The Advice of Siduri

Gilgamesh sets out on his quest to find Utnapishtim.  He encounters the Scorpion couple who stand at the entrance to the tunnel between the mountains known as the Twin Peaks. In response to their questions of who are you and why are you here, Gilgamesh tells them of his despair at the death of Enkidu and of his mission to learn from Utnapishtim how he overcame death so he could follow in his footsteps. Heeding their instructions, Gilgamesh succeeds in running through the tunnel between the mountains for twelve continuous hours. He emerges in the nick of time before the sun enters the tunnel and burns him to a crisp.  He is now in the Garden of the Gods where he encounters Siduri, the Wine-Maker of the Gods.

Siduri sees Gilgamesh approaching her from a distance. His appearance frightens her so she rushes back into her tavern and locks the door. Gilgamesh threatens to smash her door down if she doesn’t let him enter.  Siduri asks him the same questions as the Scorpion couple: who are you and why are you here? Gilgamesh gives her the same response.

Siduri offers him some sage advice. She tells him to accept his mortality since only the gods live forever. She cautions him against setting himself up for disappointment by seeking something he can never hope to attain. She advises him to go back home and live life to the fullest: to make the most of each day by eating well, bathing regularly, wearing fine clothes, enjoying music and dance, loving his child, and pleasuring his wife. Needless to say, Gilgamesh dismisses her advice.  He is not yet ready to hear it. Siduri sends him on his way by directing him to Urshanabi, the ferryman.

Uruk Trough in British Museum By Jononmac46 (own work); 9 February, 2014: 17:27:38; [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Uruk Trough in British Museum By Jononmac46 (own work); 9 February, 2014: 17:27:38; [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

With Urshanabi’s help in crossing the Waters of Death, Gilgamesh finally comes face to face with Utnapishtim. Utnapishtim shares with him the story of how he survived the Great Flood and gives him a parting gift of a plant that can restore eternal youth. Gilgamesh heads back home, losing the plant along the way. In effect, Gilgamesh returns to Uruk with nothing tangible to show for his epic journey. In spite of appearances to the contrary, however, it is evident Gilgamesh has experienced a transformation since the Gilgamesh at the end of the poem is a far cry from the Gilgamesh we met earlier, as my next post will show.

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AuthorTamara Agha-Jaffar