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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Story of Gilgamesh (The)
by Yiyun Li
Age Range: 9-11
“A true friend is a companion for your heart”, the goddess Ninsun and Gilgamesh’s mother tells him. The young king of Uruk has a beautiful city and everything he could possibly want but he is arrogant and a tyrant. In answer to the prayers of his oppressed citizens, the gods create Enkidu, a wild man whose destiny is to fight Gilgamesh and then become his life-long friend. Gilgamesh yearns for adventure and persuades Enkidu to go with him to fight Humbaba, the terrible monster who guards Cedar Forest, a sacred place for the gods. Gilgamesh’s ego gets the better of him and he is consumed by a desire to be victorious in this battle. But victory comes at a terrible price. Through his pain and suffering Gilgamesh finally learns the true value of wise rule and good leadership of his people.
Gilgamesh, an epic poem from Mesopotamia, (discovered in the nineteenth century), composed between 1,300 and 1,000 BC and written on twelve tablets, is among the earliest known works of literature. Retold by US writer Yiyun Li who has made this epic readable for a whole new generation, it is accompanied by the pen-and-ink watercolour illustrations by Marco Lorenzetti that bring real depth to the story.
The Story of Gilgamesh is part of the ‘Save the Story’ series, a selection of classic stories from around the world that have been retold for today’s children. The series was conceived by Italian writer Alessandro Baricco working in close collaboration with the Scuola Holders in Turin, founded specially to develop new and innovative ways of telling stories.