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From God to Human
by
Mya McMillan

In the fall of 2000, my English/Social Studies class read The Epic of Gilgamesh. I loved that book!!! It's a much better story than anything the Greeks or Romans came up with, if you ask me. Anyway, we had to write an essay tracing Gilgamesh's evolution from god to human. This is what I wrote.


In The Epic of Gilgamesh, we read about Gilgamesh and how he goes through a metamorphosis from god to human. At first, Gilgamesh is two-thirds god and a cruel, greedy, and neglectful king. He might have always remained this way, but for the fact that a very special person came into his life. It was this person that started him on the long and difficult path towards humanity. Gilgamesh is a very different person by the end of the book.
When the story begins, Gilgamesh "worked his people almost to death building up the city walls" but then let the walls crumble to nothing. He also instigates several other oppressive laws. Gilgamesh has never been exposed to anything painful, and consequently has never felt pain. It is probably this that allows him to be so cruel to others; he cannot relate to them. Gilgamesh's first step towards humanity is when he finally meets an equal, someone who dares to challenge his authority. In this person, he begins to see everything he could be, yet isn't. And it is in this person, (whose name is Enkidu), that Gilgamesh finally finds a friend. For the first time in his life, Gilgamesh learns to care about someone other than himself.
It is this friendship that leads to the next step in Gilgamesh's transformation. Gilgamesh is determined to kill Humbaba, a monster and servant of the gods. "We must prove ourselves more powerful than he," he tells Enkidu. Gilgamesh has never failed at anything before, and does not really know the meaning of fear, or death. Despite Enkidu's warnings and pleas for Gilgamesh to change his mind, Gilgamesh sets off towards Humbaba's forest. It is only as he approaches the forest and sees the real power of Humbaba that he first begins to be afraid. And in the eventual fight with the monster, Enkidu is slain saving Gilgamesh's life. Gilgamesh is overcome by feelings of grief and guilt. "You have never cried before," Enkidu tells him as he lies dying. Consequently, these feelings are overpowering; Gilgamesh does not know how to deal with them.
Finally, determine to make right the wrong he feels he has done by bringing Enkidu back to life, Gilgamesh sets off on a quest to find the secret of immortality. He is so determined that he ignores all the warnings he receives that eternal life is not as perfect as it seems, such as "The gods never sleep." When Gilgamesh finally gains the secret of immortality, (a plant found at the bottom of the river of death), he loses it again by his own carelessness. It is this loss that finally opens his eyes, allowing him to see that death is a part of being human and allowing him to move on with his life. Gilgamesh has learned the most crucial lesson to humanity.
In the end, Gilgamesh goes back to his city, where he becomes a very wise ruler. The story of Gilgamesh could go on forever, as we have never learned every lesson to being human until we die, but it is the most important elements of humanity that The Epic of Gilgamesh deals with; life, love, and death. It is these things that everyone must learn, for better of for worse; the things that make us who we are.


This background set was created and copyrighted by Mya McMillan in 2001. If you wish to use it, please provide a link back to my website.