Gilgamesh and Enkidu

Thanks to the beneficence of my friend Alan Zuschlag, I now own two more versions in English of The Epic of Gilgamesh. It’s a great story about the arrogance of power, the need for checks and balances for liberty, friendship, true love between men, adventure, death, grief, the quest for eternal life, and much more. Alan gave me the brand new rendition by Stephen Mitchell and the relatively recent rendition by David Ferry. (That brings to, um, 8 the number of English versions I have, plus German and The Standard Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh (in cuneiform, with transliteration) edited by Simo Parpolo. (The latter I got just for fun, as I can’t read the cuneiform and the transliteration gives me just a vague sense of what it might have sounded like.)

I hope to read the two new editions this weekend. Thank you, Alan!

6 Responses to “Gilgamesh and Enkidu”

  1. Magdalena Modrzejewska

    I am deeply impressed by your fascination of the Gilgamesh story. I have read only a Polish translation of the “Giglamesh”. I loved it, and I think that this book reveals the most primal human emotions. Thanks to you I’ve just get to know about the edition in cuneiform.
    Which one of the English edition is the best? Could you recomend me one of them?

  2. Tom G. Palmer

    I’ll have to wait until I’ve read the two I just received before I utter an opinion, and even then I should stress that I’m not a scholar of ancient middle eastern texts. But I’ll let you know which one I think is the better English poem. So, until next week….

  3. Have you heard Bohuslav Martinu’s oratorio on the subject? “The Epic of Gilgamesh” is not exactly up there with his later symphonies, but it is nevertheless quite good.

    The Gilgamesh story could make a great movie, if done right. Oddly, a few of the themes of Oliver Stone’s “Alexander” are in the story, but more impressively treated in the Babylonian epic. Gilgamesh learns something. Alexander merely dies – with Anthony Hopkins (I mean Ptolemy) learning something….

  4. Tom G. Palmer

    I haven’t! I shall have to do a little research and find it. (One plan this weekend is to read the two new versions I’ve been given.) And I share your view on Gilgamesh/Alexander. But how anyone could film Gilgamesh in the historical setting is beyond me. (Now, maybe if it were reworked and set in a hispanic neighborhood in Los Angeles….)

  5. Mark Peterson

    Have you studied the direct translations or are you only an enthusiast for author embellishments for the story. I am a great fan of the Epic of Gilgamesh *and Enkidu too.

    Unfortunately, I am not a scholar (per say), but my findings from the direct translations relay a message of how we are our own worst enemy. What I found is that the story may reference an earlier Sumerian story (Exploits of Ninurta and Ninurta and the Turtle).

    Ninurta = Bull of Heaven (Gilgamesh)
    Asag Demon = Humbaba (Enkidu)

    If this is correct, there is a lot more to the Epic of Gilgamesh – if seen in metaphor and symbolic system.

    Have you ever wondered why this story is in Babylonian, Hittite, Assyrian temples and libraries? These are supposed disparate religions.

    If I decoded it right, it even transmutes Hebrew and Judea/Christian lore as well.