goddess Aruru had begged the Gods at this point in the story to find a partner for Giglamesh. Throughout the story I feel that Giglamesh always had some sort of power present, even if it did not seem like he had power. Even though Gilgamesh’s friend dies, it helps him grow stronger and move onto the next journey, as you had stated above.
An epic is typically a long poem that is told through word of mouth that tells the adventures of heroes or legendary figures. Gilgamesh is an epic due to the length of the text and also how it is written in poetic format. When I think of other epics the first one that comes to mind is another well known epic, the Odyssey. Both of these epics main characters are searching for the meaning of life in some form with a drive to achieve glory and their name to last for eternity. The two characters also shared the same mistake by insulting the gods; Gilgamesh denying Ishtar, Gilgamesh and Enkidu killing Humbaba, and Odysseus when blinding Poseidon’s son Polyphemus. With the two men angering the gods interfered and in a way pushed them to their realizations that they discover in the end, which are moral lessons to the readers.
While reading the story of Gilgamesh I began to compare the plot to the ideas of Campbell’s stages. First stage, separation, is shown when Gilgamesh’s level of power is talked about in the story. It was stated that Gilgamesh is two-thirds god and one-third man, which already separated him for the rest of his society. He was also a king, who was considered an overlord, that had power to rape women, have forced labor, and oppressed his subjects. Although he had strong amounts of power it wasn’t enough to change the fate of Enkidu that was sent from the gods. After experiencing Enkidu’s death with descriptions of the Underworld and watching him suffer Gilgamesh was driven to find eternal life to never go through the same suffering. At this point this is where Campbell’s second stage comes into play which is the initiation stage. During his journey for eternal life he met people that believed his journey was in a way foolish they continued to help him, even the tavern keeper warning him about immortality and saying he should be satisfied with what the world has to offer. Later after meeting with Utnapishtim and his wife and failing the task given to him by Utnapishtim, Gilgamesh learns of a plant that grants youth. He looses the plant to a snake where he decides to return to Uruk. Once he returns, he comes to accept his mortality knowing that although he won’t live forever mankind will, which is both the initiation and return part of Campbell’s theory.
An epic is usually a poem of relatively long length that describes the actions and pursuits of a character in the poem. The epic usually consists of many different figures of speech and features a “poetic tone” to the story line. The character described in the poem is often portrayed as a hero who embarks on quests in order to fulfill some task and, often times, their story may end in tragedy. I can understand how Gilgamesh is viewed as both a myth and an epic. It definitely has the lessons and elements of a myth and yet it also contains the lyrical styling and long length of an epic poem.
Gilgamesh compares to quite a few other epics but one that comes to mind is the story of Beowulf. I think one of the most important lessons we can learn from these two epics would be the lesson that occurs at the very end of the poems–that is the acceptance of our fates. When Gilgamesh is so overcome with grief over his friend’s death and so fearful about his own demise, he seeks out a way in which he can become immortal. After he obtains the plant that will restore youth to him, it is stolen away by a snake and Gilgamesh is left with nothing else but the fact that he must accept living and accept his fate–that he will live on without his friend, grow old, and die. In the story of Beowulf, he is faced with fighting off a dragon in his old age. He senses his death and accepts that as his fate as he kills the dragon but dies as a result of battling the dragon. Both men were strong and fierce fighters at a point in their lives but eventually had to come to terms with their fates, just as we all do.
The theory of myth according to Aristotle includes a focus on the “tragic hero”. I think Gilgamesh, and even his friend Enkidu, possess aspects of themselves that make them both tragic heroes. Both men were strong fighters who conquered and overcame all but Enkidu met his end as he fell ill and Gilgamesh experienced tragedy at the death of his friend and again when the plant he needed to regain his youth was stolen away by the snake. Both Gilgamesh and Enkidu experience “falls from grace” and suffer the consequences.
