The Epic of Gilgamesh and Monkey

  1. Compare the goodness of the hero of the epic genre of Gilg am e s h with the goodness of
    the hero of the novel genre of Mo n ke y. In what ways do the heroes appear good or become
    better? Or what saves the main characters from being bad? Can you tell from the stories
    whether the authors thought that humanity in general was basically good?
    Advice: pick one theme or a pair of scenes to compare in the works. For example, how good
    does each hero appear to be on his quest for immortality? Why is it a very serious theme in the epic
    but a more lighthearted theme in the novel? Or, for another example, what saves Gilgamesh and
    Monkey from being bad characters, and how do they become better heroes? Or, for another
    example, how do the supporting characters like Enkidu and Tripitaka help the heroes
    become better or wiser?
  2. Compare the epic and the novel in terms of the themes of friendship, brotherhood or
    family. How do these works represent close bonds that bring people/beings/gods together?
    Could Gilgamesh be an important epic hero without the love of Enkidu? Could Gilgamesh
    be wise without counsel from his mother? Could Monkey become a hero without Tripitaka,
    the Bodhisattva Kuanyin, and/or the Buddha? How do Monkey, Pigsy and Sandy learn
    discipline, selflessness and other virtues?
  3. What’s wrong with the epic and novel heroes, and what do they need to learn to become
    truly great? If they are both on a journey to wisdom, what is getting in each of their ways?
    Are they too selfish, too arrogant, too violent, too angry, or what?
  4. Compare the female characters in the epic and the novel. What can you tell about the lives
    of women from these very different civiliations. Try to focus on characters who are actually
    active in the stories. For example, Ninsun, Shamhat and Ishtar are all crucial characters in
    the epic. The Bodhisattva Kuan-yin is the most important female character in the novel, but
    there are many other minor characters who are women. What kinds of roles do females play
    in the novel?
  5. In what ways are the kings Gilgamesh and Monkey like pilgrims on a spiritual journey? If
    one can grasp the meaning of life only through great struggles, endurance, much suffering,
    and the life-long pursuit of learning, in what ways do Gilgamesh and Monkey learn what life
    really means. When do you see them really learn something important?
  6. Compare the heroes as kings. Monkey as a king of the monkeys has some things in
    common with Gilgamesh as a king, e.g. a desire for immortality. When they are good kings,
    what virtues do they show? Is one of them better than the other? When they are not good
    kings, what failings do they share? Who has the greatest flaws as a king?
  7. You can write about the story of the ark in Gilg am e s h and compare it with the story of the
    ark in Genesis. You have to use a standard version of Genesis. How is Utanapishti like
    Noah? What are the differences in the stories of these heroes and the floods? You may also
    want to look at outside articles and incorporate these because there has been recent research
    that is quite illuminating about these themes. See e.g.

Sample Solution