The Search for Immortality
"No man born of woman has done what you have asked; no mortal man has ever gone into the mountain." These were the words of the two half dragon half women features guarding the entrance of the mountain leading to the golden garden of the goddesses to Gilgamesh. This line simply means that Gilgamesh was asking for the impossible and at the same time seeking to enter where no man have ever dared to go. This essay will unfold the significance of these words to the entire text. Additionally, the essay also seeks to demonstrate how the line has been used to establish the central theme in the Epic of Gilgamesh.
When Gilgamesh’s only friend dies, he experiences a lot of pain and sorrow as well as the fear of death. Gilgamesh suddenly starts thinking of the possibility of him also dying soon. He even says "Me, shall I not lie down like him, never again to move." For the love of his best friend Enkidu, Gilgamesh begins his search for immortality. Gilgamesh’s love for his friend is so great that when the boatman asks him about Enkidu he answers, "Don’t ask me to retell my pain, I only want to bring him back to life." The journey to immortality is however not an easy one, and Gilgamesh goes through a lot of obstacles.
Gilgamesh sets of his journey to the golden garden to meet his quest for immortality. He, however, bumps into his first barrier at the entrance of the garden. The garden guards that are half dragon and half woman tell his "No man born of woman has done what you have asked, no mortal man has ever gone into the mountain." The guards used the sentence to show Gilgamesh that he was no different or superior from the others, and thus he could not seek the impossible which is immortality. The dragon guards meant that only immortal beings such as gods could enter the golden garden. Gilgamesh was nevertheless very persistent in fact he thought of himself as superior to the rest of the people. His superiority complex can be attributed to the fact that he is one-third man and two-thirds god.
This sentence serves a very significant role of displaying the text’s central theme that immortality is unachievable. When Gilgamesh is finally allowed into the golden garden where he meets the Sun God called Shamash who also echoes the same words and tells him, "You will never find the life for which you are searching." Gilgamesh is very upset by this reality that he thinks out aloud, "sleep and let the earth cover my head forever?" To him, the idea of dying was very scary. The just never imagined that he could travel that far and find no solution to his fears.
Being the adamant person that he was, Gilgamesh decides to seek the help of Siduri, the women of vine who was also known to as the winemaker. To his disbelieve she too adds to his anger by confirming what he already knows that no one is immortal. She hits the nail on the head and tells him, "Gilgamesh, where/ are you hurrying to? You will never find that life for which you are looking." She further advises his to just enjoy his life to the fullest as that is the primary purpose of man. The unsatisfied Gilgamesh, however, embarks on another search to find Utnapishtim, the only human with eternal life. On finding Utnapishtim, he pleads with him that his only desire is to become immortal like him. Utnapishtim, on the other hand, tells Gilgamesh, "There is no permanence".
The same idea that immortality is unachievable and no man can, therefore, be immortal is portrayed in the book of Genesis. In the book of Genesis the first man and woman are seen trying to be like God by seeking to be immortal. In Genesis 3:3 God says to the Adam and Eve, "you must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die." This was a direct order from the Lord to the first man and women. The two, however, disobeyed God’s command and ate from the tree in the middle of the garden. The problem started with the serpent who deceived Eve by telling her, "You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
The sentence, "You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" is very significant in the book of Genesis. The sentence emphasizes on the fear of death by man. The serpent knew that man was scared of death thus the need for reassuring Eve that eating the forbidden fruit will not kill her. The serpent also used the promise that they will be like God to lure the Eve and Adam into taking the fruit. This is a clear indication that since the beginning of the world man had also desired to be superior and immortal just like God.
In both texts, it is clear that the characters are driven by their desire of wanting to be superior. In the Epic, Gilgamesh tries to be a God by getting eternal life. The same phenomenon is true in the case of Adam and Eve, who try to become God by consuming the forbidden fruit. The serpent lied to Eve that the forbidden fruit will make her like God, who is immortal. Additionally, in both stories the snake plays a very destructive role. For instance in the book of Genesis, it is the serpent who deceives Eve into eating the forbidden fruit. Similarly in the Epic of Gilgamesh, when Gilgamesh finds the marvelous plant that has the ability to reinstate a man’s youth, the serpent snatch the plant away and vanishes into the well.
Both in the Epic of Gilgamesh and in the first book of the Holy bible Genesis, the characters are not successful in achieving immortality. Even after consuming the forbidden fruit Adam and Eve still have to die. Although their eyes are opened, and they become aware of right and right they do not end up becoming immortal as God. On the hand, in the Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh does not find the solution of attaining immortality nor does he find a means of bringing his dead friend back to life.