Discussion Question 2 — Gilgamesh
- Gilgamesh’s journey starts with him as an unruly youth who gains as a helper for part of his journey Enkidu. Gilgamesh gets guidance for his Mother, Ninsun the wild cow, who is a prominent goddess figure in the tale. After some conflict the two (Gilgamesh and Enkidu) become fast friends. Enkidu’s journey began when he was presented with Shamat the harlot and started down the path from wild creature to civilized man. Gilgamesh suggests the killing of Humbaba and the cutting of a great cedar tree as a way to demonstrate kingly power but Enkidu refuses this call, only later to agree and accompany his friend. Here the two meet many challenges from smiting Humbaba to killing the bull of heaven. Enkidu reaches the end of his journey before Gilgamesh. Enkidu taught Gilgamesh how to be a better man and ruler for Uruk, that was his gift. For a time Gilgamesh sinks down in depression and transforms from human to something beast like and is lost after the death of Enkidu. He searches out answers and eternal life thinking it is the answer to his fears. After some more trials he finds himself loosing what he thought he should have gained. The prize of immortality gone and the plant of internal youth which he spent all his resources on lost. Gilgamesh returns to ramparted Uruk without his prize, but he is a better man and celebrates in his humanity and the architectural legacy found in Uruk that will allow his tale to live on for generations yet to come.
- The four functions of mythology are very present in the story. This story has stood the test of time and still engulfs the reader in the mystery and universal truths, giving a picture of a past society. It also gives us a picture of the thoughts on life and death or transitions of life. The functions are very much alive, especially for those who study anthropology. The story is a glimpse into another time.
- To Gilgamesh it seemed a sorry ending and almost a joke that all he had to show for all he did was the ramparted city of Uruk. Personally I believe it was a success. He might not have won the treasures he sought but generations of people from around the world have shared his adventures and tales. He has gained the ultimate fame and become a legend. Many can relate to the loss of a true friend (soul mate), and the seeking of unobtainable treasure, the returning home without fanfare, and just learning to be a better person. To grow enough that you are satisfied with the life you have is a true treasure and Gilgamesh found that. I think that is a very worthy replacement for youth eternal.