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Theme Of Mortality In The Epic Of Gilgamesh

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The Epic of Gilgamesh: A Hero’s Journey
Several themes are addressed throughout the Epic of Gilgamesh, but the most prominent lies within the confrontation and acceptance of mortality. Gilgamesh—king of Uruk, ambitious builder, and bravest of mercenaries—seems to be blessed by a combination of two-thirds godliness and one-third manliness, yet plagued by his very own immoderation and naivety. The hero is witnessed engaging in the molestation of his women and exhausting Uruk’s people with manual labor and physical challenges. Gilgamesh fails to recognize the negative impact it has on those dearest, ultimately finding himself alone. It is not until he is outmatched by his equivalent rival, Enkidu, that the king’s hostile tendencies are
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[Only] the gods can dwell forever with Shamash.
As for human beings, their days are numbered, and whatever they keep trying to achieve is but wind!
Now you are afraid of death— what has become of your bold strength?
I will go in front of you, and your mouth can cry out: Go on closer, do not be afraid!
Should I fall, I will have established my fame.
(Foster. II, 228-237)

This entrance into the mind of Gilgamesh invites the audience to believe that while death is nearly certain for all mortals, one can seal the fate of their name by accomplishing substantial deeds and trials, such as defeating Humbaba, the great guardian of the cedar forest. While his surefire confidence in the face of battle could potentially prove fatal, there remains an element of resilience and selfishness in his tone, one that climbs out from the text and directly addresses the audience. In the context of myth, the hero’s quest resonates within us; each one of us has a quest in life and the “hero” takes on many different features and faces. Gilgamesh’s fruitful words harmonize with our own realities of achieving fame and fortune by employing an assertive pattern for how life should be carried out: boldly and fearlessly. From a humanitarian point of view, there are individuals today who believe that acting in one’s own self-interest is the best way to
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