Friendship arises out of mere companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest. In The Epic of Gilgamesh, we can observe several relationships, but one that stands out is Gilgamesh and Enkidu relationships. Enkidu and Gilgamesh have a mutually supportive and equal relationship that is showcased by their journey of companionship. Gilgamesh portrays his loyalty and his devotion as a friend when he tries to do the impossible just so he would make meaning out of his Enkidu’s death.
Enkidu helps put Gilgamesh’s power into balance. Gilgamesh was a ruler who was hated by the inhabitants of his city of Uruk because of his abuse of power. In his regime, “there was no rival who could raise his weapon against him…Gilgamesh didn’t leave a son to his father, He didn’t leave a girl to her betrothed!” (60). He exhausts his subjects with ceaseless battle, forced labor, and arbitrary exercises of power. He also selfishly indulges his appetites, raping whatever woman he desires, whether she is the wife of a warrior or a bride on her wedding night. His abuse of power led the citizen’s of Uruk to cry out to the gods for help. The gods heard their complaint and created a wild man named Enkidu with the goal of challenging Gilgamesh out of his arrogance. Although, Gilgamesh and Enkidu were informed of their future friendship before it even developed.
Enkidu is transformed by Shamhat, the prostitute, from an animal to a human. His encounter with the prostitute was his development of manhood. As the prostitute tells Enkidu about Gilgamesh, Enkidu feels a need of a companion and he decides to meet Gilgamesh. Meanwhile, Gilgamesh had a dream to inform him that he will get a friend whom he will embrace as a wife. In his dreams, as Ninsun, his mother, interpreted, “there will come to you a mighty man, a comrade who saves his friend, he is the mightiest in the land, he is the strongest” (65). Ninsun revealed that the relationship between Gilgamesh and Enkidu was one of great loyalty and trust but they start off as enemies. In their first encounter, “they grappled with each other at the entry to the marital chamber, in the street they attacked each other, the public square of the land” (66). After the fight they embraced and promised each other to stay together always.
Both Gilgamesh and Enkidu are very supportive of each other. They rely on each other’s strengths and weaknesses to survive through their dangerous venture and both motivate each other when in doubt. Enkidu told Gilgamesh about Humbaba, who Enlil assigned to protect the Cedar Forest. After Gilgamesh heard of Humbaba he proposed they should kill Humbaba and cut down the cedar but Enkidu is not up for the idea. Gilgamesh tells Enkidu, “I will go in front of you, and your mouth can call out: ‘Go out closer, do not be afraid!’” (67). Gilgamesh’s words motivated Enkidu into joining him into the act. Also, when Enkidu and Gilgamesh were about to fight Humbaba, Enkidu alleviates Gilgamesh’s anxiety by saying, “My friend, take Humbaba, Guardian of the Cedar Forest, grind up, kill, pulverize and…him!” (74). Gilgamesh is boosted to do the act because Enkidu pressurizes him and also Gilgamesh feels like his best friend supports his idea. Both men did everything together because their dangerous adventures needed the mutual support which they had in their relationship.
The truly sympathetic and compassionate side of Gilgamesh comes out after his companion Enkidu dies. Gilgamesh couldn’t bear the loss of a love so powerful, “he cried bitterly, roaming the wilderness” (84). He had all the power but his life felt as something was missing which shows that he had a good relationship with Enkidu. The grief in his heart had far surpassed the magnificent pride that he had previously displayed so boldly. Gilgamesh had a lot of pride and believed that he is so mighty. “I want to make myself more mighty” (67). He portrayed himself with a lot of pride but after Enkidu’s death he was left confused and he went to, “roam the wilderness,” and he “set out to the region of Utnapishtim” (84). Gilgamesh truly suffered from Enkidu’s death which shows that these two could be rightfully called soul mates.
Even though Gilgamesh suffers and feels angry, but he acknowledges fate and his helplessness. He feels a huge emptiness inside; he lost an equal to himself, a partner, a brother. Nothing can fill this place in his heart. Gilgamesh is condemned to wonder through the rest of his life being aware of his humanity.