Campbell’s theory on the hero’s quest and the stages involved in it are also apparent in the story of Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh experiences a separation from his great friend and it sends him spiraling into a life of heartache and fear. He chooses to initiate upon his journey to discover a way in which he can become immortal only to return right back to the place in which he started–a mortal whose days are numbered and eventually will have to face his own death.
In my opinion an Epic is a poem or narrative about a hero and his quest. An epic usually contains a vast area geographically that the hero travels, symbolism, different types of characters, contains tropes, maybe a romance, always a death, and usually something false like powers. These powers can be like God powers or something as simple as incredible strength.
Gilgamesh has all of the above qualities. It is a long story about a man who is on a journey to discover himself. He starts out a mean, powerful king, and ends as a man fearing death. He travels all over, first with his friend Enkido then on his own. There are many tropes in this epic poem. You have the wondering man trope (when Gilgamesh explores alone wearing the lion pelt), then you have wild man trope (Before Enkido become “civilized”).
Gilgamesh also contains a lot of metaphors. One example is the cedar forest. At the time this was written cedar wood was believed to be magical, it is the preferred wood for coffins because it is resistant to insects. This could be a little foreshadowing too. Shortly after they enter the forest Enkido dies. Both of the main characters have powers, Gilgamesh is 2/3 God and Enkido can talk to animals.
With everything included in Gilgamesh, it is no doubt an epic. One thing taught by this epic is that you can never live forever. The only way you can is by becoming famous and having your legend live beyond your body. Another thing we learn is that love can be a very motivating force. Enkido changes and becomes tame for Gilgamesh, and Gilgamesh changes from a tyrant to an honorable citizen. Gilgamesh has all of the contents of an epic and the teachings.
So the greatest example of an Epic in my opinion, and as mentioned by my peers, is Homer’s “the Iliad” and “the Odyssey” which chronicle the journey to and fro war, to Troy, and to home, through the eyes of Odysseus. “The Epic of Gilgamesh” is a tale written in similar fashion, with a limerick feel to it and stanzas and lines as poems have. Though as we all know, epics are essentially poems of epic proportion and are very long: making “the Epic of Gilgamesh” aptly named. In the two, both Odysseus and Gilgamesh are kingly, royal figures, well above the common man, but well liked by them. What I like as far as Gilgamesh compared to Odysseus however, is that Odysseus has some opposition above, where as Gilgamesh is a bit more well-received, being two-third’s mortal and the son of the head honcho’s.
As we also know, epics are sort of a historical attempt at storytelling. They’re most closely related to the historical-fiction genre of modern day books and movies, but, in the time it was written, people probably took this as fact. Gilgamesh very well could’ve slewn a death-breathing fire-shooting beast in the pines, but if he has, carbon dating and archeological work has yet to uncover the remains. However, Gilgamesh, as heroes in epics often do, represents a value larger than himself. For instance, I believe Odysseus is a symbol for mankind’s ability to overcome things larger than himself and stands as a reminder to remember what is important. He could’ve given up anywhere on that journey and succumbed to death, or for that matter, stayed on an island paradise and drank ambrosia until he died of old age.
I feel as though Gilgamesh himself stands as an exemplary figure and model of godliness in mortality. Sure, he is beautiful, confident, and respected. He has unmatched strength among men as we see when he wrestles Enkidu and a very human heart as we see when Enkidu dies. He also has an incredibly insightful mind (if the God of Love and War proposed to me, I’d probably forget she’d be my death). Much like looking at the struggles of Odysseus do we learn, so to do we from Gilgamesh. And I feel like all that would be wasted if you were to call it a myth, which while retaining historical elements, which is closer to fiction than truth, I feel it would be less relatable, and more dismissible.
