Gilgamesh and the Monomyth
The Monomyth, a theory perfected by Joseph Campbell, is a “hero’s journey in a story that refers to a basic pattern found in many narratives from around the world” (Campbell 2). The Monomyth is divided into three stages: Separation, Initiation, and Return. In these three stages, there are a total of seventeen sub-stages that explain each stage in specific detail. The Epic of Gilgamesh fulfills the stages of Separation and Initiation, but it does not fit the third stage, Return. Specifically, Gilgamesh supports the sub-stages of Call to Adventure, Supernatural Aid, and The Ultimate Boon. Gilgamesh does not support the magic flight and the master of two worlds in the Return stage.
The sub-stage, Call to Adventure, is when “the hero starts off in a mundane situation of normality from which some information is received that acts as a call to head off into the unknown” (Campbell 8). In Gilgamesh, the Call to Adventure is shown when Enkidu tells Gilgamesh about an immortal creature named Humbaba that protects the realm of the Cedar Forest. Gilgamesh’s desire for eternal fame compels him to accept the challenge. In Joseph Campbell’s theory of the Monomyth, he says, “This fateful region of both treasure and danger may be variously represented: as a distant land, a forest, a secret island, lofty mountaintop…” (Campbell 8). The Epic of Gilgamesh was a Call to Adventure because Gilgamesh travels to a distant forest in hopes of acquiring the treasure, eternal fame. He also faces danger, which is the battle between the all mighty immortal Humbaba and Gilgamesh.
The next sub-stage, Supernatural Aid, is “once the hero has committed to the quest, consciously or unconsciously, his or her guide and magical helper appears, or becomes known” (Campbell 10). Gilgamesh is helped by a goddess named Shamash that helps him in various parts of his journey through the Cedar Forest. During the fight with Humbaba, Shamash helps Gilgamesh by “rais[ing] up.