gilgamesh and the hero s journey

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  • The Epic of Gilgamesh


So far, we have looked at the Hero’s journey by examining its parts. While this approach is helpful in understanding how to examine the myth, it is important to look at whole texts to see what and how the process we have examined this semester creates meaning. To do this, we will examine The Epic of Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh is one of my favorite characters and this is one of my favorite stories. If we had more time, we could delve into the many mysteries that surround this nearly 5,000 year old story. But for now, we will explore it as exemplifying the Hero’s journey.

As I said, the Hero’s Journey is about more than its parts. Cbell writes that “the quest and the return are two halves of the same circle. They comprise the empowerment process or journey of beginning that joins the participants with the ideal realm of their deities.”

Seperation→Initiation→Return are parts of the process of transformation. So, we can begin with the idea that the heroic journey is a symbol of our own transformation. Further, Cbell argues that the hero is a model of behavior and the heroic act is one of transformation. In this perspective, the journey or trip is a manifestation of his or her own nature. The adventure is the experience of life that leads to a change in consciousness.

Simply put, the hero is a symbol of our vitality. The influence of a vital person is to vitalize us. As we read mythological narratives, we come into contact with those symbols that evoke our vital character. We get to know ourselves as we go along. We have to pay attention and choose symbols and situations that reveal the best in ourselves—not the worst.

This is why heroes often begin as negative characters. Certainly, at the start of the epic, Gilgamesh is a bad character. Yet, through a series of tragedies and loss, he discovers not his “true self” (we are who we are) as much as a positive outlet for his energies. Often, what causes us to “mess up” is not channeling our strength in the right direction or not using them at all. In the end, what makes Gilgamesh a great king are the same attributes that made him a horrible human being. But, once channeled in the right direction, he becomes a transformative figure.

The hero, as symbol, and the journey, as symbol, leads to a reversal of existence. What we thought was strength is a weakness. What we thought was our weakness is our strength. We look to those symbols that raise our consciousness by changing the field of our perception. These symbols and these narratives infuse all life with the significance of existing .Once we have completed our own quest, either in reality, through the stories, or both, we can have that feeling of sanctity always. We have transformed our life.

Paper 2: Gilgamesh and the Hero’s Journey

The hero’s journey can be summed up with “Separation-Initiation-Return.” Explain each of these steps in detail using Gilgamesh to illustrate your explanation. After you have answered the question above, where do you see these characters and themes played out in popular culture? Be specific as you apply the stages of the hero’s journey to the film or TV show. Finally, discuss how both Gilgamesh and your contemporary hero vitalize the individual. Play mythographer and explore your own culture. Be specific by making use of clear exles from Gilgamesh and your pop-culture text. (quotes).

Reminder and Suggestions:
This paper is meant to give you the opportunity to illustrate your understanding of the material we have covered this semester


  • Your paper will need to be typed in a 12 point font and double spaced. Your paper should be at least 3 pages long.

Remember, the idea of this paper is to test your ability to be both a sponge and a fountain. After you get past the sponge stuff, really dig deep to make some connections that are meaningful to you.


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