I believe that this piece of literature would be classified as an epic. The story is told in a way that flows like a poem. There are many techniques used, such as metaphors to suggest the work is in fact an epic. The character of Gilgamesh is referred to as a hero throughout the story, and he fits the description of a hero’s journey described by Joseph Campbell. Gilgamesh fits the monomyth because he starts in a normal ordinary world. Throughout his journey he ends in a special world where he interacts with the gods. Gilgamesh also goes through the stages of a hero. First he separate from the life he is used to. He leaves behind the land that he rules to endure challenges in his search for immortality. Next Gilgamesh faces initiation when he encounters the gods and even challenges them. Finally, Gilgamesh returns back to his home, unable to attain the immortality that he was searching for.
The story of Gilgamesh fits the stages described by Joseph Cambell in the Hero’s Journey. Throughout the epic Gilgamesh departs, is initiated, and returns which are the three main stages Campbell defines. Gilgamesh is called to adventure by his dreams of the future. He speaks to his mother about his dreams and she says they foreshadow failure which fits the refusal of the call. Gilgamesh receives supernatural aid from his mother who is partially a goddess. He crosses the first threshold when he enters the Cedar Forest with Enkidu to kill Humbaba. Enkidu dies causing Gilgamesh to fall into depression and isolation which is the belly of the whale stage of the journey. He then enters the initiation stage of the journey comprised of the road of trials which he encounters throughout his journey and the meeting with the goddess, Utnapishtim. A woman, Siduri, serves as a temptress to Gilgamesh and he experiences atonement with a father, Utnapishtim, who tells him about mortality. Gilgamesh undergoes apotheosis or the acceptance of his mortality and experiences the ultimate boom by successfully finding the plant of immortality. Lastly, Gilgamesh returns. At first, he refuses the return while mourning the return to his ordinary life. His escape from the lake with the plant of immortality is Gilgamesh’s magic flight. His rescue happens when he meets a man who does not know Enkidu. The crossing of the return threshold happens when he goes back to Uruk with acceptance. He masters the two worlds because this acceptance of mortality makes him a better ruler.
Epic poems are stories that tell of the adventures of some person or persons who are considered to be heroes in some way. These stories are used as a sort of “framework” for the audience, showing them how to act throughout their lives and how to react to certain things. These epics were of course a great form of entertainment for the times, but this was not their sole purpose. Listening to Beowulf would teach people of honor and to seek glory through battle, something the Angles, Saxons, and their ancestors would learn to do through his story. The ancient Greeks would sit by their fires and feasts and listen to the poets regale them with the tales of their ancestors amidst the great Trojan War through Homer’s great epic, the Iliad, or possibly be warned by the poet through Odysseus of the consequences of their hubris. Virgil aimed to both teach his audience about the founder of their very people, the Trojan War hero Aeneas (who was not a true Trojan himself but a Dardanian Prince, a people closely related to the Trojans) but to also display these very characteristics he glorified in Aeneas in Octavian as well. This strengthened his popularity and his power. Gilgamesh himself is an epic hero. Though he starts off as a seemingly evil man, he learns through his relationship with Enkidu how to really live (and of course conquer giant monsters, because who doesn’t love hearing about giant monsters?) Gilgamesh is similar to other epics within this idea of teaching a people about how to behave in their society and about their very culture.
Gilgamesh is undoubtedly an epic. I say this assertively because this epic poem has innumerable similarities to Beowulf, another renowned epic. Typically, Epics are centered around a hero who because of their innate greatness or of their divinity etc. they complete arduous tasks that are far from human capacity. Also, Gilgamesh (and Beowulf for that matter) have that repetitive, grand and lengthy format that is ubiquitous to epic poetry. Furthermore, there is no room for ambiguity in epic poetry, every last detail is there, unlike myths of course: i.e. “In the beginning…”
I will start with the characteristics of an epic hero as seen in Gilgamesh and Beowulf, more importantly, the former. From the beginning the narrator is already exclaiming the greatness of Gilgamesh and listing all of his accomplishments (to my other point, in great detail). He is held in such high esteem one would think he was a god, not just two thirds. This is a characteristic of epic poetry, the hero is undeniably awesome, similar to how Beowulf was seen as this magnanimous, altruistic savior. Also characteristic is that epic heroes have a downfall, (similar to Aristotle’s tragic hero, albeit that is a totally different animal…) in this case, many. Gilgamesh was arrogant, feared death and he was restless which is ultimately the reason for Enkidu’s existence. Beowulf’s downfall was his pride, one could argue.
