I hope I am asking this question on the right site as it may be a cross-over question, or too specific - if that is the case I understand. However, I'm hoping that a bunch of History buffs would want to share their knowledge with the kids in their lives and would have already thought this through. It may look as though I am asking for a recommendation, but while that would be nice, I'm also wondering about considerations for similar future "epics encounters" as well.
A little background: I homeschool my daughter and she LOVES history! So I am doing my best to learn as much as I can (I am a former science teacher) as quickly as I can in a subject I know very little about. I am constantly striving to find great resources to challenge her as well as broaden her exposure in this category at a level right for her. We are currently using, "The Story of the World" as a jumping off place, but only as a place to start. My kid can handle a lot more depth than SOW offers. Since we are religious (but very liberaly so) I'm not afraid to speak with her about things from a more scientific standpoint (like I believe in evolution and I see the Bible as more of a collection of stories on ethics and living than I do as a historical document) which means some of the SOW stuff is not as accurate as I would like it to be (Like presenting the story of Joseph and his coat or even the exodus as though it is actually history supported with cooroberating evidence - for example).
Right now, we are studying mesopotamia with her cooperative and ran into the story of Gilgamesh meeting Enkidu and the story of Gilgamesh and his efforts to become immortal. While the epic of Gilgamesh is more of a literary piece than pure history, obviously, Gilgamesh was an important cultural component (if not King) to the Sumerians and must have remained important to succeeding cultures in some degree or another as well. I thought it would be fun if there was a good translation for kids to read it with her and have her sort out the "myth" and legend from the real history as a research project. She is seven, but has a 12th grade vocabulary and reads at an eighth grade level. We actually studied ancient civilizations in a briefer way when she was five as well (and then ancient Rome and the Early Middle Ages when she was six, so the stuff covered by her class is old hat to her.
As a response to comments, I'll clarify that in general, as we study history we also use videos (mostly from the BBC, National Geographic etc. - The History Channel is overly dramatic and not all that accurate all the time either), elementary and middle school books, she reads related books from the Magic Tree house series and other similar fictions as well as Non-fiction from National Geographic, Eyewitness books by DK Publishing etc. But she enjoyed reading Black Ships before Troy (a child-minded and modernized version of the Iliad) and has really enjoyed what little of Gilgamesh we did encounter through SOW. We build models, she does claymation animations of different events and processes, we've even had feasts (Roman, Egyptian and Pre-European Contact Nez Perce) where we make the foods as authentic to the time period we are studying as we are able in a modern kitchen.
As someone reletively new to getting serious with studying history, I am really wondering how to go about finding translations and how to weed out the "good" from the "bad" if and when I do find them. I'm hoping for some ideas that can apply not only to our current Gilgamesh search, but also to future searches (such as an appropriate translation of the Aenid and/or the Odyssey or even Beowulf when the time comes for her as examples).
What should we consider from a Historian's standpoint, when choosing translations to study of great epic pieces that represent a culture from history?
What kinds of questions should we ask as we read to best use these epic pieces as a way to understand the culture that created the story/stories?