Follow TV Tropes


Headscratchers / The Epic of Gilgamesh

Go To

  • Gilgamesh was 2/3 immortal. How does that work?
    • Canonically (if my knowledge of Mesopotamian mythology is up to par), Gilgamesh was not born in the normal sense, but rather created by the gods. Three gods created different aspects of him (body, intellect, and something else I think). Two of them were divine in nature, but one (most likely his body or his lifespan) remained human.
    • As Gilgamesh was essentially the Babylonian equivalent of Chuck Norris, the answer is that he's such a badass that he actually re-fertilized his own embryo.
    • Advertisement:
    • Don't forget that the story is basically a shonen anime in written form. I'm surprised they haven't made an anime from it!
      • They did. Sorta.
      • Don't forget Gilgamesh, which picks up the story in modern times.
    • Maybe his mother slept with two gods that day, and he got genes (or whatever the closest equivalent the Babylonians believed in back then) from all three.
      • It could have been that he was the result of a set of fraternal twins combining to form a chimera...I'm not too sure if two zygotes could have been formed with different fathers however but then this is an ancient legend so...
      • It's possible, though unlikely, for twins to have different fathers.
    • He got 1/2 and 1/8 from somewhere and they rounded off to the nearest common fraction.
    • Ask Schrodinger's cat.
    • The Sumerians only had analogue genes - digital genes weren't invented until much later.
    • Advertisement:
    • Easy. First, a god and mortal had a kid. Then this demi-god child had a kid with a god as well. The child born from it is Gilgamesh
      • That would be 3/4 god, not 2/3. The simple answer is that ancient Babylonians probably didn't understand genetics.
    • Easy. His grandparents are one mortal, two gods, and one 2/3 god. The 2/3 grandparent's grandparents are also one mortal, two gods, and one 2/3 god. Turtles all the way down.
      • Well played, good sir.
    • Presumably, the Sumerians may assumed there were three parties involved in Gilgamesh's birth. The obvious ones would be his divine mother Ninsun, and his mortal, yet royal father Lugalbanda. So there may have been a second god that was party to his birth, or alternatively, since Lugalbanda was a divine king, he was considered to be simultaneously a god and a man - hence, Gilgamesh got two parts of god, and one part of human.
    • Advertisement:
    • Lugulbanda became a god afterward. Obviously he was 1/3 on the way to godhood when Gilgamesh was conceived.
      • Or... the scribe just thought 2/3 sounded cool.
    • Dude, three-way. It's good to be the King.
    • Always thought it was figurative. A fancy way of saying he was more god than man.
      • I think this is what my prof. said. He also pretty much specifically told us to not worry too much about plot-logics.
    • It means he could only mostly die.
    • Gil's mother was a hermaphrodite.
    • His mother was a goddess, and his father became a god gradually over the course of his life. So his father was about 1/3 divine when Gilgamesh was conceived.
      • But it was the norm that the kings were all considered to be like that. If my understanding of how these things worked is correct then it is much like with the ancient Pharaohs and it was something like the same fallacies behind the 3/5ths compromise. They were trying to have it both ways and not giving any thought to reason because...well, because they were people and most people just dont think very hard about anything. (Or if they did, then they wouldn't dare do so aloud about something like this. It might be physically dangerous for them given the circumstances.) You see, they were living in somewhat of a thearchy: the dude must be such a badass as to be godly if he's our king, but he's clearly not really a god because he's going to die and have a successor: experience teaches us that. And he'd been injured or sick before, in all likelihood. So...I've got it! He's sort of a demi-god! That's it!
      • Wrong. Kings were, _not_ normally considered living gods like in Egypt. It was more the case that kingship as an institution was handed down by the gods and the kings were appointees therof-for instance, Assurbanipal's Coronation Hymn(SAA 3.11) says "Assur is King! Assur is King! Assurbanipal is his representative, the creation of his hands!". Kings being referred to as "divine" as far as I know extends only to the mythic past(Lugalbanda, e.g.). We have very few cases of a living king being proclaimed a god, the most famous being Naram-Sin which we know from the Bassetki inscription saying as much-and doing so in a way that clearly designates this as exceptional.
    • No, no, no. C'mon guys, this one is easy. Gilgamesh's divine parent(s) reached down into his human parent(s), snipped out two-thirds of his human DNA, and replaced it with divine DNA. Nobody said Gilgamesh had to be built entirely the old-fashioned way.
    • Okay, this is hitting WAY off the mark...but the Troper before has a point. Y'see, Gilgamesh's father (King = God) made love to his wife that night. During that "session", a god wandered by seeing this, and rather than watch, get in on the "fun". Although the god was visible, they didn't seem to care, saw it as "Divine Intervention". During the "fun", God A's sperm devolved to combine with God B's sperm, causing one great "super-sperm" to impregnate her egg. Thus, Gilgamesh was born. Okay? Okay.
    • I always figured it was because the Sumerians didn't understand about heritage(or whatever it is called). One of his parents was half god, the other full god. Therefore, he is two-thirds.
    • Maybe Gilgamesh' mother was... active, if you catch my drift. The Sumerians knew sex led to pregnancy, but didn't really know about genetics. Maybe they assumed that if a woman has sex with two man, the child born is going to be from both of them together. It sounds like something that would make sense to an ancient people...
    • The above is not maybe, but cannon (according to Babylonian belief). They believed that a woman's child was fathered by ALL the men she slept with while pregnant.
    • Except that no second father is ever mentioned. Another theory (stolen from Jens Braarvig, professor of the history of religion at the University of Oslo) is that since humans, in Mesopotamian Mythology, are made from an mixture of god's blood and clay all humans are part divine to begin with, and Gilgamesh by having a divine mother and a (then) human father has his divinity count ticked in at about 2/3.
      • This is the one I always believed, though just to clarify it wasn't Blood and Clay. The bodily fluid has a lot more spunk in it. It is semen. The fluid is semen.
    • A god had a child with a human, the child was a demigod, said demigod had a child with a god, said child was a 75% god, who had a child with a demigod, making a 62.5% god who then had a child with a demigod which made a 56.25% god who then had a child with a 75% god giving a 65.625% god which is close enough for me, there we have gilgamesh.
    • Maybe Gilgamesh was supposed to be half-human, half-divine, but since he was so badass, he was 100% divine. Add to that his 50% human, and he's 2/3 god.
    • This is how I heard it: His body was made out of clay by Ninhursag (the mother goddess, who also created humans), but was born to Ninsun (the great cow goddess) and king Lugalbanda (a mortal). So he had two divine mothers and one mortal father.
    • This isn't mathematically impossible: while you get exactly 50% of your genes from each parent, which 50% you get is randomised: that means you don't necessarily get exactly 25% of a grandparent's genes. As long as both parents were part god, a perfect 2/3 is totally possible, if not all that likely.
    • Maybe godly genetics just don't work the same way as mortal genetics do?

