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Dreams and Their Importance in Gilgamesh

Dreams vary considerably from one person, family, community, culture or even nation. From the ancient times, people have had dreams regarded differently or in different ways. The importance of dreams depends largely on how a person feels about them. The Epic of Gilgamesh is one of the ancient masterpieces of literature and epitomizes the oldest epic of the world. This essay focuses on the understanding of dreams and importance of dreams in Gilgamesh from the ‘Epic of the Gilgamesh’.


For a long time, dreams have influenced the lifestyle and social conceptualization of events. In a way, dreams have helped mighty kings get insight into the occurrence of time, helped many scientists, and some artists have drawn inspiration from dreams. These examples show how much of significance dream can be in the society. In addition, the meaning and power of dreams varies from societies. Hence, some people highly regard the ability to interpret dreams. Dreams were extremely significant to both Gilgamesh and Enkidu, and thus their story was profoundly affected by their interpretation of dreams. Ancient Mesopotamians believed that dreams came from gods and deserved specific meaning.  For example, Gilgamesh reported his dreams, which were recurrent to his goddess-Ninsun ( Andrew 21). Ninsun made the first recorded interpretation of the dream. This ability to foresee events through dreams represents prophecy and guidelines used in awaking world. Therefore, the underlying significance of dreams scores just how much crucial the understanding of dreams can be. The discussion below will focus on the understanding of dreams and the essential role it played in the story of Epic of Gilgamesh.


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Dreams present one of the most fascinating and intriguing mysteries of life. As mentioned earlier, humankind has for a long time tried to figure out dreams in a comprehensive manner. The common areas of interest are being a nightmare and remembrance ability induces dream, reasons for dreaming, and the dream relation to mental states. The knowledge into dreams is the central in the interpretation.


Understanding Dreams

Dreams are the communication of body, mind and spirit in a symbolic way experienced in the environment of state of being. The human brain is usually in a constant activity and different consciousness, such as, asleep, alert, excited and bored. The conscious mind controls what we think, and this represents a small portion of the brain. Other areas take up activities such as breathing and heartbeat. A different portion controls imagination. Sometimes, the brain manufactures an order, which is particularly beneficial for dreaming. There is also the memory part of the brain that occupies a relatively larger area. Dreaming occurs in the subconscious mind out of the portion of brain for thinking. In some instances, while a person is asleep, dreams are ‘viewed’ using the conscious mind, which records and enables a person to remember. However, what is a dream? The brain mind and spirit analyses itself, while at rest, it is looking back at past events. Processing of all data then occurs. The mind puts together all the data processed in a form of “screenplay” with sight, sound, emotion and imaginations in an interactive way. The result is a dream (Charles 65).

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Sleep Cycle

The understanding of the sleep cycle is necessary, since the dreams come to us, while at rest. Often, sleep cycle characterization falls into five cycles. Other people may choose to omit the first few minutes of sleep considering it as transitional. Non-rapid eye movement (NREM), relaxation of muscles, low body temperature and slow heart rate, characterizes the first stage. The body prepares to enter sleep. The second stage involves further muscle relaxation and drop in body temperature and NREM. The body immune system repairs the day’s damage, endocrine glands secrete growth hormones, and bloods go to muscles for reconditioning. The person is asleep at this stage. The third stage gives a deeper sleep than other stages and is characterized by extremely low metabolic levels. The forth stage involves eye movement, hence referred to as a rapid eye movement (REM). It occurs late after a person sleeps, as seen by a rise in blood pressure, speedy heart rate, erratic breathing and increased brain activity. During the fourth stage, revitalization of body and fine-tuning of emotions occurs. Most dreaming occurs in this last stage, and if a person wakes up at this stage, it is easier to remember the dream.

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Mechanics of Dreaming

Noticeable changes occur in the body during the sleep. Adrenaline rises, blood pressure goes up and heart beats fast. The eyes also move rapidly back and forth under the eyelids. The mind becomes active during REM just as it gets while a person is awake. However, noradrenaline and serotonin miss in the brain in the contrast to high levels of cholinergic neurons.

Importance of Dreaming

The importance of dreaming remains puzzling even to scientists. The disputable issue arises from whether people sleep to dream or they dream in order to sleep. Different researches done show that people, deprived of REM sleep, exhibit irritability and anxiety. If people under research wake up before they hit the REM sleep where most sleep occur, they have terrible days after. Depression, crabbiness, hostile temperament, and sometimes craving for food show due to the poor sleep. Over-sensitivity, poor concentration and loss of memory are the addition. This underscores the importance of dream in well-being and health. Some researchers believe that dream recharges the mind and revitalizes the body (Patrick 70).

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Types of Dreams


This is a spontaneous imagining or remembrance of various images, events, or experiences in the past or future. Daydreaming uses the right brain, the creative and feminine side of personality. Daydreaming refers to fantasies, wishful thinking, or even worrying (visualizing unwanted or negative outcome). Positive daydreaming serves as temporary escape from the demands of reality- healthy.


Nightmares disturb and cause a person to wake up feeling anxious and frightened, which may be resulted by the real life traumas and situations. Post-traumatic Stress Nightmares (PSN) describes such nightmares (Ernest  115).

