Monsters in Gilgamesh and in the Ramayana
Monsters involve the use of non-human creatures in literary works especially in myths, epics etc. In such instances, the monsters are used to represent a number of eminent characters in the society and propagate the lessons to the audience. Gilgamesh and Ramayana are mythical literature works which exhibit a number of similarities and differences. In Gilgamesh, the story is about Gilgamesh who is the king of Uruk. He is one third human and two thirds god. He uses his supernatural ability to oppress people. He prays to the gods to take them from the hands of Gilgamesh. As a result, they create Enkidu who is a match for Gilgamesh to distract him. On the other hand, the story of Ramayana revolves around Rama, who is the protagonist of the tale. He has an ability to slay and kill various monsters.
The two tales exhibit a number of similar characteristics in terms of the images of monsters used. In both narratives, the monsters which are used are very powerful. This can be seen from the way they strongly challenge their opponents. In Gilgamesh, the monster is Enkidu who is made by the gods to challenge the great powers of the oppressive king of Uruk, Gilgamesh. Enkidu challenges Gilgamesh. However, he does not accomplish his mission; instead, he agrees to become a partner and a friend to Gilgamesh. Together, they resolve to work on one goal, killing their common monster, Humbaba. As a result, Enkidu deviates from the will of the gods who had made him to overthrow the rule of Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh hates gods as it becomes evident from his statement, when he says, "What could I offer, the queen of love in return, who lacks nothing at all? Balm for the body? The food and drink of the gods? I have nothing to give to her who lacks nothing at all” (Kendall 96). Virtually, both Gilgamesh and Enkidu are giants who are extremely strong. Gilgamesh is brought up as a son of a king. On the other hand, Enkidu was brought up in the wilderness, growing together with antelope and gazelles. The two characters have been working on a plan to kill their common enemy, monster Humbaba, and to distract gods who created Enkidu. The duo kills Humbaba and the bull of heaven and defies the orders from goddess Inanna.
In the two epics, the monsters are involved in conflict with human beings. For example, Gilgamesh and Enkidu consider Humbaba as a key enemy who is termed as a monster. Gilgamesh encourages Enkidu to go ahead as they attack Humbaba, "Where is the strength? It is Gilgamesh, who will venture first into the Cedar Forest, and you can follow after, crying out:
'Go on, go forward, go on, embrace the danger!'You who have fought with lions and with wolves, you know what danger is. Where is your courage? If I should fall, my name will be secure. 'It was Gilgamesh who fought against Huwawa! It is Gilgamesh who will venture into the Forest and cut down the Cedar down and win the glory.My fame will be secure to all my sons" (Kendall 192). As a result, they develop a plan to kill the monster in order to live in peace. Enkidu is alleged to be a powerful hero who has been created by gods in order to conquer the power of Gilgamesh. This is because Gilgamesh was oppressing people of Uruk. This implies that Enkidu and Gilgamesh were monsters by their nature since they possessed godly powers (Kendall 87).
As a result, he grew in the wilderness where later in life he decided to go and confront Gilgamesh as he believes he got what it takes to defeat him. Although Enkidu had everything to kill Gilgamesh, the confrontation changes its course when the two became inseparable friends where they work towards destroying Humbaba. The main motive of Gilgamesh and Enkidu is to kill Humbaba, because they considered him to be a threat to their friendship (Foster 281). Notably, Humbaba was the guardian of the Cedar forest where the gods lived. By killing Humbaba, they went ahead to invade the gods who had sent him to kill the bull of heaven. This angered the gods who decided to kill Enkidu. In reality, Enkidu did not fulfill his purpose tnot being able to destroy the leadership of Gigalmesh (Foster 121).
Eventually, Enkidu was sentenced to death. This is because instead of fulfilling the initial plan, he goes against it to an extent of becoming friends with the enemy. The two had killed the bull of heaven that had been sent to Gilgamesh to stop his advances to Ishtar. The death of Enkidu stresses Gilgamesh. As a result, he decides to undertake a long journey to Ulnapishtim to learn the secrets of life. Gilgamesh is deeply stressed by the death of his friends as he laments, "Seven days and nights I sat beside the body, weeping for Enkidu beside the body, and then I saw a worm fall out of his nose. Must I die too? Must Gilgamesh be like that? (Kendall 240). In this case, we find the monster that was sent to kill Gilgamesh becoming a friend with his foe. The friendship strengthens so that they decide to invade the world of real gods who had sent him to grow in the forest to get prepared to overthrow the rule of Gilgamesh and end his oppression of the subjects. In the story of Ramayana we do not find any monster becoming friends with their foes. Instead, they hide and attack them on their way to other places (Buck 180). For example, Kabandha attacks Lakshman and Rama as they move south to get Sita. This brings contrast between the characters of monsters in two stories.
