Grief in The Epic of Gilgamesh

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In this mystical tale of friendship and the quest for immortality, the theme of grief is emphasized when Gilgamesh is forever changed by the death of his dear friend Enkidu. Gilgamesh is confronted by the struggles of mortals and is profoundly effected by the injustice that was Enkidu’s untimely death. For Gilgamesh, Enkidu is a symbol for the natural world.

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His character is vital to the transition that Gilgamesh goes through and his search for immortality is sparked by the grief he experiences. Gilgamesh begins the epic as a rash, arrogant young king who takes what he wants with little regard for anyone else. He forces himself on women, and forced men to do his biddings for him. He saw himself for the fraction of a god that he was, and for him that put him in a position higher than noblemen and peasants alike. Though he is the hero of this epic, he had to go on a long journey and underwent many hardships (Norton 1.29) to become the great king he left in his legacy, including the loss of his friend. Through themes of grief and friendship and symbols of nature and mortality, it is clear that Gilgamesh must experience this tragedy in order to learn the lesson that death is inevitable and the only way achieve immortality is to live fully.

The friendship that builds between Gilgamesh and Enkidu in undeniably symbolic of the relationship between man and the natural world. His death causes a major disruption for Gilgamesh mentally, and changes the way he envisions humanity and life in general. Enkidu is born from nature, raised by nature and only becomes interested in the fruits of civilized life when he encounter’s humanity. Since he can no longer connect with nature in the same way again, which is privy to the complexity of the relationship between the Sumerians and nature, he proceeds to making his mission seeking to fight Gilgamesh. Once the two eventually become friends and set out on their quest to kill Humbaba, it is clear that Enkidu encourages Gilgamesh to take the life of Humbaba. The fact that Gilgamesh agrees shows that there is trust between them, so their bond is very influential to Gilgamesh and his decision making. After Enkidu gets word of his sentencing,

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