Now for the events that take place which are characteristic of an epic. Gilgamesh and Enkidu travel to Humbaba’s forest to slay him, they had a confrontation with a goddess which ended in the slaying of a divine bull. Then because of Gilgamesh’s downfall (fear of mortality) he goes on a quest into the far reaches of the world looking for immortality. Similarly, Beowulf slays Grendel, Grendel’s mother and the dragon, with many long traveling thrown in for good measure.
Hopefully this does not sound like a continuous stream of consciousness, but rather, a organised blog post. In short, it is clear Gilgamesh is a great epic.
It is no secret that the Epic of Gilgamesh is heroic tale. Adding onto that, the Epic of Gilgamesh is also a wonderfully crafted epic. An epic is a story that is passed down through retellings of the story, also known as oral tradition, and is typically written in the form of a poem. Within the frame, the main character, the hero, goes through a journey filled with adventure and tends to encounter obstacles in one way or another. With that in mind, Gilgamesh fits that criteria through the heroic main character, the format in which it is in, and also through the length of them poem. Gilgamesh can be highly regarded as a hero and as someone who is greater than human. First off, he is already “divine” as we are told that he is one third human and two thirds god. On top of that, he is also king of Uruk, so those two attributes alone set him apart from others. I feel that Gilgamesh is not only used for the story of a hero, but that he also serves the purpose of being a model for values. Many of these epics were created for that reason as an addition. Gilgamesh being no exception, he exemplifies loyalty and strength, as well as bravery. Overall, I would definitely say that the Epic of Gilgamesh is a success in being the epic that it is. As for being a tragedy, I do not think that I would necessarily call it a tragedy, although it does fit certain criteria that would traditionally justify it as a tragedy. Finally, as for the monomyth formula by Joseph Campbell, it does and does not fit in with the formula. This can be debated, but in my opinion, it lacks certain evidence.
Even though myths and epics have a lot in common, they are not exactly the same. Because an epic is defined as a long poem that tells of the heroic deeds of an important historical figure, it’s clear that even though The Epic of Gilgamesh is actually unnamed, it still has the characteristics of that literary genre. The point of an epic is to praise the actions of a cultural icon; in this case that icon is Gilgamesh. He is an epic hero loved by all; brave and strong who is superior to other kings and is believed to be two-thirds divine and one-third mortal. The real difference between epics and myth is the composition; The Epic of Gilgamesh is episodic. This poem reminds me of the Old English epic poem Beowulf. Like Beowulf, Gilgamesh is a story of oral tradition, composed to be performed aloud to an audience. The story uses characteristics of the oral tradition like, repetition and counting, as narrative devices to emphasis and creates anticipation for the audience. Before these stories were written down, they were passed around orally for generations, which is one of the reasons scholars can’t, and probably will not, establish exact dates of composition.
It is clear to me that Gilgamesh is an epic tale, but the question really lies in it’s importance in the category of myths. First off, the powerful “Hero” is something that Campbell stressed and is extremely apparent in the Epic of Gilgamesh. He’s one part mortal, and two parts divine. He was named from birth for fame, and was to only succeed at whatever he ensued. It compares to many other tales because of elements such as the forest that was challenging to go through, or the flood that later came towards the end of the readings. This is something that is seemingly redundant in mythology. It’s not really a negative aspect of myths, but repetitiveness is something that is going to occur within history, myths included.
