Comparison between Beowulf and Gilgamesh.

Essay by KloseKall October 2003

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Beowulf and Gilgamesh

There are many differences and critical comparisons that can be drawn

between the epics of Beowulf and Gilgamesh. Both are historical poems

which shape their respected culture and both have major social, cultural,

and political impacts on the development of western civilization

literature and writing. Before any analysis is made, it is vital that

some kind of a foundation be established so that a further, in-depth

exploration of the complex nature of both narratives can be accomplished.

The epic of Gilgamesh is an important Middle Eastern literary work,

written in cuneiform on 12 clay tablets about 2000 BC. This heroic poem is

named for its hero, Gilgamesh, a tyrannical Babylonian king who ruled the

city of Uruk, known in the Bible as Erech (now Warka, Iraq). According to

the myth, the gods respond to the prayers of the oppressed citizenry of

Uruk and send a wild, brutish man, Enkidu, to challenge Gilgamesh to a

wrestling match.

When the contest ends with neither as a clear victor,

Gilgamesh and Enkidu become close friends. They journey together and share

many adventures. Accounts of their heroism and bravery in slaying

dangerous beasts spread to many lands.

When the two travelers return to Uruk, Ishtar (guardian deity of the city)proclaims her love for the heroic Gilgamesh. When he rejects her, she

sends the Bull of Heaven to destroy the city. Gilgamesh and Enkidu kill

the bull, and, as punishment for his participation, the gods doom Enkidu

to die. After Enkidu's death, Gilgamesh seeks out the wise man Utnapishtim

to learn the secret of immortality. The sage recounts to Gilgamesh a story

of a great flood (the details of which are so remarkably similar to later

biblical accounts of the flood that scholars have taken great interest in

this story). After much...