July 13, 2007


Caption: This guy says "I was framed."

Welcome to the last day of Goat Rope's Fun With the Epic of Gilgamesh Week. If this is your first visit, please click on the earlier posts. You will also find, as always, snarky comments on current events.

Gilgamesh went to a lot of trouble to find the secret of immortality. He crossed dangerous seas under the guidance of the ferryman Urshanabi and visits with Utanapishtim, the Sumerian Noah (or Deucalion, if you want to go Greek), and his wife.

The latter prompts her husband to give him one last chance to find the secret of everlasting life:

Gilgamesh, I shall reveal a secret thing, it is a mystery of the gods that I am telling you. There is a plant that grows under the water, it has a prickle like a thorn, like a rose; it will wound your hands, but if you succeed in taking it, then your hands will hold that which restores his lost youth to a man.

El Cabrero could use a little of that...

When he gets to deep water, Gilgamesh ties stones to his feet so he can sink to the bottom. He plucks the plant but for some reason won't use it at the time. Instead, he plans to take it home to Uruk

there I will give it to the old men to eat. It's name will be "The Old Men Are Young Again"; and at last I shall eat it myself and have back all my lost youth.

As you probably guessed, it didn't work out that way. On the way home, Gilgamesh stops to bathe in a pool of cool water

but deep in the pool was lying a serpent, and the serpent sensed the sweetness of the flower. It rose out of the water and snatched it away, and immediately it sloughed its skin and returned to the well.

Gilgamesh weeps over what was his last chance to live forever, or at least a lot longer. He returns with the ferryman to Uruk. He is warned of his coming death in one of many dreams (like Genesis, this epic is all about dreams). He is consoled and urged to accept his limitations with gratitude by the god Enlil:

You were given the kingship, such was your destiny, everlasting life was not your destiny. Because of this do not be sad at heart, do not be grieved or oppressed; he has given you power to bind and to loose, to be the darkness and the light of mankind. He has given unexampled supremacy over the people, victory in battle from which no fugitive returns, in forays and assaults from which there is no going back. But do not abuse this power, deal justly with your servants in the palace, deal justly before the face of the sun.

In the end, he dies like all the rest of us and is laid to rest in his tomb with copious offerings from his family and subjects.

It's really a pretty good story, not bad at all for one of humanity's first drafts. When it was rediscovered in the 1800s, many were shocked by the story of the Flood and the ark (although the Greeks had one too).

Others have since wondered whether wandering Greek bards may have learned of it in their travels, where it may have influenced the Homeric tradition of the Iliad and the Odyssey. We'll probably never know.

Naturally, scholars have come up with all kinds of interpretations. I'll stick to the most obvious: no matter who we are, we are mortal. We should be grateful for what we have and "deal justly before the face of the sun."

STOP THE PRESSES! Scientists think that feeding cows garlic could reduce some of their noxious emissions and reduce greenhouse gases. The measure would also dramatically reduce bovine vampire attacks.

PUTTING THE "VICE" IN VICE PRESIDENT. The latest New Yorker has an interesting piece on VP Cheney.

SHOULD DOGS VOTE? It looks like an Australian shepherd/terrier mix has been removed from the voting rolls in Washington state. I don't know shepherd/terrier mixes that well so I can't comment on the wisdom of the decision. I do believe, however that boxers, if given the franchise, might well sell their votes for popcorn.

WHICH REMINDS ME...There are all these WV jokes about dead people being on the voting rolls. Personally, I think you should only cast a ballot in the name of a dead person if you are REALLY sure how they'd vote.


1 comment:

Juanuchis said...

As a fan of mythology, I have to say that this has been a vastly entertaining week with the Epic of Gilgamesh. I'm familiar with the story, but no one tells it like you, El Cabrero!

Well done!