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A Hero’s Death
The Epic of Gilgamesh is the earliest recorded heroic saga. Put down to tablet in the cradle of civilization, Mesopotamia. In tells of the tyrannical, yet mighty King, Gilgamesh. He wasn’t like other men, being two thirds divine, he had legs that were nine feet long and muscle like rock.
There’s a certain power that comes with the ancient, heroic saga. They offer a taste of real human nature. Not the fantasy crap we get in modern culture and superheroes. They also reveal what it means to be heroic, to be a man in nature, as well as offer us glimpses of a forgotten primeval world.
The massive king had nine feet long legs. Is he some man giant hybrid? Is his eternal fren, Enkidu, half Neanderthal? Also, the epic speaks of a flood like the biblical flood. Did the Christians get the idea of the flood from the Sumerians?
Modern culture is filled with weak men afraid of death.
“Men” are stacking vaccines to save themselves from wuhan flu like Rich Piana stacked his shear natural talent to build muscle. They’re so afraid of dying alone in a hospital they’ve forsaken life entirely. Now — I too, don’t want to die in the longhouse, but like a man with an ounce of common sense, I choose to trust in tried and true ways of fighting disease. Sun and steel.
Early on in Gilgamesh, the king makes a powerful call to action to his fren Enkidu to go with him to slay the Guardian of the Cedar Forest, Humbaba the Terrible. Gilgamesh understands his mortality and he wants to leave his mark on the world by vanquishing the monster. Enkidu however, wants no part in this quest, believing they won’t succeed.
Gilgamesh — through shear strength of will — convinces Enkidu to join him. They travel to the forest, a journey taking six days. Each night, a ritual to their victory is performed by Enkidu and each night Gilgamesh awakens in terror from a vision. Enkidu interprets each nightmare vision as a sign leading to their victory.
When they finally reach the forest, Enkidu loses his resolve and wants to return to their city in shame as a coward. Gilgamesh talks him through it, but he too almost falters at the entrance to Humbaba’s den. This time Enkidu talks him through it and they face the guardian together.
This part of the epic perfectly depicts the human condition. How often do men talk tough before a fight, only to encounter terrible fear before the battle, to find themselves face to face with cowardice? In the Iliad, warlords spent much time coaxing their men to action by appealing to their honor by questioning their courage.
No man wants to called a coward. Like true frens, Gilgamesh and Enkidu protect each other’s honor. Their tale however, isn’t like the superhero movies we’ve grown accustomed to. The soy mind wouldn’t be able to appreciate this epic.
Part of the power of the Epic of Gilgamesh is the journey of Gilgamesh.
The hero’s journey is well known, but the journey of Gilgamesh though it shares some similarities does not offer any satisfaction. I would argue however, it coincides with the pursuit of the Great Work.
Most men aren’t acquainted with death. They think they’ll live forever(even as they under no one does). There’s no attention spent to how they’ll leave their mark on the world. It’s just mindless comfort seeking degeneracy. This is what makes Gilgamesh’s strong desire to face Humbaba so powerful in the modern age.
It’s not that Humbaba is some threat to Uruk, Gilgamesh’s kingdom. He’s not terrorizing the city’s inhabitants like Grendel in Beowulf. He’s the Guardian of the Cedar Forest. This is purely Gilgamesh seeking immortal glory. Wanting some way to leave his legacy behind, to be remembered.
This ninnie society would scoff at this, but ancient heroes would understand the emotions of Gilgamesh in the blood.
Gilgamesh is far from the superhero archetype. In the beginning, he’s a tyrant king who puts the men under him into indentured servitude and lays claim to virginity of all the females under his rule. He does however, become a benevolent king by the end of the epic.
His journey to find eternal life is striking. Unlike Herakles who is purified and made into a god at death, everlasting life is denied to Gilgamesh by the gods. He meets the last man to be made immortal at the edge of the world, Utnapishtim, who survived the great flood that wiped out mankind.
This immortal gives Gilgamesh a chance to become a god. But to do this he must stay awake for seven days. Gilgamesh fails terribly. He must return to Uruk ragged, old, and mortal, but his epic however…