Study Guide

The Epic of Gilgamesh Chapter 7, Tablet 7

By Sinleqqiunninni

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Chapter 7, Tablet 7

  • Tablet 7 begins in the middle of Enkidu's dream—the dream he began telling Gilgamesh at the end of Tablet 6.
  • In Enkidu's dream, the gods Anu, Enlil, and Shamash are confabbing. Anu says that, because Gilgamesh and Enkidu killed the Bull of Heaven and Humbaba, whichever one of them chopped down the biggest tree in the Cedar Forest must die.
  • Enlil thinks Enkidu should be the one to get the axe this time.
  • But Shamash sticks up for the two friends, saying that they killed the Bull of Heaven and Humbaba on his orders. (Is this true?) So, Enkidu is innocent.
  • Enlil isn't too happy about this; he blames Shamash for having supported Gilgamesh and Enkidu on their quest.
  • And then Enkidu wakes up.
  • When he hears about this horrible nightmare, Gilgamesh starts crying. He can't understand why the gods are sparing him and condemning Enkidu to die.
  • At this point, Enkidu—who also can't believe that he must die—calls out to the god Enlil and says that he didn't chop down the greatest tree in the Cedar Forest. (Really?)
  • Now Enkidu starts losing it. First he curses the Cedar Door, blaming it for his misfortunes. (This is the door he made out of the cedar he chopped down in Humbaba's forest—check out the end of Tablet 5 to jog your memory.)
  • Gilgamesh tells his friend to cut out the crazy talk. He says that he will pray to Enlil on his behalf. He also promises to have his craftsmen make a statue of Enkidu out of gold. (Is this supposed to help in some way?)
  • The next morning, however, Enkidu is still sputtering curses. This time, he calls on the god Shamash to curse the trapper. (Remember him? We met him back in Tablet 1; he was the one who first spotted Enkidu at the watering-hole, and set in motion the chain of events that made the wild-man join the human world.)
  • Next on the docket for Enkidu's curses is Shamhat, the temple-servant who first initiated him into the world of human sexuality. Enkidu's curses against her are especially cruel: he hopes that she will end up as a poor prostitute of the streets.
  • Shamash isn't happy about all this cursing. He tells Enkidu to stop blaming Shamhat—has he forgotten how she took him out of the wilderness, and fed and clothed him?
  • Besides, says Shamash, if it wasn't for Shamhat, Enkidu would never have met Gilgamesh, his best friend. Once Enkidu is dead, Gilgamesh will always keep the statue of his friend beside himself and make all the people of the land worship it.
  • He also makes a mysterious prediction. Shamash says that once Enkidu is dead Gilgamesh's grief will make him "don the skin of a lion and roam the wilderness" (7.136-137).
  • Enkidu is so convinced by Shamash's words that he starts blessing Shamhat instead of cursing her. He prays that no man will be able to resist her, and that her lovers will seriously make it rain with their gifts.
  • But he's still pretty bummed out. He tells Gilgamesh about another crazy dream he had the night before.
  • In this dream, a lion-headed eagle attacked him and overpowered him. He called out to Gilgamesh, but Gilgamesh was too afraid to help him.
  • Then things got weirder. The lion-headed eagle turned Enkidu into a dove and took him down to the underworld, where people were sitting around in darkness drinking dirt and eating clay. People who had been great rulers on earth were now reduced to slaves of the gods.
  • Enkidu finishes telling Gilgamesh about his dream. He reminds him of all they've been through together, and asks that Gilgamesh not forget him.
  • Gilgamesh is frightened by Enkidu's dream.
  • Enkidu lies sick in bed for twelve days. On the final day, he cries out to Gilgamesh, accusing his friend of having abandoned him.
  • Finally, Enkidu dies with Gilgamesh at his side. Gilgamesh promises to mourn for his friend.

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