Epic of Gilgamesh

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Gilgamesh as portrayed in ancient Mesopotamian art.

The Epic of Gilgamesh is a long, boring, heroic poem by Gil Gamesh, a Babylonian who plagiarized the story from ancient Sumerian sources and claimed that the events of the poem, outlandish though they are, actually happened to him. One of the poem's key episodes is the flood, which, when it is written about in the Bible, is known as the Biblical flood, but, in Gilgamesh, is referred to as The Deluge.

The poem, which, written about 3,000 years B. C., is among the oldest tall tales in Western literature, recounts King Gilgamesh's love affair with his friend, Enkidu, who later dies, abandoning his liege. Even in its day, the poem was unread by anyone but its author and his mother. Hoping to make the story more popular, Gil Gamesh hired a comic book artist to illustrate his poem. The result, some scholars, Walt Disney foremost among them, contend, was the world's "first comic book."

edit Translations

The poem has been translated by several modern authors to provide fodder for the lengthy textbooks that contemporary college students must pretend to read in order to receive college credit for ridiculous general education courses like A Survey of Western Literature From Antiquity Through The Middle Ages or Core Humanities or Ancient and Medieval Cultures.

edit Plot

To this day, the tedious, odious poem remains one of the least read and most hated texts of all time, despite a few risqué passages such as one, early in the story, in which Gilgamesh is castigated by his people for deflowering the women of his realm before their newlywed husbands have had a turn with them. In other passages, due to the lack of a dragon, the story was changed and Gil Gamesh is forced to fight a bull, the house pet of the hideous woman Ishtar, and he comes to a nearly fatal encounter. His lover Enkidu had actually rescued him but as this did not appraise Gilgamesh the true story was changed.

edit Enkidu

To "distract" Gilgamesh, who may have latent homosexual impulses, the goddess Aruru creates a male buddy for him, the wild man Enkidu. First, Gilgamesh fights Enkidu, but they decide to be friends instead of enemies and seek to kill a dragon instead of one another. They love each other like women.

edit Shamhat

The priestess Shamhat is one of the first documented members of what would later become known as the “fuck for peace” movement. Though in her case, it was “fuck for Ishtar.” Enkidu had been hanging around with the animals and making life very difficult for the trappers around there; filling pits, destroying traps, freeing animals, and just generally being a dick. To help remedy this, the trappers brought Shamhat over to meet him, on the theory that his real problem was that he just needed to get laid.

Upon meeting Enkidu, Shamhat used her love-arts to seduce him in a very subtle and understated way, by taking all her clothes off and providing helpful instructions. After some initial reservations, Enkidu took her up on her offer. With his life force so drained, and his spirit beaten down, he had no choice but to join civilization. Also, apparently the sex with her had been so good that it had brought him to new levels of enlightenment. He suddenly realized he could talk, got himself cleaned up and got some nicer clothes, cut his hair and decided he wanted to go have a talk with Gilgamesh, who was apparently a crummy ruler.

edit Gilgamesh and Enkidu Beat the Tar Out of Each Other

And are then friends. No, really.

edit So Then They Decide to Take It On the Road

Gilgamesh decides to kill Humbaba, who is the guardian spirit of a distant cedar forest. It is never explained exactly what Humbaba did to be evil, but he was evil and that was enough. Gilgamesh said something about driving evil from the world, and Humbaba seemed like a good starting point. Also, he wanted to cut down a big cedar tree and take it back as a souvenir. There was also the whole personal glory aspect of a couple of guys going on a macho quest out into the woods to kill some big animal and hang its head up on a plaque in hopes of impressing the girls.

They traveled 1000 miles over a period of 3 days and nights while hopped up on meth. They repeated this process a total of 5 times, demonstrating the ancient art of copy and paste. They traveled a total of 5,000 miles, which from their starting point in Mesopotamia would put them somewhere in Siberia, South Africa, or possibly Newfoundland.

Of course, nothing will bring two friends closer together quite like killing a big scary monster together, so after this Enkidu and Gilgamesh were the best of buds and were absolutely inseparable. They were both showered in glory upon their return and every whorish goddess in Uruk now wanted Gilgamesh for her personal boy toy. With so much female attention, Gilgamesh did what any man would do in that situation; he took his new best friend out into the middle of nowhere to go find something else to kill.

edit Divine Vengeance

The plot slows after they kill the dragon, so Gil Gamesh throws in some more sex, having the latent homosexual king spurn the sexual advances of the goddess Ishtar, whose father is not pleased at Gilgamesh's rejection of his daughter and sends the Bull of Heaven down to avenge her lack of virtue. When Gilgamesh and Enkidu kill the Bull, the gods decide that one of them must die, and Enkidu falls ill and soon shuffles off his mortal coil (i. e., dies).

edit The Magic Plant

Terrified that he will be the next to die, Gilgamesh journeys to the underworld, where he meets Urshanabi, the Noah of the poem, who has survived a cataclysmic flood, The Deluge. Urshanabi tells Gilgamesh of a magic plant that grows at the bottom of the sea. When eaten, it bestows eternal life.

edit Quest

The hero, being a hero, immediately undergoes a quest, braving death and destruction to obtain the plant [some rotting spinach], setting it aside until he can share it with the council of his hometown, Uruk, but a snake steals the plant, and the disappointed fool returns to his hometown as he was on a one way boat trip and could not make a U-turn.

edit Epiphany

At the sight of Uruk's massive walls, Gilgamesh has an epiphany: men, especially stupid ones like himself, will attain immortality through the deeds that they do, not from eating a plant. He also realizes that "There's no place like home."

edit Influences

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For those without comedic tastes, the self-proclaimed experts at Wikipedia think they have an article about Epic of Gilgamesh.
  • Scholars see parallels between the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Odyssey and between Gilgamesh and the Bible's story of Noah and the flood. No one else sees any such parallels, because no one else reads the epic. It bores contemporary readers who try to read it as much as it bored its potential audiences several thousand of years previously. Some things never change.
  • Jean-Luc Picard related the tale of Gilgamesh to an alien while stranded on a planet. Strangely, the alien did not kill himself.
  • Maybe Disney will make the poem into an animated film. I mean, if you take out all the sex and the gore, then... you have nothing left. Scratch that.
  • Maybe somebody other than Disney will make the poem into a video game.
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