Gilgamesh and The Quest Myth

Are Gilgamesh and Enkidu Heroes?

  • A hero is often considered a model for the community. Is either Gilgamesh or Enkidu an example the Sumerian community should emulate?
  • A hero is a reflection of fame, honor, and/or greatness. Our heroes do more than we do, and they do it better than we do. In what ways are the two capable of great acts of fame, strength, and courage?
  • A hero is one who leads by serving others. Do either of the two do this?
  • A hero is one who changes in vital ways. Does Gilgamesh change in any important ways by the end of the story? Is he the same or a different person?

The Quest Myth

myth: "An anonymous, essentially religious formulation of the cosmic view of a people which explains the nature of the universe or the behavior that leads to success for its members."

  • a cosmic view of a people
  • the nature of the universe
  • behavior leading to success

A second definition from Mark Shorer: "A large controlling image that gives philosophical meaning to the facts of ordinary life."

Common themes in myths include the creation of the world, the role of the gods, the explanation for natural phenomena, the purpose of death and existence, and the role of heroes.

quest: "A hero leaves the security of home and undertakes an ordeal that tests his or her powers. Temporarily defeated, the obstacles are overcome, and either the hero returns in triumph or in a new state of understanding."

The Elements of the Quest Myth in Gilgamesh's Search

Leaves home pages 30-32 -- Gilgamesh goes in search of the secret of eternal life.
Test of powers pages 32-33 -- Gilgamesh journeys through the great darkness and challenges the Ferryman.
Defeat and understanding pages 38-40 -- Gilgamesh fails in the two tasks he is given. Why is this important

pages 35, 39 -- Utnapishtim teaches Gilgamesh about life. What is this?

Triumph and/or new understanding pages 40-41 -- Does Gilgamesh finally learn the purpose of life?

"All manner of thing shall be well/ When the tongues of flame are in-folded/ Into the crowned knot of fire/ And the fire and the rose are one." -- T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding