Older sources sometimes transliterate his name as Enkimdu, Eabani, or Enkita. Enkiddu is a modern variant.
Enkidu roamed with the beasts of the wilderness. He protected the animals, destroying the hunters' traps, and lurked around the watering holes to protect the game. These actions were much to the chagrin of a local trapper. The trapper went to King Gilgamesh to ask for help. Gilgamesh offered the advice "Trapper, go back, take with you a harlot, a child of pleasure ... he will embrace her and the game of the wilderness will surely reject him." The trapper did what he was told, and hired the temple prostitute Shamhat for acculturation. Enkidu was immediately taken with the harlot and bedded her. The animals begin to avoid him, the bond he once shared with them having been broken. Now "he scattered the wolves, he chased away the lions" and the herders could lie down in peace, for Enkidu was now their watchperson.
After the abandonment of his animal brethren, Enkidu is introduced to a pastoralist way of life. He works for the trapper and shepherds, hunting and killing the animals he once served. Soon he grows restless, looking for a greater challenge.
Shamhat tells of a great king in the city Uruk (Gilgamesh) and says, too, that he would be a worthy challenge for Enkidu. Gilgamesh is surprised by Enkidu. The two wrestle fiercely for sometime, until suddenly Gilgamesh gains the upper hand and throws Enkidu to the ground. Knowing his defeat, Enkidu praises Gilgamesh and both swear an oath of friendship, and thereafter cohabit.
Gilgamesh mourns over the body of Enkidu for several desperate days. In a vivid line repeated in the epic, Gilgamesh only allows his friend to be buried after a maggot falls out of the corpse's nose. Gilgamesh's close observation of rigor mortis and the slow decomposition of Enkidu's body provides the hero with the impetus for his quest for eternal life, and his visit to Utnapishtim.
There is another non-canonical tablet in which Enkidu journeys into the underworld, but many scholars consider the tablet to be a sequel or add-on to the original epic.