The Epic of Gilgamesh shows the struggle of an individual who is not fully god, and not fully man.With such a drastic difference between these two groups, he doesn’t quite fit in with either.Throughout his life, he is tested mentally and physically, and through his responses, he begins to understand himself.Gilgamesh is the struggle between humans and gods, all wrapped up into one person. In his quest for immortality, he not only learns what it means to be human, but also rises above the pettiness of the gods.
The introduction of Enkidu seems to be a bit off topic atfirst, as it goes into great detail about how he lived in union with the animals, and his extensive love affair with Shamhat.Linda Cassleman explains this in her article “Decoding the Epic of Gilgamesh”.In it, she explains that sex for pleasure was quite sacred, being a civilizing force that set humans apart from animals.
Likewise, this relates to immortality, which is what set the gods apart from humans.After his affair with Shamhat, the animals reject Enkidu, just as the gods have rejected Gilgamesh. It seems to be a bit hypocritical that the same gods that would flood a city for no reason other than a bit of an annoyance, would disapprove of the cruelty by which Gilgamesh ruled, and create a being to stop him.
This was, however, the purpose of Enkidu, as he tells Gilgamesh, “I am here to match some fate with you (Epic, 2:83).”Their relationship has a rough start, as Gilgamesh feels threatened by Enkidu’s intrusion, but they soon find balance and friendship.As Casselman explains, they represent the two sides of humankind, with Enkidu being the instinct, and Gilgamesh representing the intellect.Together, they face Gilgamesh’sfirst trial, fighting the beast Humbaba.
Upon returning, Gilgamesh is faced with another trial, the temptress Ishtar.After he refuses her, Ishtar throws a tantrum and insists her father, Anu, send down a bull to devour..