Category Archives: Week 2

The Epic of Gilgamesh

1. Can you identify any of the stages of the Hero’s Journey in the story of Gilgamesh? You may begin by asking yourself: What is Gilgamesh’s Call to Adventure; or what is Enkidu’s?

A Mesopotamian bust, purported to be the image of Gilgamesh.  Photo public domain.

A Mesopotamian bust, purported to be the image of Gilgamesh. Photo public domain.

It seemed to me that the story of Gilgamesh took some time to develop the “Call to Adventure”.   The call really appears when Gilgamesh has already been grappling with Enkidu, who is responding to his own call.   Gilgamesh’s sense of self-greatness, draws him to combat the monster, Humbaba.   But he is not seeking to fight Humbaba so much as he is seeking to cut down a great Cedar tree, which the text notes, “Felling evergreens on distant mountains was a well known demonstration of kingly power in early Mesopotamia.” (Norton, 24).   This is the “Call to Adventure” that leads to fighting Humbaba, that leads to the door being made, which leads to Ishtar’s advances, which leads to Enkidu’s death and so on.   There are several other hallmarks of the Hero’s Journey stages.   The “wild cow” or Ninsun, represents the mentor, Shamash too, a mentor and a supernatural influence.   Humbaba, the Bull of Heaven, Ishtar, Enkidu’s death are all thresholds to cross, with the aid of these mentors. His “Abyss” is the moment of Enkidu’s death.   His transformation has occurred as he deals with the disappointment that is found in the moment he loses his chance at eternal life.   Leaving Utanapishtim, he is a different person, no longer so God-like, more like a common man, seeing his own frailties, his own destiny with death.

2. Do you believe any of the Four Functions of Mythology, as outlined in ‘Mythological Themes in Creative Literature and Art’, are alive and active in the story of Gilgamesh? Why or why not?

I do believe that the Four Functions are describing or perhaps defining, actual conditions within human existence and the “Myth” is a reflection of that common thread which makes our societies and civilizations “human”.   Campbell’s article, I believe is confusing and unnecessarily burdened by assumption.   I don’t find that things should be so complicated.   When the Four Functions are broken down into simple statements and their definitions, there is a clearer picture of what Campbell is defining.   It would seem that when a civilization creates a myth, even over centuries, with different authors, there is still a formula at work which runs true to similar stories in other societies.   This would indicate that when human beings tell tales, they do have needs they are trying to meet.   Answering the greatest questions of life, finding our place in society, defining our societies structure and giving voice to our greatest struggles in living out a lifetime, are some of our most important questions in human existence.   One might ask why we grapple with it so, if we are just animals?   Why do we want these questions answered?

3. What judgement would you make concerning the success or failure of Gilgamesh’s journey? For instance, he failed to return with the Plant of Everlasting Life, but what did he gain instead? Is it a worthy replacement for eternal youth?

Gilgamesh is an interesting study.   There are people in this world who have no sense of their own limitations, their own frailty.   At least, not until they meet their match and in a moment of clarity, they see their mortality before them.   Among soldiers, firefighters and police officers, or even among the most aggressive athletes there is this common trait.   Gilgamesh is such a man.   He finds no serious barriers to his will, no challenge that sets him back, until he faces Humbaba, and that too is overcome.   But when Enkidu dies in his bed, that unsettles him.   He is faced with losing life.

“Enkidu, my friend whom I loved, is turned into clay!   Shall I too not lie down like him, and never get up forever and ever?” (68)

So his goal to find eternal life is defeated, by his own human limitations.   Pursuit of Eternal youth has merely left him wiser and his time spent chasing the wind.   “I have done a good deed for a reptile.”   (81)   This is a gift in itself, providing clarity, appreciation perhaps of what lies ahead and the wisdom gained.



1.    The story of Gilgamesh, I believe, does contain some of the stages of a Hero’s Journey.  At first I was assuming that Gilgamesh would be the hero in this story, for he does crave adventure, has a turning point/life lesson.  However, Enkidu is made from nothing (hero’s typically come from lower class?).  Furthermore, Enkidu first meets Gilgamesh when he stops him from entering a young brides chamber.  He has a true hero’s personality and calling to do good.  Also, after Gilgamesh and Enkidu become friends, they go on adventures together to cut down the sacred trees, and in doing so have to defeat the monster Humbaba,  Enraging the gods, one must be punished and Enkidu is choses.  His sacrifice seems to me a heroic thing to do.

2.  The  functions of mythology are present, I would say that the sociological part is clearer to me.  It is an extremely old myth that still exists today and tells of a cultures lessons by using fables and even sometimes parables.  I feel like mythes could be very complex to write because you are trying to get a point across by writing in fables and what not and either consciously or subconsciously incorporating the different functions of mythology.


3.    I see Gilgamesh’s journey as a success, for he transformed out of a young man whose sense of adventure was satisfied by inflicting others, and he was transformed into an adult who had a sense of what life was really about.  As odd as I found this story to be, I think that it achieved some well developed stages of a Hero’s Journey and relayed some important lessons.


