How very ironic. In Gilgamesh’s case, who he thought could bring his sorrows to an end only brought despair in the end.
“To weariness; I wish for something more
For part of me is missing; n’er before
Has loneliness oppressed me so; a friend
Is what I need to make these sorrows end.”
He was hopeful—upon learning through the wisdom of his mother that he was to encounter a friend, hope flooded the heart of our forlorn king. I find it funny how they met and ultimately became friends—one second they’re punching the life out of each other, and the next thing you know they’re okay. Best of friends, even. They’re almost comparable to a couple in that sense. Overlooking that fact, if there’s one thing that I like about the whole story of their meeting, it would be the fact that they stared into each other’s eyes. In that fraction of a moment, both have managed to pierce the each other’s shell, for they saw their true likeness. I believe that what Gilgamesh saw was the soul of Enkidu, his true nature, his very essence. Since then, they have formed a bond. As the story progressed, we have read about them journeying through Humbaba’s woods, them having a hard time slaying the beast, them resting from their very tiring encounter with him. We have felt Enkidu’s pain from his injuries. We have felt their combined power, strengthened by their seemingly unbreakable bond, as they slayed the Bull of Heaven. For a time, it seemed that our king was finally at ease. He was out on a quest with a dear friend, what more could he have wanted? For a time it seemed that our king finally found what he needed.
Oh, how the tables have turned.
“A constant flood of tears did wash the face
Of Gilgamesh. His soul could find no place
To rest, since painful grief did prick his heart;
A gnawing hunger deep within, apart
From other sorrows, searched the hidden nooks
About his being, like the wolf that looks
For easy, younger prey within a lair
Among the rocks, but tasting only musty air.
That hunger was the name of Enkidu;
He spoke it often, as his sorrows grew.”
He was miserable—with his only friend gone, sorrow filled the heart of our upset king. Loneliness left him and came right back like a boomerang. To be very honest, I pity our king. I feel sad for him, for he’s lonely once more. No friend, no known sibling (at least none was mentioned in the story), no any kind of being to keep him company. I, personally, share his longing for a companion. Being an only child, being alone in our house is nothing new for me. It’s hard for me, especially at times when I just want to talk to someone—nothing serious; just casual girl talk—when I’m at home. When I turn my head, I see no friend. I see no sibling. I see no companion (unless you count a cute four-year old dog who can’t understand a thing I say). With these stated, I try my best to connect with people, especially when I find a common field of interest with them. What I wonder now is why our king hasn’t made any friends. Was it his attitude? Did he seem intimidating? I suddenly think about how I come across to people as these questions continue to bug me. I have rooted for Enkidu and Gilgamesh since they became friends, and that is exactly why I felt sad to see one of them go. I cannot imagine the pain that Gilgamesh must have been feeling. There are many kinds of pain—the pain you get when your toes get stubbed, the pain you get when your favorite character in a book dies, the pain you get when your heart gets broken, the pain you get when a friend walks away from you. What hurts the most is seeing your friend leave when you can do absolutely nothing about it. Just try to imagine how hard it must have been for our king. Death just can’t be escaped.
“For Gilgamesh no longer seemed as king,
But played the common man, since sorrows bring
Confusion to the soul; he sought escape
To hide from everyone and made a cape”
He was confused—having felt the agony of losing a friend, uncertainty filled the heart of our perplexed king. Losing Enkidu brought upon our king a great deal of emotional damage. We of all people know this, since it was evident throughout the latter part of the epic. Well, losing a friend would bring upon any of us a great deal of damage. Our king no longer seemed as king. He has lost a very important part of him along with Enkidu. His sorrows were great, his confusion greater. I think that “Why must this happen to me?” is the question that our king constantly asks himself. He was confused because the world gave him Enkidu and also took him away. Gone for good, for all eternity. Ouch. Our king, badly wanting to have his friend back, just can’t stand this thought.
“I bring a heavy heart because of loss; how weak
I feel without my friend, who died; I seek
Eternal life for which to give my friend;
Then joy I’ll have and grief with sorrows end.”
He was desperate—not thinking straight, anguish filled the heart of our lonely king. Losing Enkidu drove the sanity out of him. Our king stated that he felt weak without his friend. I think that because of the aforesaid, ways on how to live eternally clouded his mind. He was willing to explore new grounds and experience all sorts of new things just to bring his friend back to life. He thinks that the only way that he’ll be happy again is by giving life to the already gone Enkidu, and making sure that he not lose him again by giving him eternal life. He was so stuck on the thought that the both of them needed to live eternally that he failed to live—at those times he was merely surviving, and the two are very different things. Gilgamesh can’t fully grasp the fact that death is irreversible. Once you’re gone, you’re gone. From these facts, I say that our king is emotionally unstable. It was obvious that he can’t handle grief well. He just can’t let go of his friend and mend his broken heart—shattered, rather. Yes, letting go will be very hard, but with the help of a few deep breaths and a comforting mother, he’ll eventually accept the fact that his friend died. I sincerely hope that this doesn’t happen to me, like, I’ll go insane when I lose someone that’s a part of my life. I definitely would not want to see myself moping around like a depressed freak. Oh dear Shamash, no.
How ironic it is to choke on your lifesaver.
Reading the Epic of Gilgamesh made me realize the pain one has to go through every time one loses a friend. It made me ponder on the thought of what power grief and loneliness contain, what it can do to you once you have felt them. Some people lose their sanity. Worse, some even lose their life. Reading this epic helped me prepare for the darker and more sinister side of emotions. Thank you, King Gilgamesh for being very expressive with how you felt.
Italicized excerpts are taken from “The Epic of Gilgamesh: A Poetic Version by Robert W. Watson”