Those who are interested in such things as epics are likely to know that The Epic of Gilgamesh “is, perhaps, the oldest written story on Earth. It comes to us from Ancient Sumeria, and was originally written on 12 clay tablets in cunieform script,” the Academy for Ancient Texts avers on its Web page. “It is about the adventures of the historical King of Uruk [Erech, modern Iraq] (somewhere between 2750 and 2500 BCE).” In fact, however, it is an amalgamation of two stories, the older having to do with the adventures of a most likely mythological person named “Enkidu,” and the second about an ancient King of Erech.
Over the course of no one knows how many centuries, the two tales of Enkidu and Gilgamesh became intertwined and it is in this form that Gilgamesh has come down to us in various versions and languages. To blend the earlier tale of Enkidu with the later doings of Gilgamesh, apparently in order to ascribe to the latter many of the feats of the former, the pair came to be seen as in some essential ways twins, even to the point where they look alike, for the King is a bit taller, it seems, and his close companion Enkidu is broader.
What I have attempted to do here is to cut away from the Gilgamesh epic those actions and events that can quite clearly be ascribed to the older Enkidu and to write his own tale in the manner of the author of the anonymous Medieval epic titled Gawain and the Green Knight, that is to say, in cantos of the strong-stress metric line called Anglo-Saxon prosody with appended five-line accentual-syllabic metrical tails called “bobs-and-wheels.”
I do not claim to have restored the Enkidu epic, nor am I writing history: I am still writing fiction, like the original author(s), and I could not absolutely separate Gilgamesh and his companion. What I do claim is that I have given back to Enkidu what pretty clearly is his tale, and I hope I have written it in a comprehensible and interesting way for modern audiences.
My sources are few and select. I used primarily An Old Babylonian Version of the Gilgamesh Epic, etc., by Morris Jastrow, Jr., and Albert T. Clay, New Haven: Yale, 1920, supplemented by “Monsters from Mesopotamia,” an illustrated essay by Robert Lebling, in my favorite periodical of many years’ standing, Saudi Aramco World, Vol. 63, No. 4, July-August 2012, which gave me the idea for my endeavor, the first little bit of which was a sestina in Anglo-Saxon prosody with bobs and wheels added titled, “The Green Knight and the White” which appeared in a print journal (see Acknowledgments) in 2014 and which is appended to this text in the Afterword. This is one of the two primary sources that I used in writing The Hero Enkidu: An Epic by Lewis Turco, New York: Bordighera Press (www.BordigheraPress.org ), VIA Folios 107, 2015, 101 pp. ISBN 978-1-59954-098-6, trade paperback:
October 14, 2013