Study Guide

The Epic of Gilgamesh Chapter 5, Tablet 5

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Chapter 5, Tablet 5

  • Gilgamesh and Enkidu are stalking through the forest, looking for Humbaba. Eventually, they find him.
  • But Humbaba isn't about to back down. Instead, he engages in a little trash talk, specifically dissing Enkidu for being a nobody, who doesn't know his own parents.
  • Then he asks Gilgamesh something along the lines of: "Why would you want to hang around with a bum like that?"
  • Then Humbaba does something weird: he transforms his face so that it becomes even more hideously ugly and fearsome than it was before.
  • This time, Gilgamesh is the one who is terrified. In fact, he's so afraid that he runs away. But Enkidu calms him down by reminding him about the awesome weapons they have brought with them.
  • This gives Gilgamesh courage again, and the two friends turn back to do battle with Humbaba.
  • The god Shamash helps out by sending 13 powerful winds from all directions to blast their fury at Humbaba and prevent him from moving.
  • Thanks to Shamash's help, Gilgamesh is able to get in close with his weapons; he goes in for the kill.
  • But then Humbaba changes his tune: he starts begging for his life, telling Gilgamesh that he will become his servant, and that he will chop down as many cedar trees as Gilgamesh wants.
  • Enkidu, however, urges Gilgamesh to ignore Humbaba's pleas, and just kill him already.
  • Hearing this, Humbaba lashes out at Enkidu. He says that Enkidu knows the ways of the forest, he knows that Humbaba has been appointed by the god Enlil to guard it—he's just doing his job.
  • But Enkidu keeps urging Gilgamesh to kill Humbaba. In fact, he says that Gilgamesh should hurry up and do it quick, before the gods Enlil and Shamash hear about it.
  • (But isn't Shamash right there, helping them with the winds?)
  • Humbaba tries one more time to convince Enkidu to talk Gilgamesh out of killing him. Once again, Enkidu ignores Humbaba's pleas and encourages Gilgamesh to kill the beaten monster.
  • At this point, Humbaba realizes the jig is up. He curses Enkidu, praying that he will die before Gilgamesh.
  • Gilgamesh must be wavering at this point because Enkidu shouts at him, "Listen to me, not Humbaba's curses!"
  • Finally, Gilgamesh makes up his mind—and kills Humbaba.
  • The two friends desecrate the monster's body, pulling out his intestines and cutting out his tongue. Rain falls on the mountain.
  • Then they cut down the tallest cedar in the forest. Enkidu announces that he will use it to make a giant door. He'll donate this door to Nippur, a holy city sacred to Enlil.
  • (This is the same god who appointed Humbaba as the Guardian of the Forest. Could this be Enkidu's way of apologizing to the god? Or is it more like rubbing their deed in his face?)
  • Gilgamesh and Enkidu make a raft and sail it down the River Euphrates back to Uruk. Enkidu steers, while Gilgamesh holds the head of Humbaba.
  • It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it.

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