ENGLISH103 The Epic of Gilgamesh and Quest Archetype Pattern Paper The requirements will be attached below, as well as the quest archetype. I’ll be attaching a different file regarding the quotes that i want it to be included in the writing. English 103
The Quest Archetype: Part 1
An archetype is a symbol—person, animal, object, pattern—found throughout the world.
Examples include: the wise woman, serpent-dragon, world tree, sacred mountain, trickster,
tyrannical king, underworld journey, etc.
The psychologist Carl Jung (1875-1961) argued that archetypes evolved from universal
emotional, intellectual, and spiritual drives. We are, in a sense, ‘born with’ a full stock of
archetypes, but these are shaped by the culture we are born into and our personal life experiences.
A quest monomyth, collecting together themes and symbols from myths, literature, and lifestories around the globe produces the pattern discussed below, a pattern most fully explored by
Joseph Campbell in The Hero With a Thousand Faces and Edward Whitmont in The Symbolic
Not all quests include every element outlined below. Some are restricted to specific aspects of
the quest, while many diverge from the pattern. When reading a given quest, therefore, look for
the universal elements, but also the uniqueness of each quest–how unique themes are explored
within the general framework.
1.) The Call
Dante in the Dark Woods
The hero is often human and god-like, reflecting the struggle between conflicting
psychological drives, and the potential for growth. The hero is also frequently set apart in
some way, often an outcast: unique because of their superior or inferior attributes. They
may live a life of obscurity, exile, neglect, rejection. On the other hand, the would-be hero
may be too comfortable in his or her well-known surroundings.
The call to leave the narrow security of home often comes from within: from a sense of
restless discontent. The hero feels dissatisfied with the acceptable answers. They may be
driven by a strong desire for some unknown thing.
If the hero is suffering from some form of extremism, they may be called to remedy this
imbalance. Psychologically, it is forces within the subconscious that trigger the quest for
maturity: for individuation (in Carl Jung’s term).
Dreams or messengers may herald the coming quest. A tragic accident, such as death of
a loved one, may drive the hero outward (and inward). They may be given a prohibition
they violate. They may be enticed into the quest by tempter/trickster. Or the hero may
simply blunder into the quest.
This is a stage of disengagement: of separation from their past, their previous ways of
thinking and being.
The hero may, however, refuse the call, in which case they may become one of the
routine-bound people another hero may try to free. The call to adventure is, in some
respects, the most daunting aspect of the quest. The hero must break away from the welltrodden paths of the socially-acceptable, ‘common sense’ view of things, must distance
themselves from their former ways of thinking and doing. They must shed their reliable,
predictable persona/mask and suffer all the inner fears and doubts, and outer ridicule,
that accompany a non-conformist quest.
To leave what is known, habitual, comfortable, secure—the customs, habits, people,
surroundings that define one’s identity—is so daunting that for many the quest is over
before it has begun. Facing these uncertainties can take more courage than facing the
actual dangers along the way.
How do you know if you are choosing the right path? Will this be a pointless journey?
Will you fail? How do you weigh the duties to yourself against duties you owe family and
Not to answer the call, however, can condemn a person to a kind of living-death created
out of ‘what might have been.’
2.) Meeting the Other
Dante’s Guides: Virgil and Beatrice
Heroes usually undertake a quest because they lack something, something needed to
make them whole. They may be too one-sided, prejudiced, immature, over-confident,
lazy, selfish, etc. They may be pursuing a small-minded goal to the exclusion of all else.
Just before, or not long after, embarking on the quest, the hero may encounter an ‘other’
that awakens the hero to this lack. The ‘other’ may contain the hidden qualities the hero
needs. They may be a mirror-image or shadow that contrasts with the hero’s outward
persona. The ‘other’ may thus embody negative traits the hero must confront about
themselves. The ‘other’ may also act as a trickster and trick the person into a change.
The hero’s positive, yet hidden, qualities (courage, love, assertiveness, suppressed
feminine or masculine traits, etc.) can also appear threatening, in which case the ‘other’
takes the form of a monster, beast, criminal, villain, devilish figure. There may be
threatening social pressures, as well, that will punish the quester for lack of conformity if
they acquire new traits.