The monsters in both stories have been slain by human beings who view them as a threat. For example, Rama slew Kabandha, who is a monster that they encountered on their way south to hunt Sita. As Rama and Lakshmana moved south in search of Sita, they were confronted by this monster. However, Rama is able to kill it by a fatal arrow. Initially, Kabandha was a beautiful form who was later transformed into a monster. Before he dies he advices Rama and Lakshman to seek the help of monkey king Sugrive, who is said to help them to regain Sita from Ravana. Secondly, Rama killed Tataka, Mericha’s mother who was also a monster. In the story of Ramayana, Tataka is depicted as the monster. This is because Vishvamitra, Rama and Ravana worked on the plans to kill the monster as they consider her dangerous. The three take a journey to the forests that had been destroyed by Tataka. In the forest, Vishvamitra starts to teach the boys some mantras that they could use to kill the monster. As they are rehearsing, the monster emerges. The boys start throwing those few arrows they had, but the demon seems to be much stronger than they. The demon was more menacing than they could have imagined. Fortunately, Rama recites one of the rishis mantras and shots Tataka on the head. She dies as the arrow triggers frames that kill her immediately. Notably, Tataka, the monster, was the mother of Maricha. This implies that an evil demon had taken control of her mother to an extent that Rama and his friends planned to kill her (Buck 14). Due to their victory over Tataka, each of the boys who participated in the war is given rewards from the gods passed by Vishvamitra. Unfortunately, Maricha seems what the boys had done and decides to avenge the death of his mother. However, the boys are well armed, so that they thwart his attacks as well as those of the demons. Maricha flies away.
He was also possessed by the same spirit just like his mother. For example, he takes the form of a beautiful golden dear and starts to graze in Rama’s cottage. Sita, his lover, is so attracted by the dear that he wants to posses it. However, Lakshamana is not convinced that the golden dear is real. But Rama is persuaded by Sita to go and get the dear for Sita. As he chases it, he shots it with an arrow exposing Maricha. Before he dies, Maricha imitates Rama’s voice, “Oh Lakshmana! Oh Sita,! Help! Help!” As Sita was left in the care of Lakshman, he decides to leave to look at what had happened to Rama. However, Ravana comes and disguises himself to be a hermit. As the two returns, they find that Sita has already fled to the clouds with Ravana to become his queen. Rama expresses his anger, "Why did you leave Sita alone? The golden deer was Maricha in disguise. “However, Jatayu explains that he had seen Ravana flee with Sita, "I saw Ravana abducting Sita. I attacked him when Ravana cut my wing and made me helpless. Then he flew towards the south" (Buck 59).
In Gilgamesh story, the monster is also killed by his opponents. The difference in this instance is that the monster did not have prior plans of attacking them. Enkidu and Gilgamesh just decided to walk to the Cedar forest, where Humbaba was the guardian, and decided to confront it just because it had destroyed the forest. As a result, the monster is killed. Although, Gilgamesh and Enkidu are also monsters, due to their unique features and abilities, their difference is that they had a common bond that makes them work together towards not only killing Humbaba, but also killing the bull of heaven. Therefore, it was the opposite, Humbaba was attacked by the two monsters who decided to kill them, while in Ramayana story the human beings are attacked by the monsters. For example, as Rama and his boys were practicing some mantras in the forest, Tataka emerges and decides to attack them. Fortunately, Rama is able to kill it securing their escape.
Another evident difference in the monsters in the two stories is that Gilgamesh is more related with the work of the gods. Notably, Enkidu is made to grow together with animals in the wilderness as a preparation of overthrowing the rule of Gilgamesh. This implies that Enkidu had some form of supernatural powers. Moreover, the two characters decide to work together to oppose the gods. This is because attacking the guardian of the cedar forest and killing the bull of heaven they provoked the gods (Kendall 61). Moreover, Ramayana story does not revolve around heavens required extra ordinary power. It is also important to note that monsters in Ramayana are human beings who have been possessed by the demons. For example, Tataka was the mother of Maricha who had been possessed by evil demons while Kabandha also confesses that he was a good form before he was possessed by the demons.
In conclusion, Gilgamesh and Ramayana stories have similarities and differences in the way monsters are depicted. As analyzed above, Gilgamesh and Enkidu are monsters themselves since they had strength of attacking the place where the gods lived, killing the guardian and the bull of heaven. On the other hand, Rama and his friends were just human beings who could use their normal power and skills to kill the monsters that attacked them. However, the two stories are similar in that they depict the war against the opponents who are the monsters.