Tales of the Magicians

W. M. Flinders Petrie

Tales of the Magicians

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.”

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Khafra’s Tale

“His majesty was walking unto the temple of Ptah, and went unto the house of the chief reciter Uba-aner, with his train. Now when the wife of Uba-aner saw a page, among those who stood behind the king, her heart longed after him; and she sent her servant unto him, with a present of a box full of garments.

Khafra's Tale

Khafra’s Tale

“And he came then with the servant. Now there was a lodge in the garden of Uba-aner; and one day the page said to the wife of Uba-aner, ‘In the garden of Uba-aner there is now a lodge; behold, let us therein take our pleasure.’ So the wife of Uba-aner sent to the steward who had charge over the garden, saying, ‘Let the lodge which is in the garden be made ready.’ And she remained there, and rested and drank with the page until the sun went down.

“And when the even was now come the page went forth to bathe. And the steward said, ‘I must go and tell Uba-aner of this matter.’ Now when this day was past, and another day came, then went the steward to Uba-aner, and told him of all these things.

“Then said Uba-aner, ‘Bring me my casket of ebony and electrum.’ And they brought it; and he fashioned a crocodile of wax, seven fingers long: and he enchanted it, and said, ‘When the page comes and bathes in my lake, seize on him.’ And he gave it to the steward, and said to him, ‘When the page shall go down into the lake to bathe, as he is daily wont to do, then throw in this crocodile behind him.’ And the steward went forth bearing the crocodile.

“And the wife of Uba-aner sent to the steward who had charge over the garden, saying, ‘Let the lodge which is in the garden be made ready, for I come to tarry there.’

“And the lodge was prepared with all good things; and she came and made merry therein with the page. And when the even was now come, the page went forth to bathe as he was wont to do. And the steward cast in the wax crocodile after him into the water; and, behold! it became a great crocodile seven cubits in length, and it seized on the page.

“And Uba-aner abode yet seven days with the king of Upper and Lower
Egypt, Nebka, the blessed, while the page was stifled in the crocodile.
And after the seven days were passed, the king of Upper and Lower Egypt,
Nebka, the blessed, went forth, and Uba-aner went before him.

The Steward and the Wax Crocodile

The Steward and the Wax Crocodile

“And Uba-aner said unto his majesty, ‘Will your majesty come and see this wonder that has come to pass in your days unto a page?’ And the king went with Uba-aner. And Uba-aner called unto the crocodile and said, ‘Bring forth the page.’ And the crocodile came forth from the Jake with the page. Uba-aner said unto the king, ‘Behold, whatever I command this crocodile he will do it.’ And his majesty said, ‘I pray you send back this crocodile.” And Uba-aner stooped and took up the crocodile, and it became in his hand a crocodile of wax. And then Uba-aner told the king that which had passed in his house with the page and his wife. And his majesty said unto the crocodile, ‘Take to thee thy prey.’ And the crocodile plunged into the lake with his prey, and no man knew whither he went.

“And his majesty the king of Upper and Lower Egypt, Nebka, the blessed, commanded, and they brought forth the wife of Uba-aner to the north side of the harem, and burnt her with fire, and cast her ashes in the river.

“This is a wonder that came to pass in the days of thy forefather the king of Upper and Lower Egypt, Nebka, of the acts of the chief reciter Uba-aner.”

His majesty the king of Upper and Lower Egypt, Khufu, then said, “Let there be presented to the king Nebka, the blessed, a thousand loaves, a hundred draughts of beer, an ox, two jars of incense; and let there be presented a loaf, a jar of beer, a jar of incense, and a piece of meat to the chief reciter Uba-aner; for I have seen the token of his learning.” And they did all things as his majesty commanded.


