The story of Gilgamesh has many great examples of the Hero’s Journey in it. The Hero’s Journey in Gilgamesh starts with the character Enkidu. Because Gilgamesh was such a terrifying King men begged the goddess Aruru to create an equal who can stand up to Gilgamesh, and so she creates Enkidu. Enkidu is strong and wild like an animal. Enkidu’s call to adventure begins when he is seduced by the harlot Shamat. It creates a desire in Enkidu to be human, and to become part of their culture. Enkidu hears of the evil King and challenges Gilgamesh. After a great brawl Gilgamesh and Enkidu gain respect for each other, becoming true comrades. They have both under gone a transformation, these two men who had stood unparalleled could now consider each other their equal. Just as Enkidu had gained a culture and society by finding a friend in Gilgamesh; Gilgamesh gained a sense of maturity and place to fit into society by finding a friend in Enkidu. This is just the begging of the Epic of Gilgamesh but already a brief cycle of the Journey has been displayed, while setting up the rest of the Epic to build into more and grander Journeys of the Hero.
I believe all the Functions of Mythology are alive in the Epic of Gilgamesh. The start of the epic is clear attempt to feel accepted into society. Gilgamesh must grow and mature to be accepted to be seen as an adult, and not an angry child. And Enkidu must learn to be civilized, and learn how to belong into society before he can be accepted to Uruk. The need to explore our own psychology is represented greatly by how ambiguous Gilgamesh’s success is. Gilgamesh was able to stop the Bull of Heaven with the help of Enkidu, but in turn Gilgamesh lost Enkidu to the grips death by angry gods. The Epic of Gilgamesh is a great example of how the Functions of Mythology can be used to increase the value of stories, by creating a world where we can reflect on our own trials and tribulations.
I think it’s clear that Gilgamesh’s is a success. Even if Gilgamesh believes he has not gained what he was looking for in his quest. The quest itself was Gilgamesh’s reward. By the end of the story Gilgamesh goes home to write of his adventure; of its success and misfortunes. Gilgamesh has come to terms with his mortality, and at the same time his desire for adventure has waned. Gilgamesh with coming to terms with his mortality learns that to live on you must pass on what you have learned to the next generation; which is Gilgamesh’s form of immortality. I believe this is a huge success and well worth the trade for the Plant of Life. Gilgamesh learns from Urshanabi that living forever does not bring peace, but that peace is found from the deeds you accomplish.