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The Tale of King Cheops’ Court

……………………………]’1 Eleven manuscript lines are lost from the first page—at least twenty verses. There was probably also one other page before this (another fifty verses or so); see Introduction (p. 102) for restoration. A first tale was told perhaps by Prince Redjedef, who became the immediate successor of Cheops (c.2528–2520 BC). Cheops himself (c.2551–2528 BC) was the second king of the Fourth Dynasty and the builder of the Great Pyramid at Giza. He was later regarded as a tyrant because of its overweening size, and the Tale presents him as an imperfect king. Here he orders funerary offerings to be made in honour of the heroes of the tale that he has just heard; the king gets far more than the magician, according to court decorum. Djoser (c.2630–2611 BC) was the most famous king of the Third Dynasty, about a century before Cheops and over eight centuries before the copying of P. Westcar. The lector priest or ‘ritualist’ was in charge of the sacred writings, and often appears in literature as a wise man or magician; Imhotep, the most probable restoration, was a famous sage, and a historical high lector priest under King Djoser.

1.12 And the Majesty of the Dual King [Che]ops, the justi[fied], said, [‘Let an offering be made of a thousand loaves,] a hundred jars of be[er], [one ox and two balls of incense] [to] 〈the Majesty of〉 the Dual King Djoser, the justified! 1.15 [And let there be given a cake] and a [jug of beer], a big portion of meat, [and a ball of incense] [to the high lector priest Imhotep]. [I have] seen his deed of wisdom.’ [And it was] done [exactly as his Majesty] had commanded.

Prince Chephren then stood up to speak,2 Chephren was subsequently the fourth king of the Fourth Dynasty (c.2520–2494 BC), and builder of the second pyramid at Giza. He tells of a wonder under Nebka (c.2649–2630 BC) who was probably the predecessor of King Djoser, although the Tale implies that he was Djoser's successor; he is, like Djoser, a figure from the very start of the Old Kingdom. Ptah is the creator-god of Memphis, the capital of the Old Kingdom kings, near modern Cairo. Life-of-the-Two-Lands is a designation of the north-western area of Memphis; it alludes to the city's position at the meeting-point of Upper and Lower Egypt. [and said, ‘I shall let] your Majesty [hear] a wonder which happened in the time of [your] forefather Nebka, the justified, 1.20 as he proceeded to the temple of Ptah, Lord of Life-of-the-Two-Lands. Now, his Majesty himself had gone to [make an offering at Memphis]. His Majesty himself did the performance of the [rite], [and] the high lector priest Ubainer [was with him].3 Ubainer is a fictional character, as are the subsequent wonder-workers. [Now,] the wife of Ubainer [loved] a c[ommoner]4 While the wealthy Ubainer is away with the king performing a ritual, his wife commits adultery with a commoner, whom she seduces with a gift of clothes. Although Chephren's tale is very fragmentary, the main plot is clear. [……………………………‥] [total of 4 verses lost] [……………………………‥] 2.1 [Then she had] a box [carri]ed to him, full of clothes [……….]5 Perhaps restore ‘by her housemaid’? He came back with the house[maid]. [Now, some] days [after this]— there was a pav[ilion] in Ubainer's [garden]— 2.5 the commoner [said to Uba]iner's [wife], “But there's a pavilion [in Ubainer's garden], isn't there? Look, let's spend a little time in it!” [Then] Ubainer's [wife sent] to the steward [who looked after the garden], [to say], “Let the pavilion [which is in the garden] be made ready [like a …]!” and she passed the day there drinking 2.10 [with the commoner, until they were] content. Now, when [it was evening], he [came away]. And he went down to the pool.6 i.e. for a post-coital bath. [And] the housemaid [waited on him at] the [pool], [while the steward was nearby, and he said, “I]'ll go [to] Ubainer!”

