Interior monologue, otherwise known as the inner voice, refers to a passage of text that is used to explain a character’s thoughts deep within (Heidel 6).
In this case we are to look at the interior monologue of Urshanabi at his encounter with Gilgamesh at the time of crossing the waters of death. It is therefore important that we first have an understanding of this particular setting before conclusively determining his internal monologue (Kramer 84). From their encounter, we can come up with the following as the interior monologue of Urshanabi:
Interior monologue of Urshanabi when he notices Gilgamesh
You are so weak, have you eaten anything?
Can you not even put a smile on your face?
I bet you have come a long way
Your face is so disfigured
How come you are walking all over looking this way?
Interior monologue of Urshanabi when asked the way to Utnapishtim
Do you not realize that the only way is across this Dead Sea, and that you are the one who has made it even worse?
Yes, those stone things you smashed, they were to help us across, you have even gone to the extent of pulling out their retaining ropes
Listen, the only option we have now is to acquire some punting poles, now that you have an axe that will be much cheaper
Now you have to get to the forest as fast as possible, make sure you get at least three hundred punting poles. You better make sure each one of them is sixty cubits long
After that strip them and place caps on each and use the most efficient way to ensure they reach the boat
Interior monologue of Urshanabi at the Waters of Death
Now, here you have to be very careful Gilgamesh, you see that punting pole? Yes, that one there, pick it up and use it to wade through the waters
Remember to be cautious enough, and let not your hand pass over the waters of death
Yes that is okay, now you can do the same with the remaining poles until you are safe on the other side
It is important in the analyzing of the themes of this story that we get to know an overview of what this particular passage is all about. To start with we will understand the background of the story and the circumstances that made this particular incident to occur.
Gilgamesh is a Babylonian story about a rather patriotic leader who sets in motion an attack against a monster. In life he eventually meets Enkidu, his counterpart with similar features and of a common likeness as him.
Urshanabi’s name symbolizes a number and when translated means either a priest or servant of two thirds. Enki refers to the number forty, which is two thirds of Enu (sixty). From this it is clear that he is supposed to be Gilgamesh’s priest or servant since Gilgamesh was two thirds divine.
Despite the fact that Urshanabi tries to prevent him, Gilgamesh goes ahead and attacks the ‘Stone things’ thereby destroying them. He looks at his eye and asks him his name as well as the reason as to why he appeared so shabby.
When Gilgamesh tells him about his encounters and the fact that he needed to get to Utanapishtim, which is referred to as the far away one, he explains to him that his own hands were responsible for his failure to cross. This is because of his action of crushing the ‘stone things’ and in addition disposing them off into the river. These were supposed to help him cross by preventing him from stepping on the waters of death.
Urshanabi was too determined to offer help to Gilgamesh that he asked him to get into the forest to cut the punting poles. They completed a voyage that would have otherwise lasted forty five days in only three days. On arriving at the shore Urshanabi discovers that the stone things and the fact that there was a stranger on board. Once again he expresses his concern for Gilgamesh’s terrible appearance and he narrates to him his tale all over again.
The Faraway one hits the nail on the head by reminding Gilgamesh that he is going after sorrow.
This sparks the conversation in which Utnapishtim attempts to unveil to Gilgamesh the mystery behind this. He explains to him how Enki had asked him to bring down his house and instead build a boat through which he would save life and forsake possessions.
Death is one issue that is very outspoken in the literary passage. It is beyond reasonable doubt that after realizing that he too could die, especially after the death of his accomplice Enkidu, Gilgamesh decides to look for Utnapishtim.
Gilgamesh believes that Utnapishtim could therefore be having the secret towards this eternity that he so desired. When he gets to the land of the gods, guarded by scorpion men, he finds Siduri, who is a divine-wine maker. She offers him shelter and persuades him to be contented with the fact that he is human and be able to enjoy life while he lives.
His desire to live forever, however, causes Gilgamesh to hear none of Siduri’s advice. He goes on with the journey to meet Urshanabi, a boat man who is willing to ferry him across the Sea of Death. They head to the island in which Utnapishtim cohabits with his wife.
Here he learns that Utnapishtim’s mortality was after survival from a flood that covered the whole world. In addition he also realizes that he cannot get much help from Utnapishtim since the flood only occurred once and there were very limited chances (if any) that the floods would occur again.
Eventually Gilgamesh falls asleep for seven continuous days and Utnapishtim questions him as to how he can manage to live forever when he cannot remain awake for a week. His wife however has compassion on Gilgamesh and asks her husband to give him the trick of the sacred plant that could make him young but not to live forever.
He gets into the sea to obtain the plant only for it to be later on stolen by the snake. An aspect that can be learnt from this is the fact that a hero cannot avoid death or try to prevent it but rather only learns the importance of life by embracing death.
From these circumstances it is clear that death as the ultimate destiny of man is demonstrated. Death is inevitable and however much Gilgamesh tried to evade it, it would still come his way. The only way he could avoid it was by using the sacred plant that could make him young. This, however, could not guarantee him immortality since even young men die anyway. It could only help him to lengthen the period between then and the time of his death.
Fate and destiny is yet another theme that is very much evident in this passage. Gilgamesh is a man that is strongly resigned to fate. The various challenges he goes through in life despite being the celebrated and patriotic leader can only be explained as having been destined for him.
First and foremost, Gilgamesh was born of a mortal father and a goddess who was immortal (Oppenheim 36). If he could control the circumstances of his birth, of course he could have chosen to be born of both immortal parents. However, as fate could have it, Gilgamesh was a victim of circumstances due to the chance affair of his mother. This denied him the ability to claim the eternity that he otherwise so much desired.
Later on in life Gilgamesh meets Enkidu with whom they become very close and do many things together. It is however later on saddening that his only trusted companion ends up dying. This is a perfect situation where fate is visible for both parties. First, one of the two has to die as punishment from the gods for the killing of the Bull of Heaven. Enkidu fatefully dies under these circumstances. On the other hand, Gilgamesh is left alone.
Fate is also demonstrated in the sense that despite the much effort that Gilgamesh puts in to claim eternity and the challenges he faces on the way he does not find it. To make matters worse, the only glimpse of hope he has is taken away from him at the last minute by the most unlikely and undeserving being. Gilgamesh also faces the ultimate fate of man whereby he eventually kicks the bucket just like other men (Oppenheim 84).
Heidel, Alexander. The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels: A translation and interpretation of the Gilgamesh Epic and related Babylonian and Assyrian documents. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1946. Print.
Kramer, Samuel Noah. History Begins at Sumer. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1986. Print.
Oppenheim, Leo. Ancient Mesopotamia: Portrait of a Dead Civilization. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1964. Print.