Authors: Brian Godawa
The hunting expedition continued for another month. Shamhat was right, Enkidu
was a fast learner. He was unnaturally fast. Shamhat had never seen such intelligence. Underneath his outward feral brutishness was a rational intellect that had been suppressed like a plugged volcano. His animal side gave him strong instincts and his human side was like a fresh clay tablet that could carry as much as a speedy scribe could engrave into it. Shamhat spent every day with him teaching him the ways of civilization: Language, reading, tools, eating meat, etiquette, social customs. And at night, he would be rewarded with wild lovemaking, which he had perfected the best of all.
One of the first things she did was to bathe him and shave his hair and beard from his body, then anoint his body with oil. He felt like he was being born for the first time. He felt completely naked and vulnerable until she put clothes on him, and then he felt bound and limited. The belt was tight, the tunic cumbersome and the sandals clumsy. But as he became more like the humans around him, he became more co
mfortable with their ways. He felt like he had been on a long and wearisome journey and had finally come home. It was all so strange and new, but he was finally home. He embraced his new world with passion and gusto.
Learning language and a bit about the city of Uruk and the world of ma
nkind filled him with wonder. Shamhat took great care that he understood the civilized ways of mankind with justice and law and art and education and family.
“What is marriage?” Enkidu asked Shamhat one day when she was teaching him in the tent. He had learned the basics of language and was digging deeper into the meaning of being human. She had been explaining to him what a family was and why it was important to civilization.
Shamhat sighed. She was a harlot so she had never thought much about it since it would never be her lot in life. She knew what it should be. But she also knew that she was an instrument of the dark side of men that worked against what marriage could be.
“Well,” said Shamhat. “Marriage is when a man and woman love one another, they share a union...”
“Union?” he interrupted. “What is ‘union’?”
“When two become one flesh,” she answered.
“Like Shamhat and Enkidu?” he said with wide eyes.
She could tell just talking about her in such a way aroused him. She smiled.
“Well, it includes that, but that is not all.”
“What else does it include?” said Enkidu.
“A special promise that we call a ‘covenant’. It means a man and woman are devoted to one another for the rest of their lives. And they do it before their society in a special ceremony that seals their promise. And they have a large party with all their loved ones to celebrate.” She was unable to keep her eyes from tearing up with sadness and pain for her own loneliness, a loneliness that she only now realized she had forgotten in his presence.
“Why do you cry?” he asked her.
“Because it is beautiful,” she said.
He sat there contemplating this new and beautiful thing that he had never he
ard of before.
He finally spoke like a king pronouncing a decree. “Enkidu and Shamhat should share this beauty. Enkidu and Shamhat should get married. Enkidu will go back to Uruk with Shamhat and we will be married properly and have a celebration to be devoted to one another for the rest of our lives.” He was all smiles.
She however, was all tears now as she broke down weeping into his arms. He was having a difficult time understanding how this was happiness about the beauty of marriage.
“I am not worthy,” said Shamhat. “You do not understand my shame.”
“Nonsense, silly rabbit,” he said. He called her by affectionate animal names to express her different character traits. “Enkidu knows Shamhat’s shame and I love you. Shamhat knows Enkidu’s shame and you love me, do you not?” He was getting better at using the first person in his conversation.
Her tears turned to a strange combination of crying and laughing. “Yes, yes, I do,” she said between her hiccups of laughing tears. Enkidu was displaying that simple male rationality that did not understand emotions and yet, could cut through the confusion that emotions would too easily cause with a clarity she could not deny. She had heard proclamations of “love” from many a man in the heat of sexual ecstasy, but this was the first time she knew it was true and real.
Enkidu proudly beamed, “Well then, we shall return to Uruk with Dumuzi and we shall marry.”
This was a man whose lead she would feel safe to follow. A man to whom she wanted to submit with all her heart and soul.
“Yes, my Enkidu, I shall marry you.”
They kissed, and Enkidu’s purr became a growl of desire. That was one thing she knew “civilizing” would not change one bit. And she knew it was tigress time again.
But suddenly, Enkidu pulled away and looked at her. She could see he was troubled, as if struck by a thought like one is struck by a boulder. He spoke with some hesitation, unsure of his reasoning. “If we are to make this commitment for a lifetime of oneness, should we not hold our bodies apart until the ceremony of oneness?”
Shamhat stared at him blankly. The thought had never even occurred to her. But it made perfect sense with the purpose of spiritual unity to wait for physical
and ritual unity. She did not know if she would be able to hold back. But his moral reasoning was already impeccably beyond his animal urges.
did not get a chance to respond because they heard a servant’s scream outside the tent, followed by the barking of the dogs.
