Identifying the stages of The Heroes Journey in Gilgamesh is relatively simple. We can start with Enkidu who’s call to adventure being upon hearing of the horrible deeds of Gilgamesh. This is followed by a threshold, the fight between Enkidu and Gilgamesh, after which begins Gilgamesh’s transformation and call to adventure. Together they adventure to the Cedar forest and are challenged by the Demon Humbaba, whom they defeat with the help of the sun god Shamash. The Revelation of the journey occurs upon Enkidu’s Death at the behest of the gods, this is where Gilgamesh’s transformation comes full circle as he searches for eternal life only to find that his deeds and achievements are as close as he can come to immortality.
I would say that the four functions of mythology are alive and active in the story of Gilgamesh. The lessons/transformation Gilgamesh makes to change from a villain to a hero, along with the mysteries of life and supernatural really play into the four functions well. I will say though that from a societal point of view its more of a reflection on ancient Sumerian society than our own. That being said the lessons are still applicable as are some of the inflections about society.
Simply Put, Gilgamesh failed. His quest for eternal youth was a total failure, though he did gain some much needed knowledge about deeds and living on through history through them his overall quest for immortality was a utter failure. This is not to say that going down in history isn’t a great thing, it is just not the same as the quest in which he set out. In reference to that, when my wife sends me to the store for eggs and I come home with a complete meal, she will still ask where are the eggs?
Though as I believe in the impossibility of eternal youth I would love to achieve such deeds where as I would be the center of legends in ages to come.
Gilgamesh did not achieve eternal youth but he did find eternal life. Not a physical life but a place in legends that will life forever. As far as going to the store for eggs and coming back with a meal. If you were my husband I would consider this journey a success- while not obtaining the initial goal I will be still receiving something of more substantial value. Maybe you brought home a meal because you ran into a mentor who guided you through the ways to make a woman happy. Through this journey you may have developed more compassion and empathy for your wife and to this end you will be a better person. So a win win situation.
I also believe its impossible for anyone to have eternal youth. But it would be nice to go down as a legend in history. What Gilgamesh set out for was a total failure, that’s true. He did win something much bigger. He became a hero and a better person all around. Therefore I would have to agree overall Gilgamesh was successful in the acts he had not intended to succeed in.
Nice point that this tale is about the ideals of ancient Sumerian society. I do agree with the both Jacqueline and Michaela though is that you missed an important part of the tale though. This story was told not simply to entertain people but to pass on some of the values and ideals ancient Sumerian society. So immortality would not be the end result of this story instead it would be many of the other lessons that Gilgamesh and Enkidu learned thought the tale.
I believe that Gilgamesh did learn many lessons about being civilized, but I will agree with you that Gilgamesh did fail in some facets of his journey. He did not retain the plant and he did not go back after finding help and more tools. This could suggest that if goals are too high and seem beyond our reach, we should give up. It is possible that the story was written by people in high places, in order to keep society from trying to rise from their current state…