I’ve gone back and forth alot with this project. I’ve tried out different methods of presenting the story in terms of imagery and trying to capture the scale of the story, as well as provide some emotional depth. When I last put up tablet images, I wasn’t fully content with the style. I felt that the viewer remained disconnected, because you couldn’t really understand or connect with the characters. I had been trying to go for a cave painting type feel, but you know what? I think that was the most expressive way they could present their stories at the time, and just because it’s the most expressive for that time, doesn’t mean it’s the best way to present the story now.
So I started over. I took these 8×11 Bristol Sheets of paper, and got down to business. I’ll post the tablets, and then the summary of the story for that part.
The story starts with the introduction of Gilgamesh, king of Uruk. Gilgamesh, two-thirds god and one-third man, is an asshole. He does whatever he wants, just because he can. The Gods create his equal Enkidu, a primitive man covered in hair that lives with wild animals. They hope he can distract Gilgamesh from selfish and questionable activities.
Learning from a passing stranger about Gilgamesh’s treatment of new brides (he sleeps with them before the husbands do), 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. Despite warnings from both Enkidu and the council of elders, Gilgamesh will not be deterred.
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, and they start 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 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.
The heroes enter the cedar forest and their fears return. Humbaba, the ogre-guardian of the Cedar Forest, insults and threatens them. Gilgamesh is afraid, but with some encouraging words from Enkidu the battle commences.The god Shamash sends his 13 winds to bind Humbaba and he is captured. The monster pleads for his life, and Gilgamesh pities him. Enkidu, however, is enraged and asks Gilgamesh to kill the beast. Humbaba curses them both and Gilgamesh dispatches him with a blow to the neck. The two heroes cut down many cedars, including a gigantic tree that Enkidu plans to fashion into a gate for the temple of Enlil. They build a raft and return home along the Euphrates with the giant tree and the head of Humbaba.
Gilgamesh rejects the advances of the goddess Ishtar because she’s crazy. Ishtar asks her father Anu to send the “Bull of Heaven” to avenge her . When Anu rejects her complaints, Ishtar threatens to raise the dead who will “outnumber the living” and “devour them” (see what I mean). Anu gets scared and gives in. The bull of heaven is led to Uruk by Ishtar, and causes widespread devastation. Enkidu and Gilgamesh attack and slay the beast without any divine assistance and offer up its heart to Shamash. When Ishtar cries out in agony, Enkidu hurls one of the bull’s hindquarters at her. The city of Uruk celebrates, but Enkidu has an ominous dream.
In Enkidu’s dream, the gods decide that one of the heroes must die for slaying the Bull of Heaven and Humbaba. Despite the protestations of Shamash, Enkidu is marked for death. Enkidu considers the great door he fashioned for Enlil’s temple, and curses it. Then Shamash speaks from heaven, reminding Enkidu of how Shamhat fed and clothed him, and introduced him to Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh will bestow great honors upon him at his funeral, and will later wander the wild consumed with grief. Enkidu regrets his curses and blesses Shamhat, temporarily calmed. In a second dream, however, he sees himself being taken captive to the Netherworld by a terrifying Angel of Death. The underworld is a “house of dust” and darkness whose inhabitants eat clay and are clothed in bird feathers, supervised by terrifying beings. For twelve days, Enkidu’s condition worsens. Finally, after a last lament that he could not meet a heroic death in battle, he dies.
Gilgamesh delivers a long lamentation for Enkidu, in which he calls upon forests, mountains, fields, rivers, wild animals, and all of Uruk to mourn for his friend. Recalling their adventures together, Gilgamesh tears at his hair and clothes in grief. He commissions a funerary statue and provides valuable grave gifts from his treasury to ensure a favourable reception for Enkidu in the realm of the dead. A great banquet is held where the treasures are ceremonially offered to the gods of the Netherworld.
Tablet nine opens with Gilgamesh grieving for Enkidu and roaming the wild clothed in animal skins. Fearful of his own death, his object is to find the legendaryUtnapishtim (“the Faraway”), and learn the secret of eternal life. Among the few survivors of the Great Flood, Utnapishtim and his wife are the only humans to have been granted immortality by the gods.
Gilgamesh meets the alewife Siduri, who first believes Gilgamesh is a murderer from his dishevelled appearance, and tells her the purpose of his journey. Siduri attempts to dissuade him from his quest but sends him to Urshanabi, the ferryman, to help him cross the sea to Utnapishtim. The Waters of Death, analogous to the River Styx of Greek mythology, are deadly to the touch, so Urshanabi asks him to cut 300 trees and fashion them into punting poles. Finally, they reach the island of Utnapishtim. Utnapishtim sees that there is someone else in the boat and asks Gilgamesh who he is. Gilgamesh tells him his story and asks for help, but Utnapishtim reprimands him because fighting the common fate of humans is futile and diminishes life’s joys.
Gilgamesh observes that Utnapishtim seems no different from himself, and asks him how he obtained immortality. Utnapishtim tells an ancient story of how the gods decide to send a great flood.The main point seems to be that Utnapishtim was granted eternal life in unique, never to be repeated circumstances. As if to demonstrate this point, Utnapishtim challenges Gilgamesh to stay awake for six days and seven nights. However, as soon as Utnapishtim finishes speaking Gilgamesh falls asleep. Utnapishtim instructs his wife to bake a loaf of bread for every day he is asleep so that Gilgamesh cannot deny his failure. Gilgamesh, who wants to overcome death, cannot even conquer sleep! After instructing his ferryman to wash Gilgamesh and clothe him in royal robes, Utnapishtim sends the pair back to Uruk.
As they are leaving, Utnapishtim’s wife asks her husband to offer a parting gift. Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh of a boxthorn-like plant at the very bottom of the ocean that will make him young again. Gilgamesh obtains the plant by binding stones to his feet so he can walk on the bottom of the sea. He recovers the plant and plans to test it on an old man when he returns to Uruk. Unfortunately, when Gilgamesh stops to bathe it is stolen by a serpent that sheds its skin as it departs. Gilgamesh weeps at the futility of his efforts, having now lost all chance of immortality. He then returns to Uruk, where the sight of its massive walls prompts him to praise this enduring work to Urshanabi.
If you want to read the full account of the story and anything else related to The Epic of Gilgamesh, the Wikipedia article can be found here