An epigraph can be an inscription on a tower or a statue, but in this case we are referring to the second definition of an epigraph; a quotation which is found in the beginning of a chapter or book. Usually, writers will choose one quotation that has an important significance to them (perhaps in their personal life) or even just a very well known passage as their epigraph.
In Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion, there are two epigraphs included, which are written on the third page. The first one written perhaps being of a greater importance than the second, since the title is derived from it: “The joyful will stoop with sorrow, and when you have gone to the earth I will let my hair grow long for your sake, I will wander through the wilderness in the skin of a lion.” This quotation is taken from The Epic of Gilgamesh. The Epic of Gilgamesh is perhaps the oldest poem in the world, and it is written about the adventures of an Assyrian king. The poem speaks of a man who goes on a quest for immortality, and the poem speaks often of natural, everyday things with a sort of “mythic status”. This could relate to the second story in book one of In the Skin of a Lion, “The Searcher”. This story is about a young man named Patrick Lewis who embarks on a quest to find a man named Ambrose Small. This story is also parallel to the Epic of Gilgamesh in the way that Patrick speaks and describes a woman, Clara, very highly – almost as if she is a goddess. The second epigraph is a very famous quotation written by John Berger, which several other writers have included in their novels: “Never again will a single story be told as though it were the only one.”
“Epigraph.” Dictionary. Reference.com. Web. 26. Jan. 2011.
“Epigraph.” Encyclopedia.com. Web. 26 Jan. 2011.
Ondaatje, Michael. In the Skin of a Lion. Toronto: Vintage Canada, 1996. Print.