The Epic of Gilgamesh

Enkidu's Deathbed Realization

Enkidu's Deathbed Realization

The heartbreaking scenes in the seventh tablet of The Epic of Gilgamesh describe Enkidu's deathbed realization that his friendship with Gilgamesh was a one-sided affair. In this scene, Enkidu lies dying and feeling abandoned by Gilgamesh. In his death throes, "Enkidu's innards were churning / lying there so alone" (Kovacs 64). Just before he dies, Enkidu cries out "my friend hates me...my friend who I saved in battle has now abandoned me" (Kovacs 66). This agonizing deathbed realization of the limitations of their friendship calls for a reevaluation of the nature of the friendship between Gilgamesh and Enkidu.

At the outset, Enkidu and Gilgamesh have such inconsistent roles that Enkidu's deathbed realization seems it should have been obvious. As the story opens, Gilgamesh is described as taking advantage of his subjects. Although the nature of his acts is not entirely clear, we are left with the impression of Gilgamesh as undisciplined and out of control. Guided only by his "stormy heart" and great physical strength, Gilgamesh is not a good ruler and needs to be brought into line. There is no indication in the text that Gilgamesh is seeking a relationship...

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