2.15 [Now when the next day dawned], [the steward] went [to inform him about] this matter, [and said, “Your wife's done a deed in] your pa[vilion] [she and] the [commoner] and he [then went down] 〈to〉 the pool. [Then] he returned to his [home] 2.20 [having washed in] the shallows of the water.” Then that [……………‥].7 Perhaps restore ‘Ubainer became angry’? Then [Ubainer said], “Go, bring me [my doc]uments [in my chest] of ebony and electrum, [and I’ll] fash[ion and s]end [a] mess[enger!]” [Then] he [modell]ed a [wax] crocodile, seven [fingers long].8 Documents and chests are associated with magic throughout the Tale (see n. 41). The wax figure measures 13 cm; such figures were a common element in Egyptian magic. The crocodile is often an animal of death, especially as an agent of divine retribution. Seven is a magical number, and occurs throughout this tale (3.13, 3.15, 3.17). [And he] read out [a spell] reading [it thus], “[As for the man] who will come to wash in my pool, 3.1 [you shall seize] that commoner [in your mouth]!” Then he gave it to the [stew]ard, and said to him, “Now, [wh]en the commoner has gone down to my pool, as is his daily custom, you shall throw [this] crocodile [into the water] after him!” The [steward] then went, 3.5 and took the wax crocodile with him. Then Ubainer's wife sent to the steward who looked after the [garden], to say, “Have the pavilion in the garden made ready! Look, I'm coming to relax in it.” Then the pavilion was made ready with every good thing. [They] then went,9 They are the wife and her housemaid. Making holiday here includes having sex. 3.10 and they made holiday with the commoner. Now when it was evening, the commoner then came away, as was his daily custom. Then the [steward] threw the wax crocodile after him into the water. Then it [became] a crocodile of seven cubits.10 The crocodile is 3.65 m long. There is wordplay between cubit and seize (they are homophonous). The actions of the crocodile are realistic, as the reptile does kill its prey by drowning. Then it seized the commoner [in its mouth]. 3.15 Now, Ubainer had to remain with the Majesty of the Dual King Nebka, [the justified], for seven days, while the commoner was in the dep[ths of the pool] [without anything to] breathe [there]. Now, when it was the seventh day, the Dual King Nebka, the justified, then proceeded [southwards]. Then the high lector priest Ubainer placed himself in the royal presence. Then Ubainer said, “[Look, a deed] has been told to me! 3.20 May your Majesty proceed and see the wonder which has happened [in] your Majesty's time— a commoner [under water]!” [Then his Majesty went with] Ubainer. Then Ubainer [summoned the] crocodile, saying, “Bring [the] commoner [immediately]!” [The] crocodile [came] out, [with the commoner in its mouth]. Then the high lector priest Ubainer said, “[That commoner—release] him!” Then it [spat] him [out]. Then it put [him down without having harmed] him. 4.1 And the Majesty of the Dual King Nebka, the justified, said, “This is surely a fierce crocodile!” Ubainer then bent down. Then he took hold of it. And in his hand it was a wax crocodile. And the high lector priest Ubainer recounted the thing 4.5 that the commoner had been doing in his house with his wife, to the Majesty of the Dual King Nebka, the justified. Then his Majesty said to the crocodile, “Take what is yours!”11 The king gives the death sentence, expressing it as giving the creature its due; a sense of decorum is maintained even in the face of fabulous events. The crocodile then went down to the [depths] of the lake; no one ever knew where it had gone with him. Then the [Majesty of] the Dual King Nebka, the justified, had Ubainer's wife taken away to a plot north of the Residence. 4.10 Then he had her burnt, [and she became] refuse for the river.12 Fire is an attested means of execution, but in actual life adultery tended to be dealt with in a less extreme manner. Both of the adulterers end up in the water, a place often associated with the unburied dead. Look, this is a wonder which happened [in] the time of 〈your〉 forefather, the Dual King Nebka, 〈the justified〉, something the high lector priest Ubainer did!’ And the Majesty of the Dual King Cheops, the justified, said, ‘Let an offering be made of a thousand loaves,13 For Cheops’ response, see n. 1. a hundred jars of beer, one ox and two balls of incense to the 〈Majesty of〉 the Dual King Nebka, the justified! 4.15 And let there be given a cake, a jug of beer, a big portion of meat, and a ball of incense, to the high lector priest Ubainer. I have seen his deed of wisdom.’ And it was done exactly as his Majesty had commanded.

〈Prince〉 Bauefre then stood up to speak,14 This prince is otherwise unknown, apart from a Middle Kingdom graffito with a list of royal names. Nevertheless he is perhaps a historical figure, possibly the prince of Cheops and vizier who is attested in Fourth Dynasty monuments as Horbaef. He provides a much more recent tale of wonder than his brothers. Sneferu was the father and predecessor of Cheops, and the first king of the Fourth Dynasty (c.2575–2551 BC). He also features in The Words of Neferti (q.v.) as a jovial ‘good old king’. and said, ‘I shall let [your] Majesty hear a wonder, which happened in the time of your father Sneferu, [the justified], 4.20 [something] the high lector priest Djadjaemankh [did]. Yesterday illu[mines … …] success,15 Bauefre's opening remarks apparently concern the benefits conferred by the past, or perhaps the virtues of a tale from the more recent past. The Royal House and the Great House are terms for the king's palace. […………………] [… up to to]day, these things which have not happened before. [One day, the Dual King Sneferu, the justified, was going round] every [chamber] of the Royal House (l.p.h.!) to seek [some relief] for himself, [and he could not find any]. [And he said], “Go, bring me the high [lector priest] and scribe [of the book Djadjaemankh!]”16 It is likely that the tale here echoes the lost start of the whole Tale, and a contrast may have been intended between how the good king Sneferu dispelled his boredom and how Cheops attempts to. And he was brought to him immediately. And [his Majesty] said to him, “[I've gone round every chamber of the Royal] House [(l.p.h.!)], 5.1 to seek some relief for myself, and I cannot find any.” And Djadjaemankh said to him, “O may your Majesty proceed to the lake of the Great House (l.p.h.!)! Equip a barque for yourself with all the beauties from inside your palace, and the heart of your Majesty will gain relief at seeing them row a rowing trip, 5.5 upstream and downstream. And you'll see the beautiful pools of your lake-land. And you'll see its countryside and its beautiful banks. Your heart will gain relief by this.” “I'll certainly have a rowing trip!17 Contrary to the usual practice, the change in speakers is not indicated, to suggest how quickly Sneferu replies. He elaborates on Djadjaemankh's suggestion with great glee and sumptuousness. The description of the court beauties evokes epithets of Hathor, the goddess of sexuality, implying that the expedition has a ritual aspect. Religious festivals, including Hathor's, involved rowing expeditions. These parodic allusions to religious rites may make the incident more glorious or simply frivolous. Nets of beads were sometimes worn over dresses as jewellery, but Sneferu enthusiastically dispenses with the dresses, making the women near-nude. Let me be brought twenty oars of ebony, worked in gold, with handles of sandal wood, worked in electrum! Let me be brought twenty women, 5.10 with beautiful limbs, deep-breasted and braided, who are not yet stretched with childbirth! And let me be brought twenty nets; and give these nets to the women, when their clothes have been laid aside!” Then it was done exactly as his Majesty had commanded.