  • When you think about it, how is it possible for the first "hero" in the book to be savvy? That would suggest Genre Blindness and the fourth wall are the more post-modern way to go, and originally, characters were assumed to be aware that their lives were governed by tropes!
    • OR, people had stories before the books/tablets were written. These stories had tropes in them and Gilgamesh was one of the first story to end up with savvy characters. Since then it's just been people forgetting about this story or simply ignoring it as opposed to being really post-modern.
    • Maybe it's not so much savvy as it is the ancient belief that everyday life was ruled by the hands of Fate. Things are going to happen because Destiny/The Writer Says So.
    • Strictly speaking, it's not really the oldest - the actual Epic of Gilgamesh is actually a really good Adaptation Distillation - and adaptation Expansion - from around the 19th century BC or so, based on a series of Sumerian stories about the man that didn't actually comprise a single, solid story. To be precise, the version that is most often read now (the so-called "Standard Version") is an even later reworking of the story, from around the 12th century or so, which became the "canonical" version, apparently.
      • Which is, inter alia, how the flood story and the prologue got it-the flood pretty visibly interpolated from Atra-Hasis and is generally accepted as just Sin-ilq-Unninni trying to fit in as much earlier material as possible. Although there is some evidence that the Sumerian poems were starting to coalesce into a single story since the end of Bilgames and the Netherworld leads into Bilgames and Huwawa in some texts.
      • Anyway, the point is, we don't know how old the original Sumerian stories are, since the earliest written copies (from around the 21st century BC or so) are probably just that, copies of earlier texts that haven't been found - but for the record, there are also Sumerian epics involving Gilgamesh's father Lugalbanda, and his predecessor Enmerkar, which are at least contemporary with the earliest forms of the Gilgamesh epic. The reason why Gilgamesh is considered the first epic hero is simply because he's the first important one; the Gilgamesh Epic was known for two thousand years, and was translated to at least half a dozen languages and spread across the ancient Near East, having immense influence on subsequent literature everywhere. And Now You Know.
    • In other words, he's savvy and subject to prehistoric Adaptation Decay.
    • People were telling stories for ages and ages and ages before they were written, and we have no idea what the real first written stories were, only what the oldest *known surviving* ones are.
    • Gilgamesh explicitly mentions by name the previous people who suffered by their one-night-stand with the Goddess of Love/War. This logically demands that Gilgamesh, and by extension the people who recorded the Epic of Gilgamesh, would have known the stories and myths of said scorned lovers. That the other myths, that the entries within the genre that pre-date Gilgamesh, have yet to be discovered is incidental. The genre(s) necessarily existed before the Epic of Gilgamesh was written, and therefore Gilgamesh (the character) can easily be savvy.

