Gilgamesh the King (The Gilgamesh Trilogy) (英語) ペーパーバック – 1998/4/25
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Gilgamesh, half-god and half-man, in his loneliness and isolation becomes a cruel tyrant over the citizens of Uruk. To impress them forever he orders a great wall to be built, driving his people to exhaustion and despair so that they cry to the Sun God for help. In answer, another kind of man, Enkidu, is sent to earth to live among the animals and learn kindness from them. He falls in love with Shamhat, a singer from the temple, and he follows her back to Uruk. There, Enkidu, the “uncivilized” beast from the forest, shows the evil Gilgamesh through friendship what it means to be human.
The Gilgamesh Trilogy:
“A powerful version of the Gilgamesh epic…a stirring and sad tale.”
–The New Yorker
We ran into this book about twelve years ago. We were doing a homeschool unit on the Sumerians, and this was a very welcome addition to our curriculum. The kids loved the beautiful pictures, well-researched detail, and delightful story. At the time I thought "too bad this artist doesn't do the rest of the epic".
Foolish us -- it would have taken just a little digging to find that she did! So don't stop here, get the rest of the series. This is a masterpiece of both art and boiling a long story down to its essence.
Altogether a fantastical account of an already interesting story with evocative illustrations. The only negative is that I wish something like this existed for general Sumerian mythology, as the author is adept at referring to otherwise non-child-friendly themes in ways that suggest but do not elaborate.
I give only four stars because the current version is dumbed down from that published a few years ago----in the current text, Enkidu beats Gilgamesh in the fight and saves his life, so they can become friends. In the real story, Gilgamesh (who is 2/3 immortal) beats Enkidu---and they become friends. No need to change some of life's turbulent episodes into scenes from Mr Roger's Neighborhood. The first version of this well-done set is better, but this is still good.
Summary: Gilgamesh was sent by the Sun God to rule over the city of Uruk. He was part god, and part man. He did not have any friends, and was a cruel king. He decided to build a wall around his city. The people in his city originally supported his wall, but eventually grew tired and frustrated. His people prayed to the Sun God, and the sun god sent Enkidu. Enkidu lived with the animals, and was a good man. Enkidu prevented a man from killing an animal with his god-like strength. The man told Gilgamesh about Enkidu's strength, and Gilgamesh was furious. Gilgamesh sends a beautiful singer to the woods to lure Enkidu to the city. Gilgamesh wanted to kill him in front of the city to reinforce his reputation. The beautiful singer and Enkidu fell in love. Enkidu left the forest and his animal friends, and went to the city to challenge Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh and En kidu fought, but were equal in strength. Gilgamesh tripped, and would have died if Enkidu did not save him. After Enkidu saved Gilgamesh, they became friends. Once Gilgamesh had a friend, he stopped work on the wall, and there was peace in the city.
Critical Review: Gilgamesh the King is written and illustrated by Ludmila Zeman. Zeman begins the picture book in the expected, "Long ago in the land of... " which sets the stage for a traditional folktale (p. 1). The illustrations also support the folktale, by using `ancient' looking images. The colors also look gold based, which makes the images look older. The images bring the words to life. For example, when the story is talking about all the men in the city building a giant wall around the city. You can see the magnitude of people, and the height of the huge wall (p. 3-4). Without any words, it would still be very easy to tell the epic of Gilgamesh based on the pictures. Although this story is part of a trilogy, it can stand alone. It has closure, and tells a complete story. Also, some historical information about the epic of Gilgamesh is included after the story. I appreciate the use of rhetorical questions throughout the text. For example, after Enkidu sees a man killing an animal, he asks himself, "Why would anyone want to do that?" (p. 6). The text includes both more complex sentences. For example, "The earth shook and lightning flashed across the sky, as if the gods themselves were fighting for control of the world" (p. 16). The text also includes short, simple sentences. For example, "He was no longer alone. He had found a friend" (p. 19). The longer sentences tell an elaborate story, while the shorter sentences focus on the meaning of the sentences. The book kept me engaged as a college student, and I think an intermediate reader would definitely be interested in the historical significance of one of the first epics ever written down, and the action of the folktale itself.