More positively the ‘other’ may function as a guide that inspires the hero toward the
realization of their potential. Such guides are often animals, wise old men and women,
mentors, spiritual beings, gods, etc. Such an ‘other,’ though a friend, will still often
impose harsh tasks, evoke fear and dread, and treat the quester in an antagonistic manner.
Psychologically speaking, ‘others’ reflect inner aspects of the hero awakened by the
plunge into the unexplored mind. If the hero bravely and wisely confronts the ‘other,’
they will begin a character transformation.
The presence of helpers suggests that ‘things in general’ are on the hero’s side. The powers
that be favor and aid the hero, and provide a measure of assurance that they are on the
Some examples of encountering the ‘other’ include: when Bilbo meets Gandalf, Luke
Skywalker meets Obi Wan, Beauty meets Beast, Huckleberry Finn meets the slave Jim,
Sir Gawain confronts the Green Knight, Dante encounters Virgil, Victor Frankenstein
confronts the Monster, etc.
Minos, Threshold Guardian of Hell
The hero leaves the known world for the unknown. Crossing into this uncharted land,
they may encounter threshold guardians, as symbolized, for example, by the fearful
guardian statues outside some temples. These protect the ‘treasures’ within by scaring off
those unfit to enter.
In this zone unknown—out beyond conventional knowledge—the hero encounters many
obstacles that test, strengthen, and deepen their transformation. Though the journey may
be a voyage through physical space, the real journey is the voyage the hero makes into
unknown realms of the mind/spirit. The quester has left home, ‘died’ to a previous way
of life, a previous identity, undertaken a difficult task, and if successful this rite of
passage will lead to a rebirth.
The Quest Archetype: Part 2
Dante Crossing the River Styx
The journey often culminates in a decisive task or choice, the moment of success or failure, life
or death. The hero must face painful, unsettling truths about themselves and the world.
This may be depicted as a descent downward: into a pit, well, underworld, cave, darkness,
pathless forest, belly, womb, tomb, prison, labyrinth, hall of mirrors, etc. Sometimes the hero
is swallowed by a monster, or may themselves be transformed into a beast. Often the descent
takes place in or near water: a common symbol of the unknown depths of the mind.
In some myths this descent is closely linked with confrontation of an Earth Mother, symbolic
of the hero’s desire to turn back to childhood, a longing to be ‘mothered’ and protected. The
mother may also appear in a terrible devouring aspect (the destructive side of ‘mother’ nature)
to force upon the hero the suffering and failure necessary for wisdom.
Examples: Jonah swallowed by a whale, Ulysses’ descent into the underworld, Theseus into the
labyrinth of the Minotaur, Jesus into the tomb, Gilgamesh’s descent into the mountain of night,
Gawain’s descent to the Green Chapel, Bilbo down into the cave of goblins, Luke Skywalker
down the swamp planet where Yoda lives, etc.
Satan, the “Monster” at the Center of Hell
During the decent, the hero may battle a monster, again reflecting inner barriers (fear, egoism,
greed, ignorance) separating the hero from self-mastery.
The monster may represent parental prohibitions: and over-protective mother or overrestrictive father. Or the monster may be a tyrant king strangling a community. The hero must
confront those forces that would perpetuate ignorance, demand undue conformity, and stunt
The monster, however, may also be a friend that ‘plays the role’ of enemy. The monster may
test the hero, but once the hero passes the test, the monster willing gives up its treasures. This
cycle may happen repeatedly and in many stages. Many ‘monsters’ may need to be fought.
6.) Treasure and Transformation
Dante’s Vision of the Divine
If the hero is successful, the result is rebirth. The old outlook is slain, and a character
transformation takes place.
In symbolic terms the hero’s reward may be something like a magic power, eternal life, a
soulmate, fire, discovering the identity of their true father, etc. In a psychological sense, the
treasure is self-mastery, a sense of purpose, creativity, awakening, wisdom.
The hero’s rebirth is often symbolized by a change of clothing, appearance, being given a new
name, being crowned king/queen, marriage, etc.
Often the hero returns with their ‘treasure’ to the community from which they came. The return
my result in a re-ordering of the old society along the lines of the hero’s new vision of truth.
The hero may punish the wicked and/or restore the community to prosperity.