  • "Six days and seven nights"? Really?
    • What's wrong with starting something at nighttime?
    • I think the original complaint may be more on the... "stamina" aspect.
    • Yes, they are just that good.
    • Enkidu sort of makes sense; he was created by the gods to defeat Gilgamesh, after all. But what about Shamhat?
    • She's a priestess of the sex-goddess. Obviously her dutiful service was rewarded with some *ahem* divinely-granted gifts.

  • And speaking of which, if Enkidu had such an easy time staying awake for seven nights, why couldn't Gilgamesh manage a few seconds?
    • Maybe if he had something as... engaging as Enkidu had to keep him occupied...
    • I got the impression it was something mystical that put him to sleep. Any other view just means Gilgamesh abruptly turns into a narcoleptic wimp.
    • He just killed a bunch of lions, two scorpion men, walked for twenty-four hours non-stop, killed a bunch of stone giants, cut down some three hundred or so trees, then had to listen to a looong speech from Utnapishtim. Cut the guy some slack.
    • At least one translation renders a few lines from Gilgamesh in a way that suggest his troubles staying awake stems from death creeping up on him, i.e. because the disease that eventually kills him is starting to show symptoms or because he is growing old.

  • If Gilgamesh wanted to know how to become immortal, why didn't he just ask his father, Lugulbanda, who became a god?
    • Utanapishtim was closer, probably.
    • Lugulbanda might have only become a god after his death, and thus trapped in the underworld, like Gilgamesh himself in The Death of Bilgamesh.
    • The gods themselves are separate from the rest of humanity. The only god who interacts with people even semi-regularly in the entire epic is a psycho-ex-girlfriend sex-fiend spoiled-brat. Plus, Gilgamesh did ultimately defeat one of the gods' very-important creations: Humbaba, the protective spirit of the forest. Most of the gods wouldn't be happy about that, as proven when they induced Enkidu's death. Utanapishtim, in not being actually "divine" as the rest of the gods are, would have most likely been the easiest path for Gilgamesh to get the quickest answer.

  • How is it possible that nobody yet thought to make the most awesome video game ever about this story? I mean... This is just God of War in written form. It's waiting to turn into a video game. Or at the very least a Sword and Sandal kind of movie with incredible CGI and stuff.
    • Oh You mean like this one?
    • Because it would probably suck, and definitely have little to do with the original story.
    • Video game would be difficult. But a movie would be awesome.
    • Yeah, an actual fairly straight Shonen anime adaptation (not an update like Gilgamesh) would be pretty great.
    • You could make a game about an alternate reality where Ishtar makes good on her threat to cause a Zombie Apocalypse. You play as Gilgamesh and Enkidu fighting hordes of zombies, and the final boss could be either Ishtar, Gugalanna or Zombie Humbaba.

Example of: