The Epic of Gilgamesh Characters

This Study Guide consists of approximately 17 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Epic of Gilgamesh.
This section contains 1,148 words
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Gilgamesh is strong and powerful. He is half god and half human. Gilgamesh likes to show off, and this causes a great deal of trouble for the people of his kingdom. For this reason they pray to the gods to make a man who will rival Gilgamesh. This man is Enkidu. Gilgamesh has dreams of the man and asks his mother about the dreams. Gilgamesh’s mother tells him that Enkidu is destined to be his friend.

Gilgamesh and Enkidu do become friends and go off on an adventure together. However, when the gods decide that Enkidu must die, Gilgamesh is devastated. At first, Gilgamesh’s grief appears to be for his friend, but later it becomes clear that Enkidu’s death has caused Gilgamesh to become more aware of his own mortality. This leads Gilgamesh to seek out immortality. When this fails, Gilgamesh finds a plant that will allow him to return to youth. Unfortunately, Gilgamesh loses this plant, and he must return to his kingdom the same as when he left it.


Enkidu is a man who was created by the gods to be a rival for Gilgamesh. When Enkidu is first placed on the earth, he is more beast than man. However, after introducing him to the woman, Shamhat, Enkidu becomes more civilized.

When Enkidu meets Gilgamesh for the first time, they fight. Enkidu is so impressed with Gilgamesh’s fighting ability that he immediately becomes his friend. Together, Enkidu and Gilgamesh slay the creature Humbaba and the Bull of Heaven. However, when the gods become unhappy for all this slaying, they sentence Enkidu to death. Enkidu immediately curses those he credits with civilizing him. However, after a talk with Shamash, he changes his tune and faces death with courage. It is Enkidu’s death that causes Gilgamesh to begin thinking of his own mortality.


Shamhat is a woman who follows the teachings of Ishtar. For this reason, Shamhat is not above using her feminine wiles to seduce man for purposes other than love. When the trappers are having trouble with Enkidu removing the animals from their traps, they have Shamhat seduce him. Being with Shamhat causes Enkidu to become more civilized, especially when she introduces him to food, drink, and clothing. Later, Enkidu curses Shamhat for civilizing him and placing him in a position to become a target of punishment by the gods. After a scolding from changes Enkidu, he prays for only good things for Shamhat.


Shamash is the god of the sun. Shamash comes to Gilgamesh and Enkidu’s aid when they go to kill Humbaba, using the power of the winds to restrain Humbaba long enough for Gilgamesh to get in the killing blow. Later, when the gods are angry with Gilgamesh and Enkidu for killing both Humbaba and the Bull of Heaven, Shamash is the only god to come down on their side. However, Shamash’s arguments are not strong enough, and Enkidu dies.


Ishtar is the goddess of love and war. Ishtar is present at Gilgamesh’s celebration after the death of Humbaba. Ishtar is so impressed with Gilgamesh that she asks to become his wife. However, Gilgamesh does not want to marry her because she has a reputation of abandoning and killing her former lovers. Angry at Gilgamesh’s refusal, Ishtar takes the Bull of Heaven and places it in Uruk in hopes that it will destroy Gilgamesh and his kingdom. Instead, Gilgamesh kills the bull, bringing the wrath of other gods down on him and Enkidu.


Enlil is the god of storms. When Gilgamesh goes to kill Humbaba, the creature claims that Enlil put him there to protect the forest. This appears to be true when Enlil later becomes angry that Gilgamesh and Enkidu have killed not only the Bull of Heaven, but Humbaba too. They have also cut down one of the most ancient cedar trees. Enlil is one of the gods who demands that Enkidu be put to death for what Gilgamesh and Enkidu have done. It is later revealed that Enlil was the god who flooded the earth in an attempt to get rid of some of the humans who were not following the rules properly. When faced with this accusation, Enlil offers Utanapishtim and his wife immortality to prove he likes humans.


Ea is the god of water. When Ea learned that Enlil planned to flood the earth, he gave warning to Utanapishtim to make a boat that would help as many as possible survive. Utanapishtim does this, staying up for six days and seven nights to navigate the boat through the flood waters. When the flood is over, Ea and Enlil argue over who caused the flood and why. When it looks like Enlil is going to take all the blame, Enlil gives Utanapishtim and his wife immortality.


Utanapishtim is an ancestor of Gilgamesh’s. Many years ago, Utanapishtim learns that the gods are going to flood the world in order to destroy the humans. Utanapishtim builds a boat to save as many people as he can, staying awake for six days and seven nights in order to sail the ship through the flood waters. When the flood ends, the gods begin pointing fingers at each other, finally accusing Enlil of trying to destroy the humans. To prove he likes humans, Enlil gives Utanapishtim and his wife immortality. After Enkidu’s death, Gilgamesh goes to Utanapishtim to get immortality for himself, but Utanapishtim decides Gilgamesh is not worthy. Instead, he offers Gilgamesh a plant that will restore his youth, but Gilgamesh quickly loses the plant.


Humbaba is a great beast who lives in the Cedar Forest. This beast is very frightening, so Gilgamesh thinks it might make he and Enkidu famous if they kill it. When they confront he beast, it taunts them and tries to frighten them. When this does not work, Humbaba promises to be Gilgamesh’s servant if he will spare its life. When this does not work, Humbaba asks Enkidu to understand that he has been placed in the forest by the god, Enlil, and he is only doing what he has been told to do. None of these arguments work for Humbaba and Gilgamesh kills it. Later, however, upset about Humbaba’s death, the gods ask for revenge by taking Enkidu’s life.

Bull of Heaven

The Bull of Heaven is a giant bull who can bring overwhelming distruction on the human world. After Gilgamesh turns Ishtar’s marriage proposal down, she brings the Bull of Heaven to Uruk so that it might destroy Gilgamesh. Although the bull does cause a great deal of damage, and death, Enkidu manages to grab hold of it long enough for Gilgamesh to kill it. Later, Enkidu throws the back leg of the beast at Ishtar for complaining about her defeat.

This section contains 1,148 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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