Just who was Gilgamesh? And why was he so epic? - A Fun Guide for Everyone
Updated: Sep 5, 2022
OK, so I’ve heard the name of Gilgamesh, I saw a version of him in the Marvel film ‘Eternals’, but just who the heck is this guy?
King Gilgamesh is likely the oldest mythical hero character in all of written human history. His story was likely based on real-life events, though with a hefty dose of mythological madness injected to make everything a bit more fun.
How old are we talking here?
Well, ‘The Epic of Gilgamesh’ is around 3500 years old. It was written at some point between 2150 - 1400 BC in Sumeria.
You mentioned he was a ‘hero’? Are we talking about a superhero here? Did he have powers and stuff?
Indeed he did! Gilgamesh was the son of the Priest-King Lugalbanda and the goddess Ninsun. That makes him one of those demi-gods; half mortal and half god. Just like Theseus, Perseus, and Hercules (oh and yes, Maui too!). Gilgamesh had super strength and the ability to live a really long time; he ruled as King for a wrinkle-inducing 126 years! Gilgamesh spent his life helping people out of trouble.
So he was like a superhero!
Yep, people have been obsessed with the ideas of superheroes for thousands of years, characters like Superman, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, and Ms. Marvel are nothing new in that regard.
What adventures did he get up to then?
Loads and loads! Once there was a goddess called Inanna (the Sumerian goddess of war) who planted and grew a tree. She planned to use the wood of the tree to carve herself a chair and a bed. Unfortunately, and unexpectedly, the tree became infested with demons. What a pain in the bum, ay? Inanna called for help and who should arrive? Gilgamesh, that’s who! He rocked up heavily armed and killed the demons, meaning Inanna could practice her wood-crafting skills after all.
I don’t know man, I mean, that’s a fun story and all but I was expecting something more, you know, epic.
In that case, you’ll want to hear ‘The Epic of Gilgamesh’. So epic, that they actually put the word ‘epic’ in the title. Now, that is a real statement of intent.
Ohhh! What happens?
The gods thought that Gilgamesh was getting a bit too big for his sandals, so they sent a wild warrior called Enkidu to go pick a fight with the King of Uruk. Gilgy – as he shall now forever be known – and Enkida had an awesome scrap.
The action went back and forth, as both heroes were considered equals. However, thanks to his potent physical prowess, Gilgy finally defeated Enkida in one devastating slow-motion super-flippy punch-backflip mega-combo. Rather than being moody with each other post-fight, Gilgy and Enkida became best pals. They went on all sorts of adventures together.
They teamed up to lay the smack down on Humbaba, a terrifying demon who lived in a forest. After this, the Gilganator – as he shall now forever be known – and his outstanding fighting skills attracted the attention of the goddess Inanna (yes, she’s back after having finished whittling her chair).
Inanna demanded a bit of smoochy smooch time with the Gilganator. However, our hero refused. Possibly because his lips were chapped. This insult made Inanna go full on rage-mode and she sent her half-brother – a freakin’ Bull of Heaven – to kill the Gilganator.
Luckily, with the sort of heroic sacrifice that would make a Hollywood scriptwriter proud, Enkidu leapt to the Gilganator’s defence and slayed the bull.
Unfortunately, because he killed a god, Enkidu is sentenced to death himself. After Enkidu’s popped his sandals, Gilly McWilkins – as he shall now forever be known – is consumed by grief.
The poor dude…
Absolutely, everyone can relate to the loss of a loved one and so we can all understand Gilly McWilkins’ pain. Our hero, confused about the meaning of life and fearing his own mortality, went to visit Utnapishtim to ask if he could live forever. Utnapishtim set Gilly McWilkins two challenges. If he can complete both, he would be granted immortality – the power to live forever. Gilly McWilkins was challenged to stay awake for six days and six nights and protect a plant from a nasty snake. Unfortunately, to cut a long story a bit shorter, Gilly McWilkins failed at both and was sent home still very much mortal. He decided to write down his adventures and, well, that’s pretty much the end of the story.
Whoa, that ending is quite the downer.
Kind of. But in writing down his story Gilgangoolygogo – as he shall now forever be known – ensures his legacy. Gilgangoolygogo will live on because of the magic of stories and the power of the written word. Indeed, he still lives on because of those tales today.