Baufra’s Tale

The royal sou Bau-f-ra then stood forth and spake. He said, “I will tell thy majesty of a wonder which came to pass in the days of thy father Seneferu, the blessed, of the deeds of the chief reciter Zazamankh. One day King Seneferu, being weary, went throughout his palace seeking for a pleasure to lighten his heart, but he found none. And he said, ‘Haste, and bring before me the chief reciter and scribe of the rolls Zazamankh’; and they straightway brought him. And the king said, ‘I have sought in my palace for some delight, but I have found none.’ Then said Zazamankh to him, ‘Let thy majesty go upon the lake of the palace, and let there be made ready a boat, with all the fair maidens of the harem of thy palace; and the heart of thy majesty shall be refreshed with the sight, in seeing their rowing up and down the water, and seeing the goodly pools of the birds upon the lake, and beholding its sweet fields and grassy shores; thus will thy heart be lightened. And I also will go with thee. Bring me twenty oars of ebony, inlayed with gold, with blades of light wood, inlayed with electrum; and bring me twenty maidens, fair in their limbs, their bosoms and their hair, all virgins; and bring me twenty nets, and give these nets unto the maidens for their garments.’ And they did according to all the commands of his majesty.

Zazamankh Finding the Jewel

Zazamankh Finding the Jewel

“And they rowed down the stream and up the stream, and the heart of his majesty was glad with the sight of their rowing. But one of them at the steering struck her hair, and her jewel of new malachite fell into the water. And she ceased her song, and rowed not; and her companions ceased, and rowed not. And his majesty said, ‘Row you not further?’ And they replied, ‘Our little steerer here stays and rows not.’ His majesty then said to her, ‘Wherefore rowest thou not?’ She replied, ‘It is for my jewel of new malachite which is fallen in the water.’ And he said to her, ‘Row on, for behold I will replace it.’ And she answered, ‘But I want my own piece back in its setting.’ And his majesty said, ‘Haste, bring me the chief reciter Zazamankh,’ and they brought him.

And his majesty said, ‘Zazamankh, my brother, I have done as thou sayedst, and the heart of his majesty is refreshed with the sight of their rowing. But now a jewel of new malachite of one of the little ones is fallen in the water, and she ceases and rows not, and she has spoilt the rowing of her side. And I said to her, “Wherefore rowest thou not?” and she answered to me, “It is for my jewel of new malachite which is fallen in the water.” I replied to her, “Row on, for behold I will replace it”; and she answered to me, “But I want my own piece again back in its setting.”‘ Then the chief reciter Zazamankh spake his magic speech. And he placed one part of the waters of the lake upon the other, and discovered the jewel lying upon a shard; and he took it up and gave it unto its mistress. And the water, which was twelve cubits deep in the middle, reached now to twenty-four cubits after he turned it. And he spake, and used his magic speech; and he brought again the water of the lake to its place. And his majesty spent a joyful day with the whole of the royal house. Then rewarded he the chief reciter Zazamankh with all good things. Behold, this is a wonder that came to pass in the days of thy father, the king of Upper and Lower Egypt, Seneferu, of the deeds of the chief reciter, the scribe of the rolls, Zazamankh.”

Then said the majesty of the king of Upper and Lower Egypt, Khufu, the blessed, “Let there be presented an offering of a thousand cakes, one hundred draughts of beer, an ox, and two jars of incense to the king of Upper and Lower Egypt, Sene-feru, the blessed; and let there be given a loaf, a jar of beer, and a jar of incense to the chief reciter, the scribe of the rolls, Zazamankh; for I have seen the token of his learning.” And they did all things as his majesty commanded.


Hordedef’s Tale

The royal son Hordedef then stood forth and spake. He said, “Hitherto hast thou only heard tokens of those who have gone before, and of which no man knoweth their truth But I will show thy majesty a man of thine own days.” And his majesty said, “Who is he, Hordedef?” And the royal son Hordedef answered, “It is a certain man named Dedi, who dwells at Dedsneferu. He is a man of one hundred and ten years old; and he eats five hundred loaves of bread, and a side of beef, and drinks one hundred draughts of beer, unto this day. He knows how to restore the head that is smitten off; he knows how to cause the lion to follow him trailing his halter on the ground; he knows the designs of the dwelling of Tahuti. The majesty of the king of Upper and Lower Egypt, Khufu, the blessed, has long sought for the designs of the dwelling of Tahuti, that he may make the like of them in his pyramid.”