And they rowed upstream and downstream. 5.15 And his Majesty's heart was happy at seeing them row. Then the woman who was at the stroke oar got her braid entangled. Then a fish-pendant of new turquoise18 Catfish amulets were common pieces of Middle Kingdom jewellery, and were worn from a braided plait of hair. They were perhaps amulets against drowning, suitable for rowers. New turquoise was especially valued, as turquoise was believed to discolour with age. fell in the water. Then she was still, and did not row. 5.20 And her side was still, and did not row. And his Majesty said, “Shouldn't you row?” Then they said, “Our stroke's still, and isn't rowing!” Then his Majesty said to her, “[Why] aren't you rowing?” Then she said, “[It's because a] fish-pendant of new [turquoise] [has fallen] in the water.” Then he had [… …, and said to her],19 Perhaps restore: ‘had [her put back at the oar and said to her]’. The frank informality of this exchange continues as the benevolent king addresses his sage in a merry, casual manner. “[If you] want [it], it's replaced!” Then she said, “I want my own thing, not one like it!” And [his Majesty] said, “[Go bring me] the [high] lector priest [Djadjaemankh!]” [And he was brought to him immediately]. 6.1 And his Majesty said, “Djadjaemankh, my brother! I've done the things you said. And the heart of my Majesty gained relief at seeing them row. Then a fish-pendant of new turquoise, belonging to one of the strokes, fell in the water. Then she was still, and did not row. And so it happened that she disrupted her side. 6.5 Then I said to her, ‘Why aren't you rowing?’ Then she said to me, ‘It's because a fish-pendant of new turquoise has fallen into the water.’ Then I said to her, ‘Row! Look, I'll replace it myself!’ Then she said to me, ‘I want my own thing, not one like it!’ ” Then the high lector priest Djadjaemankh said his words of magic. Then he put one side of the lake's water on top of the other, 6.10 and he found the fish-pendant lying on a sherd. Then he brought it back, and it was given to its owner. Now the water was twelve cubits in the middle,20 i.e. 6.3 m. and it ended up as twenty-four cubits, once it was folded. Then he said his words of magic. Then he brought these waters of the lake back to their usual position,21 The tale ends with order restored and the court making holiday. The same activity was indulged in by the adulterous couple in the second tale (3.9–10 and n. 9), but to very different purpose; here it is a festival, not forbidden intercourse. Both tales involve water (cf. 4.6–7) and a figure of an animal (2.22–3). and his Majesty spent all the day making holiday, with the entire Royal Household (l.p.h.!). 6.15 And so he rewarded the high lector priest Djadjaemankh with every good thing. Look, this is a wonder which happened in the time of your father the Dual King Sneferu, the justified, something the high lector priest and scribe of the book Djadjaemankh did!’ And the Majesty of the Dual King Cheops, the justified, said,22 For Cheops’ response, see n. 1. ‘Let an offering be made of a thousand loaves, a hundred jars of beer, one ox and two balls of incense to the Majesty of the Dual King Sneferu, the justified! 6.20 And let there be given a cake, a jug of beer, a ball of incense, to the high lector priest and scribe of the book Djadjaemankh. I have seen his deed of wisdom.’ And it was done exactly as his Majesty had commanded.

Prince Hordedef then stood up to speak,23 Hordedef was a historical prince, well known to the Middle Kingdom audience as the supposed author of a Teaching, and a famous sage (see p. 292); he did not succeed to the throne. His opening breaks the pattern of the previous tales, by implying that what is past is unreliable, and that one cannot be certain of the truthfulness of the other tales (cf. n. 15). His telling of a present wonder would be wittily ironic in such a historical setting for the actual Middle Kingdom audience. The way in which the wonder is introduced gives it a greater sense of the unknown than the other tales have. and said, ‘[How to tell a past] deed is something that only those who have passed away know. Truth cannot be known from Falsehood. [There is someone living under] your Majesty, in your own time, 6.25 who is ignorant [only of what does not exist and who knows all that does].’ And his Majesty said, ‘What is this,24 Cheops’ response further disrupts the pattern of an introduction followed by a narrative established in the other princes’ speeches. Hor[dedef, my son]?’ [And Prince Hor]dedef [said], 7.1 ‘There is a commoner called Djedi,25 Hordedef's sage is no court ritualist; like many literary heroes he is a commoner. The contrast between the commoner and Cheops’ court here prepares for the subsequent movement of the narrative away from the court. His rank also contrasts him with the adulterous commoner of the second tale (2.4–4.10). The name Djedi means the ‘enduring one’—a positive quality. Djed-Sneferu (‘Enduring is Sneferu’) is a historical settlement linked to that king's pyramid at Maidum; the location associates Djedi with the good king Sneferu, under whose rule he will have spent much of his life, which amounts to the ideal age of 110. In this context, his being a commoner (literally ‘little man’) is a witty touch, as this word can also mean ‘youth’. Djedi's diet, which is envisaged as his daily consumption, testifies to his keen appetite and his extraordinary health (a result of his virtue), and in itself makes him a wonderful figure. who resides in Djed-Sneferu. He is a commoner, a hundred and ten years old. He eats five hundred loaves of bread, a shoulder of ox for meat, and also drinks a hundred jars of beer, up to this day. He knows how to rejoin a severed head.26 The three wonders match in number the three previous tales of wonder. The first miraculous activity is quasi-divine, and is an act elsewhere associated with the creator-god. The next deed—dominance over wild animals—is symbolic of the containment of chaos, and recalls the animal magic of the second tale (2.22–4.7; also the fish-pendant of the third tale: 5.16–6.10). Although these wonders are potentially serious, they are presented primarily for the audience's entertainment. 