Enkidu rushed out to see what the commotion was about. Several of the mastiffs bolted right past him and into the brush on the chase after something. Enkidu saw
one of the servants lying on the ground in a pool of blood with his abdomen slashed open, dying. A predator had attacked. But it was on the run now. Or was it?
Enkidu looked around. He smelled the air. He knew who this was. Whatever the mastiffs were after was a diversion. He saw Shamhat exit the tent and approach him. Enkidu placed his hand out to stop her. He was looking past her into the brush behind her. She froze in fear.
She slowly turned around to see a female lioness padding out into the clearing behind her. Their eyes locked and the lioness crouched for attack.
Enkidu yelled out a guttural sound that was a vestige from his past as a
Wild Born. It was how he had communicated with the animals around him and they understood him. But the lioness did not even acknowledge Enkidu. It was as if she had never seen him before. He knew this one. He knew that she was vicious and cunning. She had a particular taste for humans, which was unusual in lions. She had a patch of skin and hair missing above one eye, leaving a scar that Enkidu had figured was the source of its particular ferocity.
On the other side of the camp, Dumuzi exited his tent with a spear and two servants with swords and shields. But they were too far away. There was no time. The lioness was
seconds from pouncing upon the fragile precious form of Enkidu’s salvation.
He sprinted toward Shamhat.
The Lioness jumped.
Enkidu met the lioness in midair and the two crashed to the ground.
Shamhat backed away and was
pulled to safety by the two servants. Dumuzi prepared to spear the lioness, but he saw Enkidu put his hand up to stop him. Enkidu was going to do this.
The lioness growled and snapped at Enkidu, but he was powerful and skilled at wrestling with animals. He flipped around in the dust until he was on its back and
clutching its throat in a choke hold. The lioness thrashed and clawed, but Enkidu was like a boa constrictor wrapped around it, and he was not letting go.
lioness could breathe no more. With a couple of final spasms, it blacked out, falling limp. Enkidu then grabbed its head and with a mighty heave, broke its neck to kill it. The loud crack was sickening to Shamhat. But she had been saved by her lover and hero. A man who had just recently himself been a wild animal had killed one of his own to protect her. His transformation was complete.
But then Enkidu fell to his knees and wept. Shamhat did not understand why. Was he mourning the loss of his untamed past? Were the implications of what he had become finally overwhelming him? By sheer will power, Enkidu forced himself to stop. He got up and embraced his beloved Shamhat. And everything was okay.
Dumuzi wanted to bring the dead lioness with them back to Uruk to tell the amazing story and give Enkidu some rightfully earned recognition. But Enkidu asked Dumuzi to spare the attention. He wanted to bury the animal here in the steppe and with it, all the memory of his past. He did not want a stuffed reminder of the brutal world to follow him into the civilized world. He wanted to be human.
According to Enkidu’s wishes, Dumuzi arrived back at Uruk without announcing Enkidu’s presence in his entourage. Shamhat had warned Enkidu that he would become a freak on display: The Wild Born who became civilized. He wanted to be a normal human being, learn the normal human craft of shepherding from Dumuzi, and live a normal civilized life in the great city-state of Uruk. His big bone stature would make him stand out enough amidst the smaller slender people of Uruk. He did not want any more attention to make him an animal in the king’s zoo of caged carnivores.
Shamhat was able to receive a dispensation to leave temple prostitution and the two were married on a beautiful summer day in the temple of Anu. It was a simple small wedding
, perfectly in keeping with the privilege granted by the assembly of elders to any of the citizens. They went back to their banquet in the town square of the Dumuzi family’s district to finish the celebration. Since neither Enkidu nor Shamhat had family, Dumuzi took them into his family fold to help them get a new start together.
Their wedding was a simpler affair than most. They had few celebrants and had streamlined the ceremony. But nonetheless, it ended on the seventh day with the traditional feast and much ale.
Shamhat had previously prepared Enkidu for the king’s right to
jus prima noctis
, first night. She told him not to worry, that she would allow the king to have his way, but she would be thinking of Enkidu and would not engage her heart in the wedding night violation. She was much experienced in that.
But Enkidu was troubled.
“I thought marriage was for one man and one woman for the rest of their life,” he said.
“It is,” she replied. “This is merely one of the pains we must suffer because the king has the right to whatever he wants.”
“In the steppe, I would kill this so-called ‘king,’” he said.
“Enkidu, this is not the wild,” she scolded him. “The king has the power of the city-state behind him. He would execute you for such treason.”
Enkidu shook his head. “This is civilization? This is more barbaric than the wild.”
“We have no choice in the matter,” she said. “If we want to live, we must obey the king.”
“Is there no higher authority?” he asked.
“The gods. But the gods give the king the right to do as he pleases.”
