The Epic of Gilgamesh

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The Snake Symbol Analysis

The Snake Symbol Icon

As in the Biblical story of Adam and Eve, the snake in the Epic of Gilgamesh is a symbol of trickery and deception. Near the end of his long journeys, Gilgamesh has finally acquired the secret to everlasting life (a plant that restores youth). But almost as soon as Gilgamesh has the plant, a snake steals it while he’s bathing and sneaks off with it into the water. Like in the Hebrew Bible, the serpent is a kind of “trickster figure,” and an obstacle between humanity and its prideful desire for everlasting life (which, like Gilgamesh, Adam and Eve lose after contact with a snake).

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The Snake Symbol Timeline in The Epic of Gilgamesh

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Snake appears in The Epic of Gilgamesh. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 6: The Return
Heroism in Nature vs. Comfort in the City Theme Icon
Mortality and Meaning Theme Icon
Pride and the Gods Theme Icon
...the first night, Gilgamesh finds a cool well and bathes in it. There is a serpent there who can sense the presence of the plant. The serpent jumps out of the... (full context)