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A human's need for company is one of numerous personality that help define the limits between humankind and the gods. While men are mortal and instinctive with the inherent need for companionship, the gods on the other hand are immortal and do not require company. Humanity, throughout history, has made attempts to viaduct the gorge between man and god without triumph. More often than not man is unaware of these distinctions and role of the gods in their lives. For Gilgamesh and Odysseus, this need for companionship shapes the itinerary of their lives.
One trait of this frontier between humankind and the gods is a god's preference for companionship and a human's call for companionship. In disparity to Odysseus and Gilgamesh, the gods prefer in some situation to have a companion, while in other situations the gods desire to subsist alone. A good example is Aeolus, the guardian of the four winds, lives alone in a cave on a rocky island when Odysseus comes to him for assistance. In addition, another god, Calypso, chooses to encase herself with many servants rather than be in company of another god. Although Calypso becomes captivated with Odysseus and lets him stay for a short while, her ultimate choice to release him is what allows him to carry on with his journey. Likewise, Humbaba, the protector of the cedar forest, does not have a companion, and instead opts to surround himself with many servants.
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Although the gods have a choice regarding companionship, they usually understand a human's need for companionship and often use this need when guiding humans throughout life. Gilgamesh's innate quest for companionship, for example, causes his people innumerable problems. The gods answers the prayers of Gilgamesh by sending him a companion, in the form of Enkidu, who is able to satisfy his need. For Odysseus, on the other hand, the gods exaggerate his exile by slowly eliminating his crew and friends. These examples help to exemplify the difference that exists between a god's choice of companionship and a human's need for it. It also portrays how the gods exploits a humans needs for companionship to steer them through life.
Many would imagine being born two-thirds god, being ruler of a great city and gifted with great power, bravery and exquisiteness would be more than enough for one human. For Gilgamesh, however, his human side longs for and needs something more - companionship. He travels the world over, gathers armies of men, and pleases himself with many of Uruk's women. However, Gilgamesh cannot ind anybody who can gratify his need for companionship. It is only Enkidu, a gift from the gods whom they style by their own hands, is able to fulfill his quest for companionship. With his desire for companionship fulfilled, Gilgamesh ends his vicious ways and, with the help from Enkidu, he begins making life of his people and the city better.
Nevertheless, Gilgamesh's blind and ignorant confidence ignites Enkidu's comprehension of mortality. The gods deal Enkidu a different fate. They strike him down with disease due to his support in the killing of the Bull of Heaven and Humbaba. Fascinatingly though, prior to his death, he states "My friend, the great goddess cursed me and I must die in shame. I shall not die like a man fallen in battle...happy is the man who falls in battle." This excerpt sums up Enkidu's entire makeover from animal to human and his acquirement of epic values, such as honor, in the course of his friendship with Gilgamesh.
Concerning the issue of the comparison between the aspects of the two accounts of flood as presented in the book of genesis, there exist comparative differences between the epic of Gilgamesh and Noah's flood. In both instances for example, the extent of the flood was global and two characters were abundantly blessed right after the floods. Whereas Noah's flood was caused by man wickedness, the causative agent in Gilgamesh flood was purely due to man's sin. The flood in Noah's case was intended for all mankind unlike in Gilgamesh case where it was intended for all mankind and one city. The sender of the flood in Gilgamesh case was done by an assembly of gods while in Noah's case Yahweh was the one who ordered the floods. On the contrary both Noah and Gilgamesh were ordered to build boats with only one door, to admit only their family members and all species of animals aboard. The idea of the flood was communicated to Noah by God himself while in Gilgamesh case the idea only transpired in a dream. In addition the duration of the flood in Gilgamesh case lasted for 6 days and nights contrary to 40 days and nights in Noah's case.
Upon the death of his one true companion, Gilgamesh once more experiences an emptiness that no human on earth can fill. With all of its blessings, being born partially a god now becomes a curse for him. Gilgamesh knows that he will never find another companion and the fear of his own death and the possibility of eternal solitude frightens him. This makes him desire to conquer his curse by becoming immortal. Although he ends his journey never obtaining immortality, his loss of commpanionship gives him the ability and compassion to become a better ruler.
In dissimilarity to Gilgamesh, Odysseus, king of Ithaka, already knows the joys of companionship. He had a beautiful wife who had given birth to new born baby. However, problems far from home threaten, and the commitments to his people force him to leave his family behind and unite with his comrades in battle against Troy. He yearns is to fulfill his duties as a ruler and return to his wife and child. After the defeat of Troy, Odysseus in a moment of conceit and pride boasts aloud of his accomplishments without recognizing or giving credit to the role of the gods. This arrogance enrages Poseidon, exclusive of whom Odysseus's Trojan horse would have surely failed. It is then that Poseidon decides to teach Odysseus a lesson that he banishes him as punishment. This exile makes him to be away from his family for a very long period of time.
Many of the encounters Odysseus faces while in exile ends up endangering the lives of his men. In some cases, his arrogance and rage results in the death of his own men. A good instance is when Odysseus and his men flee from Polyphemus the Cyclops; his narcissistic words further infuriate the Cyclops. In retaliation, Polyphemus responds with a prayer to Poseidon, the execution of which takes more of his men's lives. With each encounter, Odysseus's arrogance proves to be more detrimental than good. Homer illustrates a human's need for companionship during Odysseus's lesson on humility. One by one, Odysseus loses all of his crew. Barely clinging on to life, he is washed ashore all alone up to the Calypso's island. Although Calypso nurses Odysseus back to healthiness, she is not able to satisfy his need for companionship most of his time is spent longing for his home, wife and son. After several years of solitude and anguish, Calypso finally allows him to leave. In the end, it is his desire and quest to return home to his family that gives him the potency to go on. Finally when Odysseus reaches home, his real life lesson in humility proves useful as he gets rid off his house a bunch of wicked suitors and finally reclaiming his family and place as king.
The gods make use of Odysseus's separation from his family as an aid in his lesson in humility, while on the other hand Gilgamesh's knowledge with companionship teaches him the empathy needed to be a great ruler. In spite of all the ordeals each hero faces, their need and desire for companionship, as with every human, play an important role in shaping their lives.
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