Tuesday, December 19, 2017

A Quest that Began a Long Time Ago in a Village Far, Far Away


Am I referring to Star Wars? Well, yes, but also the other classic hero myths from which it arose. The one I'm thinking of currently is considered the earliest recorded work of Western literature, "The Epic of Gilgamesh". Considering that, I'm both surprised and relieved that Hollywood or whosoever wishes to tackle it, hasn't done so.

I've been obsessed (don't know if that's a good or a bad thing) with the hero quest ever since I first saw Star Wars in a theater in Evansville, Indiana, many years ago. Actually, my fascination goes back further, to movies like Ulysses, Jason and the Argonauts, and some of my favorite superhero comic books such as "Batman" and "Superman". During my unsettled, questioning times, they motivated me, inspired me. I remember leaving the theater after watching Star Wars for that first time, driving back to my apartment in my 1973 Chevy Nova, firing my blasters at the cars in the oncoming lane. It had been a bad day at work. Fortunately, I had no blasters.

Reading about Gilgamesh, I want to know more. This book I just finished, "Gilgamesh", by David Ferry, has only raised more questions. While not a direct translation, it gives the feel of this hero quest. And what intrigues me as much as the story itself, is the journey of discovery of the retelling. Because, like the King Arthur tales, it evolves.

Gilgamesh was, apparently, a real Sumerian king, tales of which were told long after he shuffled off. Pieces and parts were written on clay tablets, and they have crawled their way out of the twenty-seventh century B.C.E. weaving a trail, to today. The myths, naturally, grew. Of this wild man/king/demigod, who ruled over his city of Uruk. Who, because he was so uncontrollable, the gods created a brother for him, the equally untamed Enkidu, the idea being that Gilgamesh would have someone to fight with to dispel his fierce energies.

Together, these warrior brothers fought monsters, eventually learning of their mortality. After Enkidu's death, Gilgamesh traveled far, seeking immortality.

I shall write more of this later. This is just a small part of how these stories interrelate.

Keep writing, friends. And seek out your own hero quests.

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