Humanity In Gilgamesh

Decent Essays
“I have understanding that you have not”: Constructing Humanity in Gilgamesh

In Tablet VII of The Epic of Gilgamesh, Enkidu’s last days on Earth are marked by anguish and self-pity. This outburst of anger is a uniquely human response to trauma, acting as a bookend for Enkidu’s transformation from wild to civilized through his relationship to humanity. In his rage, Enkidu “lifted [his eyes as though to the door,] / he talked with the door as if [with a man:]” (p55). The cedar doors that he and Gilgamesh fastened on the exterior gates of Uruk taunt Enkidu, reminded him of how he is responsible for his own fate, and his mistakes are his alone to make. The cedar doors had been constructed to serve two purposes for Enkidu and Gilgamesh: as a trophy of war celebrating their defeat of Humbaba, and as a means of securing their legacy by contributing to the safety and grandeur of Uruk. Enkidu’s spiteful tone towards these doors, then, symbolizes dual aspects of humanity: the desire to dominate nature in order to facilitate creation, and the eternal conflict between creators and their creations.
This first aspect of humanity revealed through Enkidu’s interactions with the cedar door is the process of dominating nature in order to create something grander. Enkidu’s background is that of a wild creature that became civilized in order to be Gilgamesh’s equal. At different points in the epic, Enkidu both civilizes Gilgamesh and encourages him towards restlessness and adventure.
Get Access