7.5 He knows how to make a lion walk behind him with its leash on the ground. He knows the number of the Chambers of the Sanctuary of Thoth.’27 The list of wonders concludes with an obscure reference to mysterious knowledge: Thoth is the god of wisdom and of judgement; his Sanctuary may be an otherworldly, mythical place. The word for Chambers implies a private apartment. Hordedef may be claiming that Djedi knows how many chambers there are in the sanctuary, or number could mean ‘measurements’ or some other specifications. The word Chambers, however, could be used figuratively to mean small shrines. A royal search for the details of a particular divine image is a motif that is found in monumental inscriptions, which are parodied here. Whatever the meaning of this phrase (and the exact meaning may be irrelevant), the information is deliberately esoteric. Now, the Majesty of the Dual King Cheops, the justified, would spend all the day28 Cheops wishes to copy the chambers in his Horizon, i.e. his pyramid at Giza. Whereas Sneferu earlier roamed his palace for ‘relief’ (4.22–5.1), Cheops is seeking hidden knowledge. seeking for himself these Chambers of the Sanctuary of Thoth, in order to make himself ones like them for his Horizon. And his Majesty said, ‘You yourself, Hordedef, my son, shall bring him to me!’ Then boats were made ready for Prince Hordedef. 7.10 He then went southward to Djed-Sneferu. When these boats had moored at the riverbank, he then went overland, reclining in a palanquin of ebony,29 This incidental echo of Sneferu's sumptuous oars (5.8–9) associates Djedi and Hordedef yet again with the good king; the materials also echo those of Ubainer's chest (2.21–2). with carrying poles of tamarisk wood mounted in gold. When he had reached Djedi, the palanquin was set down. He then stood up to address him, 7.15 and found him lying on a mat, on the threshold of his [porch], with a servant holding his head, rubbing it for him,30 These serene and elegant activities (involving unguents) are shown being done to Vizier Ptahhotep II in his Sixth Dynasty tomb; they are the height of luxury, and an indication of Djedi's success. and another massaging his feet. Then Prince Hordedef said, ‘Your condition is like living before old age—31 Stately greetings compliment Djedi on both his youthful vigour and his extreme old age (the two are contrasted in a pair of threefold descriptions). Sleeping until dawn is a common description of the happy life of the virtuous. Blessed one is a term of respect often applied to the dead. The prince then makes two promises to Djedi, one for continuance of life, and one for its completion; the emphasis on food is pertinent for Djedi (see 7.2–4 and n. 25). though age is the time of death, the time of burial, the time of joining the earth— sleeping until dawn, free from illness, without the hacking of a cough. 7.20 Here are greetings for a blessed one! I have come here to summon you on a commission of my father Cheops, the justified. You will eat fine things of the king's giving, and the provisions of his retinue! He will make you pass a good lifetime, and reach your forefathers who are in the necropolis.’ And this Djedi said, ‘Welcome! Welcome!32 Literally ‘In peace!’ Djedi's greeting is elevated as befits a sage, and even more formal than the prince's. His four wishes repay Hordedef's promises twice over, and cover a wide spectrum. Two wishes refer to this life, the third is legalistic (but may have otherworldly reference), and the last refers to the otherworld: He who Shrouds the Tired One is the embalmer of the dead, and the Portal is one of the gateways in the underworld through which the dead must pass. Djedi, appropriately for an aged sage concerned with lasting wisdom, has one eye on eternity, and goes further than Hordedef in referring to the otherworld. Hordedef, prince whom his father loves! May your father Cheops, the justified, favour you! 7.25 May he advance your position among the elders! May your spirit vent its anger against your enemy! May your soul know the roads which lead to the Portal of Him who Shrouds the Tired One! 8.1 Here are greetings for a prince!’ Then Prince Hordedef33 A striking gesture of respect from a prince to a commoner. held out his arms to him. Then he raised him up. He then proceeded with him to the riverbank, giving him his arm. Then Djedi said, ‘Let me be given a barge,34 Djedi's children probably mean his pupils, who will assist him. Just as Djedi returned Hordedef's greetings by doubling them (see n. 32), so the prince gives him twice what he asked for. The two gentlemen are perfectly in accord. to bring me 〈my〉 children and also my writings!’ Then two boats and their crews were made to wait on him. 8.5 Djedi then came northwards in the barque in which Prince Hordedef was.

