The Epic of Gilgamesh
The Epic of Gilgamesh Fear Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Tablet.Line)
A notorious trapper
came face-to-face with him [Enkidu] opposite the watering hole.
A first, a second, and a third day
he came face-to-face with him opposite the watering hole.
On seeing him the trapper's face went stark with fear,
and he (Enkidu?) and his animals drew back home (?).
He was rigid with fear; though stock-still
his heart pounded and his face drained of color.
He was miserable to the core,
and his face looked like one who had made a long journey. (1.94-103)
It doesn't look like Enkidu is doing anyone any harm, so why is the trapper so afraid? Could this just be another example of how people are afraid of what is different? Also, note the comparison in the last line of this passage, between the trapper's frightened face and the face of someone who has gone on a long journey. Could this be foreshadowing the lengthy journey Gilgamesh ends up making, because of fear?
"In order to protect the Cedar Forest
Enlil assigned (Humbaba) as a terror to human beings—
Humbaba's roar is a Flood, his mouth is Fire, and his breath is Death!
He can hear 100 leagues away any rustling(?) in his forest!
Who would go down into his forest?
Enlil assigned him as a terror to human beings,
and whoever goes down into his forest paralysis(?) will strike!" (2.200-206)
Is fear always a bad thing? Maybe not necessarily. First of all, we learn from these lines that the god Enlil has deliberately placed Humbaba in the Cedar Forest in order to terrify human beings. Could this be because he wants to protect the forest? If so, fear would be good. Also, bear in mind that Enkidu says this to Gilgamesh in an attempt to talk him out of going on his quest to the Cedar Forest at all. Which, all things considered, might have been a good idea.
"Who, my friend, can ascend to the heavens
(Only) the gods can dwell forever with Shamash.
As for human beings, their days are numbered,
and whatever they keep trying to achieve is but wind!
Now you are afraid of death—
what has become of your bold strength?
I will go in front of you,
and your mouth can cry out: "Go on closer, do not be afraid!"
Should I fall, I will have established my fame.
(They will say:) "It was Gilgamesh who locked in battle with Humbaba the Terrible!" (2.228-237)
But Gilgamesh seems like too much of a meathead to take Enkidu's advice. In fact, by a sort of reverse-psychology, Enkidu talking about how fearsome Humbaba seems to make Gilgamesh even more eager to fight him, just to prove that he's not afraid. Do Gilgamesh's words here show true courage, or is there some fear underlying them?