The Epic of Gilgamesh

Tablet VII

Enkidu’s curses are more than mere figures of speech. In ancient Mesopotamia, the culture considered curses an especially potent sort of magic that could alter fate. For this reason, Enkidu offers an alternative blessing for the prostitute, instead of simply withdrawing his curse. The curse and the blessing alike must stand. Enkidu’s dream about the underworld anticipates the journey upon which the heartbroken Gilgamesh will soon embark. Enkidu’s observation of King Etana among the dead is significant, as recovered fragments of the ancient Sumerian “Myth of Etana” describe that king’s futile quest to find a magical plant to cure his wife’s barrenness. At one point in the story, an eagle carries him up to heaven, but he falls back to earth. This of course anticipates Gilgamesh’s later misadventure with another magical plant.