Now, when he had reached the Residence, Prince Hordedef then entered to report to the Majesty of the Dual King Cheops, the justified. And Prince Hordedef said, ‘Sovereign, my lord! I have brought Djedi.’ And his Majesty said, ‘Go bring him to me!’ 8.10 His Majesty then proceeded to the Hall of the Great House (l.p.h.!). And Djedi was ushered in to him. And his Majesty said, ‘How is it,35 Cheops earlier said he had metaphorically ‘seen’—i.e. heard accounts of—the wonders told to him (1.16, 4.16–17, 6.21), but now he actually sees a wonderworker. His speech is, characteristically, an impatiently abrupt question. Djedi, that I have not seen you before?’ And Djedi said, ‘He comes who is summoned,36 Djedi's answer is respectful, but almost impertinently polite. The meeting contrasts sharply with the elegant and leisurely dialogue between him and the virtuous Hordedef (7.16–8.1), and the earlier ones between Sneferu, the maiden, and Djadjaemankh (5.20–6.7 and n. 19). It is already clear that the king will not get what he wants, but that this commoner will get the better of him. Sovereign, 〈my lord〉! Summon me, and look, I've come!’ And his Majesty said, ‘Is what they say true— that you know how to rejoin a severed head?’ And Djedi said, ‘Yes, I know how to, Sovereign, my lord!’ 8.15 And his Majesty said, ‘Let me be brought37 Cheops peremptorily proceeds with the first of the promised wonders, which should be an act of restitution, not injury, as Cheops demands. The Stronghold is a place where people were confined, a sort of work camp, but although the victim of Cheops’ entertainment is despicable, the king is clearly in the wrong, and Djedi directly contradicts his order with an evocative statement. The noble flock is mankind, the ‘flock of God’ (The Teaching for King Merikare, 46a), and god ordained that mankind should be cared for. Djedi alludes to the idea of a king as the shepherd of mankind, and implies that Cheops should know better. He proceeds to satisfy Cheops’ curiosity with a much smaller and less noble animal. the prisoner who is in the Stronghold, and inflict the injury on him!’ And Djedi said, ‘Not to mankind, Sovereign, my lord! Look, doing such a thing to the noble flock is not ordained!’ Then a goose was brought to him and its head was cut off. Then the goose was placed at the west side of the Hall, 8.20 and its head at the east side of the Hall. Then Djedi said his words of magic. And the goose stood up, and waddled, and its head likewise. Now, when one reached the other, the goose stood up and cackled. Then he had a khetaa-goose brought to him,38 The khetaa is a larger type of goose, but is unidentified. Cheops proceeds to bring on bigger and better animals, but the slaughter is limited to animals, and not the ‘noble flock’. and he did the same to it. Then his Majesty had a bull brought to him, 8.25 and its head was made to fall on the ground. Then Djedi said his words of magic. Then the bull stood up behind him, 9.1 with its leash still fallen on the ground.39 A problematic passage. It seems that, as the bull was decapitated, the leash fell on the ground, and remains there when the head is restored. On this reading, the promised miracle of making ‘a lion walk with its leash behind it’ (7.4–5) is not performed, and Cheops rushes impatiently to his chief concern. However, it is also possible that the copyist accidentally omitted the miracle of the lion, except for this concluding phrase (cf. the omission a few verses later: 9.5 and n. 42). Then the King Cheops, the justified, said, ‘And how about what they say, that you know the number of the Chambers of the Sanctuary of Thoth?’ And Djedi said, ‘May it please you, I don't know their number,40 Djedi makes another negative reply to the king. His lack of knowledge about the Chambers (see n. 27)—which contradicts the prince's claim about his knowledge (7.5–6)—suggests that they must be extremely esoteric information. Sovereign, my lord! But I do know where it is kept.’ And his Majesty said, ‘Where?’ 9.5 And this Djedi said, ‘There is this casket,41 As Cheops’ impatience grows, the Chambers become more and more distant: now their number is hidden in a strange flint chest (as are books of magic in other tales). In funerary texts, chests are connected with the Sungod, who dominates the following episodes, as is flint (a fiery stone). Sipti means ‘investigation’, and the name may denote a room of inventories, although it may also allude to the ‘investigation’ of the soul after death. Heliopolis is the city sacred to the Sungod, and one with which Thoth too was associated. The whole description is deliberately obscure and evocative. of flint, in a room, called Sipti, in Heliopolis. 〈Look, it is〉 in the casket.’42 The copyist seems to have omitted a half verse and a whole verse here. As king, Cheops is nominally high priest of every temple, and so should have access to the room in Heliopolis. Either the author did not take this into account, or Cheops’ inability (like his partial knowledge) is a sign of his failure to be an ideal king; Sneferu only needed a sage to tell him how to enjoy himself (4.22–5.13), but Cheops’ failing is more serious in every respect. 〈And his Majesty said, ‘Go bring me it!’〉 And Djedi said, ‘Sovereign, my lord! Look, I'm not the one who'll bring you it.’ And his Majesty said, ‘Who'll bring me it?’ And Djedi said, ‘The eldest of the three children in the womb of Ruddjedet will bring you it.’ And his Majesty said, ‘But I want it! These things you say—who is this Ruddjedet?’ And Djedi said, ‘She is the wife of a priest of Re Lord of Sakhbu,43 Djedi's answer puts a conclusive stop to Cheops’ questioning. Sakhbu was a cult centre of the Sungod Re, in the 2nd Lower Egyptian nome in the west Delta, near modern Zat el-Kom, c.40 km north-west of Memphis. Ruddjedet's name recalls Djedi's, with its positive associations (see n. 25). The Sungod will have appeared to her in the form of her husband: subsequent events suggest she is unaware of her children's divine paternity. The worthy office is the kingship. Great Seer is the title of the High Priest of the Sungod in his city of Heliopolis; this office, which the eldest will hold before becoming king, gives him access to Sipti. In the Middle Kingdom the king's role as intermediary between men and gods was expressed both through his status as a sun-priest and through the title ‘Son of Re’. Thus, the offices and parentage of the children imply that they are worthier to be king than Cheops is, and at this snub he falls into a sulk. The actual succession of the Fifth Dynasty is completely rewritten here in a folklorelike manner. 9.10 who is pregnant with three children of Re Lord of Sakhbu. He has said of them, “They will perform the worthy office in this entire land. The eldest of them will be the Great Seer in Heliopolis.” ’ And his Majesty fell into a bad mood at this. And Djedi said, ‘What's this mood,44 Djedi attempts to placate the king with a limited promise of the ideal pattern of filial succession. Your son is presumably Chephren (see n. 2), and his son is Mycerinus (c.2490–2472 BC), the builders of the second and third pyramids at Giza; the Tale passes over Cheops’ immediate but short-lived actual successor (Redjedef, see n. 1) and Mycerinus’ (Shepseskaf). Cheops’ response conspicuously ignores Djedi's reassurance (see n. 45). Sovereign, my lord? Is it because of the three children I mentioned? Consider—first your son, then his son, then one of them.’ And his Majesty said, 9.15 ‘When will Ruddjedet give birth?’ ‘She will give birth on the fifteenth day of the first month of the Season of Emergence.’45 There is no marker of a change in speaker, perhaps indicating Djedi's quick certainty. The Season of Emergence was when the fields were due to emerge from the Inundation—a season of creation, the Egyptian spring. There may have been some symbolism in the date, but it was probably chosen simply to cause Cheops difficulties reaching Sakhbu, and so advance the plot, since water is needed to cross Two-Fish Canal, which presumably lay south of Sakhbu, between it and the capital. Cheops addresses Djedi as servant, whereas the jovial Sneferu called his wonder-worker ‘brother’ (6.1). Cheops’ response is probably disingenuous; after his peremptory behaviour with the earlier wonders, it seems likely that he has a specific and unworthy motive. This could be to take the chest for himself, but his attention seems to have shifted to the children: the narrative arouses in the audience suspicions that his journey is to ensure his own children's succession, or even perhaps to do away with the rival claimants to the throne. Whether such suspicions are justified would only have been answered in the missing final episodes of the Tale. And his Majesty said, ‘That's when the sandbanks of Two-Fish Canal are exposed. My servant, if only I'd already crossed it myself, to see the temple of Re Lord of Sakhbu!’ And Djedi said, ‘Then I'll make there be four cubits of water46 This promised wonder recalls Djadjaemankh's water-miracle during Sneferu's boating trip (6.7–13). Compared with the earlier wonder, Djedi will move a small amount of water—some two metres depth; this may suggest that Djedi's compliance is grudging. The earlier wonders are about to be surpassed by the divine birth. on the sandbanks of Two-Fish Canal.’ His Majesty then proceeded to his palace. And his Majesty said, ‘Have Djedi assigned47 The allowance is similar to the offerings bestowed on the dead kings (with vegetables instead of the ritual incense since Djedi is still alive (see 1.15 and n. 1)); it is in excess—roughly double—of even Djedi's lively appetite (7.2–4 (see n. 25)). Cheops acts in a proper manner here, and the endowment marks the end of this episode, but not necessarily the end of Djedi's role in the original complete Tale. 9.20 to the house of Prince Hordedef, and he will reside with him, provided with provisions of a thousand loaves, a hundred jars of beer, one ox, and a hundred bundles of vegetables.’ And it was done exactly as his Majesty had commanded.

