Epic of Gilgamesh
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In the quest story of The Epic of Gilgamesh, the protagonist Gilgamesh journeys through the stages of separation, initiation, and reconciliation in the search of immortality. “The narrative focused on the exploits of an epic hero”(litracy.com) The first stage of the quest is the call. “The call to adventure sets the story by disrupting the hero’s ordinary world.”(Vogler) We notice everything is going to start changing when Enkidu gets sick. Soon after he gets sick Enkidu has a dream that a “grim reaper” took him to the place of death. Soon after that Enkidu died. He had never suffered injustice before the death of Enkidu.
Fearing that he will die Gilgamesh decides to go on a quest for immortality. “To go on a quest is to look for something one does not have.”(Auden) He though that he was entitled to immortality since he was two thirds god. Gilgamesh could have refused the call but he chose to go because he wanted to become immortal. After a long journey Gilgamesh reaches the mountains of Mashu. But before he can enter the passage that leads to the land of the gods he must cross the threshold. The threshold is when the hero is about to start his true journey. As he a reaches the mountain there is a guardian there. “Helpers with their knowledge or magical power to help the hero” (Auden3) He is the man scorpion and his mate. The scorpion warns Gilgamesh that he will fail on his journey. Gilgamesh explains that he is not going on the journey for himself but for Enkidu who has lost his life. Even after that the scorpion keeps warning Gilgamesh that no mortal has ever crossed the mountains and that he will surely fail, Gilgamesh still decides to keep on going on his journey.
After Gilgamesh crosses the threshold he being his true journey. “Crossing the threshold signifies the hero has finally committed to the journey.”(Vogler 1)This part of the quest is the decent. At first Gilgamesh must pass through the mountains in 12 leagues of complete darkness. After he completes this task he enters the land of the gods. He has finally left the land of mortals thinking is ready to become a god. Many of the gods tell him to turn back but he doesn’t. They told him this because they knew he was not yet strong enough to receive immortality. Soon after he meets Suduri she keeps telling him that he will fail, in his rage Gilgamesh destroys the boat of Urshanabi not knowing he will need it to cross the sea. Soon after destroying the boat Gilgamesh meets Urshanabi. Gilgamesh asks him if there is any way that he can still reach Utnapishtim and Urshanabi responds by saying that he must use his body as the sail of the boat. This is one of Gilgamesh tests to prove that he is worthy to receive immortality. “The hero must prepare himself for the greater ordeals.”(Vogler 1) After a long journey they finally arrive to the land of Utnapishtim.
He approaches them wondering why the boat had been destroyed and Gilgamesh told him that he was there to receive the gift of immortality from him. He refuses Gilgamesh and tells him the story of the ark to show him how difficult it is to actually receive immortality from the gods. After the story Gilgamesh still believes he is worthy of being a god. He begs Utnapishtim for a challenge to prove that he is worthy. This start the hero’s main obstacle or into the abyss. ”Decent into hell.”(wiki.answers.com 1) Utnapishtim agrees to give Gilgamesh a challenge. He tells Gilgamesh that he must stay awake for 7 day and nights, but as soon as Utnapishtim left Gilgamesh fell asleep, failing the challenge. After 7 days of sleeping Gilgamesh awoke and Utnapishtim showed him for how long he had slept.
After realizing this Gilgamesh became afraid that he was going to die. As Gilgamesh awoke Utnapishtim spoke to Urshanabi as well telling him that he was banished from the land of the gods and that he should go home with Gilgamesh. Seeing that Gilgamesh had fail put sorrow into the heart of Utnapishtim’s wife, so she begged her husband to show them the way to the fountain of cleansing and the fruit of immortality. So Utnapishtim told Gilgamesh where the fountain was located and that he could find the fruit under its waters. Utnapishtim told Gilgamesh that after he entered the fountain that he would change and his clothes would remain clean until he was home. So Gilgamesh and Urshanabi set of towards the fountain. Heading into the next stage of the quest the transformation of the character. When they arrived there Gilgamesh entered the waters. The clothes that made him look so human drifted away he received a bright white tunic befitting a god. After he had been washed and he resembled a true god, he dove into the water grabs the fruit even though it cut his hand with its thrones he held on. He has so happy. He finally got what he was searching for, he had immortality in his hands, but he was careless with it.
This leads us to the atonement the 7th stage of the quest. As Gilgamesh and Urshanabi prepared to leave Gilgamesh had not been paying close attention to the great gift he had just received. A serpent leaped out of the water snatching the fruit from him hands than disappearing below the water never to be seen again. Than Gilgamesh wept, knowing that he had failed on him journey. He knew he would not be able to receive another fruit or even to go back to the land of the gods.
He now knew that even though he may be two thirds god and only one third human that he must die like everyone else does. He had no hope or strength left to do anything else. ”In reading epic of Gilgamesh we celebrate what makes us human.”(Brown 1) “the hero has completed his journey and must make his way back to the ordinary world.”(Vogler 2)So he and Urshanabi began the return, the final part of their quest. Even though he had failed on his journey Gilgamesh became stronger for all the trial he had faced and overcome. He came back to Uruk to lead his people as a true king should. In the end we find that the story was written by Gilgamesh on a stone tablet. ”To deny its narration is to deny its existence.”(Brown 1)
Auden, W. H. Http://agi.seaford.k12.de.us/sites/cmarine/apenglish12/AP%20Lit%20Summer%20Assignment%20Resources/Auden’s%20concept%20of%20the%20Quest%20Hero/auden.pdf. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2012. <http://agi.seaford.k12.de.us/sites/cmarine/apenglish12/AP%20Lit%20Summer%20Assignment%20Resources/Auden’s%20concept%20of%20the%20Quest%20Hero/auden.pdf>. Brown, Arthur A. “EAWC Essay: Storytelling, the Meaning of Life, and The Epic of Gilgamesh.” EAWC Essay: Storytelling, the Meaning of Life, and