Hordedef Leading Dedi to the Ship

Hordedef Leading Dedi to the Ship

And his majesty said, “Thou, thyself, Hordedef, my son, bring him to me.” Then were the ships made ready for the king’s son Hordedef, and he went up the stream to Dedsneferu. And when the ships had moored at the haven, he landed, and sat him in a litter of ebony, the poles of which were of cedar wood overlayed with gold. Now when he drew near to Dedi, they set down the litter. And he arose to greet Dedi, and found him lying on a palmstick couch at the door of his house; one servant held his head and rubbed him, and another rubbed his feet,

And the king’s son Hordedef said, “Thy state is that of one who lives to good old age; for old age is the end of our voyage, the time of embalming, the time of burial. Lie, then, in the sun, free of infirmities, without the babble of dotage: this is the salutation to worthy age. I come from far to call thee, with a message from my father Khufu, the blessed, for thou shalt eat of the best which the king gives, and of the food which those have who follow after him; that he may bring thee in good estate to thy fathers who are in the tomb.”

And Dedi replied to him, “Peace to thee! Peace to thee! Hordedef, son of the king, beloved of his father. May thy father Khufu, the blessed, praise thee, may he advance thee amongst the elders, may thy ka prevail against the enemy, may thy soul know the right road to the gate of him who clothes the afflicted; this is the salutation to the king’s son.” Then the king’s son, Hordedef, stretched forth his hands to him, and raised him up, and went with him to the haven, giving unto him his arm. Then said Dedi, “Let there he given me a boat, to bring me my youths and my books.” And they made ready for him two boats with their rowers. And Dedi went down the river in the barge in which was the king’s son Hordedef. And when he had reached the palace, the king’s son, Hordedef, entered in to give account unto his majesty the king of Upper and Lower Egypt, Khufu, the blessed. Then said the king’s son Hordedef, “O king, life, wealth, and health! My lord, I have brought Dedi.” His majesty replied, “Bring him to me speedily.” And his majesty went into the hall of columns of Pharaoh (life, wealth, and health), and Dedi was led before him. And his majesty said, “Wherefore is it, Dedi, that I have not yet seen thee?” And Dedi answered, “He who is called it is that comes; the king (life, wealth, and health) calls me, and behold I come,” And his majesty said, “Is it true, that which men say, that thou canst restore the head which is smitten off?” And Dedi replied, “Truly, I know that, O king (life, wealth, and health), my lord.” And his majesty said, “Let one bring me a prisoner who is in prison, that his punishment may be fulfilled.” And Dedi said, “Let it not be a man, O king, my lord; behold we do not even thus to our cattle.” And a duck was brought unto him, and its head was cut off. And the duck was laid on the west side of the hall, and its head on the east side of the hall. And Dedi spake his magic speech. And the duck fluttered along the ground, and its head came likewise; and when it had come part to part the duck stood and quacked. And they brought likewise a goose before him, and he did even so unto it. His majesty caused an ox to be brought, and its head cast on the ground. And Dedi spake his magic speech. And the ox stood upright behind him, and followed him with his halter trailing on the ground.

Dedi Enchanting the Duck

Dedi Enchanting the Duck

And King Khufu said, “And is it true what is said, that thou knowest the number of the designs of the dwelling of Tahuti?” And Dedi replied, “Pardon me, I know not their number, O king (life, wealth, and health), but I know where they are.” And his majesty said, “Where is that?” And Dedi replied, “There is a chest of whetstone in a chamber named the plan-room, in Heli-opolis; they are in this chest.” And Dedi said further unto him, “O king (life, wealth, and health), my lord, it is no It that is to bring them to thee.” And his m’jesty said, “Who, then, is it that shall bring them to me?” And Dedi answered to him, “It is the eldest of the three children who are in the body of Rud-didet who shall bring them to thee.” And his majesty said, “Would that it may be as thou sayest! And who is this Rud-didet?” And Dedi replied, “She is the wife of a priest of Ra, lord of Sakhebu. And she has conceived these three sons by Ra, lord of Sakhebu, and the god has promised her that they shall fulfil this noble office (of reigning) over all this land, and that the eldest of them shall be high priest in Heliopolis.” And his majesty’s heart became troubled for this; but Dedi spake unto him, “What is this that thou thinkest, O king (life, wealth, health), my lord? Is it because of these three children? I tell thee thy son shall reign, and thy son’s son, and then one of them.” His majesty said, “And when shall Rud-didet bear these?” And he replied, “She shall bear them on the 26th of the month Tybi.” And his majesty said, “When the banks of the canal of Letopolis are cut, I will walk there that I may see the temple of Ra, lord of Sakhebu.” And Dedi replied, “Then I will cause that there be four cubits of water by the banks of the canal of Letopolis.” When his majesty returned to his palace, his majesty said, “Let them place Dedi in the house of the royal son Hordedef, that he may dwell with him, and let them give him a daily portion of a thousand loaves, a hundred draughts of beer, an ox, and a hundred bunches of onions.” And they did everything as his majesty commanded.

