To tell the story, I’ll post the tablet up, then the summary description below it. Just to clarify the smaller figures in the tablets, Gilgamesh is the guy with a row of spikes above his head, almost like a sideways crown, and Enkidu is the stockier guy with the beard. The less detail the better, when it comes to communicating information without clogging the tablets. Tablet One!
The story starts with the introduction of Gilgamesh, king of Uruk. Gilgamesh, two-thirds god and one-third man, oppresses the city’s citizens who cry out to the gods for help. For the young women of Uruk this oppression takes the form of a droit de seigneur- or “lord’s right” – to newly married brides on their wedding night. For the young men it is conjectured that Gilgamesh exhausted them through games, tests of strength, or perhaps forced labour on building projects. The gods respond to the citizen’s plea for intervention by creating an equal to Gilgamesh who will distract him from these objectionable activities. They create a primitive man, Enkidu, who is covered in hair and lives in the wild with animals. Enkidu gets seduced by a skilled harlot. His seduction by Shamhat, a temple prostitute, is the first step in his civilization, and she proposes to take him back to Uruk after making love for seven days.
Shamhat brings Enkidu to the shepherd’s camp where he is introduced to a human diet and becomes the camp’s night watchman. Learning from a passing stranger about Gilgamesh’s treatment of new brides, Enkidu is incensed and travels to Uruk to intervene at a wedding. When Gilgamesh attempts to visit the wedding chamber, Enkidu blocks his way and they fight. After a fierce battle, Enkidu acknowledges Gilgamesh’s superior strength and they become friends. Gilgamesh proposes that they journey together to the Cedar Forest to slay the monstrous demi-god Humbaba, in order to gain fame and renown.
The elders give Gilgamesh advice for his journey. Gilgamesh visits his mother, the goddess Ninsun, who seeks the support and protection of the sun-god Shamash for the two adventurers. Ninsun adopts Enkidu as her son, Gilgamesh leaves instructions for governing Uruk in his absence, and they embark on their quest.
Gilgamesh and Enkidu journey to the Cedar Forest. Every few days they make camp on a hill or mountain to perform a dream ritual. Gilgamesh has five terrifying dreams that involve falling mountains, thunderstorms, wild bulls, and a thunderbird that breathes fire. Despite the similarities between the dream figures and earlier descriptions of Humbaba, Enkidu interprets all of the dreams as good omens, denying that any of the frightening images represent the forest guardian. As they approach the cedar mountain, they hear Humbaba bellowing and have to encourage each other not to be afraid.