One of those days,48 A narrative formula introduces a new stage in the Tale. The narrative moves from the imperfect court of Cheops to the divine court, ruled by the Sungod, the archetype of kingship (for Sakhbu, see n. 43). Re's announcement confirms Djedi's prophecies. Isis and Nephthys are the mother and aunt of the royal god Horus; Meskhenet is a goddess of birth and destiny; Heqet is a goddess of the primordial creation and birth; and Khnum is the creator-god who models human bodies in the womb. The gods are encouraged through reciprocity, a fundamental principle of virtue and piety: they should help the children as they will be pious kings. Their piety may contrast them with Cheops, whom much later Classical accounts describe as impious. Ruddjedet was suffering; her giving birth was painful. And the Majesty of Re Lord of Sakhbu said to Isis, Nephthys, Meskhenet, Heqet, and Khnum, ‘O may you go forth and make Ruddjedet give birth to the three children who are in her womb, 9.25 who will perform the worthy office in this entire land, for they will build your temples, provision your altars, make your libation-vessels flourish, and increase your divine offerings!’ These Gods then proceeded,49 The goddesses’ disguise as singing- and dancing-girls recalls the court beauties en travesti of the third tale (5.9–13). 10.1 having taken the forms of musicians, and Khnum was with Them carrying the baggage. They then arrived at the house of Reusre,50 Reusre (‘Re-is-powerful’) is a fitting name for a priest of Re. His disordered kilt is probably an indication that he is distraught, but it may allude to an act of sympathetic magic, in which undoing knots was supposed to ease giving birth. The necklaces and sistra are pieces of jewellery and musical instruments that are appropriate for goddesses in disguise: they would be carried by temple dancers in rituals, but were also worn by the goddesses in whose honour such rituals were performed. Thus presenting Reusre with these regalia is a greeting with a ritual aspect (cf. The Tale of Sinuhe, B 268–70 and n. 73). and They found him standing with his kilt upside down. And They presented him with Their necklaces and sistra. Then he said to Them, ‘O my ladies! Look, this is because a woman is suffering; her giving birth is painful!’ 10.5 Then They said, ‘Let us see her! Look, we know about giving birth.’ Then he said to Them, ‘Come in!’ They then entered before Ruddjedet. Then They sealed the room with her and Them in it.51 Although childbirth was an exclusively female concern, the secrecy surrounding it here is probably due to the importance of the children. The description of the births is highly repetitive (still more so than elsewhere), which may be appropriate for these stately, ritual actions. The episode alludes to representations of the birth of the king at the hands of the gods, which are attested on temple walls only from later periods, but which probably already existed in the Middle Kingdom. Then Isis placed Herself before her, Nephthys behind her, and Heqet was hastening the birth. Then Isis said, ‘May you not be powerful in her womb,52 Egyptian birth names are often a wish, or have a meaning connected with the mother's experience of birth. Here folk etymologies are accordingly invented for the names of the actual kings, in the form of wishes for them to come peaceably out of Ruddjedet's womb. The first son's name recalls that of his earthly father, Reusre (see n. 50). To be powerful in Egyptian is user; the first king of the Fifth Dynasty was actually named Userkaf, meaning ‘His spirit is powerful’ (c.2465–2458 BC). The Tale treats the historical kings’ names rather freely. in this your name of Userref!’ 10.10 And this child slipped out onto Her arms,53 The children are 52 cm tall, rather large by natural standards. They are described, as befits their god-like status, as divine images, gilded and inlaid; the word appearance is synonymous with the word for the king's titulary; the headcloth was a royal headdress. as a child of one cubit, with strong bones, the appearance of whose limbs was gold, whose head-cloth was true lapis lazuli. And They washed him, when his navel cord had been cut, and he was placed on a sheet as a pillow. Then Meskhenet presented Herself to him. Then She said, ‘A king who will perform the kingship in this entire land!’ 〈And〉 Khnum made his limbs healthy. 10.15 And Isis placed Herself before her, Nephthys behind her, and Heqet was hastening the birth. And Isis said, ‘May you not kick in her womb,54 To kick in Egyptian is sah. Sahure was the second king of the Fifth Dynasty (c.2458–2446 BC)—a name that may mean ‘One close to Re’. in this your name of Sahure!’ And this child slipped out onto Her arms, as a child of one cubit, with strong bones, the appearance of whose limbs 〈was gold〉, whose head-cloth was true lapis lazuli. And They washed him, when his navel cord had been cut, 10.20 and he was placed on a sheet as a pillow. Then Meskhenet presented Herself to him. Then She said, ‘A king who will perform the kingship in this entire land!’ And Khnum made his limbs healthy. And Isis placed Herself before her, Nephthys behind her, and Heqet was hastening the birth. And Isis said, ‘May you not stay dark in her womb,55 To stay dark (i.e. to stay hidden in the womb) is in Egyptian kek. The third king of the Fifth Dynasty was Neferirkare Kakai (c.2446–2426 BC). in this your name of Keku!’ 10.25 And this child slipped out onto Her arms, as a child of one cubit, with strong bones, the appearance of whose limbs was gold, whose head-cloth was true lapis lazuli. Then Meskhenet presented Herself to him. 11.1 Then She said, ‘A king who will perform the kingship in this entire land!’ And Khnum made his limbs healthy. And They washed him, when his navel cord had been cut,56 This difference in the order of events of the third birth is presumably a slip of the copyist. and he was placed on a sheet as a pillow. The Gods then went out, having delivered Ruddjedet of the three children. 11.5 Then They said, ‘Be glad, Reusre! Look, three children are born to you!’ Then he said to Them ‘My ladies! What can I do for you? Please give this ten gallons of grain to your porter57 Tip is literally ‘the price of beer’ (i.e. ‘pour-boire’); Egyptian beer was made from partly baked bread (see n. 59). The tip is very generous; drunkenness often accompanied religious ceremonies as well as dances, so the tip is more appropriate than Reusre realizes. and take it as a tip!’ And Khnum loaded Himself with the ten gallons of grain. 11.10 They then proceeded to where They had come from. Then Isis said to the Gods, ‘What did we come here for, if we don't do a wonder for these children, which we can report to their father who sent us here?’ Then They fashioned three lordly crowns (l.p.h.!).58 The regal crowns are the specific wonder of this episode, whose general atmosphere is more marvellous than that of the preceding ones; the crowns are also necessary for the plot to continue, as they reveal the children's destiny to their mother, and thus indirectly provoke the next episode. The rain is created to prevent the transporting of the grain, and thus to give the gods an excuse to return. And They put them in the ten gallons of grain. Then They made the sky change into wind and rain. 11.15 Then They turned back towards the house. Then They said, ‘Please put this ten gallons of grain in a sealed room here, until we return from making music 〈in the〉 north.’ Then They put the ten gallons of [grain] in a sealed room. Then Ruddjedet became pure59 A period of purification after giving birth. The making ready of the house and the mention of a housemaid recall the adulterous celebrations of the second tale (3.6–9). The grain will enhance the jars by being made into beer to fill them. with the purification of fourteen days. 11.20 Then she said to her housemaid, ‘Is the house made ready?’ Then she said, ‘It's ready with every good thing, except for the jars—they haven't been brought.’ Then Ruddjedet said, ‘But why haven't the jars been brought?’ Then the housemaid said, ‘There's absolutely nothing here to enhance them with, except the musicians’ ten gallons of grain, and it's in a room under their seal.’ 11.25 Then Ruddjedet said, ‘Go down and bring it from there! Then when Reusre returns he can give them60 Ruddjedet is characterized as a dutiful wife who acts responsibly with the grain while her husband is away, but she breaks the goddesses’ seal, and her plan to replace the grain later is less than ideal (to judge from the dissatisfaction at a similar repayment in 5.23–4): the divine children are born into an imperfect world, where there are family shortages and squabbling. repayment for it.’ 12.1 The housemaid then went, and opened the room. Then she heard in the room the noise of singing, music-making, dancing, rejoicing, and all that is done for a king. She then went back. And she repeated all she had heard to Ruddjedet. And she went around the room, and she couldn't find where it was being made.61 Her going around recalls Sneferu's search for pleasure (4.22, 25). The box recalls the mysterious chest in Heliopolis (9.4–5 and n. 41), and another mentioned earlier (2.21–2). Then she put her ear to the sack, and she found that it was being made inside it. 12.5 Then she put 〈it〉 in a box, which was placed inside another sealed container, bound with leather; she put it in the room which contained her belongings, and she sealed it up. Reusre then returned,62 The mention of a pastoral landscape prepares for the couple's holiday mood. The episode recalls the couple of the second tale, whose holiday was, in contrast, adulterous (3.9–10 and n. 9), as well as the end of the third tale (6.13–14 and n. 21). coming from the water-meadow. And Ruddjedet repeated this matter to him. And he was exceedingly happy. They then sat down and made holiday.