“That is madness,” he replied. “Who are these gods of such capriciousness?” Enkidu had been learning a few words of larger vocabulary lately.
“The king is part god himself,” she said.
The debate had gone on like this for days. It was a debate that Enkidu would not be able to win because the king was the ultimate authority. He eventually grumbled and threw his hands up in frustration — until the next time the topic came up.
But this time, it was not a topic of conversation. It was reality. The celebration night was coming to an end. The celebrants were
starting to leave for home. And the King’s giant form was standing in the shadow of the threshold waiting to take the bride.
was not really her first night, but it was still the principle of the thing. And Enkidu was burning mad. His love for Shamhat would not allow her to be abused in such a way. He would protect her with his life. He had decided that if he was killed, he was killed, but nothing would stop him from protecting her virtue and her person. To him, she was not Shamhat the harlot. To him, she was Shamhat his wife.
He saw Shamhat approach the king in the shadow of the threshold. When the king stepped out, Enkidu saw him for the first time. He was truly a mighty man, this Gilgamesh. Handsome, a giant, and with the confidence Enkidu had only
heard of in the legendary Bull of Heaven, a mighty monster of Anu, so huge and fierce that none could live in its path.
Shamhat maintained her dignity as she walked ahead into the home to prepare for the evening bed.
But as Gilgamesh followed after her, he found his way blocked by Enkidu. Gilgamesh was shocked. No one had ever done this before. The bridegroom was defying the king right to his face. It was certain death for this fool.
He was not from Uruk, a
couple of cubits smaller than Gilgamesh, but he had superior muscle mass. Gilgamesh half wondered if he would be a good fight in the Game of Champions.
“Ho, hurrah,” said Enkidu. It was his way of getting attention that he had fondly picked up from the Shepherd Dumuzi. “This is not a right thing that you do, O king.”
“You dare question my authority?” said Gilgamesh.
“By the gods,” Enkidu replied. “How would you like it if I took first night with
your queen before you?”
Gilgamesh was taken aback with offense. Enkidu could see it was outrageous to suggest such a thing.
Enkidu said, “You prove me correct, O king, with your moral outrage. For how are we superior to the animals if we act with such disregard for moral right and wrong?”
Gilgamesh smiled with amusement. “How long have you been in the wild, clodhopper?”
It was his attempt at pointing out Enkidu’s ignorance of the city of Uruk and its laws. But he did not realize that calling Enkidu “wild” would be the worst thing he could do to this small powerhouse standing before him. It fueled Enkidu’s rising rage.
“Longer than you have been a tyrant, my lord,” spat Enkidu.
That pushed Gilgamesh’s patience to the brink.
“What is your name, rebel?” said Gilgamesh.
“Enkidu, my despot.”
Gilgamesh grabbed Enkidu and was going to kill him with his bare hands rather than wait for the formal process of legal indictment and execution.
But Gilgamesh did not know who he had just grabbed with his bare hands.
Enkidu grabbed Gilgamesh before he could do anything and slammed him against the closest pillar with such force that the pillar cracked and the entire house shook.
Gilgamesh released his grip, stunned.
Enkidu hissed into Gilgamesh’s ear, “No man or god will violate my wife while I am still alive.”
Enkidu spun around while still holding Gilgamesh and threw him into the street, crushing a row of tables of food and scattering the stragglers. It had taken a lot of strength to lift a giant and throw him such a distance. There was more to this rustic yokel than met Gilgamesh’s eyes.
Enkidu was smaller in size than Gilgamesh, but stronger of bone. He was his equal in strength. Or maybe his superior. Gilgamesh had finally met his match, and it took him completely by surprise.
Enkidu turned to Shamhat and said, “Wait for me here, my dove. I may be a tad delayed.”
He jumped like a stag and landed at
the stunned Gilgamesh’s feet. He grabbed his feet and dragged him out into the town square where a crowd of gawking citizens were gathering to watch this amazing spectacle of clashing titans.
Enkidu swung Gilgamesh by his feet and slammed him into another building that shook at its foundation. Gilgamesh reel
ed. But when Enkidu grabbed him by the cloak to pick him up, Gilgamesh grasped Enkidu and threw him against the very same house. It crumbled upon him. Enkidu saw stars.
The two grabbed each other and began to wrestle for advantage. But it was so close, one moment Gilgamesh
was on top and then the next moment the tails were turned and Enkidu was in superior position.
med each other into buildings with the force of two rampaging bulls reducing the town square into a pile of rubble.
They circled each other for a moment, ready to trample and gore.
Gilgamesh shouted out, “Where are you from, mighty Enkidu?”
“I come from the steppe.”
