Tablet 1

As the demigod Gilgamesh, son of the goddess Ninsun and ruler of Uruk, terrifies his subjects, these complain to the gods. So the goddess Aruru creates a man, Enkidu, to equal him. One day, the wild and hairy Enkidu upsets a hunter, and this requests a temple courtesan to conquer him. She sleeps with Enkidu and urges him to go to Uruk and meet Gilgamesh – who, having dreamed of Enkidu, is also anxious to meet him.

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Tablet 2

On his way to Uruk, Enkidu is introduced to civilized life: he puts on clothes, eats cooked food, drinks beer, and protects herds from wild animals. In Uruk, he fights Gilgamesh to prevent him from sleeping with another man's bride. Gilgamesh defeats Ekidu, but they become friends and decide to go on an adventure: to challenge the monster Humbaba, guardian of the Cedar Forest, forbidden to mortals.

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Tablets 3 & 4

The elders advise Gilgamesh to use Enkidu's help in his adventure. They visit Gilgamesh's mother, and she commends him to the sun god Shamash's protection and adopts Enkidu as a son. They set off on their adventure, covering many miles a day, making offerings to Shamash, and bolstering each other's spirits until they reach the forest.

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Tablet 5

In the forest, Gilgamesh is terrified by three dreams, all of which are interpreted favorably by Enkidu. Advised and helped by the god Shamash, they confront Humbaba and kill him. They return to Uruk, carrying some cedar trees and Humbaba's head.

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Tablet 6

After Gilgamesh washes himself and puts on clean clothes and his crown, Ishtar, the goddess of love, proposes to him, but he rejects and insults her. Furious, she convinces her father, Anu, the god of firmament, to unleash the Bull of Heaven over Uruk. Gilgamesh and Enkidu kill the bull and celebrate their victory in the streets. That night, Enkidu has a chilling nightmare.

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Tablet 7

Enkidu dreams the gods decided he must die as punishment for Humbaba's and the Bull's deaths and then falls ill. Enkidu curses what he considers the causes of his fate, and Gilgamesh promises to plead his case before the gods and build him a monument. Enkidu dreams of the underworld, regrets not having died gloriously in battle, and then dies twelve days later.

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Tablets 8 & 9

Gilgamesh mourns Enkidu, commissions a statue in his memory, then replaces his garments with hair-covered animal skin and sets off into the wilderness. Overcome with sorrow, he seeks out Utnapishtim, survivor of the flood which almost ended life on Earth. After reaching Mashu, a mountain guarded by a Scorpion-man and his wife, he crosses it through a tunnel and finds himself in a beautiful garden by the sea.

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Tablet 10

Gilgamesh tells Siduri the Barmaid, about his sorrows and quest, and she directs him to Urshanabi, a boatman who can take him to Utnapishtim through the Waters of Death. After Gilgamesh attacks the Urnu-snakes and the Stone Things near Urshanabi's place, Urshanabi makes him cut several poles and use them to row his boat across the sea. On the shore, Gilgamesh meets Utnapishtim, who says he shouldn't grieve about mortality as no man lives forever.

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Tablet 11

Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh how he had built a boat, loaded it with family and seeds, escaped the flood sent by the god Enlil, and was then turned into a god. Then, after challenging Gilgamesh to remain awake for a week and proving he can't be immortal, Utnapishtim makes him wash and change into clean garments, tells him about a rejuvenating plant – which a snake later steals from Gilgamesh – and sends him back to Uruk with Urshanabi.

Tablet 12

In a mystical poem appended to the epic, Gilgamesh drops a drum into the underworld, and Enkidu volunteers to retrieve it. When Enkidu is seized by the Queen of the Underworld, Gilgamesh asks the gods for help. Ea brings Enkidu's spirit back and this tells Gilgamesh about the underworld.

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