Now, some days after this,63 A new incident begins here (cf. n. 48). There is nothing unsympathetic in Ruddjedet's action: beatings were part of a servant's lot. Any doubts about this are dispelled by the girl's subsequent actions, for which she is beaten by her own brother (12.16–17). Nevertheless, the world of the Tale is becoming increasingly fraught and ‘everyday’. 12.10 Ruddjedet quarrelled with the housemaid about something, and she had her punished with a beating. Then the housemaid said to the people in the household, ‘Is this done—this, against me? She's born three kings—64 The maid sees a chance to cause trouble and revenge herself. The incident reminds the audience of Cheops' ambivalent intentions. The existence of more than one claimant to the throne was always a potential source of conflict, and the audience would assume that Ruddjedet wanted to keep her children secret from Cheops. I'll go tell this to the Majesty of the Dual King Cheops, the justified!’ She then went, and she found her older close brother, binding flax and yarn on the threshing floor. 12.15 Then he said to her, ‘Where are you off to, little girl?’ And she repeated this matter to him. Then her brother said to her, ‘So doing what should be done means coming to me, and me joining in denunciations?’ Then he took a bundle of flax to her. Then he gave her a nasty blow. The housemaid then went to get herself a handful of water. Then a crocodile seized her.65 The housemaid is now punished by more potent forces than her brother. The crocodile recalls that of the second tale (2.22–4.7 and n. 8); here it is not of wax and the work of a man, but a real reptile, presumably an agent of vengeance from Re. Her brother then went to tell this 12.20 to Ruddjedet, and he found Ruddjedet sitting bowed down in grief, her mood exceedingly bad.66 The phrase was earlier used of Cheops (9.12); this echo may contrast the wicked Cheops and the dutiful Ruddjedet, or may instead suggest that she is, like him, not perfect. Then he said to her, ‘My lady, why are you in this mood?’ Then she said, ‘It's the little girl who grew up in this house. Look, but she's gone, saying, “I'll go and denounce them!” ’ Then he bent his head down. Then he said, ‘My lady, she actually came to tell me [all that had happened], 12.25 so that she might go off together with me. Then I gave her a nasty blow. Then she went to draw a little water for herself. Then a crocodile seized her.’67 This is the end of the final surviving written page on the back of the roll; following it there is no lacuna, only a blank surface. The present incident ends conclusively here, but this is unlikely to be the end of the whole Tale, as Cheops has announced his wish to visit Sakhebu, with unstated intent. Either the papyrus was an incomplete copy or the rest of the Tale was erased from the papyrus; it is probable that there was at least one other page to the original Tale. [………………‥