However, the hero may be reluctant to return, daunted by the misunderstanding and rejection
they are bound to face. Instead of reforming the old community, the hero may become the
founder of a new city/movement/order.
As a ‘master of both worlds’ the hero now understands more than one side of life and
themselves. They have brought forth new sides of their character while retaining/transforming
old strengths: they can be active and contemplative, introvert and extravert. They embrace life
because they have faced death. They know how to balance the needs of self and society. This
new wholeness may be symbolized by a marriage: male and female are united and a child born
of this union.
Getting the “Quest You Need?”
Carl Jung thought that, in a sense, you get the life-quest you need or even deserve. Your
character evokes the adventure you experience. Put another way, you shape your external world
in such a way that you will be presented with the important obstacles you need to confront. Life,
in this sense, is not so much a series of random events, as it is a life story we evoke based on our
So, a person might attract certain types of difficult problems or failures (“why does this always
happen to me”); attract certain types of friends (“my friends are always more successful than
me”); be drawn to a particular kind of man or woman (“I always date strong, father-figures”);
be drawn to stories that reflect aspects of one’s life quest (“I’ve watched the Titanic 200 times”).
According to Freud’s repetition compulsion, our mind will draw us into similar situations over
and over until we finally deal with a hidden problem.
Understanding the quest pattern can also place anxiety, suffering, depression, failure within a
larger context. Understanding the quest pattern, we can cooperate with it and not fall victim to
Joseph Campbell spoke of following you inner inspiration (sense of beauty, love, delight,
purpose) as a guide for the quest. This inspiration is your sense of, “This is what I really want to
do with my life. This is what would make my life most meaningful and adventurous.” This
inspiration leads a person on the path of greatest development. Campbell found that quest stories
were symbolic maps showing what humans of all backgrounds can expect when following this
inner sense of purpose.
Quotes from the epic of Gilgamesh:
“The life of man is short”
“It is I Gilgamesh who will venture into the forest”
Yellow: How Gilgamesh was before the quest, he views himself as a strong person and someone who
has enough courage for anything. The idea of death doesn’t scare him since he believes that the life of a
man is short.
After Enkidu’s Death:
“It is Enkidu, the companion whom I weep for,
Weeping for him as if I were a woman.”
“Gilgamesh was afraid, and entered afraid”
“Gilgamesh felt the fear in his belly”
Green: he’s no longer strong after losing his companion Enkidu
Extra Important notes:
Gilgamesh goes back to Uruk without achieving being immortal. What can be inferred is that now
Gilgamesh is accepting his fate, and realizes that he’s subject to death.
Mid-Term Exam, Take Home Portion (50% overall grade)
Hard Copy Due: Start of Class, Wednesday, May 29
Electronic Copy Due: Midnight, Wednesday, May 29
Format: 12pt Times New Roman font, double-spaced, one-inch margins top, bottom, sides.
Assignment: Write a minimum two-page analysis how the Epic of Gilgamesh follows the Quest
Archetype pattern as described in the handout.
Do not write an introduction or conclusion. Rather, begin with a single sentence stating your
overall argument: Gilgamesh starts as this type of person… ends as this type of person.
Be succinct, to the point, avoid wordiness. Densely pack your essay with information. Show the
depth of your understanding of the handout and book.
1.) Gilgamesh’s psychology: Focus on how Gilgamesh changes over the stages of his second
quest (after Enkidu dies). What is he like before this quest? What does he say and do that reveal
his character? What do others say about him? What specific events transform him? What evidence
suggests he changes (or doesn’t change much) by the end?
2.) Quest Archetype details: Focus on the large-scale quest pattern, but reference specific details
from the handout. Gilgamesh may not follow the stages exactly, so you can discuss divergences.
3.) Quotes: Weave in four to six short relevant supporting quotes (with page number) from the
Ferry translation that reveal Gilgamesh’s mindset from start to finish.
4.) Do not summarize: Don’t retell events. Instead, briefly refer to events, then explain how they
support your overall argument about Gilgamesh’s transformation.
5.) No outside sources: Do not consult any outside sources.
6.) Plagiarism: Essays that plagiarize outside sources or other student essays will receive a “0.”
7.) Late essays will be lowered 10%. No exceptions without verified medical report.
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