The Goddesses and Khnumu Coming to Ra-User

The Goddesses and Khnumu Coming to Ra-User

And one day it came to pass that Rud-didet felt the pains of birth. And the majesty of Ra, lord of Sakhebu, said unto Isis, to Nebhat, to Meskhent, to Hakt, and to Khnumu, “Go ye, and deliver Rud-didet of these three children that she shall bear, who are to fulfil this noble office over all this land; that they may build up your temples, furnish your altars with offerings, supply your tables of libation, and increase your endowments.” Then went these deities; their fashion they made as that of dancing-girls, and Khnumu was with them as a porter. They drew near unto the house of Ra-user, and found him standing, with his girdle fallen. And they played before him with their instruments of music. But he said unto them, “My ladies, behold, here is a woman who feels the pains of birth.” They said to him, “Let us see her, for we know how to help her.” And he replied, “Come, then.” And they entered in straightway to Rud-didet, and they closed the door on her and on themselves. Then Isis stood before her, and Nebhat stood behind her, and Hakt helped her. And Isis said, “O child, by thy name of User-ref, do not do violence.” And the child came upon her hands, as a child of a cubit; its bones were strong, the beauty of its limbs was like gold, and its hair was like true lapis lazuli. They washed him, and prepared him, and placed him on a carpet on the brickwork. Then Meskhent approached him and said, “This is a king who shall reign over all the land.” And Khnumu gave strength to his limbs. Then Isis stood before her, and Nebhat stood behind her, and Hakt helped her. And Isis said, “O child, by thy name of Sah-ra, stay not in her.” Then the child came upon her hands, a child of a cubit; its bones were strong, the beauty of its limbs was like gold, and its hair was like true lapis lazuli. They washed him, and prepared him, and layed him on a carpet on the brickwork. Then Meskhent approached him and said, “This is a king who shall reign over all the land.” And Khnumu gave strength to his limbs. Then Isis stood before her, and Nebhat stood behind her, and Hakt helped her. And Isis said, “O child, by thy name of Kaku, remain not in darkness in her.” And the child came upon her hands, a child of a cubit; its bones were strong, the beauty of its limbs was like gold, and its hair was like true lapis lazuli. And Meskhent approached him and said, “This is a king who shall reign over all the land.” And Khnumu gave strength to his limbs. And they washed him, and prepared him, and layed him on a carpet on the brickwork.

And the deities went out, having delivered Rud-didet of the three children. And they said, “Rejoice! O Ra-user, for behold three children are born unto thee.” And he said unto them, “My ladies, and what shall I give unto ye? Behold, give this bushel of barley here unto your porter, that ye may take it as your reward to the brew-house.” And Khnumu loaded himself with the bushel of barley. And they went away toward the place from which they came. And Isis spake unto these goddesses, and said, “Wherefore have we come without doing a marvel for these children, that we may tell it to their father who has sent us?” Then made they the divine diadems of the king (life, wealth, and health), and laid them in the bushel of barley. And they caused the clouds to come with wind and rain; and they turned back again unto the house. And they said, “Let us put this barley in a closed chamber, sealed up, until we return northward, dancing.” And they placed the barley in a close chamber.

