The Last Quest of Gilgamesh

The Last Quest of Gilgamesh
The Last Quest of Gilgamesh

After the death of Enkidu in The Revenge of Ishtar, Gilgamesh is in despair and distraught.  Afraid of death, Gilgamesh decides to find the secret to immortality in The Last Quest of Gilgamesh by Ludmila Zeman.

Guided by the spirit of Shamhat, Gilgamesh sets off to the Mashu Mountains where he rescues a lion cub.  Helped by scorpions and traversing a desert, Gilgamesh meets a woman named Siduri who warns him to give up his quest and stay with him for he will only meet with death.  Determined, Gilgamesh continues through the Waters of Death to the island where Utnapishtim lives, a man made immortal by the gods when he saved all the animals in a flood (think Noah).

Utnaptishtim tells Gilgamesh if he can stay awake for 6 days and 7 nights he will have immortality as well.  Gilgamesh fails and feeling sorry for him, Utnaptishtim tells him to retrieve the Plant of Life which will make him young again.  Gilgamesh retrieves the plant from the bottom of the sea but it is eaten by a serpent.

Enkidu in the form of an eagle returns to Gilgamesh and flies him over his great city of Uruk.  “Here, Gilgamesh, is the immortality you have sought.  The city you built, the courage you showed, the good you have done.  You will live in the hearts of people forever.”

Great story of the true meaning of immortality.  It’s not life itself, but the life you bring to others that is important.  Great conclusion.  Fabulous pictures.  Not to miss!

The Revenge of Ishtar

The Revenge of Ishtar
The Revenge of Ishtar

The second installment of our Epic of Gilgamesh, The Revenge of Ishtar, retold by Lyudmila Zeman finds Gilgamesh and his good friend, Enkidu, in the peaceful city of Uruk, spending their days planning the city and their evenings listening to Shamhat sing and playing games.

One evening the monster Humbaba attacks the palace, killing Shamhat.  Both Gilgamesh and Enkidu track down the monster so he will not harm people again.  They find him and both work together to slay him.  The goddess Ishtar witnesses the battle and invites Gilgamesh to be her husband.  Gilgamesh refuses, saying he won’t leave his people and friend for her.

Ishtar in revenge sends the Bull of Heaven to Uruk where it too wrecks havoc.  Again, Gilgamesh and Enkidu team up to destroy it.  Angry, Ishtar makes Enkidu sick until he dies.  Enkidu is angry but he learns he “found a friendship few every know and the lasting love of a people.”

Gilgamesh, heart-broken, vows as his last quest to find the secret of immortality so he too won’t be taken from his people.

Love the pictures which are bright and vivid.  The two monsters are cute and not scary at all.  Very condensed version.  Good lesson on the value of friendship.  Nice historical background page at the end.

Gilgamesh the King

Gilgamesh the King
Gilgamesh the King

Gilgamesh the King retold by Ludmila Zeman is the first in a trilogy retelling the Epic of Gilgamesh.  Unlike Geraldine McCaughlean’s version, these are picture books with vivid pictures and easy text.

We meet Gilgamesh, a young, bitter king of Mesopotamia, part god and part man, who is lonely with an extreme desire for wealth and power.  He begins building a wall around the city and forces his people to work on it.  At first, they are happy to do so.  But as time drags on, they grumble and complain about loss of time with family, work in the fields, and food.

The sun god made another man, Enkidu, to challenge Gilgamesh. Raised in the forest with animals, he knew no humans and protected his animal friends with his life.  Word spread of Enkidu and Gilgamesh sends Shamhat, a beautiful woman, to entice Enkidu to Uruk, the capital city of Mesopotamia.

Shamhat and Enkidu fall in love and return to Uruk to face Gilgamesh.  An epic battle ensues, resulting in Enkidu pulling Gilgamesh up from a wall.  A friendship forms and no longer lonely, Gilgamesh stops work on the wall and peace encompasses Uruk.

Many versions of this oldest written tale exist.  The story was written on clay tablets that were pieced together when found.  London, Paris, and Philadelphia house remnants of this tale.

These are some of my favorite books I have read numerous times out loud to my kids.  I love the story.  The pictures are fabulous.  It brings to life a whole time period most people/kids never learn about.  Great historical value and a great story of friendship.  Highly recommended.