Enkidu





The "wild man" Enkidu is an important character in the Epic of Gilgamesh, a collection of stories about a Sumerian* king who wanted to become immortal. As the rival and then the best friend of the hero Gilgamesh, Enkidu represents the force of untamed nature, a force that civilized, city-dwelling society both feared and admired.

Having decided to make a "strong and courageous man" who would be "just like Gilgamesh," the gods created Enkidu from a pinch of clay thrown onto a plain. Enkidu came into life full-grown, hairy, and wild. He lived like an animal, eating grass and drinking with the beasts at water holes.

Hearing of the untrappable wild man, Gilgamesh sent a woman to tame him and teach him the ways of civilization. After seven days with her, Enkidu could no longer live as an animal, innocent of human ways. He began shaving and wearing clothes, and the animals fled from him. Enkidu had taken his first step into human society In this part of the epic, he becomes a symbol of the shift from primitive to civilized life that had occurred across Mesopotamia* centuries earlier.

immortal able to live forever

epic long poem about legendary or historical heroes, written in a grand style

underworld land of the dead

Enkidu went to Gilgamesh's city, Uruk, where he challenged the king to a wrestling match. Drawn together by mutual respect and the desire for companionship, the two men became the closest of friends. They accomplished great feats of courage and strength together, but after they killed a divine bull, the gods punished them by sending illness to Enkidu. The "wild man" wasted and died. At the end of the epic, Enkidu returned from the underworld, the "House of Darkness and Dust," to tell Gilgamesh of the dismal fate that awaits all who enter the land of the dead.

See also Gilgamesh .



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