Gilgamesh is an epic story of great love, followed by lingering sadness that causes a significant change in character for Gilgamesh, leading to unwavering friendship and to loss. Herbert Mason narrates the story of Gilgamesh who is feared and honored by the people of Uruk. He is a person who loves and hates, wins, loses, and who lives an overwhelmingly powerful life. He is two-thirds god, one-third man, and a builder-king whose journey is larger than life, yet ends so commonly with death of a friend, Enkidu. Through Gilgamesh, the fate of mankind was revealed, and the inevitable factor of change is expressed through a journey with Enkidu. Herbert Mason introduces and creates Enkidu who serves as a foil and contrasts the protagonist of Gilgamesh.
The two principle themes in the story are friendship and loss. Gilgamesh has to come to realize with the reality that death is unavoidable, and that friendship is a necessity in life. The friendship bond between Enkidu and Gilgamesh was very strong that even Gods could not stand against them for long. As soon as they met with each other, they fought. During the fight, they both looked at each other and realized that they were both equal. The narrator states, looked into his eyes/And saw himself in the other, just as Enkidu saw/Himself in Gilgamesh (24). Upon the seal of this great friendship, Gilgamesh changed and became kind-hearted. Setting aside his great pride and power, Gilgamesh opened a place in his heart with love, and his sumptuous life, for Enkidu.
As time went on, they both faced many dangers and had many adventures, each brining them closer to each other than the last. One such adventure they faced was when they went to kill the guardian of the cedar forest, Humbaba. On the way, there, Enkidu became afraid but Gilgamesh insisted on finishing their quest. He supports Enkidu throughout the way to the cedar forest. The narrator states, Dont be afraid, said Gilgamesh/We are together. There is nothing/We should fear (28). The narrator also exemplified Enkidu as Gilgameshs strength before the moment Humbaba dies by the hands of Gilgamesh. The narrator states, Enkidu feared his friend was weakening/ And called out: Gilgamesh! Dont trust him! /And then raised his ax up higher/And swung it in a perfect arc/ Into Humbabas neck (40-41). The death of evil Humbaba changed Gilgamesh. It made him a better person because he protected his city and the villagers of Uruk. Villagers had always looked at Gilgamesh as evil-hearted. In addition, he would demand to take the privilege of sleeping with the virgin brides in the village (15); he did what he wanted to and often offended the gods. By going to into the cedar forest to defeat and kill Humbaba with Enkidu, Gilgamesh made a name for himself and changed the views of people in the village. Gilgamesh was proud to do this for his love for Enkidu and his villagers.
As Enkidu became ill, due to Ishtars curse, Gilgamesh was anxious and feared loneliness and death, if his friend died. After Enkidus death, Gilgamesh crosses the ocean to find immortality. He talked inconsequentially about reasons for trying to find everlasting life to himself. His personality changed completely from being in the state of arrogance to being fearful. In the state of being confused and yearning for answers, he set himself on a long journey to Utnapishtim in order to find immortality. In addition, he wanted to gain the power to bring back Enkidu to life. On this great journey, he learns of a secret of plant, which would restore his lost youth to a man. Once again, Gilgamesh displayed a changed character in this part of the scene. The narrator states, As he himself had spent alone in his spoiled youth,/ Seeing nothing there but time/Gilgameshhurried off to find the plant (84). He proclaimed that he would share the plant with his villagers. In the end, he unintentionally failed in returning the plant to his village; the once arrogant and overpowering king was finally thinking of the well being of his people.
A valuable lesson was taught through the Epic of Gilgamesh about mankind. In the story, we learned about traveling through the journey of life, to slay who is evil with the help of our gods, to survive and mourn for who lost their lives. Last but not least, leave the world with as many good deeds as possible. The relation of friendship between Enkidu and Gilgamesh should remain inspiration to us all because of their powerful companionship between each other. Most importantly, it allowed us to better analyze others and ourselves in our daily lives.
Mason, Herbert. Gilgamesh: a Verse Narrative. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1971. Print.