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Enkidu

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Adapa, Enkidu
Enmerkar, Geshtinanna
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Enkidu

Possible representation of Enkidu

Enkidu (𒂗𒆠𒆕 EN.KI.DU3 "Enki's creation") is a central figure in the Ancient Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh. Enkidu was formed from clay and saliva by Aruru, the goddess of creation, to rid Gilgamesh of his arrogance. In the story he is a wild man, raised by animals and ignorant of human society until he is bedded by Shamhat. Thereafter a series of interactions with humans and human ways bring him closer to civilization, culminating in a wrestling match with Gilgamesh, king of Uruk. Enkidu embodies the wild or natural world, and though equal to Gilgamesh in strength and bearing, acts in some ways as an antithesis to the cultured, urban-bred warrior-king. Enkidu then becomes the king's constant companion and deeply beloved friend, accompanying him on adventures until he is stricken ill. The deep, tragic loss of Enkidu profoundly inspires in Gilgamesh a quest to escape death by obtaining godly immortality.

Older sources sometimes transliterate his name as Enkimdu, Eabani, or Enkita. Enkidu is a modern variant.

Enkidu later in the Epic of Gilgamesh

Enkidu assists Gilgamesh in defeating and killing Humbaba, the guardian monster of the Cedar Forest. Afterwards, he again assists Gilgamesh in slaying Gugalanna the Bull of Heaven, which the gods have sent to kill Gilgamesh as a reprisal for spurning the goddess Ishtar's affections while enumerating the misfortunes that befell her former lovers. Ishtar demands that the pair pay for the bull's destruction. Shamash argues to the other gods to spare both of them, but could only save Gilgamesh. The gods pass judgment that Enkidu had no justification for fighting the Bull of Heaven and was interfering with their will. Enkidu then is overcome by a severe illness. Near death, he has visions of a gloomy afterlife, and curses the trapper and Shamhat for civilizing him. He retracts his curse on Shamhat, however, after Shamash scolds him, reminding him that it was Shamhat who taught him the pleasures of civilization, and ultimately, brought him to Gilgamesh.

Gilgamesh mourns over the body of Enkidu for several desperate days. In a vivid line repeated in the epic, Gilgamesh only allows his friend to be buried after a maggot falls out of the corpse's nose. Gilgamesh's close observation of rigor mortis and the slow decomposition of Enkidu's body provides the hero with the impetus for his quest for eternal life, and his visit to Utnapishtim.

There is another non-canonical tablet in which Enkidu journeys into the underworld, but many scholars consider the tablet to be a sequel or add-on to the original epic.

Cultural references

  • Enkidu and the Gilgamesh Epic have been mentioned in various modern works of fiction; see adaptations of the Epic of Gilgamesh.
  • In season 2 episode 8 of the TV show Lost titled Collision, John Locke is seen working on a crossword puzzle in which one of the hints is "Enkidu's Friend," the answer to which is Gilgamesh.
  • In the episode Darmok of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Captain Jean-Luc Picard references the story of Enkidu and Gilgamesh as a human parallel to that of Darmok and Jalad.
  • In the games series Final Fantasy, Gilgamesh is often encountered with a canine companion named Enkidu.
  • Civilization III: Conquests, the second expansion to the computer game Sid Meier's Civilization III, features the civilization of Sumeria under King Gilgamesh. Their special unit is the Enkidu Warrior.
  • Enkidu and Gilgamesh are the main antagonists of Peter David's 2003 fantasy novel, One Knight Only.
  • In the manga and anime series Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Enkidu is the name of the first upgraded form of the antagonist Viral's mecha Enki, which may itself have been named after the Sumerian god of the same name. Viral shares a number of traits with Enkidu himself, being a beast-man and joining forces with the protagonist.
  • A set of heavy armor found in the Forgotten Realms's game Neverwinter Nights is called Enkidu's Armor.
  • In Fate/Stay Night "Unlimited Blade Works" Route, Enkidu -Divinity subduing chains- is the Noble Phantasm most trusted by the servant Gilgamesh.
  • In MARDEK RPG, full name of Enki's son is Mardek Innanu El-Enkidu.
  • In the RPG Vampire: The Masquerade, Enkidu is a Gangrel vampire member of the Anathema and keeper of several ghouled animals that no longer exist that he has absorbed into his physical form and kept them alive by vampire blood. Enkidu tries to use other vampire blood rather than his own to keep these creatures alive.(Kindred's Most Wanted pages 33 – 36).
  • In Fred Saberhagen's novel The Arms of Hercules, Enkidu is the name of Hercules' 12-year-old nephew who accompanies the demi-god on his journeys.

Bibliography

The Epic of Gilgamesh, Foster, Benjamin R. trans. & edit. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2001. ISBN 0-393-97516-9

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