Professor Craig Callender
September 14, 2015
The Epic of Gilgamesh: A Close Reading
The Epic of Gilgamesh links various themes and allegories through the story of the gods and Gilgamesh. When taking a short passage and closely analyzing it, we can see how this story shows similarities to Adam and Eve and a clear cultural difference towards prostitution, a different view towards gods and religion as a whole, and the importance of immortality and what ways it can be achieved. Closely reading these passages can tell use more about the context of the story from the times it was written, and why this story has lasted through time.
Starting in tablet 1, line 141, Shamhat is summoned to use her skills to stop Enkidu from acting as a wild beast, and setting all the trapper’s food free. Line 159 the trapper tells Shamhat “perform for this primitive the task of womankind! His animals, who grew up in his wilderness, will become alien to him, and his lust will groan over you.” This is a very different cultural view than we have today in several manners. First, Shamhat is almost being praised for her sexuality. Sexuality is perceived as a power that she can hold over man to accomplish great deeds. Today, while women are still oversexualized, this would be unacceptable. No one believes that a woman can accomplish unthinkable deeds through sexual actions. Having sex does not humanize a beast. There is also irony in this because today this would be seen as a beast like action to go into the woods and fornicate on the forest floor. The forest is a place for animals. This also begins to show similarities to the Garden of Eden. Having sex will strip Enkidu of his animal aspects and he will gain newfound knowledge of the world. This is again emphasized starting on line 175 when describing Enkidu. It says “[he] was diminished, his running was not as before. But then he drew himself up, for his understanding had broadened.” This is similar to the...