Gilgamesh and the Concept of Friendship Essay Example



As one of the oldest pieces of literature, the Epic of Gilgamesh offers a variety of themes, one of them being friendship; especially the friendship between Gilgamesh and Enkidu. Created by gods, Gilgamesh had courage, strength, and was two-thirds god and one-third man. Under his rule, the people of Uruk were dissatisfied because Gilgamesh took with force. No man in Uruk was his equal; in courage, size or strength. Enkidu, created from clay, was a wild man created by goddess Aruru to be Gilgamesh's equal in power. Throughout Gilgamesh, the friendship between Gilgamesh and Enkidu is conveyed in more ways than one. The use of loyalty, grief, and immortality emphasize to an extent how Enkidu ultimately impacted Gilgamesh becoming selfless. 

One of the factors used to convey the impact Enkidu had on Gilgamesh was the use of loyalty. Upon meeting, Gilgamesh and Enkidu clash after Enkidu protects a bride from Gilgamesh; though Gilgamesh wins, ironically a fast friendship develops between the two men. Though this friendship develops due to beneficial gains, mostly on Gilgamesh's part in wanting fame and legacy; it later becomes apparent that both become loyal to one another, vowing to protect each other (Adler). 

An example of this loyalty is when Gilgamesh and Enkidu set out to kill Humbaba, the protector of the Cedar Forest. With their combined efforts, Gilgamesh and Enkidu kill Humbaba after his plea to live by saying, "Let me go free, Gilgamesh," in the end, Gilgamesh offers Humbaba's severed head to Enlil (Adler). Another example of loyalty between the two is when the goddess Ishtar, rejected by Gilgamesh sends the bull of heaven to Uruk with the intent to kill Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh and Enkidu kill the bull, thus, further angering Ishtar when Enkidu throws the bull's thigh at her. Readers can see the loyalty between Enkidu and Gilgamesh as they travel on missions to slaughter monsters such as Humbaba and the Bull of Heaven. 

One other factor used to convey the impact Enkidu had on Gilgamesh is through the use of grief. On his deathbed, Enkidu comes to terms with his fate; he appreciates the comradeship and brotherhood he had shared with Gilgamesh; unfortunately for Gilgamesh, Enkidu's death devasted him. To an extent, Gilgamesh goes into denial; an example of this is when he refuses Enkidu's body to be buried for seven days and seven nights. 

Gilgamesh announces the death of Enkidu to the people of Uruk by saying, "I weep for my brother, O Enkidu, my brother," he refers to Enkidu as "the axe at my side" and his "hands strength." Gilgamesh griefs for Enkidu another way also by proclaiming a statue be built in Enkidu's honor, he summons all the coppersmiths, goldsmiths, and the stone-workers and says, "Make a statue of my friend." Gilgamesh also offers gifts to the gods to ensure an honorable reception for Enkidu in the underworld (Adler).  Through the actions of Gilgamesh in response to Enkidu's death, readers can see to the extent how much Gilgamesh loved and cared about his friend Enkidu and how Enkidu's death left Gilgamesh in loneliness. 

Another factor used to convey the impact Enkidu had on Gilgamesh is through the use of immortality. Gilgamesh cried over Enkidu's body following his death for seven days and seven nights; thus, allowing his body to be buried after seeing a worm crawling out of Enkidu's nose. This incident was an epiphany for Gilgamesh, when he says, "I am afraid of death" he realized his fear of death; Gilgamesh did not want to meet the same fate as Enkidu, in result of this he sets out in search of Utnapishtun, a man-scorpion immortal believed to have survived the flood. Utnapishtun asks the reason for Gilgamesh's visit, Gilgamesh says, "For Enkidu, I loved him dearly, together we endured all kinds of hardships." Readers can see the growth of Gilgamesh at this point, and how much he valued Enkidu's life. 

Gilgamesh is disappointed after being told the possibility of immortality is nonexistent. Readers are also able to see how much of an impact the presence of Enkidu had on Gilgamesh. If Gilgamesh had not met Enkidu, he would have never known about being selfless or what it meant to care about someone other than himself. In the end, Gilgamesh returns to Uruk with Urshanabi, the boatman; in which Gilgamesh says, "Measure Uruk, the city of Gilgamesh." This signifies Gilgamesh's acceptance with his mortality, and his intent now is to become a good king to the people of Uruk. Because of Enkidu, Gilgamesh now has a new outlook on life. 

Though the Epic of Gilgamesh has various themes, one of the most significant ones is the concept of friendship. The use of loyalty explores the impact Enkidu had on Gilgamesh ultimately becoming selfless by showing how protective they were about one another; especially when it came to killing monsters such as Humbaba and the bull of heaven. 

The use of grief furthermore explores how devasted Gilgamesh was following Enkidu's death. This further signifies how much Gilgamesh loved Enkidu, other than himself. The use of immortality showed Gilgamesh's fear of death; he realized he was not invincible to the same fate as his dear friend Enkidu. It also emphasized Gilgamesh's acceptance of his mortality after Utnapishtun informs him that immortality "will never be found." These factors in a sense all correlate with one another in showing that to an extent, Enkidu contributed to shaping Gilgamesh's characteristic for the better.