Gilgamesh and Game of Thrones: Similar Themes of the Both Works
The epic of Gilgamesh still retains popularity because it is one of the highest achievements of artistic and philosophical thought and because it is the oldest major poem known to people. The themes that saturate the writing have been popular for centuries, allowing artists to create works on this basis. One of the works which cover similar themes as Gilgamesh is Game of Thrones, a fantasy drama series. Both works cover the themes of love and friendship, mortality, quests, gateways, and responsibility.
The most apparent theme of the work of Gilgamesh is the theme of love and friendship. At first, we see the main character as a despot master who terrorizes the people of Uruk. The transformation into a hero happens only after meeting Enkidu and becoming friends. The same effect reached Enkidu, whom the character helps regardless of his dread. As a result, the platonic love transforms the life of Gilgamesh, making him a better leader for his people and helping him understand them more. After the death of Enkidu, Gilgamesh could not sleep or rest “when Enkidu whom I love is dust” (Sandars, p.17). Thus, the theme of love intertwined with the theme of death is perceived both as a life stage and an essential and meaningful part of it.
The theme of love and friendship is also one of the essential themes in the TV series Game of Thrones. Daenerys saved Missandei from slavery, and she stayed loyal to the former. Daenerys had no friends before and was alone in this fight; however, Missandei changed the situation. The most astonishing aspect is the closeness of the two female characters. Not only did they become friends, but Missandei became a consultant of Daenerys, earning her trust. As a result, though most of the characters are cautious about new people in their lives, the friendship between Daenerys and Missandei became exemplary.
The central theme of the poem is also the theme of mortality. The most important lesson that Gilgamesh had to learn was the one about acceptance of death. The death of Enkidu was stressful to Gilgamesh, who thought that he “too shall die and be laid in the earth” (Sandars, p.17). This urged him to find the secret of immortality. Despite his obsessions, Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh that his search for immortality is futile since everything in creation contains the seed of death, thereby making death inevitable. As a result, Gilgamesh learns that the quality of his life depends not on fame and wealth but on the events of life and the time spent with the people around him.
The most powerful theme in Game of Thrones is also the theme of death. Death is a steady warning that no one lives long and must be wary of the time. The first example of tragic death is Ned Stark, who was beheaded. This character stayed loyal to his beliefs and moral code till the end, which ultimately led to his death. Ned Stark was killed at the behest of Cerci Lannister. As a result, this situation was a moment of realization for many that death will happen to everyone despite one’s position and background.
A theme of a quest is common in mythology and legends. In Gilgamesh, the quest focuses on the search for personal identity. Therefore, Enkidu sets his journey from the wasteland in order to face Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh starts his search along with Enkidu and goes to the Cedar Forest in order to destroy Humbaba. The personal quest of Gilgamesh begins after the death of his friend, which leads to the hero searching for the secret of immortality. The journey of Gilgamesh, in this case, represents a spiritual fight on the way to becoming an unselfish, better leader.
Game of thrones sheds light on the personal quest of Arya Stark, whose quest focuses on vengeance. Arya experienced more than any girl of her age, seeing her family break apart. After her father was beheaded, her mother and brother were killed, and her other siblings disappeared, the only thought on Arya’s mind was revenge. The heroine had to experience inner struggles and understand her actions. As a result, the establishment of her personality and her quest began after she found the home of “Valar morghulis” and grasped the lessons of Jaqen H’ghar.
Doors and gateways signify separation and change in Gilgamesh. Shamhat depicts an intangible door when Enkidu must travel to civilization from the wilderness. Later in front of the gate to the Cedar Forest, Gilgamesh and his friend discuss the fears of Enkidu. Another moment with the door encounter is Gilgamesh’s crossing of the gate of Mashu. Therefore, a gate serves as a crossroad when the characters must make a decision to either go back or continue the journey. In addition to serving in this manner, gateways are also effective literary devices for forcing characters to make decisions that directly impact the overall plot.
The theme of the door also becomes an integral part of Game of Thrones. Born Wylis, the servant of House Stark became ‘Hodor’ following a seizure in his childhood. When Hodor was commanded to ‘Hold the door’ to aid Bran in escape in the present, Wylis heard the orders in the past, and a shortening of that sentence became the only word he could utter (Martin, 54:16). Another point where the theme of the door is evident is the separation of the dead and alive. Throughout the show, a viewer sees the wall with the guards whose primary goal is to protect the area, especially with the arrival of the dead. Thus, the door in the show portrays division and transition.
The last theme to be covered in Gilgamesh is the theme of responsibility. As has been previously noted, Gilgamesh came across as a tyrant. Enkidu is created by Aruru as a counterweight to Gilgamesh’s tyranny. This character is supposed to show Gilgamesh the most precious things in this life to help the king become the best ruler he can be. As a result, Gilgamesh experiences the loss of his friend and must face the harsh reality. The moments of recklessness that he previously displayed are clearly not sustainable. Thus, the character learns that he will not live forever but understands that he will grow wise with age and must cherish his life now.
A deeper understanding of responsibility in leadership can also be gained from Game of Thrones. In the series, the characters make moral decisions according to their perceptions of good and bad. As winter approaches, a more glorious vision of the coming battle between the living and dead armies emerges, causing the need for responsible actions. The example of a vast sense of responsibility comes from Jon Snow, who strives to prove to his northern lords that the situation threatens the well-being of people and that the guards need to act upon it. Thus, the sense of responsibility is innate in some characters, which pushes leaders to see the bigger picture and join forces to resist evil.
Hence, both the epic of Gilgamesh and Game of thrones focus on eternal topics relevant to any period of history. Though Game of thrones covers the stories of many characters and Gilgamesh sheds light only on one figure, the themes are covered accurately. Both works illuminate the importance of mortality, love, friendships, the sense of responsibility, and the ambiguity of gateways and quests.
Sandars, N. K. The Epic of Gilgamesh. Penguin, 2003.
Martin, George RR, writer. Game of Thrones. HBO, 2011-2019.