According to Joseph Campbell, the major purpose of the hero’s adventure is to transform him by making him less focused on his ego. Describe Gilgamesh’s transformation. What are the most palpable signs that he is changed by his adventure?
In The Epic of Gilgamesh, a tyrant king seeks immortality through a journey that instead leads to self-discovery and transformation. Campbell theorizes three phases of transformation a hero must complete. Gilgamesh, the classic hero, follows the phases of separation, initiation, and return. His struggle with mortality, his refusal to accept death, and his desire to overcome it, marks the beginning of separation. Enkidu, a kindred spirit, accompanies Gilgamesh on adventures in a mysterious world. After killing the Bull of
Heaven and beheading Humbaba, the gods kill Enkidu to punish Gilgamesh, and the process of initiation and transformation begins. Gilgamesh refuses to accept that his friend is dead until he sees a maggot crawl from his nose. He suddenly realizes that death is real and his inevitable fate, so he sets out to find Utanapishtim, which moves him into the final two steps in the initiation phase: revelation and atonement. Utanapishtim counsels him to abandon his search for immortality and live life in the present. Confused,
Gilgamesh tries to secure a "plant of rejuvenation,” but fails when it is stolen by a serpent. At this moment, Gilgamesh has an epiphany, a revelation that