Elements of the Hero's Quest in the Epic of Gilgamesh

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Elements of the Hero's Quest in The Epic of Gilgamesh Throughout literature of nearly all times, there has been the tale of a hero and his journey. No matter how different the heroes of these stories are, there are always similarities in the tales. Usually, the hero begins by crossing a threshold from the known to the unknown, then though the actual journey. During the journey the hero goes though a physical and spiritual initiation where they will either continue successfully or stay behind with a feeling of incompleteness or defeat. Unfortunately, if the hero is successful, he will lose something, like a loved one or a prized possession. The hero must also return to a less thrilling life than he lead before. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, three important elements of the hero's quest are shown separation, initiation and the return. Without separation, there is no reason for a journey. In the beginning of the story, the gods are angry with Gilgamesh and send down an equal of him, they send down Enkidu. When Gilgamesh hears of the existence of Enkidu, a wild and uncivilized man, Gilgamesh knows he must tame him. Eventually, Gilgamesh sends a woman to entice Enkidu and lure him into the city where Gilgamesh wrestles the wild man. Gilgamesh "turns to Enkidu who leaned against his shoulder and looked into his eyes and saw himself in the other, just as Enkidu saw himself in Gilgamesh" The two become friends once they discover they are equal. Gilgamesh decides the two should "go to kill the Evil One, Humbaba. They must prove themselves more powerful than he" (27), and they cross the threshold together. In their fight with Humbaba, Enkidu is killed and Gilgamesh is determined, because of the fear of his own death, to go on a quest for everlasting life. Once the hero to be crosses the threshold, he is initiated as a true hero once he passes a series of trials.

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