Woden’s Day Wisdom: Gilgamesh, First Action Hero

We’ve already talked about how Gilgamesh inspired Dragonball, but the ancient King of Uruk was a lot more than just a brawler.

He was an action hero.

In a lesser known legend of the Two-Thirds God, Gilgamesh fought Akka, his old commander and mentor, and did so with the bad-assery of today’s grittiest celluloid brawlers.

In this story, Gish (our name for Gilgamesh) is a young demigod. He learned a lot about the ways of the world from Akka, king of Kish. It was through Akka that Gish gained his first real tastes of leadership, but with the safety of a people under his protection, Gish felt compassion.

Akka, after all, was an asshole. He took over cities and forced the people to serve his own through back-breaking labor.

Who was Gish to talk back? Sure, everyone knew he was part god, but he was only a minor noble at the time, so when he went to the city elders of Uruk, who would listen to him?

“If Akka comes here, he’ll make this city his bitch.” (Not his exact words, but a close enough translation)

“Better to be a bitch than be dead,” the elders responded (again, not exactly like that, but hey).

Frustrated and without support, Gish and his friend the beast-man Enkidu turned to the people. He called out to the husbands and sons of Uruk and told them if they did not stand and fight now, they would never have another chance. Once Akka rules a city, he rules it with an iron fist. Only through battle can freedom truly be earned.

One by one, the soldiers came to Gish’s side. With or without permission from the city elders, they would fight the hordes of Akka.

Now, a handful of soldiers may not mean much to the mightiest army in the Fertile Crescent, but the rebels were led by a godling, and the army of Kish knew it. As word spread through the ranks of the power Gish and Enkidu possessed, dozens deserted their posts.

Akka, however, would not be swayed. He knew Gilgamesh as a whelp, a boy who needed to be taught how to kill. He made camp and prepared for battle.

Gish gathered his men as well. “I need a scout,” he said, “Someone brave enough to go alone against the army of Kish and get a message to Akka.”

Battle ready or not, this was suicide. After a few moments of awkward silence, a large, powerful man stood forward.

“I am Lusag, weapons master of all Uruk, and,” he paused, “I will volunteer my servant for the mission.”

One can only imagine the look on Birhurture’s face when he heard his master say that, but one look into the proud and fearless face of Gilgamesh, and he was left with only one option: “I’ll do it.”

The slave (also called Girish Hurdur, the caterpillar) took a weapon from Enkidu and headed into the lion’s den. He fought bravely, but as wave after wave of Kishites descended upon him, he could do nothing else but surrender.

Beaten and drug before Akka, Birhurture spit out a few teeth and looked at the face of his enemy: “What do you want?”

Akka, annoyed at his dwindling army as much as this man’s imputance, demanded to know what a slave was doing fighting for a king. He looked across and saw a powerful man standing on the walls of Uruk.

“Is that your king? Is that the one you expect to save you?”

Looking out through blood-shot blackened eyes, Birhurture saw the warrior in the distance and turned back to Akka.

“Nah. That can’t be Gilgamesh. If it was, he’d have slaughtered your army, destroyed your camp and taken you prisoner in front of your own guards.”

This just pissed Akka off more, so he had the slave beaten again. Looking out over the battle, he saw the man jump off the wall and fight through the crowd, but ultimately achieve little. A smug look came over his face when he saw a second figure, larger than the first, mount the wall.

“Is that your king?”

Dripping blood and choking to breathe, Birhurture looked up.

“Yeah, that’s him.” And within seconds, Gish was slaughtering the army of Kish and single-handedly destroying the campsite. Pushing aside the royal guards he took a blade to Akka’s neck and said, “You were my master, but this is my city. If you want in, it is as my guest, nothing more.”

“You are king of Uruk,” and with that, Akka’s life was spared.

Sure, Gilgamesh could’ve just taken out the army and killed Akka from the start, but you’ve got to admit, being a bad ass is a much cooler way to become king.

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