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The Role of Dreams in Gilgamesh

The Gilgamesh Saga belongs to the oldest literary monuments of the Sumerian civilization. However, the story of changing the personality through true friendship, overcoming adversity, and searching for immortality still resonates in the hearts of readers. The plot is based on the adventures of king Gilgamesh and his friend Enkidu, who are closely connected to various gods controlling their destiny. One of the most significant elements of the book is a dream, which has several literary functions: developing a character, establishing a theme, and foreshadowing the plot.

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The first dream of Gilgamesh reveals the anticipation of Enkidu’s arrival. Gilgamesh sees “a star of heaven which descended like a meteor from the sky”, hard to lift and attractive like the love of a woman (Sanders 5). On the one hand, it foreshadows the next plot twist and connects two main characters who are still separated. But on the other hand, Gilgamesh’s mother Ninsun explains to him the importance of this dream that will transform him for the better.

Until now, he was arrogant and boisterous, thinking that everything was allowed to him, which distressed the citizens of Uruk. However, by the will of gods who decided to humble him, his rival Enkidu was created. That plan was conjured up to help the suffering people of Uruk, but also to show Gilgamesh there was something better than his infinite power. Ninsun tells Gilgamesh that she made for him “the strong comrade, the one who brings help to his friend in his need” (Sanders 5). Thus, this dream signals the beginning of the evolution of Gilgamesh’s personality.

The next dream important for understanding Gilgamesh is the one Gilgamesh sees before the fight with Humbaba. He asks the mountain to give him a favorable dream and is rewarded with a vision of a wild bull. He does not understand what it means, so Enkidu tells him this bull is Shamash the Protector that will take their hands in their moment of peril (Sanders 9). Gilgamesh is also refreshed with water in his dream, which is interpreted as the help of Lugulbanda, who cares for his good name (Sanders 9).

Thereby, this dream introduces the theme of the gods supporting people. Perhaps, their role is more human than it seems because they are quite similar to parents caring for their children. The gods show concern for mortals, often intervening when they are faced with difficulty, which is illustrated by this dream.

The next dream described in the poem occurs the same night. Gilgamesh sees the falling mountain and “an intolerable light blazing out” that saves and comforts him (Sanders 9). The dream gives Enkidu joy and relief because he knows that it promises them to victory in the fight with Humbaba. Thus, the meaning of this dream should not be underestimated. It predicts success at the end of Gilgamesh and Enkidu’s campaign, which encourages them and strengthens their spirit when they are worried. It also reminds the characters that the gods support them and do not leave them in trouble.

Dreams, which have been often used by writers for various purposes, are among the key points of the poem Gilgamesh. First, they are a way to predict what will happen next and to raise the awareness of the characters. Second, they are somewhat of a conversation between mortals and the gods who protect them. Finally, dreams may change the personality of characters, making them kinder, wiser, or stronger.

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Work Cited

Sanders, Nancy K. The Epic of Gilgamesh. Assyrian International News Agency, 1975.

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