World Literature and Composition
November 9, 2015
Response to Prompt Three: Beowulf vs. Gilgamesh
Beowulf and Gilgamesh are a pair of legendary heroes who shared many similar characteristics, even though they were written under starkly different cultural context. Being extraordinarily strong and courageous, they are meant to be remembered as glorious heroes by its people forever. However, since the epic of Beowulf is heavily influenced by Christianity rooted in the Anglo-Saxon culture, the protagonist, Beowulf, sticks to a stricter code of ethics. The Anglo-Saxons admire him and consider him as a role model. Gilgamesh’s conduct, on the other hand, is less perfect.
Beowulf and Gilgamesh are the strongest of their race, and with greater power comes greater responsibility. Their incomparable strength urges them to fight against evil forces. For instance, Beowulf is strong enough to kill the monster Grendel, who has been terrorizing the Danes for over a decade. He then fights against and slaughters Grendel’s mother, an even deadlier one who tries to revenge for her son’s death. He fights in numerous battles and returns victoriously in all but the last. Gilgamesh, the hero of the Mesopotamians, kills an evil monster called Humbaba, who is feared by all who enter his cedar forest. Later on, he defeats the Bull of Heaven and a pack of lions on his quest for immortality. Thus, it is fair to state that Gilgamesh’ strength and bravery are much like that of Beowulf.
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, Beowulf is more perfect because he puts others’ welfare before his own. He travels far to a foreign land to help the Danes get rid of a monster he does not even know if he can defeat or not. Years later, Beowulf the old king fights against the dragon for his subjects, losing his life during the process. He peacefully accepts death as his final destination. “…sensing his own death. His fate hovered near, unknown but certain. It would...