Man and Nature

Despite having been one of the earliest stories ever in recorded history, The Epic of Gilgamesh remains largely something that people in modern day America, thousands of miles away and thousands of years since it’s writing, can understand. As discussed in the previous blog post, it contains one of the most common writing schemes in writing, the hero’s journey, as well as portrays easily understood characters, such as a king, a man raised by wolves, and evil foes. The titular character of the story is described by a deity in the story to be very much like many greek demigod

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Enkidu (right) and Gilgamesh (left) in a ceramic tablet portrayal.

s, “A goddess made him, strong as a savage bull, none can withstand his arms. No son is left with his father, for Gilgamesh takes them all; and is this the king, the shepherd of his people?” In the same paragraph, Enkidu, a being made by the gods to stop Gilgamesh from being so arrogant, is described as the typical ‘Tarzan’ like character: “His body was rough, he had long hair like a woman’s; it waved like the hair of Nisaba, the goddess of corn. His body was covered with matted hair like Samugan’s, the god of cattle. He was innocent of mankind; he knew nothing of the cultivated land.” These descriptors set the two characters on either side of the spectrum of lifestyles; Enkidu representing the purity and innocence of nature, Gilgamesh representing the opulence and governance of civilization.
When the two join forces to fight a savage beast in the forests outside of Gilgamesh’s kingdom, Humbaba, the author shows that the two forces, nature and civilization, fit perfectly together to stop the impending danger. When Humbaba threatens Gilgamesh with warnings impending doom, Enkidu tells him that all he says is lies, and helps to push him into doing what he wanted in the first place rather than what the evil gods above persuaded him to, which ends with this line that shows their equal hand in securing peace; “Gilgamesh listened to the word of his companion, he took the axe in his hand, he drew the sword from his belt, and he struck Humbaba with a thrust of the sword to the neck, and Enkidu his comrade struck the second blow. At the third blow Humbaba fell.” Gilgamesh and Enkidu symbolize the need of man to consider both sides of what could be considered a coin of sorts; where one side represents the needs of security and safety and the other represents the needs and desires consistent with nature.
The original telling of Gilgamesh shows the bond that is naturally made and so very necessary to the survival of both earth and humanity, and by directly defying the deities of the time who only wanted to do evil, they show the need for self reliance rather than total reliance on outside forces that may not show the best of intentions. This dichotomy is often discussed in modern writing with the man vs nature trope and even in current events today, giving the epic context to readers from a different era entirely due to it’s simplistic yet understandable plot.

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One thought on “Man and Nature

  1. You do a good job here of making meaning of the story of Gilgamesh. Your quotes go a long way in helping your reader see the interpretation and points you are making. I am wondering about how this story adds to our understanding of the hero’s journey. If you are focusing on journeys, what does this story say about them? What does the nature vs. civilization dichotomy add to our understanding about this?

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