The Power of the Friend

Having finished ‘The Egyptian’ the narrator and central character concludes that he has always ‘walked alone’ and has never had true companionship even when it seemed he did. This is a surprisingly sad and isolating ending although we do see that our hero is much happier and contented living on his own as a recluse which gives us some modicum of comfort. Friends are an important aspect of life, and we see that great friends can save us from ourselves and bring us joy where there is none. In my favourite epic of all time: ‘The Nibelungenlied’ the main character Hagen almost fails in his quest but because of his companion Volker who accompanies him, he manages to push on to the very end although Volker loses his life. Their friendship is woven throughout the entirety of the novel and there are many moments of simplistic beauty where they sit and share each other’s company wordlessly, or in one part tell a story together to entertain a foreign king. Great friendships are sown throughout all of myth and legend and are still recreated in ‘buddy movies’ and the like today. In ‘Gilgamesh the King’ Enkidu’s devotion to Gilgamesh is so great that he enters the dark kingdom of the underworld in order to rescue his drums of meditation. And in ‘The Iliad’ Achilles goes mad with grief when his closest friend Petroklus is slain by Hector. These timeless friendships make us aware of the positive aspects of humanity and the joy of discovering someone with whom you can utterly relate and share anything with. However, these friendships are seen as rare, and sometimes end in terrible tragedy as their devotion to each other is so great as to surpass reason and emotional restraint. The story of Achilles is a case in point, for upon the death of Petroklus not only does he slay Hector but dams up the river with the bodies of those he slays needlessly in rage.

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