As the world continues to evolve and advance in knowledge and time, one thing remains the same: the world’s first literary work is still as impressive and entertaining as any modern work today. The Epic of Gilgamesh retains the world’s first accounts of what life was like when the great King Gilgamesh was upon the earth. The title, which includes the author of the work, also reveals an extremely large variety human emotions and interactions. The experiences which take place in this literary work of art are still repeated in some form or fashion in today’s literature.
One such event in the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Death of Enkidu, encompasses human tragedy and the human involvement such as love, resentment, hope, confusion, and forgiveness. The Death of Enkidu reveals fault in Gilgamesh because of actions that couldn’t be avoided, but it also reveals consequential actions that were intentional. The divine fate begins as Gilgamesh and Enkidu return to their home, the great city of Uruk, when the realization that they have both killed and defeated the great “guardian of the mountains,” Humbaba, quickly sets in.
Not only did they conquer their goal and purpose for setting out on their massive journey to the mountains, but in the process they managed to disrupt a very intricate part of nature. This was done when Gilgamesh laid the head of Humbaba before Enlil, the God of the mountains, and caused him to be enraged, setting chaos into all the land, from among the gods all the way into hell. It is quite possible that because of this event, the future death of Enkidu could not be avoided.
However, there is another event in which causes great grief in the heavens, once more. Once safely back into the city of Uruk, Gilgamesh is filled with relaxation and accomplishment, for he had made a name for himself in the mountains for long after he is no longer on the earth. But Ishtar, the queen of love, comes to him as a woman comes filled with lust comes to a man on the street as a prostitute. She offers him wealth, power, glory, and fame beyond anything he can imagine; something any man would have trouble turning down.
However, Gilgamesh is after all two thirds part of the gods and one third man. He has wisdom and foresight, and when he hears Ishtar’s proposal, he quickly proceeds to reverse her offer and directions attention unto her. It is Gilgamesh’s approach to this request that essentially affected the entire fate of his companion and loyal brother, Enkidu. It is only his wisdom and knowledge of Ishtar’s past that he quickly starts to point out what happened to all the other men who she had loved and betrayed in the past.
If she would say the same thing to them, yet turn them all into a “wolf” or a “blind mole,” why would Gilgamesh ever want to enter into similar relations with the same woman? Because of this, Ishtar becomes enraged like a little girl who is constantly spoiled by her parents. She goes to her father, Anu, to act as a “tattle-tale” and throw tears in such a way as to get him on her side instead of Gilgamesh’s. But then, her father quickly turns against her saying, “Did not you quarrel with Gilgamesh the king, so now he has related your abominable behavior, your foul and hideous acts” (50).
Still as enraged as ever, Ishtar begins to take matters into her own hands, threatening to unleash the gates of Hell and bring confusion and death among the living people of the land if Anu does not give her the Bull of Heaven to kill Gilgamesh. This brings Anu to a bit of rage as well, giving a counter-threat in which there will be 7 years of fruitless crops among the lands if Ishtar unleashes the gates of hell. This event is symbolic of the fact that women have, and still do, play a very important role in determining both the fate of men and humankind, itself.
And since this particular goddess did not get her way, she completely lashed out among Gilgamesh, Enkidu and the people of Uruk. Immediately, she unleashed the Bull of heaven upon Gilgamesh and Enkidu, but the bull was no match for the fighting duo and was defeated. However, 300 souls of Uruk died because of Ishtar’s rampage and immature fury. One very large turning point in the fate of Enkidu, other than the event of Gilgamesh’s rejection of Ishtar, occurs following the killing of the Bull of Heaven.
When Enkidu himself slashes off the side of the bull, he becomes a target of future retribution when he threatens to do the same to Ishtar saying, “If I could lay my hands on you, it is this I should do to you, and lash the entrails to your side” (53). Because of these actions, Enkidu will be haunted by a terrible dream that presents a terrible fate. In his dream the four gods, Anu, Enlil, Ea and Shamash gather together saying, “because they have killed the Bull of Heaven, and because they have killed Humbaba who guarded the Cedar Mountain one of the two must die” (55).
Yet, this is not what all of the Gods want, for Shamash wanted both to live. Following his dream, Enkidu gets up saddened and bitterly angered by his fate and begins to curse everything around him. He even cursed the harlot who brought him into manhood and wisdom. However, the god Shamash convicts him and asks why he does such things when he has been given so much. Because of Shamash’s words, Enkidu immediately begins to act differently, reversing his actions and silly curses. He also begins to beg the gods to allow him to make up for his actions in order to save his life, but the curse of the gods continued to lay hold of him.
For twelve days, Enkidu laid on his bed dying in sickness, while Gilgamesh sat next to him comforting him and trying to relieve him of his pain. It was too little an effort, unfortunately, as Enkidu finally succumbed to his fate, leaving his brother tearful along his side. Gilgamesh is left to wonder why such fate was given to his brother. After all, it was he who did the most damage to the ego of the goddess Ishtar. This horrible tragedy leaves a permanent scare on Gilgamesh as he will soon hunt for his eternal destiny.
Like so many of the gods in literary history, humankind is solely under their will practically all the time. It is the gods’ show and the humans are their puppets. It is not all surprising to think how such a literary form as The Epic of Gilgamesh was written in order to explain the origin of man as well as his fate. Since Gilgamesh decided to upset the goddess Ishtar and Enkidu lashed out and threatened her, the will of the gods must somehow act because of the duo’s actions, thus continuing their divine control and craftsmanship.