Life often represents a journey of self-discovery. This can be seen in the two stories, Medea by Euripides and the Babylonian story the Epic of Gilgamesh. The story of Medea and Gilgamesh represents a journey of transformation. Both characters have new experiences that make them see life differently. These experiences change the characters and transform them. The outcomes of each journey are different. Medea transforms into a mad feminist. Angry at her husband her journey is a plot for revenge. Gilgamesh was a selfish king who used people for his will. Once meeting Enkidu, Gilgamesh goes on journey of brotherhood, changing him into a better person. Despite the differences in outcomes and characters, by reading Medea and the Epic of Gilgamesh the journey of transformation becomes both meaningful and symbolic.
In the story Medea, the protagonist goes on a journey for revenge. This journey symbolizes her loss and fury towards her husband and all he has taken from her. In the first pages, Medea fell in love with Jason when she used her magic to help him get the Golden Fleece. After this, everything Medea did was for Jason. On her journey to be with Jason she killed her brother. She also worked her magic to kill king Pilias. Medea goes through a journey just to be with him, so likewise her journey begins again when Jason leaves her. The divorce causes Medea to lose not only her husband, but also her home in Corinth and she is exiled. A single parent with no support, Medea vows to get even so Jason will also suffer many losses. “If mine hours to be come and no hope nigh, then sword in hand, full-willed and sure to die, I yet will live to slay them. I will wend Man-like, their road of daring to the end”, (Medea, 23). From the beginning, Medea is willing to go on a journey to have revenge.
In the Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh goes through a journey of brotherhood. The journey helps him become a better person through companionship. The main character Gilgamesh is a half man-half god with special powers and King of Uruk. He is an oppressive king as he intimidates men and rapes women. However, his friendship with Enkidu changes this. Gilgamesh and Enkidu fight evil monsters and go on adventures. Gilgamesh and Enkidu are best friends and brothers. When Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh is devastated. He grieves for his friend and questions life and mortality. Gilgamesh journey is a literal one. “Gilgamesh travelled over the wilderness, he wandered over the grassland, a long journey, in search of Utnapishtim… and to him alone of men they gave everlasting life”, (Gilgamesh, 16). On his journey he discovers humanity. By being a good ruler and protector of his kingdom, he is able to leave behind a legacy that will last for eternity.
During her journey, Medea transforms from a women of pity into a woman of rage. “Have I not suffered? Doth it call no tears? Ha, ye beside the wall unfathered children, God hate you as I am hated, and him too that gat you, and this house and all”, (Medea 8). At the beginning Medea is heartbroken and feels sorry for herself. She questions her fate and thinks about killing herself and her family. However Medea says these things out of despair. First Medea’s home is taken from her before she is banished from the kingdom. She is treated unfairly as a mother and a woman. This only fuels her transformation. Medea is given not outlet for support. With each tragedy she is transformed into a jaded woman consumed by revenge. This is seen when she says, “so many thoughts of murder to my turn”, (Medea, 23). Medea lived for her husband and everything bad that happened in her life was because of him. Medea transforms into a vengeful person, transforming her loss into Jason’s loss.
Gilgamesh also goes through a transformation. Gilgamesh transformed from a bad ruler into a good one. Before he met Enkidu, Gilgamesh lived life selfishly and freely. He did what he wanted because he was powerful. However his relationship with Enkidu changes this. Enkidu was the first to challenge Gilgamesh. After Enkidu fights Gilgamesh, the two become fast friends. Enkidu watches over him and shows Gilgamesh about friendship and team work. Gilgamesh learns that his might can be used for the good of the kingdom. He uses his strength to kill Humbaba and the bull. This transformation is symbolized when Gilgamesh returns to Uruk after his first adventure. “Gilgamesh washed out his long locks and cleaned his weapons; he flung back his hair from his shoulders; he threw off his stained clothes and change them for new”, (Gilgamesh, 12). The statement symbolizes his transformation. Gilgamesh washed away his former self. He is transformed into a person who is admired for his bravery and protection. The washing of his body and the changing of his clothes is Gilgamesh transformed. He was no longer a threat or an oppressor of his people.
Both Medea and Gilgamesh go on a journey which changes them personally and transforms them. The journey of transformation can be observed as symbolism. At the end of the story, Medea kills her children . The death of the children symbolizes the death of Jason and their marriage together. It is also the cause of Jason’s suffering. It can also symbolize her struggles with being a woman in a society where women are powerless. Symbolism is also observed in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Doorways, paths, and thresholds are represented throughout the story. This includes the threshold between Gilgamesh and the bride he wants the rape. When Enkidu and Gilgamesh fight in front the doorway, Gilgamesh is transformed by the challenge. The doorway in this case represents Gilgamesh’s transformation from an oppressor into a protector. By reading these stories, readers better understand the different life changing experiences the journeys they endure.
The Epic of Gilgamesh, (2008). Assyrian International News Agency Books Online. Assur, Assyria. Retrieved from: http://www.aina.org/books/eog/eog.pdf
The Medea. Alexandria, VA: Project Gutenberg EBook of Medea of Euripdes, 2011. Retrieved from: <http://www.gutenberg.org/files/35451/35451-h/35451-h.htm>.