In many epic works, we often see transitions in the protagonist’s character as the story progresses. This is also true in the Epic of Gilgamesh. In the beginning of the story, the protagonist, Gilgamesh appears to be an arrogant and flawless ruler who oppresses the weak but towards the end his attitude changes; he became more modest and humble. Many experiences led Gilgamesh to question his goals towards life and ultimately altered his perception.
Throughout the story, Gilgamesh act differently in many scenarios which shows the progression for his transformation; an overbearing ruler, courageous fighter, fearful and depressed man and finally as a man who is content of his possessions and achievements.
In story begins with the people in Uruk describing Gilgamesh as an overly aggressive ruler who sacrifice his warriors during fights, rapes nobles’ wives, takes whatever he pleases and tramples anyone who gets in his way. (page 100, ln 1-50) To comply with his desires and restlessness, Gilgamesh sets off with Enkidu to slay the beast Humbaba hoping to gain fame.
The other side of Gilgamesh begins to surface from this event, instead of a fearless and oppressive ruler that he was describe as, we can see Gilgamesh in fear trying to seeks for guidance. Surprisingly, Gilgamesh begins to face despair during his journey to battle Humbaba. Gilgamesh begins to make offerings to Shamash for help. Several dreams bring Gilgamesh doubts but with the reassurance from Enkidu, he is able to overcome the distress and defeat the demon Humbaba.
“My friend, your dream is favorable, The dream is very precious as an omen… Further at dawn the word of Shamash will be in our favor. (116: Lines 26-31) During this journey, not only did Gilgamesh experience fear but the feelings of brotherhood, love and compassion; Gilgamesh would speak to Enkidu about his fears and would embrace each other during the nights for warmth. Gilgamesh continues to be transformed by his friendship with Enkidu. Enkidu eventually suffers a mysterious illness cast by the Gods, mainly due to Gilgamesh’s actions. Gilgamesh rejects the God of Love’s advances; she takes retribution by taking the life of Enkidu.
The death of Enkidu causes Gilgamesh to grieve for six days and seven nights until a worm fell out of his nose. Gilgamesh is struck low by this turn of events. “How can I be silent? How can I hold my peace? My friend whom I loved…Shall I too not lie down like him. ” (page. 138,ln 58-62) The loss of Enkidu evokes an equal amount of distress and mourning for Gilgamesh, while he treasures the life of his friend, there is no doubt he treasure own life as well. The unique aspect from the grief of Gilgamesh is that it is directly connected with his fear of his own death.
By this experience Gilgamesh starts to understand his vulnerability toward death and pain. Again, Gilgamesh sparks into dismay and decides to go on a second journey to gain self-preservation. This event also shows that death is inevitable yet Gilgamesh wants to alter his fate. His second journey is different from the first; he travels alone without guidance while wearing the gourmets and furs from beast that he slays. The first journey he wanted fame equipped with weapons but during his second journey he wore fur which acts a tribute to his beloved friend Enkidu while searching for perseverance.
During the journey for eternity, none of the three characters: Ur-Shanabi, Utanapishtim, Siduri, recognizes Gilgamesh when they meet him and they all give Gilgamesh the same advice, which emphasizes that he should stop the quest. Each of them listens to Gilgamesh patiently as he describes his terror of death, and remind him that death is certain and is a part of life that we all share. The Tavern keeper, Siduri said to him, “Gilgamesh, wherefore do you wander? The eternal life you are seeking you shall not find…Make every day a delight…This,then, is the work of mankind. Even Utanapishtim, who is granted immortality, advises Gilgamesh against search for immortality. However, Gilgamesh is given a chance to obtain the secret of longevity; he have to stay awake for seven days but he fails horribly.
When Gilgamesh is ready to begin his long journey home Utanapishtim reveals a second mystery due to the urges of his wife; there is a plant that regenerates your youth. Gilgamesh finds the plant and picks it up, instead of eating it right away, he plan on sharing with the elderly in Uruk. Ur-Shanabi, this plant is cure for headache, whereby a man will regain his stamina…my carefree youth. ” (page 150: Line 298-303) Gilgamesh could have eaten the plant without hesitation but he chooses to share the plant with his people.
This event helps depict his transformation, in the beginning he was a selfish arrogant ruler but he has begin to show care for Uruk. It would seem that Gilgamesh’s quest for immortality is going to be successful, but during his journey back to Uruk a serpent steals the plant. “He went down into it to bathe in water… On its way back it shed his skin. (pages 150: Line 306-309) After the serpent steals the plant, Gilgamesh knows that death cannot be avoided, a lesson he has perhaps already learned unconsciously, since he thought to share the plant with his community. Despite being outraged Gilgamesh begins to grasp the true meaning of his existence; Gilgamesh comes to understand that the most important thing in life is to have lived and loved well. Since the outcome cannot be altered, he chooses to live every day to his fullest anticipating that one day will be his last.
He began grasp immortality from another angle; death of an individual cannot be avoided but humankind will always endure. Therefore if Gilgamesh rules Uruk well, it will continue to grow in power and fame after the unavoidable fate strikes him. Throughout one’s lifetime, one will go through various self-questioning and experiences to figure out the purpose of life. From the journey to kill Humbaba to the journey to find immortality, Gilgamesh has altered his perception of life. In the beginning, Gilgamesh is portrayed as a tyrant ruler but as the story progresses, he learn to care for his community.
Not only did he learn to appreciate his life but the lives of others. Although the story ends on the same place it began, Gilgamesh has transformed from a ruler with restless desires to a mature king that shows compassion to his people. Rather waste time searching for immortality that would not be granted, cherish and make use of the time that was granted. Gilgamesh learns to enjoy and be thankful for the life he has, a massage with no less value today than it was conceived thousands of years ago.
Cite this Transformation of Gilgamesh
Transformation of Gilgamesh. (2017, Jan 29). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/transformation-of-gilgamesh/