One day, when King Khufu reigned over all the land, he said to his chancellor, who stood before him, “Go call me my sons and my councillors, that I may ask of them a thing.” And his sons and his councillors came and stood before him, and he said to them, “Know ye a man who can tell me tales of the deeds of the magicians?”
Then the royal son Khafra stood forth and said, “I will tell thy majesty a tale of the days of thy forefather Nebka, the blessed; of what came to pass when he went into the temple of Ptah of Ankhtaui.”
So begins one of many tales told to King Khufu by his sons, among many other tales of ‘folklore,’ as collected and translated by W.M. Flinder Petrie. These tales are beautifully illustrated by Tristan Ellis and were published in 1899 as two series, as the Egyptian tales, translated from the papyri. Petrie writes in his introduction: ‘It is strange that while literature occupies so much attention as at present, and while fiction is the largest division of our book-work, the oldest literature and fiction of the world should yet have remained unpresented to English readers. The tales of ancient Egypt have appeared collectively only in French, in the charming volume of Maspero’s “Contes Populaires”; while some have been translated into English at scattered times in volumes of the “Records of the Past.” But research moves forward; and translations that were excellent twenty years ago may now be largely improved, as we attain more insight into the language.’
Presented here then, is W. M. Flinders Petrie’s Egyptian Tales.