Recurring dreams

Dreams that repeat themselves with minimal variation in story fall under this category. Often than not, these recurrent dreams are nightmarish in content. These types of dreams cease after finding a resolution to the problem at hand.

False Awakening Dreams

This dream follows the routine of the day, and a person can confuse for being awake. The dream may involve waking up, taking breakfast, getting ready for school, boarding a bus just as a person usually does.

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Prophetic Dreams

Prophetic dreams seemingly foretell the future. It is a precognitive or psychic dream that pieces together information and observations often overlooked in normal scenarios. The fact that the unconscious mind knows what is coming before the conscious mind explains this dream.

Other Types of Dreams

Lucid dream occurs when a person realizes that he or she is dreaming. Most dreamers awaken themselves from dreaming. A situation considered active participation in one’s own dreams in decision-making. Other dreams that serve as a message to the brain on health matters are healing dreams. Research shows that asthmatic people, for example, have dreams before they get an attack. Sometimes different people have the same dream. Such dreams are mutual dreams. Progressive dreams are continuous story that occurs on different nights.  Finally, there is an epic dream, which is so vivid and difficult to ignore. Epic dreams are easy to remember even years after they occur. The experience of epic dream is usually a sensational feeling. 

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Importance of Dream in Gilgamesh

The adventure story of The Epic of Gilgamesh dates back to Mesopotamia era thousands of years ago. The personalities of two main characters, Gilgamesh and Enkidu, depict from dreams and their interpretation. Gilgamesh was the king of Uruk. Enkidu was a loyal ‘barbaric’ friend to Gilgamesh. Foreshadowing comes from premonitory dreams in the literature. Foreshadowing is much explicit coming from the dreams of Gilgamesh. In brief, Gilgamesh had three dreams that not only mark the turning points, but they also set the themes.

Firstly, Gilgamesh dreams about meteor falling from the sky, as he fell emotionally attached. Gilgamesh compared meteor affection to the attraction for the woman. During times of Gilgamesh, dreams meant communication from gods and thus interpretation was celebrated. In a later time, Gilgamesh’s mother interpreted the dream saying that the meteor represented Enkidu. According to his mother, Enkidu was a forest man who Gilgamesh would love. The love for meteor analyzed as the true feelings of Gilgamesh. Other people may view the love from Gilgamesh as brotherly love. A different section of people may view the anxiety of Gilgamesh as related to fear for challenge of power and strength. Whatever the interpretation is, a reader realizes and expects the coming of Enkidu, hence, prophetic dream as described earlier.

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The second dream depicts Gilgamesh’s wrestling with a wild bull before the battle with Humbaba, protector of cedar woods. Despite Gilgamesh’s effort to outdo the bull, his opponent kept throwing him down. Finally, a mysterious person with water revitalizes Gilgamesh.  At this time, Enkidu had befriended with Galgimesh. According to Enkidu, the dream foretold the assistance that Gilgamesh would receive from gods in his encounters. The bull represented Humbaba and the act of wrestling the bull represented Shamash’s blessings to Enkidu.  Alternatively, since Gilgamesh was struggling with sexuality, some analysts argue that the bull represents Gilgamesh’s insatiable desire for sex. In other foreseeing interpretation, the bull symbolizes the future battle with Humbaba. Gilgamesh also considered that the dream meant that he had had to defeat Humbaba to become famous.

The last dream of Gilgamesh was ominous and disastrous. Gilgamesh dreamt of a terrible storm, which involved the intermittent lighting and darkening of the sky, and finally darkness reigns. The last dream contrasts the first two, which were endurable. This premonition leaves the readers anticipating for the end, and the battle between Gilgamesh and Humbaba. This is a perfect overshadowing the literature through dreams.

Just before his death, Enkidu dreamt about the underworld with people who looked like birds living in the darkness for eternity. Enkidu’s personal interpretation concludes that the dream was a communication from the gods that his end was coming. It is still very foreshadowing. In depth, analysis shows that Enkidu’s personality might be at a test. The sexual personality of Enkidu may be also stirring distress and anxiety.

Dream sets a pace in the story, as in the forest journey. Gilgamesh prepares for the journey by setting the formidable weapons and sacrificing to Shamash, who gives him natural elements as allies. Gilgamesh dreamt three times on his way, which foretells that despite fright, successful end awaits him. On the other hand, Humbaba foresaw the coming of Gilgamesh through a dream, as an animal with seven fearsome weapons. Together with Enkidu, Gilgamesh defeated Humbaba after a fierce battle. This means that apart from foreshadowing, dreams in the literature also bring out different personalities.

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The understanding of a dream is particularly crucial in its analysis and interpretation. Dreams come from sub-conscious brain, but are a normal activity of the brain. People who think that they do not dream  forget their dreams after they wake up. There are different types of dreams, which vary from one person to another. Researchers emphasize that dream is essential, for well-being and health it occurs at the significant cycle of sleep and revitalizes the brain. Dream interpretation remains essential for the dreams understanding and an ancient act. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, dreams foreshadowed the momentous events that were about to happen. 



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