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Transformation is thorough dramatic change in the behavior, appearance or character. This is true in human beings, things or even animals. The stories of Sundiata and the epic of Gilgamesh well demonstrate the meaning of transformation. Both characters are changed in various ways in terms of behavior as well as physically. For instance, in these fictional works we see momentous alteration in the hero's personality in the development of the story. This is evident with Gilgamesh, the hero in the Epic of Gilgamesh. In this captivating story, we get an indication of who Gilgamesh is as well as what his intentions and dreams are.
He acts in lots of diverse ways - as a domineering administrator disliked by his subjects, a tough and bold combatant, depressed man, a deflated, and lastly as a man who seems satisfied with what he has consummated. Throughout all these transformations, Gilgamesh’s outlook towards life change completely. His life’s goals changes dramatically, he comes from being a ruthless, shallow ruler to an ambitious, content as well as and introspective man who rules his kingdom wisely. Likewise, Sundiata being subject to humiliation from his step mother and brother contrary to his father’s will is forced by the circumstances to be transformed.
Following Sogolon’s (his mother) insult by Sassouma (his step mother), Sundiata could bear it no more. Therefore, he made a decision that from that day he would walk and took the necessary steps to enable him accomplish his mission-he ordered the blacksmith to craft for him the heaviest probable iron bar; consequently, with shaky legs as well as a sweaty brow, he went ahead to lift himself up, winding the rod into a bow in the course. This way he was able to transform himself into a strong, stable gentleman ready to reclaim the thrown bestowed upon him by his late father. Sundiata’s transformation was both mentally and physically.
It is evident that before transformation of these characters, they had some queer behaviors or mischief as well as inability to discharge their duties accordingly. Gilgamesh had taken power of office a bit further; he had bestowed upon himself special and unique rights which were different from other civilians. This was contrary to the ethics of the society. He went to an extent of raping young women who came to his sight as long as they pleased his eyes. He did not care where the women belonged to his soldiers or royal circle. He broke the virginity of young girls on the eve of their weddings. He went ahead and forced young children to work, that is, forced labor. He denied innocent kids from enjoying their childhoods. (Eisner)
However, through his transformation he was able to go back to his subjects to serve them. He takes chances and serves them with a good heart. It is also evident from the text that it is only after transformation that Gilgamesh comes to live the reality. It is then he realizes that everyone will have to die some day. On the other hand Sundiata is an idle, greedy and unattractive boy. It became even worse when three years were over and Sundiata could not walk and seldom communicated. At around seven Sundiata had no friends and still crawled. His work was just eating and that was all. Though there was a prophecy that he would become the greatest king of the land, Sundiata had no potential towards leadership. He was delicate and even his intellectual ability was doubted.
Despite all these, once he was transformed he was able to nurture his potential and overthrown his brother Dankaran. By doing this he was able to prove that he would rule the land. He assumed responsibility of leadership and led people to greater heights. In his exile Sundiata learnt hunting as well as he developed good administrative skills as well as became a good commander who made his empire to last for more than two centuries. (Djibril Tamsir Niane)
Sundiata and Gilgamesh are characters that were totally different. While Gilgamesh was a ruthless ruler who oppressed his esteemed people together with their children, Sundiata had had no chance to nurture his leadership talent. He spent a portion of his livelihood stomaching humiliation and rejection from the people around since he was disabled. This got worse when his father who had bestowed the thrown upon him down. He received mistreatment from the mother and the brother who assumed leadership. When the humiliation was extended to his only loving parent and mother, Sundiata had no choice; he had to do something about it. He ordered the blacksmith to make him a strong piece of iron that he would use to try and gain new strength and stability. After the therapy he was on his feet. (Coughlan)
This transformation was self initiated and was triggered by current situations of Sundiata. However, this is different from Gilgamesh whose transformation was based on a stranger (Enkidu). He was reinstated purposely to transform Gilgamesh since he had so many mischiefs towards his people. Enkidu became a very significant friend to Gilgamesh and they ended up doing most of the things together. They even went to an extent of going to areas that were prohibited by the gods. Due to this latter behavior one of them had to die, and it turned out to be Enkidu. This was a big blow to Gilgamesh and due to this he had to try all means to restore the life of his friend. He visits gods in the mountains and is given a test; he is asked to remain awake for a week as a sign of immortality. Unfortunately, he falls asleep and thus fails the test. He is sent back to his people a disappointed but a changed man, he has a changed attitude and a future for them. No more dictatorship. (Morris Jastrow)
It is evident that the success of these rulers is brought about by various factors based on individuals. In the case of Sundiata, he had first to accept that he was disabled and unintelligent. This was not enough; he had to go an extra mile to find a way of doing away with this disability. He had to make a move; otherwise, he would live a disabled, powerless and useless man forever. He would have never fulfilled the ancient prophecy of a great king who would deliver his people from captivity. From the text it is true to conclude that Sundiata had potential concealed in his disability, this is because after transformation he was able to achieve as an individual as well as a nation. This is the same scenario for Gilgamesh, his past was doomed. He oppressed, raped, misused power and even jeopardized the lives of others. For him to be a successful and prosperous ruler he had to abandon his past ways and come up with new strategies to survive and handle his subjects. (Shabandar)
He had to abandon his inhuman nature and have the human aspect. This is evident when he shows a great deal of unconditional love to his dead friend and partner to an extent of even attempting to seek immortality. It is illogical to live a lie in life, a life full of disapproval and therefore the only option left for Gilgamesh is to be transformed in order to be a successful ruler or else risk rebellion. The fact that he had special powers (being two thirds god and one thirds man) does not guarantee him success, he has to understand himself as well as understand the environment analyze it in order to come up with a concrete conclusion on how to run various affairs. Putting into consideration the two stories, the success of the two rulers is based on the understanding of their weaknesses and letting go off their past for a better future and governance.