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Book Discussion: Epic of Gilgamesh and Sunjata: Journey Comparison

Updated on April 2, 2013

The following is my comparison of the various journeys which Gilgamesh and Sunjata take as they relate to each other.

Gilgamesh and Sunjata each experienced a journey of epic proportions. However, the nature of the two journeys is decidedly different.

Gilgamesh, an initially rowdy and irresponsible king, makes his journey with Enkidu by choice. He chooses to go and Kill Humbaba, which brings about the next event. He chooses to reject Ishtar in her marriage proposal, leading to the eventual death of Enkidu and the slaying of the Bull of Heaven. Moreover, it is Gilgamesh's choice to pursue Uta-Napishti in a quest for immortality, on which quest Gilgamesh is not victorious. He chooses to pursue the life-giving plant, but gives up quickly after it is stolen from him. Ultimately, Gilgamesh chooses to go back to Uruk and be a faithful king.

Sunjata, on the other hand, is a character we meet relatively late in the narrative. We learn that he is fated to be born - after a laborious process. After he is born, he is fated to be exiled. Twenty-seven years later, he is fated to receive his father's delilu [magic]; and fated to have delilu of his own. He ultimately defeats Sumaworo in a fated battle for rightful kingship.

Gilgamesh chooses his journeys with a purpose of self-betterment, whereas Sunjata's fated travels are neither requiring nor eliciting self-betterment - Sunjata seems to be doing pretty well as it is.


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