The most interesting part of this tale, that I found, is the fear of death and failure the main character seemed to have. He was afraid of not out-living man, and felt that he failed Enkidu during his death. That was one of the rare features of this Epic. Last but not least, Gilgamesh was a warrior of great stature, and powerful by all means. I found Aristotle’s notes on tragedy to really apply here. As powerful and strong as Gilgamesh was in this Epic, he saw a close friend die and eventually realized he would die as well. This wasn’t a story meant for a positive moral outcome, but maybe on lesson on being any part human. He dealt with the realization that no one, of any strength, can defy death and out-living the human race.
The first thing I could recognize when reading the Gilgamesh myth would be the parallel between that and the previous readings of Joseph Campbell’s ideas of separation- initiation- and return. Although the task he had set out to conquer was not successful, during his journey I do believe that there is a deeper “initiation” if you will of the character Gilgamesh, as I believe he comes back as a better person and leader. This iconic hero did in fact face struggles and triumphs and inevitably has a return to his kingdom, after coming to peace with the death of his friend Enkidu. Which brings me to my other parallel I have made and that is Aristotles ideas of the heros journey and tragedy. That in every heroic story of all time there are key components of what makes the story a tragedy, which I think this exemplifies, there is death, strife, struggles, and hardship that make the story that more relate able to it’s readers, and makes them see Gilgamesh in that light of a human someone just like them, and not just a god.
An epic is defined as a long poem that talks about the deeds, or adventures of a hero, and was often passed down orally. Most ancient stories were passed down this way since many people thousands of years ago couldn’t write. This text is an epic because the style that it is written in makes it an epic. At the time, these stories like Gilgamesh were one of the only sources of entertainment. Usually in epic poems what happens is the hero ultimately dies after he or she has changed through their adventure.
The definition of an epic is a long poem that is typically derived from ancient oral tradition that narrates the deeds and adventures of heroic figures or the history of a nation. In my opinion, this is considered and epic because of several reasons. He is on a quest or an adventure seeking immortality.The first reason is that Gilgamesh is two- thirds God and one-third mortal. That makes him a godly/heroic figure on an adventure.. The second reason is that it is told in a long poem form including multiple poems. In most epic poems there is a protagonist that goes through changes. In this one, Gilgamesh goes through changes. When his friend Enkidu dies, he is forever changed. Another thing that compares this epic to others that I know about is his perseverance through any situation. The hero usually has to go through difficulties and obstacles to reach a goal. In this epic, Gilgamesh had to travel to the forest to slay Hubaba which was not easy. In order for this to be considered a tragedy, Gilgamesh had to make a judgement error that ultimately lead to his own destruction. However, I do believe it was tragic because when his greatest friend died it was a tragedy and he got the strength from it to lead him on another journey. Lastly, Campbell’s theory is apparent in Gilgamesh. In this epic the hero goes through stages on his quest. When Gilgamesh experienced his friends death he went through another stage. He chose to take the initiative to go on another quest for immortality. Then he goes through another stage just to return to where he started from and had to accept his mortality and there is nothing he could do about it.
The story of Gilgamesh has EPIC written all over it; I started reading and just could not put it down. Gilgamesh was gripping from start to finish and left me wanting to know more. In my opinion those are some of the key factors that make for an important epic. An epic is meant to bring the readers into the story, and cause that person to actually imagine the words popping off of the page. When the reader actually takes apart the story they will starts to realize what the whole concept is .James Campbell’s monomyh theory is a another big factor throughout this epic. The theory brings forth the idea that trough separation, initiation and return happiness can be officially found.
To me, an epic is a story that follows a long journey of a hero who is larger than life. This hero is usually some historical figure that people look up to. Gilgamesh fits into the genre of an epic because the character of Gilgamesh was a hero who is larger than life, considering he is two-thirds god. He is also a historical figure that people did look up to. It also fits into this genre because, as it says in the text, the repetitiveness of the numbers.
