The Epic of Gilgamesh
Man and the Natural World Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
He filled in the pits that I dug,
wrenched out my traps that I had spread,
released from my grasp the wild animals.
He does not let me make my rounds in the wilderness!" (1.105-115)
Here, we hear the trapper complaining to his father about the wild man (Enkidu) whom he has encountered several times at the watering hole. According to the trapper, Enkidu doesn't just act like an animal and hang out with the animals. He also actively helps the animals escape from the trapper's traps. And we have to ask: if Enkidu is freeing animals from traps, how much of an animal can he really be? Doesn't the ability he has to free an animal that can't free itself show that he really is human, even if he doesn't know it yet?
"Eat the food, Enkidu, it is the way one lives.
Drink the beer, as is the custom of the land."
Enkidu ate the food until he was sated,
he drank the beer—seven jugs!—and became expansive and sang with joy!
He was elated and his face glowed. (Old Babylonian Supplement at 2.56)
Eating and drinking are among the most basic things an animal (including a human animal) needs to do in order to survive. And yet, the way humans eat when they are together in society—drinking out of jugs, for example—is completely different from the way animals eat in nature. But the food is different, too: a loaf of bread looks pretty different from grass, even though it comes from a kind grass. Hence Enkidu's confusion when Shamhat takes him to have dinner with the shepherds. That said, he seems to take to these news ways pretty quickly—especially to the beer.
"Come now, Harlot, I am going to decree your fate,
a fate that will never come to an end for eternity!
I will curse you with a Great Curse,
may my curses overwhelm you suddenly, in an instant!" (7.88-93)
Here Enkidu thinks that, if he hadn't been brought into the human world, he wouldn't have gone through the chain of events that led to him being struck down with disease by the gods. What do you think of Enkidu's line of reasoning here? How safe is life in the wilderness anyway? Is there any guarantee that he would have been better off there?