The Epic Hero: Gilagamesh
Types of Epics • Folk—stories about heroes, originally recited or sung as entertainment at feasts. Passed from generation to generation in the oral tradition (passing of material by word-of-mouth) until finally written down. • Literary—written by a specific author, usually borrowing the style and characteristics of the folk epic.
Elements of the Epic • Epic Hero—brave, loyal, virtuous, although sometimes flawed. • Epic Conflict—the hero’s struggle against an obstacle or series of obstacles. • Heroic Quest—a perilous journey in search of something of value to his people. • Divine Intervention—the hero receives help (or an obstacle) from a god or other supernatural force.
The Epic Convention • Opening Statement of themeand the invocation to a muse (an appeal for supernatural help in telling the story. • “in media res”—Greek for “in the middle” of things. Readers are plunged into the middle of the action.
The Epic Conventions (Con’t) • Epic Simile—elaborate or extended comparisons using “like” or “as.” • Stock Epithet—standard name or descriptive phrase used throughout the epic; the audience at the time would recognize.
Gilgamesh: The Prologue •Gilgamesh — King of Uruk •He is 2/3 god and 1/3 human (Unusual Birth!) •Emphasizes Gilgamesh’s legacy and enduring contributions. (Opening statement of theme.)
The Battle With Humbaba Characters: • Gilgamesh • Enkidu—Gilgamesh’s best friend • Humbaba the Giant • Enlil—God of earth, wind, air, and agriculture
Plot Summary •Enkidu is created by the gods to keep Gilgamesh busy. •He first lives as a wild animal, but after losing a wrestling match to Gilgamesh, they become friends. •They battle Humbaba, the giant of the cedar forest. •Although he begs for his life, they cut off his head and bring it to the god Enil (who is not very happy about it!)
Elements of the Epic/Archetypes • Epic Hero—Gilgamesh • Epic conflict—The battle with Humbaba • Epic quest—to rid the land of danger • Divine Intervention—Enlil is angry and gives away Humbaba’s “splendors.” • Archetypes—warrior, best friend, monster, victory over a great foe, etc.
Enkidu’s DREAM of the Underworld Characters: • Enkidu (speaking to Gilgamesh) • Ereshkigal (Queen of the Underworld) • Belit-Sheri (Keeper of the Book of Death)
Plot Summary •Enkidu dreams of his own death. •Death is a house of dust, filled with dead royalty, gods, and goddesses. •When Belit-Sheri asks, “Who has brought this one here?” Enkidu awakens.
Elements of the Epic/Archetypes • Divine Intervention—The Queen of the Underworld sends him back to life. • Archetypes—best friend
The Story of the Flood Characters: • Gilgamesh • Utnapishtim • Urshanabi • Ea (god of water and wisdom) • Enlil
Plot Summary •After Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh goes on a quest for immortality. •Utnapishtim tells him how he survived theflood sent by the gods when humans became too noisy. •Ea warned him and told him to build a boat for himself, his family, and his animals. •On the seventh day the storm ended. •After grounding on a mountain he sent birds to find land. •Enlil was angry at first, but after Ea’s intervention granted them immortality.
Elements of the Epic/Archetypes • Divine intervention—Enlil and Ea • Archetypes—the flood story, travel over water, birds, washing with water, serpent
The Return Characters: • Gilgamesh • Utnapishtim and his wife • Urshanabi (the ferryman)
Plot Summary •Gilgamesh tries to stay awake for seven nights but fails. (They mark the time with bread.) •Urshanabi takes him to find the flower of immortality. •Gilgamesh dives deep to get it, only to lose it to a serpent. •After returning to Uruk, he gains “immortality” by writing his story in stone.
Elements of the Epic/Archetypes • Hero—Gilgamesh • Quest—to bring immortality to Uruk • Conflict—with himself and the snake Archetypes—travel across water, cleansing,serpent, road of trials, wisdom learned