1. I can  identify the stages of the Hero’s Journey in the story of Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh was the first written epic, making him the first epic hero recorded. He possesses many qualities traditionally associated with epic heroes. He was born in unusual circumstances and also has supernatural power which assisted him along his journey. With this power, he became careless with it. Gilgamesh was challenged by the gods, in which he had to overcome. Some obstacles were giant scorpions, and a women that tries to lead him off the path. He is also tested by the wise flood hero.

2. I think that the four functions of mythology are present in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Throughout his journey, you can see an obvious transformation of his character. When death was around him, he went on a journey to fight and overcome death because he knew had a lot to learn. During his journey, Gilgamesh learned to appreciate life and how you can’t be so arrogant. Gilgamesh is easy to relate to because like everyone in the world, we go through struggles that we must face and overcome resulting in making us stronger. Gilgamesh changed for the better and became a stronger person overall at the end of the story even though it was a failure.

3. Although it seemed as if Gilgamesh failed at the end, i believe it can be viewed as a success too. He achieved love, brotherhood with Enkidu, wisdom, eternal glory and a legacy that exceeds all others. Gilgamesh was trying to live forever, but in the end he realized that that wasn’t possible for him. It was a journey in finding himself and who he could be. At the beginning, he thought he was above all others and that he had no equal. His love and compassion for Enkidu shows his growth as a man who learns the greatest thing in life and death the biggest unhappiness there is.


  1. The nice thing about learning to identify the Hero’s Journey stages in stories is that you can identify a Journey for each character. Well, at least the main and sidekick characters. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the two main characters are Gilgamesh, the king of Uruk, and his best friend, Enkidu. Gilgamesh and Enkidu didn’t start out as friends, however. Enkidu, who was a wild man created to be a counterbalance for the out-of-control Gilgamesh, begins his journey when learning to become a man living in society rather than simply exist as the guy raised by wolves (metaphorically speaking). The Call for Enkidu comes when hearing of a man who has the right – and takes it – to sleep with a newly married woman first. Appalled, he heads out to confront the man, thus sparking off the Threshold. After the two duke it out in the doorway, they become fast friends and set off on their shared Call to battle Humbaa in the Cedar Forest. The road of trials for both of them begins at this point, although Gilgamesh’s real Journey begins after Enkidu’s death with his quest for eternal life.
  2. The 4 Functions of Mythology are indeed alive and well in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Both characters experience a realization of who they are, who they should be according to society, and begin to change and grow as people. For Enkidu, this happens after his dream foretelling his death. He goes through a brief anger stage, then forgives and blesses Shamhat (who he blamed for introducing him to civilization and therefore his death, but also enabling him to meet Gilgamesh). Gilgamesh’s personal growth comes after his friend’s death when, in his grief, he begins a journey to find eternal life and starts to regret the choices he made.
  3. Although Gilgamesh didn’t exactly succeed in his original quest to find eternal youth, the personal growth he experienced along his journeys allowed him to recognize that even though a person – or even a demi-god – can’t live forever, the stories of their actions can live on. It’s not exactly the best replacement for eternal youth, but it’s the best one can hope for in this life. Personally, I wouldn’t want eternal youth – I wouldn’t take my 20s back if someone offered them to me!

Gilgamesh – Success or Failure

Discussion Question 2 — Gilgamesh

  1. 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.



  1. 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.



  1. 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.

Gilgamesh Discussion Questions 2

Gilgamesh and Enkidu both undergo heroes journeys and transformations throughout the tale. They change throughout the tale becoming greater than what they were due to the experience of successfully completing their trails. The difference between the two is how they grow and change throughout the story. Sometimes experiencing the same type of growth and sometimes learning entirely different lessons than the other.

Enkidu’s heroes journey consists of two separate journeys where he completes the cycle both times. The first time Enkidu starts his cycle through the heroes journey is when he meets Shamhat and the shepherds. Causing him to start his break from his old lifestyle and get his call to adventure when he hears about the behavior of Gilgamesh. Leading him into his first challenge with the wresting match against Gilgamesh. When he is defeated it starts a period of growth as Enkidu goes through the cycle of revelation, transformation, and atonement. Which is shown as Gilgamesh and Enkidu become friends and Enkidu becomes able to join society becoming greater than his old self. Enkidu then goes through his second heroes journey when he finds out that he is going to die and begins the process of accepting his own death. As Enkidu realizes that he is going to die and he curses Shamhat and the Hunter for starting him on his first heroes journey. He then is challenged by Shamash who tells him that without those two he would have never met Gilgamesh. Which leads him into a revelation about how his life has changed for the better. He then blesses Shamhat and seems to accept his death. Completing his final heroes journey and period of growth.

Gilgamesh starts his heroes journey after he meets Enkidu and becomes Enkidu’s friend. They then go through the trials of killing Humbaba and the bull of heaven. Then as soon as Enkidu dies he enters the preverbal abyss with his newfound fear of death and his way of escaping that fear with the pursuit of immortality. With the true moment of transformation occurring when Gilgamesh realizes that the achievement of immortality does not require violence and death. This is a complete change from how Gilgamesh has behaved to solve problems throughout the majority of the tale. Leading Gilgamesh to several realizations about himself and causing him to make his way back to Hurk when he fails the tests of immortality.