The Goddesses Hiding the Crown

The Goddesses Hiding the Crown

And Rud-didet purified herself, with a purification of fourteen days. And she said to her handmaid, “Is the house made ready?” And she replied, “All things are made ready, but the brewing barley is not yet brought.” And Rud-didet said, “Wherefore is the brewing barley not yet brought?” And the servant answered, “It would all of it long since be ready if the barley had not been given to the dancing-girls, and lay in the chamber under their seal.” Rud didet said, “Go down, and bring of it, and Ra-user shall give them in its stead when he shall come,” And the handmaid went, and opened the chamber. And she heard talking and singing, music and dancing, quavering, and all things which are performed for a king in his chamber. And she returned and told to Rud-didet all that she had heard. And she went through the chamber, but she found not the place where the sound was. And she layed her temple to the sack, and found that the sounds were in it. She placed it in a chest, and put that in another locker, and tied it fast with leather, and layed it in the store-room, where the things were, and sealed it. And Ra-user came returning from the field; and Rud-didet repeated unto him these things; and his heart was glad above all things; and they sat down and made a joyful day.

The Handmaid Listening to the Festivity

The Handmaid Listening to the Festivity

And after these days it came to pass that Rud-didet was wroth with her servant, and beat her with stripes. And the servant said unto those that were in the house, “Shall it be done thus unto me? She has borne three kings, and I will go and tell this to his majesty King Khufu the blessed.” And she went, and found the eldest brother of her mother, who was binding his flax on the floor. And he said to her, “Whither goest thou, my little maid?” And she told him of all these things. And her brother said to her, “Wherefore comest thou thus to me? Shall I agree to treachery?” And he took a bunch of the flax to her, and laid on her a violent blow. And the servant went to fetch a handful of water, and a crocodile carried her away.

Her uncle went therefore to tell of this to Rud-didet; and he found Rud-didet sitting, her head on her knees, and her heart beyond measure sad. And he said to her, “My lady, why makest thou thy heart thus?” And she answered, “It is because of this little wretch that was in the house; behold she went out saying, ‘I will go and tell it.'” And he bowed his head unto the ground, and said, “My lady, she came and told me of these things, and made her complaint unto me; and I laid on her a violent blow. And she went forth to draw water, and a crocodile carried her away.”

(The rest of the tale is lost.)


Remarks

The tales or the magicians are only preserved in a single copy, and of that the beginning is entirely lost. The papyrus was brought from Egypt by an English traveller, and was purchased by the Berlin Museum from the property of Lepsius, who had received it from the owner, Miss Westcar: hence it is known as the Westcar papyrus. It was written probably in the XIIth Dynasty, but doubtless embodied tales, which had been floating for generations before, about the names of the early kings. It shows us probably the kind of material that existed for the great recension of the pre-monu-mental history, made in the time of Seti I. Those ages of the first three dynasties were as long before that recension as we are after it; and this must always be remembered in considering the authority of the Egyptian records.

This papyrus has been more thoroughly studied than most, perhaps more than any other. Erman has devoted two volumes to it; publishing the whole in photographic facsimile, transcribed in hieroglyphs, transcribed in the modern alphabet, translated literally, translated freely, commented on and discussed word by word, and with a complete glossary of all words used in it. This exhaustive publication is named “Der Marchen des Papyrus Westcar.” Moreover, Maspero has given a current translation in the “Contes Populaires,” 2nd edit. pp. 53-86.

The scheme of these tales is that they are all told to King Khufu by his sons; and as the beginning is lost, eight lines are here added to explain this and introduce the subject. The actual papyrus begins with the last few words of a previous tale concerning some other magician under an earlier king. Then comes the tale of Khafra, next that of Bau-f-ra, and lastly that of Hor-dedef.

It need hardly be said that these tales are quite fictitious. The king and his successor Khafra are real, but the other sons cannot be identified; and the confusion of supposing three kings of the Vth Dynasty to be triplets born early in the IVth Dynasty, shows what very vague ideas of their own history the Egyptians had when these tales were formed. This ^ does not prevent our seeing that they embodied some very important traditions, and gives us an unequalled picture of the early civilisation.

