The Epic of Gilgamesh
by: Lauren Hawkins, Clare Frederick, and Ashley Sanfilippo
How does the Epic of Gilgamesh Fit the Story of the Archetypal Hero?
Hero is Introduced in the Ordinary World
Gilgamesh was created by the Gods. He has a special birth. He is ⅔ God and ⅓ man.Gilgamesh seems like he is an unlikely hero because he is kind of a bad guy; he steals the virtues of young women and takes people’s sons.
Call to Adventure
Refusal of the Call (to Adventure)
Hero is Encouraged by Mentor, Receives Supernatural Aid
In the second half of the story, Urshanabi aids Gilgamesh in his quest. He is the ferryman and helps him get to Utnapishtim, he helps him clean up after his test, and helps him return home. He also seems to be older and wiser than Gilgamesh.
The Hero Crosses the First Threshold
In the second half of the story, Gilgamesh wanders through the pitch black forest for twelve leagues to get to the land of the Gods so that he can find Utnapishtim.
Hero Encounters Tests/Obstacles and Gains Faithful Companions
Ishtar decides to kill Gilgamesh after he refuses her marriage proposal and insults her past mistakes. She sends the Bull of Heaven after Gilgamesh, and it destroys the city. Enkidu and Gilgamesh kill it.
- Enkidu must die because they killed the Bull of Heaven, and Gilgamesh goes into a deep depression and sits by Enkidu’s body for seven days and nights before deciding to go out and find immortality.
In the second half of the story,
Gilgamesh must go out and make a new protection for the boat to cross the death waters after he destroys the original.
- Gilgamesh goes with Urshanabi and crosses the death waters to get to Utnapishtim.
- Gilgamesh reaches the land where Utnapishtim lives and demands that he tell him how to reach eternal life. Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh that he has to first endure a test - if he thinks he can stay alive for a whole eternity, surely he can stay awake for a week. Gilgamesh immediately fails his test, so Utnapishtim tells him to wash up and go home.
Hero Reaches the Innermost Cave or "Belly of the Whale"
Hero Endures the Supreme Ordeal
Hero Gains a Reward/Treasure or "Boon"
The Road Back
Gilgamesh returns home a mortal man, but he feels better about the thought of dying. He knows that he cannot be immortal, but humans and his story will live on forever.
Return with the Elixir
Gilgamesh realizes that the city he built is a beautiful, historic thing, and that his story and legacy will live on forever. He knows that doing something amazing and being remembered for it is the closest thing that a human can do to being immortal. The elixir that he brings back is the story of his quest and the knowledge that humans should not go out searching for things that they do not have. He also returns to the city a better man and leader.