| Quote #1
Who, my friend, can ascend to the heavens?
Meet Gilgamesh: he lives fast and hard, and doesn't care if he dies trying. Enkidu has been warning his friend not to go on a quest to fight the monster Humbaba; Enkidu fears that Gilgamesh will be walking into certain death. But Gilgamesh points out that death is already certain—for human beings, anyhow. Given that we're all going to die anyway, Gilgamesh reasons, the next best thing is to accomplish great deeds so that your name will live on in people's memory. Is Gilgamesh right? Would it be enough if the people of Uruk remembered Gilgamesh as the one who battled Humbaba? Would there be an epic about him if he had died in that battle?
| Quote #2
Now Gilgamesh is your beloved brother-friend!
Shamash says this to Enkidu, who's just been cursing (1) the trapper who first found him at the watering hole, and (2) Shamhat, the temple-prostitute, who first initiated him into the ways of human beings. Sure, we can see why Enkidu might feel like lashing out. But he's wrong. If it weren't for the trapper and Shamhat, he never would have made friends with Gilgamesh. One of the plusses of this friendship is he'll now have elaborate ceremonies to commemorate him after he dies, and Gilgamesh will defile his own body in memory of his friend. Aw, now isn't that sweet?
| Quote #3
Then he … turned me into a dove,
Don't you just hate it when people tell you their dreams? Here, Enkidu describes his frightening dream about being captured by a lion-headed eagle and taken down to the underworld. But unlike our dream about blow-up dolphins (seriously), this dream probably has a grain of truth for Gilgamesh. And it's not pretty: the underworld isn't much better than complete non-existence, and quite possibly worse. If you were living in the ancient Sumerian society of Gilgamesh, how would you react to knowing that the underworld was like this? Does this picture of what waits for us after death explain some of the attitudes toward life and death expressed by characters in the epic?