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That’s the Oldest Story in the World!

July 30 2021
Enkidu, Gilgamesh's friend. From Ur, Iraq, 2027-1763 BCE. Iraq Museum.
Enkidu, Gilgamesh's friend. From Ur, Iraq, 2027-1763 BCE. Iraq Museum.

Do you know what’s the oldest story in the world (that we know of)?

If counting oral tradition, the oldest would probably be the Dreamtime  tales told by Australian Aborigine peoples, which accurately chronicle information regarding the change in sea levels as far back as 10,000-20,000 years ago.

But if we’re talking about the oldest story written down? That’s unequivocally the Epic of Gilgamesh.

The tale is told in two parts (it would seem story arcs were as popular 4,100 years ago as they are today). The first part is wonderfully bizarre and tells the story of Enkidu (a hairy wild gazelle man), his unlikely bromance (and possibly outright romance) with King Gilgamesh of Uruk, and Enkidu’s eventual demise.

The second part centers on Gilgamesh, who’s distraught over the death of his friend and sets out on a perilous journey in search of the secret to eternal life.

You can read two translations of the story here and here.

If you prefer listening to stories rather than reading or aren’t a fan of the way old-timey text is written, we would highly recommend the three-part episode of the podcast Myths & Legends.

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