The Epic of Gilgamesh does follow Campbell’s theory of a monomyth. Gilgamesh goes on a quest with the help of Enkidu to fight Humbaba. He then goes through a transformation and goes back to where he came from. It also follows Aristotle’s view on plot. The Epic of Gilgamesh has a beginning, middle, and an end. It is also tragic because Gilgamesh had to make a decision that lead to his own destruction.
I don’t think there is any doubt that the story of Gilgamesh is in fact an epic. An epic can be defined as a story in which the plot is centered around a hero of great stature, and clearly the plot of the story is centered around Gilgamesh: an incredible man who was 2/3 divine and 1/3 mortal. Gilgamesh is essentially born a hero, and it is made very clear from the beginning of the story that he has made many accomplishments causing the people of his kingdom to respect him. Conversely, myths will act as a metaphor or explanation for emotional, social, or spiritual issues that humans have dealt with and will continue to deal with.
In this epic, Gilgamesh goes through the monomyth hero cycle a few times as described by Joseph Campbell. First he leaves his kingdom with Enkidu into the Cedar Forest to kill Humbaba. The second time, Gilgamesh sets out to solve his morality issue, only to return with a clearer mind. And finally, on a bigger scale, the entire story fits the monomyth theory as Gilgamesh separates from his old life of being arrogant, is initiated into a life of friendship and journey, and ultimately returns back to his kingdom where he is proud of the many features it contains.
I have only ever read one other work that was called an epic and that was the Odyssey. The only thing that could be said about both works is the stories are divided into chapters or rather sub plots of trying to use greater than life instances for against an also greater than life person to overcome in their own fashion, there may or may not be a lesson to learn. Gilgamesh meets that grander than life requirement within the first 20 lines of the epic, its met everything I have come to expect from an epic. Much in the way Campbell describes the Hero’s Journey, Gilgamesh starts out as normal everyday life of a man two-thirds god and the other third mortal and the normal people are pleading to the gods to get him to shut up about it. Arrogance, the most common factor of an epic hero, always part of the reason his divine relatives would send him out on his journey, starting with the being made from clay to be called Enkidu. He then befriends Enkidu in accordance with a dream he had before any of these event had even began. Then goes on to slay Humbaba to put the people at ease, which in turn cause resentment among the gods, who judge to strike down Enkidu but no Gilgamesh because family.
The Epic of Gilgamesh follow Aristotle’s theory about tragedy and Campbell’s hero journey, throughout the epic Gilgamesh and Enkidu share a unique friendship. Enkidu was created by the gods to kill Gilgamesh but he proved to be a worthy adversary and soon the two became friends after the battle. This is an unexpected turning point because one was sent by the gods to kill Gilgamesh but instead became good friends. Since the gods did not approve of their friendship, they cursed Enkidu and dies after they fight the demon Humbaba. Determined not to share the same fate Gilgamesh searches a way to become immortal and defeats all kinds of foes. Gilgamesh’s life has gone through a series of battles to ultimately achieve immortality by making his name transcending throughout history.
Aristotle’s definition of a hero had multiple parts, many of which can be seen in both Gilgamesh and Enkidu. One quality of Aristotle’s tragic hero is the hamadtia, or a flaw. In Enkidu’s case, he has more than one flaw. Not only is he full of pride, but he is also easily influenced. He is easily swayed by the prostitute, by all the people of the village, and my Gilgamesh himself into losing himself and assimilating into the normal ways of indulgence and pride, eventually leading to his downfall. He also experiences a reversal of fortune. After a few great triumphs with Gilgamesh such as the defeat of Humamba and the bull, Enkidu thinks he is untouchable. He is proven wrong and his luck takes a change for the worse when the Gods become angry with him and he falls ill and dies. Clearly, the hubris or proudful ways of a hero apply to Enkidu as well. However, Enkidu dies without any self realizations or personal growth, which makes him fall short of a true tragic hero. In a way this is ironic as Gilgamesh was so determined to have Enkidu remembered as a hero, promising to build a golden statue in his honor