Gilgamesh, the main character of the book Gilgamesh, is the king of Uruk, who is one-third man and two thirds god. The protagonist is handsome, wise, and strong. Despite having a godly body and mind, Gilgamesh starts his kingship as a cruel dictator. He lacks friends and rapes any women he desires. He has no heart for humanity and achieves his construction projects through forced labor. His tired subjects complain of his mistreatment. Enkidu, who is sent by the gods to tame Gilgamesh, indeed has a very positive effect on him. Gilgamesh and Enkidu become very good friends. The death of Enkidu from a disease sent by the gods shatters Gilgamesh who then decides to look for immortality to avoid dying (Kluger, 1991). Gilgamesh is a dictator but several events taking place in his life change him to be a better king. In the beginning of the book, Gilgamesh is depicted as an arrogant individual. He is very proud and abusive of his authority as a king. He sexually assaults women in his kingdom, especially virgins and married women, and he behaves as a god. However, many events shown in the story lead to the transformation of Gilgamesh. Some of those events include a friend called Enkidu, a new name gained through slaying Humbaba, and an attempt to become immortal resulting from the death of Enkidu. By the use of these main events, the personality of Gilgamesh is changed and the protagonist becomes a better individual.
The search for immortality after the death of Enkidu is the first sign of changing of Gilgamesh. The realization of his non-immortal states frightens Gilgamesh. After Enkidu dies, the protagonist attempts to search for immortality through crossing the ocean in its pursuit. He lacks reasonable reasons for attempting to gain everlasting life. The depiction of Gilgamesh at this part of the story differs from the initial portray of him being arrogant. He changes from being arrogant to being scared and afraid, especially after the death of his close friend (Kluger, 1991).
The conduct of Gilgamesh is also transformed by the death of Humbaba. Everybody in the kingdom knows that Humbaba is evil. The same could be presented while describing Gilgamesh, as he seems to be evil, too. He rapes virgins and married women, behaves only in the way he chooses and has a tendency of offending the gods. He has many conflicts with Ishtar. Through venturing into the forest to face Humbaba, Gilgamesh invents a new name for himself and transforms the perception of the persons in his kingdom. This great act of killing Humbaba makes Gilgamesh a better individual as he protects his kingdom, “Gilgamesh wants to kill Humbaba and drive out evil from the world” (Mitchell, 2014, p. 16). However, it may be argued that Gilgamesh kills Humbaba to achieve his own goals and good attitudes from the people of his city. Nevertheless, it is seen that his actions result from Gilgamesh’s love for the people of his town, as well as from the love for Enkidu. Thus, he has transformed into a better person as compared to his character as the epic began.
One of the main reasons behind the changing of Gilgamesh is the love that he develops for Enkidu. Enkidu exists to assist Gilgamesh in becoming more human. It may be seen from the first paragraph of the story where the gods are furious with Gilgamesh to the point that they send down an equal of himself, Enkidu (Mitchell, 2014). When their friendship develops, Gilgamesh changes, as he has an equal with whom he could relate. The two go to sleep while holding hands; they love each other very much. When the gods send a bull from the sky to bring famine, Gilgamesh and Enkidu fight and kill it (Kluger, 1991). Though they save the people from the famine calamity, the gods are not pleased with them and decide to punish one of them. Enkidu is chosen to be the person who will be punished. The death of Enkidu, therefore, has a great effect on Gilgamesh. There are no visible changes portrayed in the character of Gilgamesh until the arrival of Enkidu. Enkidu is depicted as the primary driving strength for the ultimate change in the life of Gilgamesh, especially in his manhood and personality.
The search for immortality may also be seen as one of the ways in which Gilgameh changes. Even though he fails the test given to him by Utnapishtim to finally achieve eternity, he is given an option of the tree that restores the youth. He takes it and aims at sharing it with the elders of Uruk. This is a major transformation in the character and personality of Gilgamesh. This may be seen from the fact that he is willing to share the youth restoring plant with other people. He has learnt to think about other people and not only of himself. The selfish Gilgamesh portrayed at the beginning of the epic does not exist anymore. He has been replaced with the new Gilgamesh who cares about the others, fights for the survival of his people, and is prepared to protect them from the evils such as Humbaba. Although he fails to gain immortal state, he is glad to know that humankind will live. Gilgamesh now sees that the city has repudiated in his grief and that fear is an outstanding and lasting achievement. He realizes that it is the next thing to immortality which a mortal may seek (Kluger, 1991).
In conclusion, at the beginning of the reign of king Gilgamesh, his subjects suffer a lot from his dictatorial leadership. His tenure is marked with evil deeds such as forced labor and raping of women. However, even with Gilgamesh being a dictator, several events take place in his life that change and influence him to become a better king. Some of those events include the friendship and unfortunate death of Enkidu. The protagonist decides to look for immortality but eventually receives immortality for humanity but not for himself. He ends up being the king who cares and protects the people of his kingdom, while the former king who used to harass them does not exist anymore.