Saturday, 20 February 2010

The Creation of the Wild Man

This is a continuation from my last post The Prelude to the Gilgamesh where the background is explained. In European mythology, and no doubt in other cultures too, there is the mythical concept of the wild man in folklore. The wild man lives outside the construct of civilization and so is perceived as a threat and feared. The only wild man story I'm really familiar with is that of the Gaulish village of Asterix and Obelix. (They are the only ones who can hold out against the might of the Roman empire because their druid makes a magic potion which gives them supernatural strength.) But it seems the original "wild man" is in the Gilgamesh, right at the beginning of the story. Here is a verse translation which I've done, first introducing Gilgamesh and then how the wild man Enkidu came to be created. The original of the Prologue and the whole of Tablet I in very literal translation may be found here. The translation by Stephen Mitchell which I linked in the last thread is only available online for the Prologue.


Majestic ruler, supreme among kings,
In power, strength, stature and all great things,
Born in Uruk, of the goring wild bull,
He is the hero, of bold spirit full.

He walks out in front, the leader of men,
He walks at the rear, trusted companion,
A fortress and protector of his realm,
And a storming flood, razing from the helm.

Born of Lugalbanda, he is his son,
And of the august cow, goddess Ninsun,
He is two-thirds divine and one-third human,
He is awesome and strong to perfection.

It was he who opened mountain passes,
He who dug wells by the mountain grasses,
He who crossed the ocean and the vast seas,
To the rising sun, searching for life’s keys.

By his strength, he reached Utanapishtim,
The restorer of life at the world’s rim,
Who survived the Flood and revived mankind
To its sacred place of which it was blind.

Who then can compare to great Gilgamesh?
Who was named thus from his birth in the creche?
The goddess of creation designed his form,
Handsome and radiant beyond every norm.


About the city, he struts, head held high,
No-one dares to oppose him, they just stand by
As the son is taken, the daughter too,
Is he a wise shepherd for this to do?

The gods tell Lord Anu of the people’s cry,
“No-one dares to oppose him, they just stand by
As the son is taken, the daughter too,
Is he a wise shepherd for this to do?”

Anu hears them and calls out to Aruru,
“Goddess, since he was created by you,
Make a double who against him can stand,
So their balance may bring peace to the land.”

So Aruru created the double
As Anu asked to resolve this trouble.
She washed her hands, pinched some clay and threw,
And out of the wild arose Enkidu.

Born of Silence, blessed with Ninurta’s strength,
He was shaggy with hair along his length
And had long flowing locks like a woman
And lived among animals far from men.

As fast as the billowing wind he ran,
Roaming all over dressed like Sumuqan,
Eating grasses with the gazelles and foals
And jostling with deer at the watering holes.


  1. I'll be back. My brain is fried.

  2. Just a thought I had... The gods, instead of confronting Gilgamesh directly, create a double... almost to allow him to learn for himself of the error of his ways... like a mirror, because in a sense it is Gilgamesh himself, full of pomp and grandeur externally, who is wild at heart internally and needs to be tamed of his arrogance.

    Edit: Oh, and I've made some little improvements, so you've done well to wait, Cyn! Rest well...

  3. Ah you have done well too...

    Hercules themes seem to infuse this

  4. Thanks Cyn! Yeah, I guess it's a story for the "boys".

    Clarification of my earlier point... Enkidu is the wild man, but Gilgamesh is the wild ego. Enkidu is like an animal, honest in his wildness.

  5. This is SO very interesting.

    I understand what you say, Okei.

    About Asterix and Obelix, here, have a look at this :
    The Article,
    "Asterix and Obelix and the Vikings ... or how to read into a popular CARTOON"

    Take care.

  6. Thanks for that! I'd never noticed the meanings of the names as a child (except I had been told once, and also I think I read that blog of yours before). Indeed Obelix=obelisk, Asterix is the star and he even looks a bit like a star on the page because he's so little, the dog Idefix meaning fixed ideas, Panoramix the wise old druid with the big picture etc.. I'm sure I read that episode, but I don't remember it for some reason.

    So, the moral of the story is... "Love will give you wings", but what this really means is "Love will set you Free!", and now that I think of it, Obelix who having fallen into the potion as a child, so he's the wildest of them all, is invincible to everything... except for when he falls in love... and then he goes bright red in the face and starts walking into things. The giant is "undone" by love, so the comparison is especially fitting if you're aware of what happens next to Enkidu. His wildness is tamed through love... it robs him of strength, but also awakens him to a higher and more civilized state.

  7. Great poem!

    Have you read the story of Vercingetorix? You may like that one as well.

    Also, I know this Wild Man as The Green Man, or Cernunnos. Anu is very familiar to me.

  8. Thanks so much for your insights Astara. I'll look into it.

    This mythology is all very new to me. I have just yesterday finished reading the Gilgamesh! All I know of Anu is that he's the lord of the Gods, a bit like the Greek Zeus.

  9. The ego cannot solve its problems if the ego itself is the source of these problems.

    There is a tremendous difference between the person who is free from the ego and the one who is trapped in it.

    Enjoyed the read

  10. That makes me think of the phrase "pulling oneself up by the bootstraps".

    In theory you're right of course, but the spiritual is very paradoxical.

    Because it seems that a collective ego, reflecting in each other's mirrors, might be able to resolve itself... maybe.