Discussion Question 1:
Stages of the Hero’s Journeyare definitely present in the story of Gilgamesh. They are actually quite easily identifiable if you know the definition and what to look for. Right from the first few pages of reading how Enkidu was born and what his purpose was really showed the Call to Adventure and reading a little further in it was easy to identify Gilgamesh’s as well. Since there is a Hero’s Journey for both Gilgamesh and Enkidu I am going to be somewhat intertwining them together in my description of each stage.
The first stage is the Departure. The Call to Adventure really begins when Gilgamesh tells Enkidu that he must go into the forest and kill Humbaba, who is a guardian of the Cedar Forest. Gilgamesh must slay him in order to prove how great he is and make sure that everyone knows his name and remembers him. There is no real refusal of the call from Gilgamesh however, Enkidu thinks it’s not a very good idea. They pursue it nonetheless though by preparing for this trip. They have many very heavy weapons made to bring along with them. Enkidu in this story is kind of Gilgamesh’s mentor or supernatural aid as it says under the Departure title of the online sheet we read. He goes along with Gilgamesh to help protect him from dangers and somewhat counsel him in the process. Then the Crossing of the First Threshold comes into play. This happens when it is time for Gilgamesh and Enkidu to leave the city of Uruk and embark on the journey of killing Humbaba. The Belly of the Whale part would lastly be when they come into contact with Humbaba.
The next stage is then Initiation. The Road of Trials I would have to say is when they enter the forest and begin the search for Humbaba. They have finally reached their destination they had set off for in the beginning. Initiation really comes into play when Gilgamesh and Enkidu begin the fight with Humbaba. Gilgamesh overcomes his fears and together him and Enkidu fight together to overcome this huge obstacle. After a fight and somewhat of a confrontational talk they are able to kill Humbaba. Ishtar then comes and wants to marry Gilgamesh and offers him majesty and wealth. Much happens and Gilgamesh pretty much rejects the marriage and while Ishtar runs to her Father her Father doesn’t really seem to want to listen to her pleads and sorrows about what Gilgamesh has said to her. One other really big part of the Initiation stage is Enkidu’s death. Since Humbaba was killed the other gods find it only fair for either Gilgamesh or Enkidu to die as well. It really hurts Gilgamesh and takes us to the last stage of the Hero’s Journey.
The last stage is the Return. Gilgamesh decides that he will not return right after this. He then goes on the search for Utanapishtim, the only survivor of the flood. During the journey to find him Gilgamesh comes in contact with others and ends up having to persuade a scorpion monster into letting him pass through a tunnel. He also talks to one other person before finally coming into contact with Utanapishtim. Utanapishtim ends up helping Gilgamesh recover from his sorrows by basically telling him how lucky of a person he is to mostly divine. This helps Gilgamesh snap back to reality somewhat. Towards the end of the entire story Gilgamesh is given the Plant of Everlasting Life, however, it gets stolen during his return trip to Uruk. When Gilgamesh finally returns though he writes his stories on a wall and he will always be remembered even once he is gone. This is his way to still become immortal, through his stories. That is where he really becomes the Master of Two Worlds and has the Freedom to Live.
These 3 stages with their sub stages as well are easily seen throughout the story. I personally think that there are quite a few instances in which many things that happened can count as one stage or even be a part of a couple stages in the Hero’s Journey. It’s intriguing to think that this long ago there was still a present path of a Hero’s Journey in this story when the Journey probably wasn’t even thought of when writing this story out.