Gilgamesh & Beowulf

Gilgamesh & Beowulf

Beowulf and Gilgamesh are both unique epics in their own ways, yet share a connection. Gilgamesh, a long narrative poem written over five thousand years ago from Mesopotamia, now present day Iraq, is among the earliest known works of literature. Regardless, of losing over a thousand words from its ancient text, it is still a great story about the protagonist, Gilgamesh king of Uruk. Beowulf, written in Old English sometime before the tenth century A. D. , describes the adventures of a great Scandinavian warrior of the sixth century.

It known as the oldest surviving epic in literature and is commonly cited as the most important works of Anglo-Saxon literature. Beowulf exists in only one manuscript that survived a fire in 1731, which belonged to Sir Robert Cotton, the owner who signed his name on the first page. This manuscript later became known as Vitellius A. XV after Cottons death in 1631. Today, it is located in the British Library with edges scorched and brittle. Both Beowulf and Gilgamesh have several parallels, even though they were written centuries apart.

For example, both Beowulf and Gilgamesh battle a monster. In Beowulf’s case, he battles a monster called Grendel and in Gilgamesh, he battles a monster named Humbaba. Except the only difference is that Beowulf fights several monsters who are both human and non-human. Whereas, Gilgamesh was put into a position to fight a monster just to eliminate them. There are numerous similarities that can be found in both Beowulf and Gilgamesh. One common similarity that is quite peculiar is they both show body parts of the monsters they fought. The victory, for the proof, hanging high from the rafters where Beowulf had hung it, was the monster’s arm, claw, and shoulder and all” (lines 515-517). Gilgamesh’s case was very comparable to Beowulf’s situation. “And late that he reached again to see if he was yet asleep, but there was only quiet breathing. The stars against the midnight sky were sparkling like mica in a riverbed. In the slight breeze the head of Humbaba was swinging from a tree” (lines 50-55). Difference is, both Gilgamesh and Beowulf killed their enemies in two dissimilar ways.

Gilgamesh used an ax to behead Humbaba and Beowulf used his godly powers to take Grendel’s arm. Second difference between the two in this situation is Gilgamesh had help from his partner in crime, Enkidu. While on the other hand, Beowulf fought all his battles alone without the aid of any. Each character had their own motivations in combat, but yet they were still similar in some sort of way. Both Gilgamesh and Beowulf fought for all the fame and glory they could get, yet Gilgamesh, unlike Beowulf, battled to be a leader for the youth.

He hoped to give them something to strive for in life and that is just what he did. However, Beowulf’s motives was to be remembered for something great so that he would be known forever. Although Beowulf and Gilgamesh posses many similar heroic characteristics they also differ greatly. There are many examples of what is and what is not similar between the two narratives. Beowulf and Gilgamesh also share the theme that bravery and boldness is what makes an individual stay alive.