The Epic of Gilgamesh, a retelling

Ages: 11 and upProducer: Simon Brooks


Thousands of years old, translated from clay tablets, the story of King Gilgamesh of Uruk is considered the oldest known work of written literature. Simon Brooks describes his spellbinding recounting as “part adventure story, part myths about gods and goddesses, part redemption story.” Brooks first introduces the history of this work set in ancient Mesopotamia and notes that he has tailored his version to be appropriate for a middle school-age audience on up. The epic begins with “Enkidu,” the story of how the great Gilgamesh (“two parts god and one part man”) and former man-beast Enkidu become fast friends, after Enkidu confronts Gilgamesh about his mistreatment of his subjects (illustrated in part by a mention of the king’s right to lie with any bride on the first night of her wedding). After Enkidu’s show of strength earns Gilgamesh’s respect and has a civilizing effect on the king, “The Battle of the Cedar Forest” brings fateful consequences when Enkidu and Gilgamesh kill the fearsome guardian of the sacred Cedar Forest, Gilgamesh rejects the goddess Ishtar’s advances-and the pair are forced to kill the gods’ Bull of Heaven, to boot. Brooks’ ends his masterful narrative with “Eternal Life,” Gilgamesh’s eventful, and redemptive, quest for immortality.

Lynne Heffley ©2018 Parents’ Choice

A freelance writer and editor for the arts and non-profit organizations, Lynne is a former staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, where she established the paper’s first weekly children’s arts and entertainment beat.