The Epic of Gilgamesh - Study Guide Tablets 3-5 Summary & Analysis

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This Study Guide consists of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Epic of Gilgamesh.
This section contains 514 words
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Summary

Tablet 3

Before leaving to fight Humbaba, Gilgamesh goes to the temple of Ninsun, who is his mother. He asks her to ask Shamash, the god of the sun, to watch over him. Ninsun not only does this, but she also performs a ceremony making Enkidu an official companion of her son. As they leave, the wise men of Uruk tell Enkidu to take special care to watch out for Gilgamesh’s safety. Enkidu tells Gilgamesh that this is a dangerous mission, and he should not go.

Tablet 4

On the journey to the Cedar Forest, Gilgamesh has many nightmares. Enkidu interprets these dreams as favorable, suggesting it is all symbolism of their win over Humbaba. However, when they arrive at the Cedar Forest, Gilgamesh is afraid to continue. Shamash, the sun god, tells Gilgamesh that they must hurry because the creature is only wearing one of its seven suits of armor. Gilgamesh decides to go on, but Enkidu hesitates. Gilgamesh convinces him that as long as they work together, they will be victorious.

Tablet 5

Gilgamesh and Enkidu face down Humbaba. Gilgamesh becomes frightened and begins to run away, but Enkidu brings him back. Shamash helps Gilgamesh and Enkidu by sending wind that keeps Humbaba from moving. However, when Gilgamesh is given the chance to kill Humbaba, he hesitates because Humbaba begs for his life. Humbaba offers to be Gilgamesh’s servant. When this does not work, Gilgamesh turns to Enkidu and tells him that he works for the god named Enlil, and he is only doing his job. Enkidu encourages Gilgamesh to kill Humbaba, and he finally does. The two heroes then make a raft and sail it back to Uruk with Humbaba’s head.

Analysis

Gilgamesh wants to prove what a powerful guy he is by fighting the creature Humbaba in the Cedar Forest. However, the journey is filled with bad dreams that indicate a losing battle. Gilgamesh grows afraid, showing the reader that he is flawed despite his glowing introduction by the narrator. Enkidu, trying to be a good friend, puts a positive spin on all the bad dreams and encourages Gilgamesh to continue.

When they arrive at the Cedar Forest and engage in battle with Humbaba, Gilgamesh continues to be frightened and tries to back down several times. If not for Enkidu, Gilgamesh more than likely would not have made the kill. This is an interesting point because Enkidu was created to give Gilgamesh a worthy opponent, but it appears that Gilgamesh could have been defeated by his own fears.

Discussion Question 1

Who is Shamash? Why does Gilgamesh pray to him for good dreams? Does he have good dreams?

Discussion Question 2

Why does Gilgamesh become frightened of Humbaba when they meet face to face? What happened to all of Gilgamesh’s big talk?

Discussion Question 3

Why does Humbaba think Enkidu would understand the claim that Humbaba is only doing his job? Does Enkidu understand?

Vocabulary

Demolished, spoke, javelin, reposed, decreed, tablet, exalted, endeavor, goddess, god, hurled, assembled, visage, astounded, likeness, behold, heroes, carried, interpreting, heavens, wandered, omens, lusty, summoned.

This section contains 514 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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