What makes the Hero

What makes the Hero?


Who makes the Hero? Odysseus, the one who is “god-like” and the true King of Ithaca, in his quest against the significant oIDs to return home from the Trojan War, or Gilgamesh, the one who is two parts god and one part human and the tyrant King of Uruk, on his quest to find immortality after witnessing the demise of his true friend Enkidu. As the protagonists of these classical tales, Odyssey and the Epic quest of Gilgamesh, the theme of the ‘Hero’ is present even though presented in very different ways.

Theme of Hero in Literature

Achilles was a Greek hero who fell in love with Briseis after she was captured during the Trojan war and delivered to Achilles as a gift of war. The Trojan War was fought against the city of Troy after Paris from Troy abducted Helen, the wife of Menelaus King of Sparta and took her to Troy as his wife. This incidence created enmity between the Greek and the Troy leaders and gave rise to the war. During the war, Briseis become the cause of dispute between Achilles and Agamemnon, who was the king of Argos commanded the United Greek Warriors. Subsequently, this came about when Agamemnon decided to take Briseis as his concubine after Apollo asked him to leave his wife. Achilles was angry, and he decided to withdraw from the war, resulting in a disastrous outcome in battle, for the Greeks. The leaders requested Achilles to assist, but he refused to comply until Briseis was recovered and taken back to him. Nevertheless, when his companion, Patroclus, was killed in battle, it agonized Achilles so much that he decided to go back and revenge. He did this by battling and murdering Hector, who had mistakenly killed Patroclus. Briseis was returned to him, and he remained with her until his death in war, which is not clearly depicted in the Iliad (Casey 1-10). During all these ordeals, Thetis had strong feelings for Achilles because he was her beloved son. As such, she sought to make sure that he succeeded and gained more glory by convincing Zeus to help the Greeks win the war. In aIDition, Theist gave Achilles a divine armor that was to facilitate his victory over the enemies.

The theme of hero in the Epic of Gilgamesh

The Epic of Gilgamesh describes the actions are taken by an ancient king, the implications, consequences, as well as letting us acknowledge our unintelligible, yet significantly meaningful lives. Gilgamesh, king of Uruk, was two-thirds a god and one-third man with such intelligence as to be compared to a god. The tale describes him as a hero whose beauty, courage, desires, attributes and also achievements could not be compared to any normal human being. These characteristics made him appear terrifying as people felt belittled before him for his highened attributes and favor from the gods. Unfortunately, Gilgamesh lacked compassion for the people of Uruk as he murdered their sons and raped their daughters. Instead of serving the people as a shepherd, Gilgamesh mistreats them, and their lamentations reach the gods, which create Enkidu as a match for Gilgamesh to save the people.


The gods created a ruthless man, Enkidu, out of the soil with clay and water, to fight Gilgamesh and save the people of Uruk from the oppression and tyrannical rule of their King. However, the two became friends eventually, decided to journey to the Cedar Mountains, and confront the terrible Humbaba. In the event of this friendship, Gilgamesh learns about humanity, the art of love, compassion, what it means to lose someone, grow old or even die. AIDitionally, during this period, they attacked and killed the Bull of Heaven sent to punish Gilgamesh by the goIDess Ishtar, and Enkidu is sentenced to death by the gods for this action. Enkidu looks back at his illness and curses the woman who seduced him. He also blames the trapper for destroying his ‘innocence’, but the sun god consoles him but telling him that the people will mourn him.

The death of Enkidu distresses Gilgamesh as well as frightens him. In rage and despair, Gilgamesh decides to undertake another quest, this time in search for immortality, to hope to deny this knowledge of death. Only someone of Gilgamesh’s strength could complete the journey, as there were several challenges to be encountered. As much as the journey was tiresome, coupled with starvation, Gilgamesh had to go through the twelve leagues of darkness. Moreover, Gilgamesh had to go across the waters of death where he finds a plant that could restore youth to a man. Here, Gilgamesh’s transformation is more evident as he decides to take the plant with him to Uruk and share it with the old people of Uruk. By doing so, Gilgamesh portrayed his new positive nature, thus acting like the king who loves and serves his people. However, a snake snatched the plant killing Gilgamesh’s dream to have an eternal life as well as the opportunity to pass this blessing to men of Uruk. Consequently, Gilgamesh learns that life requires an individual to be content with whatever they have and because gods made death part of life. In the absence of death in this tale, the life of the hero would have no meaning, and there would be no adventures to be discussed. As such, we acknowledge and celebrate the phenomenon that makes man acquire the human nature.

