Scholars disagree about the relation of Tablet XII to the other eleven tablets. The general consensus is that it was an appendage added to the other Gilgamesh stories at a later date.
This tablet presents a stark contrast to the earlier eleven in style and content. The appearance of a “resurrected” Enkidu is especially startling. In light of these inconsistencies with Tablets I-XI, why include Tablet XII?
Tablet XII provides further insight into some of the major themes and questions explored in the first eleven tablets. Is there an afterlife? What is the nature of it? What earthly behaviors are rewarded there? By the conclusion of Tablet XI, Gilgamesh was forced to accept the limits of mortal existence and be satisfied with its attainable rewards. Questions about the “state of being” in death had fiercely possessed him, however, and the answers remained a mystery.
The defining and “coming to terms” with human mortality has been the province of every system of religious beliefs throughout history. Here is our first recorded vision of an afterlife. it is for these reasons that Tablet XII is included here.
Read the rest