Gilgamesh. Study questions
- In what kind of writing, using what material, was The Epic of Gilgamesh written?
- About when did the real Gilgamesh live?
- When were the oral stories about him probably first written down?
- What is Gilgamesh's city called?
- List some of the characteristics attributed to Gilgamesh?
- List some images/metaphors that are used to describe Gilgamesh. What qualities do they convey?
- List some of the hyperboles used used to describe him? Look up the meaning of "hyperbole", if you need to.
- List some of his deeds that make him worthy of having his story told?
- What does the size of the temple say about its builder?
- What is the significance of "He walks out in front, the leader/and walks at the rear, trusted by his companions"?
- What is Gilgamesh's parentage?
- What objections do the people have about Gilgamesh's behavior?
- What do the gods propose as a solution?
- In what ways might Enkidu be a match for Gilgamesh?
- What problem does the hunter encounter with Enkidu?
- What does his father propose as a solution?
- How is Enkidu transformed from a wild creature to a civilized human?
- What is the effect of Enkidu's first sexual experience?
- What does this suggest about human nature and sexuality?
- What does Shamhat propose after they have been together for a week?
- What is Enkidu's first reaction to her idea?
- How does Shamhat describe court life in civilization? What does she tell Enkidu about Gilgamesh?
- What does Gilgamesh learn from his dreams about the meteor and the axe?
- How would you define a hero in Sumerian culture? What kind of man and leader does this culture seem to admire?
- If Gilgamesh represents the pride of civilization, what might Enkidu represent?
- Which of the eternal questions/conflicts seem at this point to be part of this story?
- What values seem to be important to the culture?
- Why is Enkidu said to be so similar to Gilgamesh ("his equal; ... his own reflection, his second self, stormy heart for stormy heart")?
- How does Shamhat try to convince Enkidu to go to Uruk?
- How is Enkidu like Gilgamesh, according to Shamhat?
- What reason does Enkidu have to want to meet Gilgamesh, according to the narrator?
- Before they con proceed to Uruk Shamhat want to make Enkidu look and act like a human. How does she accomplish this?
- How does Enkidu learn about Gilbgamesh's abuse of his power?
- How do Gilgamesh and Enkidu seal their friendship? Is it unusual?
- Provide some specific reasons why Gilgamesh is set on fighting and killing the forst monster Humbaba.
- What may have been his underlying motivation?
- List some examples where Gilgamesh mentions mortality and eternal fame.
- What is Gilgamesh's attitude about the quest?
- How do the elders of Uruk respond?
- What universal issues and conflicts seem to underlie this Tablet?
- What is the advice of the elders to Gilgamesh?
- Who is Ninsun and why do Gilgamesh and Enkidu go there?
- Killing of the monster Humbaba as a noble quest. Why do you think this is necessary?
- List some of the pleas that Nansun makes to the god Shamash.
- List some of the instructions that Gilgamesh gives for the city in his absence.
- In general terms, describe the preparation for a quest by a king.
- In general terms, describe the relationship between the ruler and the cirizens.
- Dreams provide transition from one period of time to the next and to give continuity.
- Summarize briefly the main details of each dream. How does the intensity escalate?
- What role does Shamash the Sun God play?
- How does Gilgamesh bolster Enkido's courage?
- What mood does the description of the entrance to the forest evoke?
- How does the demon Humbaba confront his visitors? Pay attention to the insulting words he uses to describe them.
- What does a defeated Humbaba request? How does he address Enkidu, and what God does he refer to? What does Enkidu advise Gilgamesh?
- How does the encounter end?
- Gilgamesh comes home, proud of his deeds, and ready to resume his responsibilities.
- What does Ishtar offer him?
- Summarize the gist of his reply.
- How does Ishtar take rejection?
- How do the friends deal with her fearsome bull of heaven-the bull of the wrath of the gods?
- How do the women and the men react differently to the death of the bull?
- What happens when everyone is sleeping off the effects of the celebration?
- The opening lines are a sort of scene in heaven between the gods. What are the issues? The rest of the section is the outcome.
- Why do the gods condemn Enkidu and not Gilgamesh to death?
- In one line, we learn of Enkidu's fate: "Enkidu was lying sick in front of Gilgamesh." What follows is the story of death and dying and then the journey through grief. One of the "stages" people go through when confronting their mortality is anger. At what does Enkidu express his anger. Why?
- What does Gilgamesh's reply tell us about Enkidu's state of mind?
- Enkidu's anger cries out to Shamash, the sun god and then also vents itself on those who led him to this civilized life. What does he have to say for the trapper and for the harlot, Shamhat?
- Why does he end up blessing them?
- Enkidu dreams about the world of the dead. According to his dream, what is death like?
- What comfort does Shamash (sun god) offer? How does Enkidu respond?
- What picture of death does this culture have as expressed by the dying Enkidu?
- What realities about death does this epic confront the reader with? What comforts can there be?
- How does Gilgamesh express his grief to his friend and the honor he receives in death? What has Enkidu meant to Gilgamesh?
- What images express Gilgamesh's reactions to the death?
- How does he deal with his grief?
- What do the scorpion beings reveal to him?
- What is his answer?
- What do they warn him of?
- What is Gilgamesh's experience? The end of the journey?
- What does the tavern-keeper suspect at first? Why?
- How does Gilgamesh explain himself?
- What is her warning?
- What happens when Gilgamesh meets the "stone things"? What does he demand of Urshanabi, the boatman?
- What seems to be the problem? Who is at fault?
- Urshanabi offers an alternative whereby Gilgamesh makes punting poles and sails the boat himself. What does Urshanabi warn him about?
- What is the question Gilgamesh brings to Utanapishtim (the Babylonian version of Noah of the Ark fame)?
- What insights into Gilgamesh's life does he offer? What insights into the mystery of death?
- How do the gods react to the Flood once it comes?
- What is the effect of the storm?
- Note Utanapishtim's description of landing and searching for viable land. What is the effect of his sacrifice?
- How does Enlil react when he sees someone has survived?
- How does Ea chastise Enlil? What does Enlil do for Utanapishtim and his wife?
- Utanapishtim tells Gilgamesh that he can't lie down (as in sleep) for six days and seven nights. As soon as Gilgamesh sits, however, he falls asleep. How do they prove to him that he has indeed slept the full time he was supposed to be awake?
- What does Gilgamesh realize?
- Why does Utanapishtim punish Ur-shanabi the ferryman?
- What does Utanapishtim's wife suggest? What does her husband come up with?
- How does Gilgamesh show himself worthy of this gift of rejuvenation?
- What happens in spite of his cautions?