Character Description Essay

Kacie Snider Ms. Bagnaschi Language Arts 12 29 September 2012 Fear Doesn’t Stop a Hero Bill Cosby once said that “In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater that your fear of failure. ” In the narrative poem, Gilgamesh retold by Herbert Mason the main character Gilgamesh decides to go on this quest to defeat the mighty Humbaba. He wants the glory and fame that will come after slaying the guardian of the forest. However brave he thinks he is, Gilgamesh gets stricken by fear multiple times along his venture into the forest.

But his determination to succeed outweighs his fear of failure and death. So in this narrative poem the reader learns that even the courageous king of Uruk, who is two-thirds god, is still susceptible to fear, but his ability to overcome that fear is what makes him a hero. Throughout this poem we see Gilgamesh being tormented by fear when they approach the gates to the forest, the night before Gilgamesh faces Humbaba, and even during the battle with the beast. The reader first gets foretaste of Gilgamesh’s fear when Enkidu and he approach the gates to the forest. The two mov[e] slowly toward the gate” because Gilgamesh is tentative and starting to fear what is ahead (Mason 65). The courageous and handsome king fears the unknown of not only what is in the forest, but also the guardian of the forest. “Suddenly…Gilgamesh…was afraid” for deeper reasons than just the fear of the unknown ( Mason 63). Gilgamesh was afraid that of the disappointment that would sweep his kingdom if his quest was a failure. What kind of king and warrior would he be if he could not defeat a simple slave to the gods?

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What kind of hope would that leave to the children of Uruk? His fear of failure is not as great as his desire to defeat Humbaba. So despite all that could go wrong and all the adversity that he faced, Gilgamesh still advances into the forest. His advancements into the forest, is the readers first glance at Gilgamesh’s courageousness. It is Gilgamesh’s ability to overcome his fear and to lead by courage that makes him a hero. Darkness emanates through the forest and Gilgamesh and Enkidu stop so they can rest up for the upcoming battle with Humbaba.

Unfortunately, “it was a restless night for both. [Gilgamesh] snatched at sleep and sprang awake from dreams” multiple times throughout the night because of fear of the night time and fear of what was to come the next day(Mason 95-96). All throughout the night Gilgamesh had nightmares and barely got any sleep. The fight with Humbaba made the king of Uruk uneasy because he has no idea of what to expect. Gilgamesh knew he was a great warrior, but nothing could calm his fears of the pending battle.

Instead of running out of the forest and back to his kingdom, Gilgamesh stays in the forest with his best friend and tries to focus on sleeping. He knew that he had to stay and fight Humbaba. That determination to stay and fight even with being scared is another example of his courageousness. That courageousness is a key characteristic in what makes Gilgamesh the hero that he is. Dawn breaks and Gilgamesh knows that today is the day he has feared since his adventure began. He must agitate the mighty beast, so the beast can find Gilgamesh and Gilgamesh can slay him.

As soon as Gilgamesh starts chopping down a tree “[he] felt weak at the sounds of Humbaba’s footsteps…”(Mason 158-159). The guardian of the forest sprinted clumsily through the forest to take out whoever was destroying his forest. Humbaba’s footsteps are so loud and big that Gilgamesh begins to worry that he won’t be able to defeat Humbaba. He worries that a creature that makes so much noise will be too big for him to handle. Gilgamesh once again is fearful of the unknown and not being able to see and judge Humaba before fighting him.

This fear of the unknown frightens the handsome demi-god and makes him think that he will die and not get the glory that he sought at the beginning of this journey. Gilgamesh is so terrified that he is paralyzed by fear when he finally is confronted by Humbaba. Humbaba attacks his best friend, Enkidu, and Gilgamesh “…[is] unable to move to help him” (Mason 180-181). Gilgamesh has never been so scared in his entire life. This is a new kind of fear of the usually fearless warrior.

Gilgamesh realizes thought that his friend is about to die and no matter how scared he is, he values the life of his friend more. Gilgamesh once again gathers up his courage and cuts Humbaba’s head off and saves the life of his best friend. Gilgamesh’s last stand against the mighty monster shows that he is able to overcome paralyzing fear and act heroically to save lives. This courageous behavior is why Gilgamesh is the hero in his kingdom on Uruk. Throughout this narrative poem, Gilgamesh’s ability to overcome his fear of failure and death is tested repeatedly.

When Gilgamesh and Enkidu first arrive at the gates of the forest, when the two friends are resting up for the upcoming battle, and during the battle itself are all places in the poem where Gilgamesh’s courage is tested. All three times though the mighty warrior’s desire of success is greater than his fear of failure. The reader learns that even the courageous king of Uruk, who is two-thirds god, is still susceptible to fear, but his ability to overcome that fear is what makes him a hero. Citation: Mason, Herbert. Gilgamesh. Elements of Literature. Austin, Texas: Holt, Rinehard and Winston, 2008. 58-63. Print.


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