The Epic of Gilgamesh by Stephen Mitchell
Enkidu in warning his friend about the Humbaba also reminds him in a roundabout way of the god’s status. He does this by reminding his friend that it was the work of the gods that put the terrible beast in the forest. His friend Gilgamesh answers him in a manner that shows that he is very aware of the possibility of death at the hands of the Humbaba. The two friends are in a situation that makes them both acutely and keenly aware of death. Gilgamesh also seems to be enthralled with the god’s immortality and it seems like death in valor at matters more to him than staying alive or the immortality of the gods. Both ideas seem to matter very little in his quest of killing the Humbaba. To Gilgamesh calls Enkidu “dear friend” then goes on to chastise him for speaking like a coward. He hastily follows this chastisement with indirect praise by affirming that Enkidu, speech was not worthy of his character. He also points out that he was aggrieved at heart at his friend’s words. This leaves us with the conclusion that this is a dear friend rebuking another. He uses the word “no for emphasis and to reaffirm that indeed they were not gods but mere mortals. Gilgamesh is reminded by Enkidu that the Humbaba has been placed in the forest by the gods in order to instill fear but he will not agree to give in to fear. Gilgamesh had obviously considered the possibility of their death at the hands of the Humbaba and come to terms with it. This can be deduced by his mention of mortality and his contrast of the immortality of the gods.
Gilgamesh’s praise of Enkidu shows that he was not a coward and in fact was a worthy person. The Humbaba was reportedly feared by gods and men alike as revealed by the warning and reminder by Enkidu. Women were not mentioned in the text and so we can assume that such exploits were not part of their interests. Alternatively, that they were not considered as important enough to be among those who would dare fight the Humbaba. The Humbaba is a creation of the gods and yet Gilgamesh wants to it kill so much that he pushes all the arguments against it from his friend aside. He also declares to his friend that they are mere mortals but is still determined to forge ahead with a task that is feared by gods and man alike and filled with danger. Why is not asked of explicitly but indirectly through Enkidu attempt at preventing his friend form risking both their lives in a quest which was deemed as dangerous by gods and man. Gods are mentioned in the both excerpts. The first excerpt is here Enkidu makes reference to the gods as the ones who placed the Humbaba in the forest and as also in awe of it as men are. The second as comparison by Gilgamesh in reference their immortality versus men’s mortality. Forever is implied by the immortality of the gods who live forever. Mountains, trees and wind would be the natural occurrences of the forest in which he Humbaba lived. Gilgamesh was there with the intension of killing the Humbaba and his friend Enkidu was only trying to dissuade him so they may not die but live.
Gilgamesh showed courage in his stance but also reveals that his friend was a man worthy of the same courage but only needed a little chiding to get his courage together. The temporary show of cowardice of Enkidu is in contrast with the braveness of Gilgamesh even at the face of a terrible beast. Gilgamesh is aware of their mortality and the possibility of death, which he contrasts with the immortality of the gods. Yet he is ready to risk his safety and life in order to fight the beast. The danger of the beast seems to be legendary and well known to both friends. The beast is portrayed as fierce with fire rising out of its being. One can imagine that they were describing a dragon due to the mention of fire. The fact that the beast was feared by both man and gods suggest that it had faced them both in battle and, prevailed so that there was so much fear about its person. The Humbaba also comes out as a gigantic creature that had immense powers that rivaled both man and gods alike.