In the earliest tale or the three there seems at first sight merely a sketch of faithlessness and revenge. But there is probably much more in it. To read it aright we must bear in mind the position of woman in ancient Egypt. If, in later ages, Islam has gone to the extreme of the man determining his own divorce at a word, in early times almost the opposite system prevailed. All property belonged to the woman; all that a man could earn, or inherit, was made over to his wife; and families always reckoned back further on the mother’s side than the father’s. As the changes in historical times have been in the direction of men’s rights, it is very unlikely that this system of female predominance was invented or introduced, but rather that it descends from primitive times. In this tale we see, then, at the beginning of our knowledge of the country, the clashing of two different social systems. The reciter is strong for men’s rights, he brings destruction on the wife, and never even gives her name, but always calls her merely “the wife of Uba-aner.” But behind all this there is probably the remains of a very different system. The servant employed by the mistress seems to see nothing outrageous in her proceedings; and even the steward, who is on the master’s side, waits a day or two before reporting matters. When we remember the supremacy in properly and descent which women held in Egypt, and then read this tale, it seems that it belongs to the close of a social system like that of the Nairs, in which the lady makes her selection—with variations from time to time. The incident of sending a present of clothing is curiously like the tale about a certain English envoy, whose proprieties were sadly ruffled in the Nair country, when a lady sent him a grand shawl with an intimation of her choice. The priestesses of Amen retained to the last this privilege of choice, as being under divine, and not human protection; but it seems to have become unseemly in late times.

The hinging of this tale, and of those that follow it, upon the use of magic, shows how thoroughly the belief in magic powers was ingrained in the Egyptians. Now such a belief implies the presence of magicians, and shows how familiar must have been the claim to such powers, and the practising of the tricks of witchcraft, so prevalent in Africa in modern times. The efficacy of a model, such as this crocodile of wax, is an idea continually met with in Egypt. The system of tomb furniture and decoration, of ka statues, of ushabtis or figures to work for the deceased, and the models placed in foundation deposits, all show how a model was supposed to have the efficacy of an actual reality. Even in the latest tale of all (written in Ptolemaic times), Setnau makes a model of a boat and men, to be sunk in the river to work for him. The reconversion of the crocodile to wax, on being taken up by the magician, reminds us of the serpent becoming again a rod when taken up by Aaron.

The punishment of burning alive is very rarely, if ever, mentioned in Egyptian history, though it occurs in modern Egyptian tales: and it looks as if it were brought in here rather as a dire horror for the climax than as a probable incident. The place of the penalty, in front of the harem, or the private portion of the palace, was evidently for the intimi-‘ dation of other ladies.

At the close of each tale, King Khufu, to whom it is told, orders funerary offerings by the usual formula, to be presented in honour of the king under whom the wonder took place. On the tablets of the tombs in the early times, there is usually recorded the offering—or, rather, the pious desire that there should be offered—thousands of loaves, of oxen, of gazelles, of cranes, &c., for a deceased person. Such expression cost no more by the thousand than by the dozen, so thousands came to be the usual expression in all ordaining of offerings.

We are so accustomed to think of tedium as something modern, that it seems strange to find in the oldest tales [Page 16] in the world how the first king of whom we know anything was bored by his pleasures. A reward for discovering a new pleasure is the very basis of the tale of Sneferu; and the wise man’s remedy of a day in the country is still the best resource, though all that we know as human history has tried its experiments in enjoyment since then. The flavour of the ballet thrown in, by the introduction of the damsels of the household clad in fishing nets, is not yet obsolete in modern amusements; and even in this century Muhammed Ali had resource to the same way of killing time, as he was rowed about by his harem, but on an artificial lake.

The use of two large oars for steering explains the detail of the story. The oars were one on each side of the stern, and were each managed by a steerer. From the tale we see that the steerer led the song of the rowers, and if the leader ceased, all that side of the boat ceased also.. The position of the lost jewel upon the hair shows that it was in a fillet set with inlaying, like that seen on early figures, such as Nefert at Medum, who wears a fillet of rosettes to retain the hair; and the position of the steering oar attached to a post, with the handle rising high in the air, explains how it could strike the fillet and displace the jewel.

The last tale is really double, a tale within a tale. It begins with the wonders done by Dedi, and then goes on with the [Page 22] history or the children about whom he prophesied to Khufu.

