Unit 1: Activities for Gilgamesh

Dr. Diane Thompson, NVCC, ELI

Select the Activity question you wish to respond to. Make a copy of the question to begin your Activity. Post your response to the Blackboard Activity 1: Gilgamesh Forum. Please title your response "Activity 1." I will comment on your Activity on the Forum, and send you your grade privately, by email. If you choose the Double Credit option, you must indicate that at the top of your essay and you must develop your ideas and supports substantially more fully than for a single credit Activity.

0riginally, Enkidu was part animal and part man. Discuss how the harlot transformed Enkidu into a human being by first seducing him and then luring him to civilization. Develop your ideas by referring to specific incidents in the story.
As he lies dying, Enkidu curses the harlot, and then revokes his curse and blesses her. Do you think he was better off in his natural, animal, state, or as a civilized man? Support your opinion with specific examples from the story.
Underworlds are generally places of the dead, and/or of underground divinities. These places are dangerous and difficult for living persons to enter and hard to leave. Why does Gilgamesh go to the underworld, and what does he learn there? Use specific examples from the story to support your main points.
There are actually TWO underworlds in the story of Gilgamesh: 1) the underworld that Gilgamesh visits seeking immortality and 2) the terrible underworld of death that Enkidu sees in a vision as he is dying. Examine each underworld closely and then try to explain why you think there are two such different "underworlds" in this ancient story. Do they have different purposes? Is one only for immortals? Use plenty of specific examples from both underworlds to support your ideas.
Both Gilgamesh and Enkidu slay Humbaba and the Bull of Heaven, yet the gods decide that Enkidu is the one who must die. Why? Support your argument with specific examples from the story, looking closely at the differences between gods and human beings.
There are a number of dreams in the story of Gilgamesh. List them and then explain what roles they play in the story. Use specific examples from the story to support your ideas. Be sure to look at the way Gilgamesh's mother and Enkidu interpret Gilgamesh's dreams. How is this different from the way people interpret dreams now?
Compare the characters of Gilgamesh and Enkidu. Who was the more heroic? Why? Begin with an explanation of what YOU consider heroic and see if it is similar to what is considered heroic in the story. Support your argument with plenty of specific examples from the story.
Gilgamesh and Enkidu's greatest adventures are against monstrous primary forces of nature: Humbaba and the Bull of the Sun, which are creatures of the gods. Discuss the role of monstrous creatures in Gilgamesh and pay attention to their close connections to the gods. Support your discussion with specific examples from the story.
Make a list of all of the female characters in Gilgamesh. Write a brief description of each and what she does in the story. Can you get any general ideas about the roles of women in ancient Sumeria from this? Explain, using specific examples from the story.
Review Utnapishtim's story of the flood. What does Gilgamesh learn from this story about the nature of human beings and of the gods? Do you think there is a sense of divine justice for human beings here or not? Explain using specific examples from the story to support your ideas.
Although Gilgamesh wants to live forever, he cannot even stay awake for seven days, as Utnapishtim proves by having his wife bake seven loaves of bread while Gilgamesh sleeps. What is the point of this episode? What does Utnapishtim teach Gilgamesh about immortality? Would anyone really want this kind of immortality? Support your answers using specific examples from the story to support your ideas.
When Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh nearly goes mad with grief. He sits by the body until it begins to decay, he puts on the skins of animals (such as Enkidu probably once wore), and he searches the wilderness and the underworld for the secret of immortality. Do you think this is because of his love for Enkidu and his desire to bring him back, or do you think this is because Gilgamesh has finally recognized his own mortality and is terrified? Support your answer with specific examples from the text.
Double Credit (if thoroughly done): Read Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse. This modern (1927) German novel tells the anguished story of a man (Harry Haller) who perceives himself as part educated bourgeois man and part wolf. He longs for the far away gods (embodied for him primarily in the immortal characters of Goethe and Mozart), but he can get no happiness out of daily life because of the intense conflict between his two selves. He must go on a journey through fantasy and death in order to come to understand himself and realize that there is really no conflict between his animal and human natures. Your task is to compare/contrast this novel with the story of the man/beast, the man/god, and the role of death in human life in Gilgamesh. The concepts are remarkably similar in these two stories thousands of years apart. 


(c) Diane Thompson : 8/1/1998; updated: 01/27/2011