Gilgamesh and Enkidu in FFXV

In ancient Mesopotamian mythology, Gilgamesh was a cult hero who was later deified, though many scholars believe him to have been a historic king who lived approximately 4,500 years ago. He features most prominently in the Epic of Gilgamesh, a series of poems recounting his adventures. Among them are stories of the great warrior battling against monsters, resulting in his friend and sidekick, Enkidu, being killed by a disease sent by the gods. An earlier variation of Enkidu’s death is that he travelled into the Underworld to locate items for Gilgamesh. Enkidu ignores the warnings about how to behave in the realm of the dead and is trapped there forever. Eventually, Gilgamesh becomes fixated with his own death, and seeks out a way to be granted immortality. He repeatedly fails in the trials set out before him and returns to his homeland without this power.

Gilgamesh and Enkidu have been recurring figures in the Final Fantasy series since Final Fantasy V. During Final Fantasy XV, they appear in the DLC Episode Gladiolus, where Gladio tests his worth as Shield of the King in the gruelling trials of the Tempering Grounds. The site is overseen by Gilgamesh, a 2,000-year-old swordsman who remains loyal to the Lucian royal bloodline, slaying anyone he deems unfit to serves as protectors to the king. The Tempering Grounds themselves are historic ruins in the depths of a canyon where the souls of dead warriors linger. One of these is Enkidu, formerly a close companion of Gilgamesh, who is reanimated to face off against Gladio. Battling Gilgamesh is the final trial.

Following Gladio’s victory, the Blademaster reveals that he has only ever allowed one other opponent to live: Cor (who eventually became a mentor to Gladio), thereafter known by the moniker ‘The Immortal’. It is later discovered in the mini-series Episode Ardyn – Prologue that Gilgamesh was the sworn bodyguard of the first King of Lucis, Somnus, brother of Ardyn. A significant part of Gilgamesh’s duty was to exterminate those infected with Starscourge, an ancient disease some think was brought to the world by the Astrals. He at last came to reside in the Tempering Grounds, which are located within the Taelpar Crag, an enormous geological scar formed during the War of the Astrals.

While the roles of Gilgamesh in Mesopotamian mythology and in Final Fantasy XV differ quite substantially, there are more than a few parallels. For example, one was a warrior king, while the other was a warrior who protected the king, both believed to have lived thousands of years ago. A lot of the comparisons here, however, come via Gilgamesh’s connection to Enkidu. In the earliest known myth concerning Enkidu’s death, he descends into the Underworld to locate items for Gilgamesh and he becomes trapped there as a spirit. The soul of Final Fantasy XV’s Enkidu lingers in the deep ruins of the Tempering Grounds, into which Gladio must descend. A later alternative myth has the Mesopotamian gods curse Enkidu with a fatal disease after he kills one of their prized beasts.

Meanwhile, in Final Fantasy XV, Enkidu himself is fought as a monster once he has been reanimated by Gilgamesh. This battle, of course, is one of many trials that take place in the Tempering Grounds, located at the depths of a ravine created during the War of the Astrals, the same celestial gods who may have brought the Starscourge into the world, itself a fatal disease. It’s also worth noting that the Epic of Gilgamesh recounts the hero’s adventures in seeking immortality following the death of Enkidu, ultimately failing many trials; in Final Fantasy XV, the only person to survive Gilgamesh’s trials before Gladio was Cor, who was given the title ‘The Immortal’.

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