The village of Dedi was probably near Medum, as in the temple of Sneferu at Medum an offering was found presented by a worshipper to the gods of Ded-sneferu: hence the background which is here given for the scene of Hordedef leading old Dedi. The translation of “the designs of the dwelling of Tahuti” is not certain; but the passage seems to refer to some architectural plan which was desired for the pyramid.

The story of Rud-didet is remarkable historically. She is said to be wife of the priest of Ra, her children are sons of Ra, and they are the first three kings of the Vth dynasty, and supplanted the line of Khufu. This points to the Vth Dynasty having been a priestly usurpation; and on looking at its history we see two confirmations of this. The title “Son of Ra” is so common in most ages in Egypt that it is taken for granted, and is applied in lists to any second cartouche; but it is not found until well into the Vth Dynasty; the earlier kings were not descendants of Ra, and it is only on arriving at this dynasty, which claimed descent from Ra, through the wife of the priest of Ra, that we find the claim of each king to be a “son of Ra.” Another confirmation of this priestly descent is the abundance of priesthoods established for the kings of the Vth Dynasty; a care which agrees with their having a priestly origin; while in the tale it is particularly said that they would build up the temples, furnish the altars with offerings, supply the tables of libations, and increase the religious endowments.

The names of the three children are a play upon the names of the first three kings of the Vth Dynasty. User-kaf is made into User-ref; Sahu-ra is written Sah-ra; and Kaka is Kaku; thus making allusions to their births. The comparison of the hair to true lapis lazuli seems very strange; but there is often a confusion between black aind blue in uneducated races, and azrak means either dark blue or green, or black, at present in Arabic. Lapis lazuli is brought in to the name of the queen of Ramessu VI., who was called “gold and lazuli,” Nub-khesdeb; recalling the comparison here of personal beauty to these precious materials.

It is noticeable here that in a tale of the Vth Dynasty, certainly written as early as the XIIth Dynasty, we find professional dancers commonly recognised, and going on travels through the country, with a porter.

From this tale we also learn that Egyptian women underwent a purification of fourteen days, during which they kept apart and did not attend to any household matters. The mistress of the house here inquires if the preparations are made for the feast on her return to household affairs; and hears then how the beer cannot be made for lack of the barley.

The securing of the sack is just in accord with the remains of this early period; the use of boxes, of thongs of leather for tying and of clay sealings for securing property, were all familiar matters in the XIIth Dynasty, as we learn from Kahun.

The present close of the tale is evidently only a stage in it, when the treacherous maid meets with the common doom of the wicked in Egyptian romance. How it was continued is a matter of speculation, but Khufu ought certainly to reappear and to order great rewards for Dedi, who up to this has only had maintenance on his requisite scale provided for him. Yet it is imperative that the children shall be saved from his wrath, as they are the kings of the Vth Dynasty. There may be a long episode lost of their flight and adventures.

One reference to a date needs notice. The 25th of the month Tybi is said to be the predicted birthday of the children; and Khufu refers to going to Sakhebu about that time apparently, when the banks of the canal are cut and the land was drying after the inundation, whereon Dedi threatens that the water shall still be deep there. This points to 25th Tybi being about the close of the inundation. This would be about the case both in the beginning of the IVth Dynasty, and also in the XIIth Dynasty, when the papyrus was perhaps written: hence there is nothing conclusive to be drawn from this allusion so far. But when we compare this tale with those following, we see good ground for its belonging to a time before the XIIth Dynasty The following tale of the peasant and the workman evidently belongs to the IXth or Xth Dynasties, when Herakleopolis was the capital, and Sanehat is certainly of the XIIth Dynasty. Yet in those we see character and incident made the basis of interest, in place of the childish profusion of marvels of the Tales of the Magicians. It seems impossible not to suppose that they belong to very different ages and canons of taste; and hence we cannot refer the crudities of the Khufu tales to the time of the far more elaborate and polished recital of the adventures of Sanehat in the XIIth Dynasty. Being thus obliged to suppose an earlier date for these tales, the allusion to the month Tybi throws us back to a very early period—the IVth Dynasty—for their original outlines. Doubtless they were modified by reciters, and probably took shape in the Vth or VIth Dynasties; but yet we must regard them as belonging practically to the age to which they refer.


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