When I first read the Epic of Gilgamesh it did not grab me. When my two children began studying it at school as part of Ancient Civilization in middle school, and Mythology in high school and I read what they were reading, I saw characters and parts missing, and in what my daughter was studying, parts added which were in no version I knew.
I felt an authentic and accessible version for young people was needed. A telling that introduces readers to the story, engages them, and encourages the students and readers to seek out other versions, and other epics such as Beowulf, the Iliad, and the Vulsungs, etc.. Because I believe that all parts of a story are important and are there for a reason, I wanted to give parents, teachers and young people a full telling of the tale with nothing removed.
In doing so, teachers need a version that won't get them fired, or have kids asking parents questions they may not be ready to answer. My version is that story. Where possible I used changed wording to make it acceptable, or used euphemisms. The story is told using modern vernacular and style to draw readers in, to get them interested and wanting to hear or read more.
The CD/audio of 'The Epic of Gilgamesh, a retelling' by Simon Brooks can be purchased from my distributor CDBaby:
The book form comes with a character list explaining who everyone is and their relationship with one another. There is a vocabulary list, or lexicon of one hundred words, eight distinct activities which are language arts and social studies based, and a list of seven titles in the bibliography for additional source material.
The activities have students research, and compile material, and create materials in a way that will bring the story into their world.
Following the introduction, the CD (and book) breaks the story into three sections: the introduction of the tyrant king and his meeting with Enkidu; the journey to the Cedar Forest and the battle with Humbaba, the forest protector, their valiant return, and Gilgamesh's denial of Ishtar, and the killing of the Bull of Heaven. The third part is Gilgamesh's journey into the wilderness in search of solace and immortality, and his return to his city of Uruk. With the introduction and credits, the recording lasts about an hour, the first two sections being close to 20 minutes long, part three running at close to 26 minutes.
The CD is available directly from Simon (email: simon at diamondscree dot com, or ask him at a performance) and can be purchased from CDBaby, Simon's distributor: https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/simonbrooks5
Why did I do this? Mainly to create an authentic retelling in modern vernacular for the middle school children studying it, and for the teachers, so they have an authentic telling that the kids will enjoy, and be engaged with.
I began to re-read the story a few years ago and find other versions and translations of it, and fell in love with this oldest of recorded stories. Put onto clay tablets in 3,500 B.C.E., at this point in time there is no other story recorded earlier. Of course many other stories are at least this old, and older, but these have been passed down through the oral tradition, not recorded on clay tablets, or on velum. This makes Gilgamesh very exciting to me.
What is also fascinating to me is the rediscovery of another clay tablet in 2011. There is an article about it here:
A paper was written by F. N. H. Al-Rawi and A. R. George (published by the American Schools of Oriental Research) discussing how the translations we took for granted were, in fact, telling the story in the incorrect order. This tablet, Tablet V , T. 1447 = SB Gilg. V MS ff, proved to academics that an order of the story put forth by George Smith and Paul Haupt in the late 1800's was indeed correct. The first scholar to publish a transliteration of the whole poem of Gilgamesh in 1900 disagreed with Haupt and Smith, and his word was used as the standard until this find in 2011.
The 'book' I have written and the accompanying audio recording are based on four renditions: a prose version by N. K. Sandars (The Epic of Gilgamesh, Penguin Books, 1960), a free verse poetry version by Stephen Mitchell (Gilgamesh, Atria Paperback, 2004), a translation from the Sin-Leqi-Unninni by John Gardner and John Maier (Gilgamesh, Vintage Books, 1985), and Andrew George's very complete translations (The Epic of Gilgamesh, Penguin Books, 1999) which include the Babylonian poem, and other texts in Akkadian and Sumerian.
I hope my version is something you also find needed and proves, in teaching about Gilgamesh, to be helpful. My other wish is that students will really get into the story and want to discover other sagas and myths.
The Epic of Gilgamesh, a retelling
by Simon Brooks
Artwork by Aidan Brooks
Presenting stories and ideas
Gilgamesh and Enkidu
Artwork by Aidan Brooks, copyright 2017
Working with students on their stories
Reading the best bits with students
the map from the book, part of the activities. Copyright Simon Brooks 2017
Gilgamesh and Urshanabi Crossing the Sea of Death
Artwork by Aidan Brooks, copyright 2017