Enkidu plays a multi-faceted role in the "Tale of Gilgamesh," one that sees him at different points acting as an antagonistic opponent and then as a best friend or sidekick to the story's protagonist, Gilgamesh. Enkidu also participates in several complex symbolic relationships regarding humankind and nature, life and death, and mortal interaction with the divine.
At first appearance, Enkidu arrives as an almost primal, animalistic creature dispatched by the gods to punish and humble the arrogant, oppressive King Gilgamesh. Whereas Gilgamesh is partially of divine origin, Enkidu is molded entirely from clay, uniting his very being with the Earth rather than civilization. Ultimately Enkidu's influence enlightens Gilgamesh, transforming the hero forever and transitioning their bond into a timeless friendship. However, Enkidu's earthly nature eventually fails him, as his impiety summons the wrath of the god, Enlil, and Enkidu dies bitterly, despite his resistance, signalling the inevitability of death for all mortals.
In some cases, analysts draw parallels between Enkidu's story and the biblical account of the Garden of Eden. Though the serpent functions very differently in each of these two narratives, there is still the consistency between Enkidu and Adam, both naive and trusting, both lured from their natural innocence by a sexualized female character, both exiled from their original states forever. Analysts also point to certain episodes in the epic that may illustrate a homo-erotic relationship between Gilgamesh and Enkidu, while others insist these incidents are purely symbolic and metaphoric.