Siduri is the tavern keeper who at first bars her door to Gilgamesh and then shares her sensuous, worldly wisdom with him, advising him to cherish the pleasures of this world. Though she tries to dissuade him from his quest, she tells him how to find Urshanabi the boatman, without whose help he’d surely fail. The goddess of wine-making and brewing, Siduri is only one of several sexually ripe, nurturing women who appear in this most explicitly homoerotic tale. The male characters may take these females for granted, but they nevertheless play an essential role. The temple prostitute Shamhat domesticates Enkidu. Utnapishtim’s unnamed wife softens her husband toward Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh’s mother Ninsun adopts Enkidu as her son, not only endorsing his friendship to Gilgamesh but also making him Gilgamesh’s brother. Ishtar herself, fickle and dangerously mercurial as she is as the goddess of war and love, nevertheless weeps bitterly to see how the deluge that she had helped to bring about ravaged her human children. As loudly as it celebrates male bonding and the masculine virtues of physical prowess, The Epic of Gilgamesh doesn’t forget to pay its respects to feminine qualities.
Siduri is the tavern-keeper of the underworld. Where she comes from, and why she thinks running a tavern in the underworld is promising business opportunity, we have no idea.
We also don’t know what her regular patrons are like down there; we would have figured the underworld would attract a pretty unusual customer base, but apparently Gilgamesh’s haggard appearance when he shows up at siduri vahetus spells bad news, and she immediately bars the entrance to him. That said, given that Gilgamesh immediately starts threatening to smash her door down, she clearly is pretty good at sizing people up. He then tells her all about his sadness at Enkidu’s death and asks whether he will also die.