Character from the Epic of Gilgamesh / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Enkidu (Sumerian: 𒂗𒆠𒄭 EN.KI.DU10) was a legendary figure in ancient Mesopotamian mythology, wartime comrade and friend of Gilgamesh, king of Uruk. Their exploits were composed in Sumerian poems and in the Akkadian Epic of Gilgamesh, written during the 2nd millennium BC. He is the oldest literary representation of the wild man, a recurrent motif in artistic representations in Mesopotamia and in Ancient Near East literature. The apparition of Enkidu as a primitive man seems to be a potential parallel of the Old Babylonian version (1300–1000 BC), in which he was depicted as a servant-warrior in the Sumerian poems.
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There have been suggestions that he may be the "bull-man" shown in Mesopotamian art, having the head, arms, and body of a man, and the horns, ears, tail and legs of a bull. Thereafter a series of interactions with humans and human ways bring him closer to civilization, culminating in a wrestling match with Gilgamesh, king of Uruk. Enkidu embodies the wild or natural world. Though equal to Gilgamesh in strength and bearing, he acts in some ways as an antithesis to the cultured, city-bred warrior-king.
The tales of Enkidu’s servitude are narrated in five surviving Sumerian poems, developing from a slave of Gilgamesh into a close comrade by the last poem, which describes Enkidu as Gilgamesh's friend. In the epic, Enkidu is created as a rival to king Gilgamesh, who tyrannizes his people, but they become friends and together slay the monster Humbaba and the Bull of Heaven; because of this, Enkidu is punished and dies, representing the mighty hero who dies early. The deep, tragic loss of Enkidu profoundly inspires in Gilgamesh a quest to escape death by obtaining godly immortality.
Enkidu has virtually no existence outside the stories relating to Gilgamesh. To the extent of current knowledge, he was never a god to be worshipped, and is absent from the lists of deities of ancient Mesopotamia. He seems to appear in an invocation from the Paleo-Babylonian era aimed at silencing a crying baby, a text which also evokes the fact that Enkidu would be held to have determined the measurement of the passage of time at night, apparently in relation to his role as herd keeper at night in the epic.