Egyptian Myths and Legends

Week 2: Ancient Near East - Assignments - Reading - Resources - Images

The Robbers

Reading time: 3 minutes. Word count: 500 words.

Well, the poor dead brother has lost his head and his mother is not happy... pay attention now what happens to the rest of the brother's body!

Meanwhile the mother grieved in secret. Her heart was filled with anger because the body was exposed in such a manner, and she threatened to inform the king regarding all that had happened if her other son would not contrive to carry away the corpse. The young man attempted to dissuade her, but she only repeated her threat, and that firmly. He therefore made preparations to obtain possession of the corpse.

He hired several asses, and on their backs he put many skins of wine. In the evening he drove them towards the palace. When he drew near to the guards who kept watch over his brother's body he removed the stoppers of some of the skins. The wine ran forth upon the highway, and he began to lament aloud, and beat his head as if he were in sore distress. The soldiers ran towards the asses and seized them, and caught the wine in vessels, claiming it for themselves. At first the brother pretended to be angry, and abused the men; but when they had pacified him, as they thought, he spoke to them pleasantly and began to make secure the stoppers of all the skins.

In a short time he was chatting with the guards, and pretended to be much amused when they bantered him over the accident. Then he invited them to drink, and they filled their flasks readily. So they began, and the young man poured out wine until they were all made very drunk. When they fell asleep, the cunning fellow took down his brother's body, and laid it upon the back of one of the asses. Ere he went away he shaved the right cheeks of the soldiers. His mother welcomed him on his return in the darkness and was well pleased.

The king was very angry when he discovered how the robber had tricked the guards, but he was still determined to have him taken. He sent forth his daughter in disguise, and she waited for the criminal. She spoke to several men, and at length she found him, because he came to know that he was sought and desired to deal cunningly with her. So he addressed her, and she offered to be his bride if he would tell her the most artful thing and also the most wicked thing he had ever done.

He answered readily: "The most wicked thing I ever did was to cut off my brother's head when he was caught in a trap in the royal treasure chamber, and the most artful was to deceive the king's guards and carry away the body."

The princess tried to seize him, but he thrust forth his brother's arm, which he carried under his robe, and when she clutched it he made speedy escape.

Great was then the astonishment of the king at the cunning and daring of the robber. He caused a proclamation to be made, offering him a free pardon and a generous reward if he would appear at the palace before him. The man went readily, and His Majesty was so delighted with his speeches and great ingenuity that he gave him his daughter in marriage. There is no more artful people than the Egyptians, but this man had not his equal in the land.

Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

  • how did the robber trick the guards protecting the corpse?
  • how did the robber escape the king's daughter?
  • what did the king finally do for the robber in the end?

Source: Egyptian Myth and Legend by Donald Mackenzie (1907). Weblink.

Modern Languages / Anthropology 3043: Folklore & Mythology. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.
Page last updated: October 9, 2004 12:52 PM