Importance Of Nature In The Epic Of Gilgamesh

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The Epic of Gilgamesh is one of civilization’s first (still known) pieces of literature, and yet it’s themes over reach any ancient context and stretch toward the modern day. The plight of Gilgamesh to find someone who understands him, to find glory, to find immortality, reverberates across the boundaries of centuries into the minds of readers of any class and culture. Even more haunting is Enkidu, the character born of the wild who civilizes the brutish Gilgamesh and makes one wonder what it is to be human. Enkidu brings up some startlingly relevant points, not only about human nature, but about man’s relationship to nature. In the current global conversation about sustainability, climate change, and earth’s ever dwindling resources, it seems …show more content…
Humbaba threatens the life of Gilgamesh, saying “I will feed his flesh to the locust bird, ravening eagle and vulture!” (Epic of Gilgamesh 5, line 94). It’s worth pointing out that Humbaba’s death threat has to do with killing Gilgamesh and returning him to the beasts of nature. Humbaba is taking the source of Enkidu’s corruption and returning him to the natural world he has spurned. It’s interesting then that Gilgamesh becomes afraid and hesitant at this opportunity to slay Humbaba, saying “Though boldly we came up to his lair to defeat him, yet my heart will not quickly…” (Epic of Gilgamesh 5, lines 97-98). The rest of the text is lost, but it is implied that Gilgamesh feels fear in the face of the mighty and terrifying Humbaba. It is actually Enkidu who encourages him saying, “Why, my friend, [do you] speak like a weakling?” (Epic of Gilgamesh 5, line 100). It’s contradictory that Enkidu abandons his home and his people (the creatures of the wilderness) to be with Gilgamesh, and he is actually the one to encourage Gilgamesh to kill Humbaba. Enkidu seems to have completely changed his values, and realigned his entire life with the wants and needs of …show more content…
The entire character of Enkidu seems to be absorbed into the narrative of Gilgamesh. Enkidu was made for Gilgamesh, designed by the gods to pacify the untamed Gilgamesh wreaking havoc on Uruk. One can argue that Enkidu’s eventual death only further emphasizes his place in the Epic as a tool for the transformation of Gilgamesh rather than a separate fully formed character. Gilgamesh pulls Enkidu out of his place in nature, from his home where he is pure, and yet Enkidu is the one who brings humanity to Gilgamesh. However, in the process of civilizing Gilgamesh Enkidu is stripped of his humanity. Enkidu turns from a product of nature to a man willing to kill the creatures of his homeland and destroy the beautiful cedar forest. I read this not as a transformation of a beast into a man, but of an untarnished creature into a savage. It’s Gilgamesh who insists they kill Humbaba and its Gilgamesh who, through his own folly, gets Enkidu killed. The character of Enkidu thus serves no purpose, but to facilitate the evolution of

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