Beowulf vs. Gilgamesh
?Gilgamesh and Beowulf Since ancient times, authors have been enticing our imaginations with journeys of epic proportions. Within these stories are some of the mightiest heroes. Among some of those heroes are Gilgamesh and Beowulf. Though both characters are in search of something different, they themselves are not so dissimilar. Gilgamesh seeks to find the answers to life, while Beowulf seeks to glorify himself through heroic actions. Though both, Gilgamesh and Beowulf, are on two very different quests, we learn that they themselves are very much alike.
Both Beowulf and Gilgamesh are very different from those that surround them. One very apparent theme in both of their stories is their unmatched physical abilities and skills. The Epic of Gilgamesh opens up with a description of the all-mighty Gilgamesh, “Surpassing all kings, powerful and tall beyond all others, violent, splendid, and wild bull of man, unvanquished leader, hero in the front lines, beloved by his soldiers,” (Mitchell, pg. 72). As a reader can see, Gilgamesh is one of impeccable abilities and skills.
Though Gilgamesh seems as though he cannot be matched in physical strength and abilities, there is a hero that is very similar, Beowulf. His story describes him as so, “The was no one else like him alive. In his day, he was the mightiest man on earth, high-born and powerful,” (Heaney, ln. 196-198). By description alone, someone who is reading these tales can see that both characters were born with a very unique figure. It is made very apparent that these two characters serve a major purpose in their journeys.
Not only are both of these characters strong and have abilities like none other, they also show attributes of being dedicated and loyal. Dedication is a trait that is looked for in all heroes. Gilgamesh and Beowulf go above and beyond showing that they contain such traits. When Gilgamesh’s dear friend, Enkidu, passes away he sets out on a quest to find Utnapistim and the answers of eternal life. At any point on his journey he could have turned back when difficult times hit, but he never did. Gilgamesh never quit, he kept on to find what he was looking for.
Similarly, Beowulf never quits in all his battles. His foes were big, they were mean, they kicked and thrashed. Beowulf was unphased by the attempts his foes made to defeat him. He prevailed in battles that no normal human could have. He had his mission, it was to defeat his enemy, and he did just that at all costs. The theme that reigns supreme throughout these two stories is that of bravery. Bravery could be defined as ones courageous acts. With their unique skills and abilities, both find success when faced with obstacles.
Gilgamesh is relentless in his efforts to find Utnapishtim. Never once, does Gilgamesh look back. His mission was to find the answers to eternal life, and he did just that. Through his undaunted task, Gilgamesh treks through a mountain in complete darkness, sails on treacherous seas and waters of death. Likewise, Beowulf shows no fear in his endeavors. He is relentless in her efforts and eventually conquers Grendel, his mother, and a dragon in epic battles. It is apparent that both of these characters, Gilgamesh and Beowulf, show mass amounts of bravery.
However, how would either one fair put into each other’s stories? In the story of Gilgamesh, Enkidu and Gilgamesh travel to the Cedar Forest to battle Humbaba. Often times, in The Epic of Gilgamesh, Humbaba is described as a monster filled with evil. If Beowulf were to take Gilgamesh’s place in this story, would the outcome of this battle have been any different. When Gilgamesh is present, he and Enkidu, defeat and kill Humbaba. The scene is described like so, “They charged at Humbaba like two wild bulls. The monster let out a deafening cry, his roar boomed forth like a blast of thunder.
He stamped and the ground burst open, his steps split the mountains of Lebanon, the clouds turned black, a sulfurous fog descended on them and made their eyes ache. Then Shamash threw strong winds at Humbaba, the south wind, the north wind, the east and the west, storm wind, wale wind, hurricane, tornado to pin him down and paralyze his steps. He could not more forward, could not retreat. Gilgamesh saw it, he leaped upon him, held a knife to Humbaba’s throat,” (Mitchell, pg. 124). At the very end of this battle, Gilgamesh in three blows of an axe takes of Humbaba’s head, killing the beast.
How would Beowulf have handled this situation? Being that Beowulf and Gilgamesh are very similar with their skills and pure strength, it could be assumed that the battle would have gone the same way. Though there is one difference I think the two characters would share during this battle. Gilgamesh at one point is very timid to attack Humbaba, “how dreadful Humbaba’s face has become! It’s changing into a thousand nightmare faces, more horrible than I can bear. I feel haunted. I am too afraid to go on,” (Mitchell, pg. 122). This is where Beowulf would differ himself from Gilgamesh.
Though both characters are very brave, Beowulf would not have hesitated in fighting the beast. Beowulf set out to destroy and eliminate all opponents, he put max effort in what he sought to do. At first sight of Humbaba, based the accounts of his battles, Beowulf would have engaged the attack of Humbaba. Beowulf was not a character of hesitation, he was a warrior of different means. Though the outcome of this battle would have been the same, Beowulf would have instantly felt the urge to attack Humbaba. Though both, Gilgamesh and Beowulf, are on two very different quests, we learn that they themselves are very much alike.
These two are very astonishing characters indeed. Both show great physical abilities and skills, have a great amount of loyalty and dedication, while also having a great amounts of bravery. These two amazing characters exemplify what a hero is. They show all of the traits and abilities sought after by many. They are both unique and show us what it really takes to be an epic hero. Works Cited Mitchell, Stephen. Gilgamesh. London: 2004. Print. Heaney, Seamus. Beowulf: A New Verse Translation. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2000. Print.