Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Pairing it Down: Gilgamesh's Final Resting Place

by Kiel Howell

     Salutations dear readers! This week is an exceptionally interesting topic. Gilgamesh is an ancient story written as a poem . It is a story about a great and possibly half-divine man for whom the gods were forced to create a wild man—Enkidu—to distract him so he wouldn't oppress Uruk.

     You would think that this article would write itself, eh? There's divine and half-divine beings, living creations of the gods (Enkidu), terrible monstrosities (Humbaba), pride (killing the Bull of Heaven), fall (the death of Enkidu), the search for eternal life, and attaining eternal life through story.

     This is actually making it harder. One of the biggest writing blocks I suffer from is when I tackle a historical or mythological subject. It is because I know the audience of TTRPGs are usually more well-versed in these types of things and there are many historians and mythologists (is that a profession?) who play and possibly read what I write. Those are the readers who I would try to please and in so pursuing, fail.

     You have to push through that thought. It can be fear of number-crunchers, fear of your editor, or any kind of fear you possess when it comes to who will be reading your material.

     Pushing through then. An interesting thing about Gilgamesh: he was buried under the Euphrates river bed. In fact, the people had to divert the river's flow to do this. That was around the 2,500 BC.

     All the amazing things that are described about Gilgamesh and I focus on how he was buried. Perhaps, then, I shouldn't focus on Gilgamesh the man or even the myth. What is Gilgamesh's story in modern times? It is a story like many others; pride, struggle, fall, and eventual greatness. The story of Gilgamesh, while having a large number of amazing things to use as inspiration for writing, is the inspiration itself. I think (and this is completely personal) that a surviving story about a man from 2,500 years before Christ was born is something to be used as a theme or in world building.

     Every world needs a theme and to be built with its own legends, pantheons, and peoples. Some worlds have a dark and horror-tinged theme. Others are reflections of our own modern societies. Some worlds are populated with Heracles, Perseus, and the Flash while yet others are populated by Bob the mechanic, Stacy the factory worker, and Lisa the choir director. If I overlay the story of Gilgamesh onto my world then I have a race of gigantic men who look like lions, a land of oracles and sages, and a mysterious tomb at the bottom of the river bed containing the Great Wall-Builder King from centuries ago. Perhaps that world is named Enkidou since Gilgamesh's friend was killed as a result of Gilgamesh's actions against the creation of the gods (the Bull of Heaven).

     What I'm pairing down this week is an idea for a world in its pre-nascent stage. I've just described four things about a world that can lead to an infinite number of other elements of the world. I will leave it to you, the reader, to come up with more. Please leave any suggestions (or challenges!) for this amniotic world in the comments and I'll do my best to answer (or accept). Until next time friends in which I tackle Firefly as a theme. Browncoats unite!


  1. If you are not familiar with it, you definitely ought to check out sumerianshakespeare.com. TONS of cool stuff on ancient Sumeria there.