All through historic times, stories, poems, and songs have been written with common themes, which played a significant role in explaining some aspects of societal life. One of these is friendship. There is no one in the world who does not need a friend; therefore, it is a necessary aspect of life.
In the Epic of Gilgamesh, which was developed over a period of nearly a thousand years from about 2500 to 1500 B.C., friendship plays an important role in the development of the story. Gilgamesh, who is described as two-thirds god and one-third man, is the oppressive fifth king of Uruk while Enkidu is the ruler of the animals. The friendship between these characters develops in the course of the story.
As the story begins, King Gilgamesh of Uruk is depicted to be in mature manhood and superior to all other men in both beauty and strength. There was no one who could match up with him in the ancient Mesopotamian society. The unsatisfied cravings of his demigod nature could not find a suitable mate for him in love or war. In addition, his unsatisfied daemonic energy made the people of Uruk to be unsatisfied with his reign.
Because he was lacking love and friendship, Gilgamesh turned to excess and indulgence, and he celebrated his victories with too much debauched partying, which annoyed the individuals in the city as well as the gods in the temples. Because of his oppressive rule, the people asked for help from the gods since they feared that someday Gilgamesh would ask for a greater part of his divine heritage, challenge the gods and even rock the pillars of heaven if he was not controlled.
Therefore, to counter the threat, the gods devised a plan of creating Enkidu, who was the mirror image of Gilgamesh. They believed that the king would divert his dangerous energies toward that rival thereby stop challenging heaven. The gods then made Enkidu from clay and left him in the wilderness to live and eat as the animals do.
In the wilderness, though he established friendship with the wild animals, his cravings for a mate were not adequately satisfied. Therefore, when a harlot from the city seduced him, he quickly agreed to leave and live in the great-civilized city of Uruk. When Enkidu goes to the city, he seems not to like Gilgamesh at first since the two engaged in a fight soon after they met.
However, they quickly started to like one another. The theme of friendship is shown when the two giants become very close and start to rely on one another in conquering their enemies with ease. Thereafter, the solidarity between the two characters assists in developing the plot of the story, which is a mixture of pure adventure, morality, and tragedy, as subsequent experiences are based on this newfound eternal comradeship.
The newly found comrades soon grow weak and become indolent with the city life. Therefore, Gilgamesh suggests a great exciting activity, which involves going to the forest to cut down trees so as to construct a memorable monument to the gods. However, since the terrifying demon called Humbaba is endowed with the responsibility of protecting the forest that is also prohibited to mortals, they have to kill him first.
At first, Enkidu disagrees with this proposal but gives in after persuasion from his friend. Their friendship gave them the astounding courage and unwavering confidence to succeed in killing Humbaba. As the King of Uruk cleans himself, Ishtar offers to become his wife because his beauty was appealing to her; however, he turns her down with insults, recounting to her the dire fates that all her mortal lovers have met.
Ishtar, the goddess of love and beauty, is infuriated at the rejection and goes to heaven to request his father, Anu, to send the Bull of Heaven to terrorize the people of Uruk. However, Gilgamesh and his compatriot work together to defeat the bull sent by the gods from heaven.
After the success of their missions, Enkidu dreamt that they had gone contrary to the wishes of the gods so much that one of them must be sacrificed for murdering Humbaba and the Bull of Heaven. Thereafter, he quickly succumbed to a fatal disease after twelve days of suffering.
The loss of Enkidu brings remorse to Gilgamesh and he realizes that death is inevitable. Because of the loss of the great friendship, he sets out on a journey to find Utnapishtim, the one man holding the secret of everlasting life. On the journey, he encountered various obstacles and on finally meeting Utnapishtam, he successively failed different tests that could have given him the secret of immortality. In the end, Gilgamesh, though being the King of Uruk, succumbed to the same fate that befell his friend.
Although the type of friendship between Gilgamesh and Enkidu corresponds to contemporary friendship, it differs in some way from it. All through the ages, humans have treasured friendship since it determines our survival on this world.
In the current society, human relationship is of essence for helping one another in times of difficulty, just as Gilgamesh and Enkidu assisted one another in conquering their enemies. Most people look for various traits in friends, especially attributes that they may be having in common. However, the current society takes friendship for granted. Most people see it as something that exists naturally.
How many yearn for their better halves, as did Gilgamesh and Enkidu for each other? Who can go in the world to search for a suitable mate in love? The Mesopotamian society, as depicted by taming of Enkidu so that Gilgamesh could accept him, valued friendship such that they could go in search for it.
I do not think that two ordinary peasants in Mesopotamia were capable of forming the kind of bond that existed between Gilgamesh and Enkidu. In the epic, Gilgamesh is depicted as being two-thirds god. Therefore, to make him have his equal, the gods created Enkidu to satisfy his cravings for a mate. This implies that the gods predestined their friendship, a thing that could not just happen among ordinary peasants in Mesopotamia.
Before the coming of Enkidu, Gilgamesh had a cold heart and he never befriended anyone. However, the coming of Enkidu changed all these as he placed a check on Gilgamesh powerful energies. On the other hand, Gilgamesh pulled him out of his egocentricity. This even matching of characteristics is only possible when someone is specifically created for the other, but not otherwise as may be in ordinary men.