“I am impressed. I have never seen such strength or bravado,” said Gilgamesh.
“What is ‘bravado’?” asked Enkidu.
This was some kind of primitive
, he thought.
Untainted by the petty shame of civilization.
Could he be a domesticated Wild Born?
“Pomposity, bombast, braggadocio,” grinned Gilgamesh. Now he was taunting Enkidu. Answering him with even more intellectual words beyond Enkidu’s comprehension. Enkidu boiled.
“It means the pride that comes before a fall,” Gilgamesh added and flipped Enkidu with a thud into the dirt. The entire town square shook like an earthquake. No normal man would have remained conscious.
Enkidu was not a normal man.
Gilgamesh was still holding onto him. So Enkidu threw him off balance and flipped him over his head right into a stone well. Gilgamesh crashed into the stone structure and smashed it to pieces, knocking him silly.
“I will forever remember such words in context with King Gilgamesh, the tyrant, despot, and oppressor,” said Enkidu.
Gilgamesh shook off his stupor and thought,
Has Dumuzi taught him this discontent?
Gilgamesh said, “Why would you sacrifice your life for such a minor inconvenience as a wife?” He was genuinely surprised at Enkidu’s extremist moral sentiment. He could not understand what drove a man to have such an absolutist mentality when it came to morals. Wives were mere property to him. They could be bought, beaten, divorced.
idu replied, “A man’s life is sacred. And his wife’s virtue is no minor inconvenience.”
Enkidu’s integrity was antiquated, but fascinating to Gilgamesh. It was everything Gilgamesh did not have. He found himself drawn to it.
Gilgamesh complained, “But your wife is a harlot.”
Gilgamesh said it as a statement of fact, not an insult.
Enkidu heard it differently. He raged and tackled Gilgamesh head on with such force that they slammed into the side of a house and brought it down completely upon them.
They dug their way out of the debris. Enkidu coughed the dust out of his lungs. But as soon as Gilgamesh burst out of the pile of mud bricks, Enkidu unleashed with a fury of rapid face punches that would have taken off the head of any other adversary.
Instead, it only knocked Gilgamesh unconscious. Enkidu then pulled Gilgamesh out of the rubble and carried him on his back out into the town square before a cheering crowd. He did not care one whit for their attention. He could only think of his beloved Shamhat. He raised Gilgamesh above his head and threw him to the ground with another earth shattering quake.
Gilgamesh lay crumpled on the ground. Enkidu walked over to a horse hitching post and pulled off the large log from its posts.
He carried it over to Gilgamesh and raised it high above his head with the intent of smashing his enemy’s skull.
But before he could do so, Gilgamesh, who had been feigning unconsciousness rolled into Enkidu’s legs and brought him crashing to the ground minus the log.
Gilgamesh then used a wrestling maneuver he had learned in his physical training many years ago. It was the advantage that civilization gave over the wild. Perfected training through practiced experimentation and rational study would ultimately be superior to brute strength and untrained natural instinct. Gilgamesh pinned Enkidu, then quickly pulled his knife from his belt and held it to Enkidu’s throat.
Enkidu looked up into Gilgamesh’s eyes and the king could see that he was ready to die. It was as if he knew who he was and why he was here.
“You have fought well, my adversary,” said Gilgamesh. “I have never met my equal. But you have bettered me in more than one moment today.”
“It is true what they say of the unique son of Ninsun,” said Enkidu. “You are destined to rule mightily over men.”
Gilgamesh was amused and impressed.
He is complimenting me before I kill him.
“Promise me something,” said Enkidu.
Gilgamesh was startled. “
?” Considering Enkidu’s current situation, he had a lot of gall to demand a promise.
“After you take my life, honor your words of respect for my skill by protecting the virtue of my wife.”
Gilgamesh could still not believe his ears. “So this is love,” he said. He looked into Enkidu’s eyes and could see no guile.
It was bizarre to Gilgamesh. This Gibbor was entirely beyond his comprehension, yet strangely resonating with some sense of moral truth deep down in his soul.
He changed his mind.
“I will protect your wife’s virtue,” said Gilgamesh. “
I will not take your life.”
He released the knife from Enkidu’s throat. Enkidu was shocked at the turnaround.
He offered his hand to help Enkidu up from the ground.
Enkidu took his hand warily, wondering if he was just throwing Enkidu off to give him a merciful surprise death. Something he would not see coming, so he would barely realize he was dead until he opened his eyes in the underworld.
But Gilgamesh did not surprise Enkidu with a bushwhack. He helped him up and brushed off Enkidu’s wedding clothes from the dirt that was on them. Which was silly because both of their clothes had been ripped to shreds.
“I will make you
my Right Hand,” said Gilgamesh.