In the cycle of life, death is hard for everyone to accept. Within the Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh gains a close friend and a brother, Enkidu. Throughout the story, they develop a very strong bond as they make their journeys together. However, when Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh must learn once again how to live without his companion. All of Gilgamesh’s reactions to and after the death of Enkidu, characterize how humans tend to cope after a loved one has died. The effect of Enkidu’s death upon Gilgamesh demonstrates how grief and fear cause individuals to look more negatively upon death. In addition, Gilgamesh’s eventual acceptance of the reality of death relates to all humans because they also have to come to the realization that death is a natural part of life. Thus, love and attachment make the inevitability of death difficult because individuals grow so used to having significant relations with others. The themes of friendship and loss within Gilgamesh have proven to be applicable to all humans throughout time.
All humans look at death in a negative aspect when a loved one passes. Within The Epic, Gilgamesh becomes consumed with the idea of death and how it begins to affect his life when he loses Enkidu. After Enkidu dies Gilgamesh grieves for several days and mournfully states, “I weep for Enkidu, my friend, bitterly moaning like a woman mourning”. This quote makes you aware of how much Gilgamesh cared for his friend and how unique their friendship was when he compares himself to a woman. In a way, Enkidu had become Gilgamesh’s significant other after they fought so many battles together. As he grieves, Gilgamesh constantly states, “An evil fate has robbed me.” By using this type of language, Gilgamesh can portray how he viewed Enkidu as being taken away from him rather than dying because it is a part of life. These peculiarities of Gilgamesh were very much like human reactions because he refused to see Enkidu’s death as a natural part of life. In addition, their close bond made Gilgamesh’s acceptance of Enkidu’s death more painful. As a result of all these emotions, Gilgamesh begins to think about his own demise.
Witnessing the tragic passing of a loved one causes many to grow fearful of their own death. After Gilgamesh had grieved over his friend, he began to think about his own life and the reality of his own death. Gilgamesh displays his fear of death and his plans to resolve his fear by becoming immortal. “How can I rest; how can I be at peace?” Despair is in my heart. What my brother is now, that shall I be when I am dead. Because I am afraid of death I will go as best I can to find Utnapishtim whom they call the Faraway, for he has entered the assembly of the gods.” As demonstrated through this quote, Enkidu’s passing caused Gilgamesh to gain an irrational fear of death which further made Gilgamesh obsessed with gaining immortality in attempt to evade death. Previously, Gilgamesh was never scared of the idea of dying because he was so consumed with his reputation as a king and hero. He always had strong ambitions to gain a heroic reputation. But seeing Enkidu’s abrupt end, Gilgamesh comes to notice that he will unfortunately have the same fate. In the same way that Gilgamesh was unable to accept the inevitability of his friend’s death or his own death, all humans have difficulty accepting the death of loved ones. Apprehensive behavior towards death is a very human-like reaction because many humans fear what will happen after they die or when someone close to them dies. Unfortunately, all individuals must eventually come to realize the inevitability of death.
Within The Epic, Gilgamesh refuses to accept the change that Enkidu’s death has caused until he has attempted to avoid Enkidu’s fate. This desire brings him on a journey where he makes his way through a mountain and across the sea to find Utnapishtim, the survivor of The Flood who was made immortal by the Gods. He tells Gilgamesh that to prove he is worthy of immortality he must pass the simple test of staying awake for an entire week. When Gilgamesh fails, he is told of a plant that revives youth. Unfortunately, when Gilgamesh obtains the plant a serpent proceeds to steal it. After returning to Uruk without immortality or a youth reviving plant, Gilgamesh finally comes to the realization that death is a fate that all people must face.
Seeing the death of a loved one makes it difficult for individuals to accept change as well as the inevitability of death. Regardless of his reputation as a king and a hero, Gilgamesh was still human; he only realizes this when he comes home empty handed. Gilgamesh even had a tough time coping with the death of someone who held such a significant place in his heart. Like any human, Gilgamesh mourned and felt lost in witnessing the passing of his best friend. This experience altered Gilgamesh’s personality as well as his life because he was suddenly alone again. After becoming so used to having a companion and failing to alter his fate, Gilgamesh was forced to change.
Just as Gilgamesh faced the inevitability of death, every human must realize that death is part of life. After the death of his friend, Gilgamesh for the first time felt the sting of the death of a friend; thus, portraying him in a more human light. Enkidu was sent down by the gods to put Gilgamesh back in his place. The death of Enkidu accomplished that very thing. The effect that Enkidu had on Gilgamesh was a change in his heart and his view towards others.
Gilgamesh’s experiences are directly relatable to all humans. Even though he did not want to face the death of his friend or the idea of his own death, Gilgamesh eventually came to terms with the inevitability of death. Moreover, Enkidu’s death had such a profound effect upon Gilgamesh because of his significance within Gilgamesh’s life. If not for this fact, Gilgamesh would not have grieved for so long or even contemplated his own demise and searched for immortality. Gilgamesh’s reactions to his situation exemplify the same types of reactions humans tend to have. Strong relationships and love between individuals make death very hard to accept.