Epic Tales, Epic PoetryThroughout history, epic tales have been one of the most beloved genres of literature across many cultures. The themes of man’s struggle against the world and the triumph of good over evil in a grand and often mythical setting touch the hearts of both young and old readers alike. Epics are some of the earliest forms of literature. Many people are familiar with the ancient Greek epics, The Iliad and The Odyssey, composed by Homer. But, what many people do not know is that these epics, as well as many other ancient heroic epics, were actually composed as epic poetry. They were originally meant to be recited by a musician at a large gathering or banquet, and these popular tales were the main entertainment for the night.
Perhaps the oldest epic poem is the Epic of Gilgamesh. It is an ancient Mesopotamian tale of the warrior king Gilgamesh, who goes on many adventures with his wild friend, Enkidu. After offending the gods on one of their exploits, Enkidu is tragically killed. Gilgamesh then sets off on a quest for immortality, but in the end he learns the value of the life he has. He then returns home and becomes a celebrated ruler. Often regarded as one of the oldest works of literature in the world, the Epic of Gilgamesh set the standard for many epics to come. Motifs such as a loyal best friend, overcoming impossible odds, and learning the ultimate value of life and humility are themes that reoccur in epic tales throughout history and up to the present day.
Modern epics such as The Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia, follow a similar pattern. The hero of the story, accompanied by a loyal companion, fights against all odds to achieve a great goal. Throughout his journey, the hero learns about himself and the true value of friendship, loyalty, perseverance, and other admirable qualities. Because of his abundance of these qualities, he ultimately succeeds. Epic tales have remained popular among so many throughout the ages because of these values which they personify.