Gilgamesh vs. Odyssey Essay
As the well known heroes’ tales end, crossing barren seas and going through mountains, one begins to compare Odysseus’s epic journey to Gilgamesh’s epic journey. Both stories are enticing and present a numerous amount of themes, some similar, some different. Both characters evolve; it is clear that the characters known at the beginning of the book have changed. Although both journeys involve growth as leaders, Odysseus is at the mercy of the gods, monsters, and powerful people and realizes his place and becomes humbled, while Gilgamesh the demigod becomes arrogant and selfish.
When Odysseus is first mentioned (Odyssey Pp. 83), very little leadership is shown. He is portrayed as helpless; the quote “he saw nothing of the great Odysseus,” and throughout books four through eight, his constant complaining shows this. Similarly Gilgamesh’s leadership is questioned in a formula, “Is this the shepherd of the people? ” (G,pp 4) However when both characters have their “Aha” moments, readers start to see the characters develop, and blossom into confident, genuine people. Steadily, Odysseus grows more and more.
The first time this is present is when Odysseus saves his men from the Lotus flowers, he manages to save all of his men and escape the mind controlling island (O Book 9). This shows his fatherly sense of protection which is vital to being a leader. Another time we see Odysseus grow as a leader is when he manages to lead his men out of Polyphemos’s cave (O book 9). Odysseus’s strength and cleverness is shown, which makes him a noble leader. The single time Odysseus grew the most leadership wise, was when he went back to Circe’s island to give Elpenor a proper funeral (O,Book 10).
This shows Odysseus’s humaneness and allows the reader to see that Odysseus would do anything for his men. Throughout these experiences it is clear that Odysseus is no longer passive towards his crew, he is now assertive, and direct to his crew. Gilgamesh grew as a leader as well. When Gilgamesh battles the demon, Huwawa, Gilgamesh is seen assaulting, and ultimately killing him (G, pp 27). This shows Gilgamesh’s leadership because he is strong, and has the ability to take on a dangerous demon. Another time we see Gilgamesh’s leadership is when he makes the decision not to risk his life for a plant that would make him younger (G, pp 79).
By allowing himself to not care about the plant, Gilgamesh showed that he was strong, both emotionally and mentally. Finally when Gilgamesh arrives back to his home in Uruk, he no longer rapes woman, or is a bad leader, in fact, he is a respected person (G, pp 82). Gilgamesh is now seen as a leader, and the Gilgamesh at the beginning of the book, is not the same as the Gilgamesh at the end. When Odysseus is first introduced, it is a well known fact that Odysseus is a mortal and fears objects more powerful than him. Throughout the story, we see Odysseus fretting the gods.
The first time we see Odysseus’s fear of gods is at Polyphemos’s island, where after Odysseus stabs Polyphemos in the eye, Poseidon sends a storm as revenge. This sends Odysseus off course, and leads to even more adventure (O, Book 9). It is seen that Odysseus is going adrift and has no control over his ship, proving that Poseidon was much stronger than him. Odysseus also fears monsters, such as the Sirens (O book 11) and Scylla, the six headed monster (O, Book 11). He show fear towards the sirens because he knows they are extremely dangerous with their beautiful songs.
He fears Scylla because crews are known for getting into trouble around her cave, seeing as she eats people, six at a time. Odysseus’s fear is also shown while he is in the Underworld (O, Book 10). In this section we see Odysseus’s strong desire not to die and be like his friends and family in the underworld. His friend Achilleus says that he’d rather be a poor country farmer who is alive than a glorious lord in the Underworld. Throughout these experiences, Odysseus transforms from lost to humble, and the reader starts to emphasize more with Odysseus once this happens.
Gilgamesh, the demigod, is two thirds god and one thirds human. One sees his leadership qualities in his journeys; however, Gilgamesh’s arrogance and selfishness is shown in some parts of the book as well. The first time we see Gilgamesh’s arrogance is when (G,pp 3) the description states the state of Uruk. We see that Gilgamesh is too good for Uruk, and its people, seeing as he rapes the women, and it is run down. The book starts off with no empathy for Gilgamesh, which makes readers unsure if he is a good person.
A second time Gilgamesh’s selfishness is shown is when Gilgamesh tames Enkidu, leaving the wild world without a leader (O, pp 13). This is selfish of Gilgamesh because for his own desperation for a companion, Gilgamesh ruins the wild world forever. We also see selfishness in Gilgamesh when he decides to leave his people to find everlasting life. This shows that Gilgamesh puts himself in front of his duty, and that Gilgamesh would rather be protected himself, than protect his city. This is a character flaw in Gilgamesh, but in the nd, he always learns something from his mistakes; this is arguably one of the most important things about Gilgamesh. Throughout the two epic journeys, it is clear that the characters are closer to the readers. The authors manage to show the characters in a relatable sense; the author shows the characters growing as people, and they show how the characters become stronger. The characters are reborn, and each time a new great trait is seen in them. Gilgamesh and Odysseus both grow as leaders and people, and in the end the reader sympathizes with the characters.