Enkidu, Gilgamesh Character: Dream, Death & Quiz

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Mary Fogle

Mary has a Master's Degree in History with 18 advanced hours in Government. She has taught college History and Government courses.

Explore Ancient Babylon through the tale of Enkidu, a hero in the epic poem 'Gilgamesh.' Learn about his life, his prophetic dream, and his death. Discover several important figures in Babylonian mythology such as the gods Enlil, Anu, and Shamash, and the goddess, Ishtar.

We also recommend watching The Epic of Gilgamesh and Socrates: Life, Death and Philosophy

Enkidu, an Ancient Babylonian Hero

Enkidu is a character in the Ancient Babylonian epic poem 'Gilgamesh.' This epic poem tells the story of Gilgamesh, a young and ignorant king. According to the poem, the gods created Enkidu to help the young king to become a better ruler.

Enkidu was created as a fully grown man. His body was covered with shaggy hair and he clothed himself in animal skins. He had no contact with other humans and lived like a wild creature. He was strong and fast and intelligent, but he was more animal than human.

Enkidu was the friend of the gazelles and other wild animals that lived on the plains. When a hunter tried to hunt the gazelles, Enkidu tore up his traps and released any animals that the hunter managed to catch. The hunter was despondent because he was unable to feed his family, so he sent a message to Gilgamesh and asked the king to send him help.

Enkidu with a lion
Enkidu with a lion

Gilgamesh received the message and sent a priestess to teach the animal-like Enkidu to be a civilized man. When Enkidu saw the beautiful priestess he was entranced. They spent the next six days and nights together, and Enkidu learned to be a civilized man. After six days, Enkidu tried to return to the gazelles; however, they ran from him in fear. Enkidu was confused but the priestess explained that he was now a civilized man and could not return to living with the animals. She persuaded Enkidu to return to the city of Uruk, where Gilgamesh lived.

When Enkidu and the priestess arrived in Uruk, Enkidu decided to prove his strength by challenging Gilgamesh to a wrestling match. Gilgamesh happily accepted the challenge and the two men set out to prove that each one was the strongest and best fighter. They wrestled for some time, but neither man could best the other. Finally they agreed that each had met his match and they immediately became the best of friends. The two young men went on many adventures together, and Gilgamesh became wiser as a result of his new companion.

A carving of Enkidu
A carving of Enkidu

The Dream and the Death

One day the goddess Ishtar saw the two young heroes and fell deeply in love with Gilgamesh. The goddess promised Gilgamesh riches and power if he would agree to marry her; however, he refused. Ishtar was very angry at his refusal and she sent the Bull of Heaven to kill the young king.

Gilgamesh and Enkidu fought the bull and were eventually able to defeat the monstrous beast. Angry at Ishtar for attempting to kill his friend, Enkidu cursed the goddess. The people of Uruk had a massive feast to celebrate the victory of their king. That night when he went to sleep, Enkidu had a dream.

In the dream, the gods of Ancient Babylon were discussing the death of the Bull of Heaven. Ishtar and another god, Anu argued that both Gilgamesh and Enkidu should be killed for murdering the sacred bull. A more powerful god, Enlil, decreed that Enkidu must die for his curse on Ishtar but that Gilgamesh would live since the bull had attacked him.

When he awoke, Enkidu was frightened and angry. He cursed the events that led him to anger the gods and he wished that he had remained an uncivilized being. When the radiant god, Shamash, heard Enkidu cursing his life, he appeared and reminded Enkidu that he had gained many benefits from becoming a civilized man and from his friendship with Gilgamesh. Thinking of his friend and the amazing adventures that they had shared, Enkidu became calm. He died peacefully that night. Gilgamesh and the people of Uruk mourned for the loss of the young hero.

The death of Enkidu made Gilgamesh fear for his own mortality. He went on other adventures searching for the secret of immortality. Although his quest was unsuccessful, Gilgamesh returned to Uruk a much more kind and wise king. Through the death of his friend, Gilgamesh was able to grow as a human being and become a better ruler for his people.

Cylinder Seal depicting Enkidu battling the Bull of Heaven
Cylinder Seal depicting Enkidu battling the Bull of Heaven

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