All of the four functions of Mythology are touched upon in different manners throughout the story. The change from child to adult to awaiting death is shown with the growth that both Enkidu and Gilgamesh both go through. First in their breaking away from their more primitive behaviors and then the dealing with their own approaching deaths. Answering the question of the place of humans in the universe is told by Utanapishtim’s survival of the flood. Which lead to a change of the gods attitudes towards the total annihilation of humans after ensuring a place for them on the planet. A feeling of belonging is shown most potently by Enkidu as he leaves his animal friends. Causing loss of his feeling of acceptance for a time until he builds his friendship with Gilgamesh and finds a home in Hurk. As for mystery, it is discovered as both Enkidu and Gilgamesh embark upon the next part of their journeys. For if there was no mystery there would be no need for them to go.

When Gilgamesh’s journey ends he did not gain anything of material value that he did not finally lose at the end of his journey. Instead by the time that he has completed his travels he has learned that even he, a being two thirds a god, has limits and will die. Discovering these things about himself changed Gilgamesh for the better. Causing him to write down his story on the city walls when he gets back to Uruk so that he may both gain a measure of immortality let others learn from his trials.



1. The stages of the Hero’s Journey are very much present in the story of Gilgamesh. The stage of departure takes place when Enkidu’s call to adventure is to help Gilgamesh to  become better and quit his mischievous ways. The initiation stage takes flight on their journey into the Cedar forest to kill Humbaba, the guardian of the Cedar forest. Gilgamesh and Enkidu are able to defeat the beast and kill him. Enlil is upset that Humbaba is dead, and curses the heroes. They meet another obstacle in the initiation phase which maybe the Woman as the temptress, Ishtar comes and wants to marry Gilgamesh. But Gilgamesh chooses to reject the marriage with Ishtar. Ishtar sends the Bull of Heaven. Gilgamesh and Enkidu defeat the bull. The victory results in the death of Enkidu.  Gilgamesh takes Enkidu’s death very hard, for he has lost his best friend. In the stage of return, Gilgamesh takes off on a journey of his own seeking Utnapishtim. He is seeking eternal life to avoid death. In the process, he fails the tasks at hand to reach eternal life.

2. I believe the Four Functions of Mythology are active in the story Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh transforms from a beast to human such as performing mischievous acts into becoming a hero. Mystical is clear when Gilgamesh loses his best friend Enkidu. He didn’t want to accept his death but still had to press on. Cosmological is found in the unknowns of the world around Gilgamesh and Enkidu. Sociological was the social norms found in their society, hence Gilgamesh and Enkidu were both male and heroic. Psychological supported Gilgamesh through the changes that took place in his world.


3. Though Gilgamesh did not succeed in his mission for eternal life, He was able to succeed in his heroic acts to forever live on. A lot of times when one goes searching for a certain thing, they end up finding another. Take Gilgamesh for instance, he went searching for eternal life after seeing the death of his best friend but ended up finding his heroic acts will live on forever even though he may not. Gilgamesh explores the mysteries of the human condition; the relations between the gods, between nature and civilization, and a special bond of friendship. These findings are well worth the replacement of eternal youth.


Question 1:

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.

Question 2:

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.

Question 3:

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.


Discussion Question 1:

Gilgamesh 1Stages 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.

Gilgamesh 2

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.Gilgamesh 3

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.

Discussion Gilgamesh

Discussion- Gilgamesh

  1. When reading Gilgamesh I was able to identify several stages of the Hero’s Journey. Endiku’s call to action was the very reason for his existence- he was to hep Gilgamesh become a better person. Which is ironic considering Endiku was half beast and Gilgamesh was 3/4 God. Enkidu’s death was a call to action for Gilgamesh and the hard time Gilgamesh had letting go of Enkidu’s body was a symbol of his refusal to move forward with his call to action. There were also many trials that Gilgamesh encountered on his journey to find immortality. Gilgamesh’s revelation that physical death is inevitable but what deeds he does now can keep his memory alive. In the end he returns home a better person.
  2. I believe that the four functions of Mythology are very much a part of the story of Gilgamesh. The story is not about where Gilgamesh goes but what he learns about himself and life on the way. It also shows us the greatness and also the terribleness that are in our universe. We are exposed to mythical beast as well as beautiful scenes of nature. The very boon that Gilgamesh finally obtains is a lesson to us all in how we should life our lives and shows us how we affect everyone and everything else in nature. So this story deals with the very awe of the world, it has explanations of how things came to be as they are known to us, and it shows us who we should be.
  3. I believe that Gilgamesh’s journey was a very successful one. He may not have returned with the Plant of Everlasting Life but he returned with the knowledge that his deeds can keep his memory alive. Even though he did not succeed in gaining eternal youth he earned a far greater prize, the ability to make a difference. Through his efforts he made his world a better place and in return he was immortalized in stories.