The theme of heroism in Odyssey

Homer’s Odyssey tale narrates about Odysseus who spent ten years in the battle against Troy before returning to Greece. Odysseus is defined as the true and legitimate King of Ithaca who was so deeply in love with his wife and son that he opted to give up immortality just to be with them. When at war, it was assumed that he was dead during which his wife Penelope and their son Telemachus had to face a crowd of 108 unruly suitors who wanted her for a wife. During his journey back home, the goIDess Athena approached the King of gods, Zeus and requested that Odysseus be protected from all his enemies includes gods like the sea god. Several times Odysseus’ crew disobeys the warnings given to them by the gods, but they always went against them. At one point, the crew killed the sacred cow of the sun god, who requested Zeus to punish them. Zeus ensured that the men suffer a shipwreck and all but Odysseus drowned; he clung to a fig tree.

Odysseus is delivered to a hiIDen harbor on Ithaca, where goIDess Athena disguised him as an old beggar so that he could go home unnoticed and witness the progress of his family. Meanwhile, his son Telemachus evades an ambush set by his mother’s suitors and sails to the harbor where he meets his father. Odysseus reveals his identity and asks Telemachus to remain silent so that he could get some things clear and in secrecy as he returns home still pretending to be a beggar. When Odysseus finally gets home, he is delighted to find his wife still faithful. For the whole of this period, Penelope has been developing and using tricks so that she could be able to overcome the persisting suitors who insisted on marrying her. Penelope devises methods to keep the suitors at bay by pretending to mourn Odysseus’ father and by this, she is portrayed as a symbol of connubial fidelity. Penelope also announced that the person who would use Odysseus’ bow would marry her. As such, this was another tactic to delay the suitors, as it was a common knowledge that only Odysseus had the masculine skills to use the bow. None of the suitors emerged the winner in the contest except Odysseus, who later slaughters the suitors. He then captures all the twelve house cleaners who had betrayed his wife and hanged them as well as mutilated and killed Melantius, who had mocked and insulted Odysseus. Penelope still doubts Odysseus by thinking that he could be a god in disguise and decides to test him once more. She asks his servant to move their bed but Odysseus protests that it was impossible since he had made the bed in such a way that one of its legs was an olive tree, which was still alive.


In the beginning, Gilgamesh, who was both a young god and a man, is portrayed as a ruthless King, who mistreats his people instead of protecting them and playing his role efficiently as a king. Gilgamesh sets out on a quest to search for the secrets to an eternal life after witnessing the death of his friend Enkidu, who they had managed to slay a terrible monster in the forest. Eventually, the epic tale shows the transformation of the King to an excellent ‘shepherd king’ who is compassionate towards his people and who finally understands the reality of humanity. Contrary to this tale, the tale of Odysseus depicts him as someone who is not after adventures but sets out on a different quest. Odysseus undergoes through a lot of troubles as he sets out on a journey back home to be with his wife and son. The epic hero in Odyssey shows a protagonist experience of a hero displaying great aspects of courage, strength, and good moral attributes. Princesses and some goIDesses fall in love with Odysseus, but their efforts to get him are futile because his focus was getting home after being separated from her for twenty years by the Trojan War. As much as the journey is full of challenges and takes long, Odysseus is still determined to get home, where he faces more but ‘easier’ challenges. He overcomes them all and is finally reunited with his family as well as takes possession of the Kingdom as the rightful King of Ithaca. Nevertheless, in both epic tales, there is a constant theme of heroism. This theme is evident where both characters face monsters and can overwhelm all the oIDs they face, and to some extent attain what they purpose.



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