The Epic of Gilgamesh
How we cite our quotes:
The tavern-keeper was gazing off into the distance,
puzzling to herself, she said,
wondering to herself:
"That fellow is surely a murderer(?)!
Where is he heading?..."
As soon as the tavern-keeper saw him, she bolted her door,
bolted her gate, bolted the lock." (10.10-16)
Siduri runs a tavern in the underworld. What are her typical patrons like? Apparently much more respectable than Gilgamesh—otherwise she probably wouldn't be so put-off by his haggard appearance. Of course, it turns out that Siduri's fear is pretty much justified. Not long after these lines, Gilgamesh starts threatening to bust Siduri's door down. This looks like another example of how fear can be good: better safe than sorry, after all.
"Six days and seven nights I mourned over him
and would not allow him to be buried
until a maggot fell out of his nose.
I was terrified by his appearance(?),
I began to fear death, and so roam the wilderness." (10.61-72)
In these lines, Gilgamesh explains how he developed the overpowering fear of death that drives him on his quest to find Utanapishtim. It's pretty easy to see how anyone would be scared by what Gilgamesh describes—we at Shmoop just can't get over that whole maggot falling out of the nose thing. That said, why does Gilgamesh end the passage by asking "Am I not like him?" What do you think it was that made Gilgamesh so "terrified by his appearance"?
"The gods were frightened by the Flood,
and retreated, ascending to the heaven of Anu.
The gods were cowering like dogs, crouching by the outer wall.
Ishtar shrieked like a woman in childbirth,
the sweet-voiced Mistress of the Gods wailed:
'The olden-days have alas turned to clay,
because I said evil things in the Assembly of the Gods!
How could I say evil things in the Assembly of the Gods,
ordering a catastrophe to destroy my people?!
No sooner have I given birth to my dear people
than they fill the sea like so many fish!'" (11.113-123)
The ultimate human fear in the poem is death. But the gods can't die. And yet, here they are described as being afraid. What can the gods be afraid of? Are they afraid for their own safety? But look at the words of Ishtar at the end of this quotation: it looks like she isn't afraid for herself so much as for the people of earth, who are being destroyed. Is it only the gods who are afraid on behalf of people other than themselves, or are there human characters in the poem who also feel fear for others?