All literary stories have a theme. The theme is the main idea or message that the author wants the audience to take away from the story. My favorite stories read in this class were The Odyssey, Sundiata, and The Epic of Gilgamesh. I enjoyed these three epics, because I could relate to the main character’s experiences. All three of these epics contain a theme that is shown throughout the story. This theme is called The Journey. While reading these epics, I was able to take mental notes and apply these meanings or themes into my own personal life.
The journey is a common theme found in these three epics. I will be discussing how each character grew throughout their journey’s, as well as how they were similar to each other to a certain extent. Many epic characters go through a journey within their lifetimes. According to Dan Vogel (1974) journal article, the term Journey “Describes all types of plots in which a character goes from one locale to another.” Throughout this period of time the epic hero or main character will undergo hardships meant to test their strong suits. Most of the time the epic hero will succeed and return home to a happy ending. Throughout his journey, Odysseus was forced to face the fierce wrath of the gods. While he was continuing his tedious journey fighting mystical creatures, his wife Penelope and son Telemachus were waiting for his return while luring off men looking to marry her. Telemachus also worked hard to hold down the thrown down for his father during his absence. When Odysseus returns home, he had to win a contest to prove to the people his true identity. He then proceeded to get revenge on the men who tried to marry his wife by killing them one by one. In the end we find out that Odysseus returned home and kept his true identity a secret until he was mentally and physically ready to take back on his responsibilities. Throughout Odysseus’s journey, he faced many challenges. However, upon his return home to Ithaca he gained patience. He returned home and kept his identity secret until he was ready to take revenge upon the suitors of his wife. This shows that his patience level was high, because he had many ample opportunities to show his true identity. In the end he chose to keep his true identity secret for the greater good until the time was right for him to expose it.
Gilgamesh took from his people even when they were down to their last. It seemed as though he didn’t care for his people, because he treated them poorly and worked them nearly to death. His people were so tired of him that they would call upon the gods for peace. Upon hearing the Urukian peoples pleads, the gods decided to teach Gilgamesh a life lesson. They decided to make Gilgamesh a twin named Enkidu. Enkidu comes to life is anxious to meet Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh begins to have dreams about Enkidu even they never met in person. Enkidu comes and takes Gilgamesh on a journey to change his heart. At the end of his personal journey, Gilgamesh comes to realize that the most important thing for him in life is to have lived and loved well. He ends up putting his time and energy into ruling as a wise and just king. In the end, Gilgamesh realizes that his true destiny is to be great on earth, not in a life of immortality. One day a king was told by a prophet that he was going to procreate a child with a women deemed undesirable due to her looks. In another town an old woman trade two hunters an ugly maid in return for them ridding her of a big buffalo terrorizing her.
The two hunters offer the woman to the king and they end up marrying each other. Sometime later the king and his wife Sogolon bear a child, and they name him Sundiata. Sundiata was born with physical disabilities. As he got older, Sundiata was exiled and thus his journey began. Throughout his exile, Sundiata builds up an army and travels to different lands fighting in battle. In his final battle, he faces of with Soumaoro Kante a powerful sorcerer. Sundiata defeats Soumaoro by shooting an arrow into his leg causing the sorcerer to lose all his power. By the end of his journey, Sundiata gains heroism. He finally stands up for himself, he surprises everyone, by bending an enormous rod into a bow and pulling a tree up by its roots. However, Sundiata has more than animal strength. He shows patience, interest in other culture, and humility before the magic of the world. It was these qualities that made him more than a great hunter or warrior. He was a great king. In conclusion, Odysseus, Gilgamesh, and Sundiata all went through their own personal journeys that taught them how to become better at the things that they struggled with throughout their lives. The journey is what made these men become the men that we know of them to be today. Their journeys were not only physical, but also mental. Each one of these men had to experience struggles and hardships in order to better themselves. Odysseus had to learn how to be patient throughout his journey, while Gilgamesh and Sundiata learned how to stop living in fear. These men are symbols of bravery and wisdom.