Notes:

1. Eleven manuscript lines are lost from the first page—at least twenty verses. There was probably also one other page before this (another fifty verses or so); see Introduction (p. 102) for restoration. A first tale was told perhaps by Prince Redjedef, who became the immediate successor of Cheops (c.2528–2520 BC). Cheops himself (c.2551–2528 BC) was the second king of the Fourth Dynasty and the builder of the Great Pyramid at Giza. He was later regarded as a tyrant because of its overweening size, and the Tale presents him as an imperfect king. Here he orders funerary offerings to be made in honour of the heroes of the tale that he has just heard; the king gets far more than the magician, according to court decorum. Djoser (c.2630–2611 BC) was the most famous king of the Third Dynasty, about a century before Cheops and over eight centuries before the copying of P. Westcar. The lector priest or ‘ritualist’ was in charge of the sacred writings, and often appears in literature as a wise man or magician; Imhotep, the most probable restoration, was a famous sage, and a historical high lector priest under King Djoser.

2. Chephren was subsequently the fourth king of the Fourth Dynasty (c.2520–2494 BC), and builder of the second pyramid at Giza. He tells of a wonder under Nebka (c.2649–2630 BC) who was probably the predecessor of King Djoser, although the Tale implies that he was Djoser's successor; he is, like Djoser, a figure from the very start of the Old Kingdom. Ptah is the creator-god of Memphis, the capital of the Old Kingdom kings, near modern Cairo. Life-of-the-Two-Lands is a designation of the north-western area of Memphis; it alludes to the city's position at the meeting-point of Upper and Lower Egypt.

3. Ubainer is a fictional character, as are the subsequent wonder-workers.

4. While the wealthy Ubainer is away with the king performing a ritual, his wife commits adultery with a commoner, whom she seduces with a gift of clothes. Although Chephren's tale is very fragmentary, the main plot is clear.

5. Perhaps restore ‘by her housemaid’?

6. i.e. for a post-coital bath.

7. Perhaps restore ‘Ubainer became angry’?

8. Documents and chests are associated with magic throughout the Tale (see n. 41). The wax figure measures 13 cm; such figures were a common element in Egyptian magic. The crocodile is often an animal of death, especially as an agent of divine retribution. Seven is a magical number, and occurs throughout this tale (3.13, 3.15, 3.17).

9. They are the wife and her housemaid. Making holiday here includes having sex.

10. The crocodile is 3.65 m long. There is wordplay between cubit and seize (they are homophonous). The actions of the crocodile are realistic, as the reptile does kill its prey by drowning.

11. The king gives the death sentence, expressing it as giving the creature its due; a sense of decorum is maintained even in the face of fabulous events.

12. Fire is an attested means of execution, but in actual life adultery tended to be dealt with in a less extreme manner. Both of the adulterers end up in the water, a place often associated with the unburied dead.

13. For Cheops’ response, see n. 1.

14. This prince is otherwise unknown, apart from a Middle Kingdom graffito with a list of royal names. Nevertheless he is perhaps a historical figure, possibly the prince of Cheops and vizier who is attested in Fourth Dynasty monuments as Horbaef. He provides a much more recent tale of wonder than his brothers. Sneferu was the father and predecessor of Cheops, and the first king of the Fourth Dynasty (c.2575–2551 BC). He also features in The Words of Neferti (q.v.) as a jovial ‘good old king’.

15. Bauefre's opening remarks apparently concern the benefits conferred by the past, or perhaps the virtues of a tale from the more recent past. The Royal House and the Great House are terms for the king's palace.

16. It is likely that the tale here echoes the lost start of the whole Tale, and a contrast may have been intended between how the good king Sneferu dispelled his boredom and how Cheops attempts to.

17. Contrary to the usual practice, the change in speakers is not indicated, to suggest how quickly Sneferu replies. He elaborates on Djadjaemankh's suggestion with great glee and sumptuousness. The description of the court beauties evokes epithets of Hathor, the goddess of sexuality, implying that the expedition has a ritual aspect. Religious festivals, including Hathor's, involved rowing expeditions. These parodic allusions to religious rites may make the incident more glorious or simply frivolous. Nets of beads were sometimes worn over dresses as jewellery, but Sneferu enthusiastically dispenses with the dresses, making the women near-nude.

18. Catfish amulets were common pieces of Middle Kingdom jewellery, and were worn from a braided plait of hair. They were perhaps amulets against drowning, suitable for rowers. New turquoise was especially valued, as turquoise was believed to discolour with age.

19. Perhaps restore: ‘had [her put back at the oar and said to her]’. The frank informality of this exchange continues as the benevolent king addresses his sage in a merry, casual manner.

20. i.e. 6.3 m.

21. The tale ends with order restored and the court making holiday. The same activity was indulged in by the adulterous couple in the second tale (3.9–10 and n. 9), but to very different purpose; here it is a festival, not forbidden intercourse. Both tales involve water (cf. 4.6–7) and a figure of an animal (2.22–3).

22. For Cheops’ response, see n. 1.

23. Hordedef was a historical prince, well known to the Middle Kingdom audience as the supposed author of a Teaching, and a famous sage (see p. 292); he did not succeed to the throne. His opening breaks the pattern of the previous tales, by implying that what is past is unreliable, and that one cannot be certain of the truthfulness of the other tales (cf. n. 15). His telling of a present wonder would be wittily ironic in such a historical setting for the actual Middle Kingdom audience. The way in which the wonder is introduced gives it a greater sense of the unknown than the other tales have.

24. Cheops’ response further disrupts the pattern of an introduction followed by a narrative established in the other princes’ speeches.

25. Hordedef's sage is no court ritualist; like many literary heroes he is a commoner. The contrast between the commoner and Cheops’ court here prepares for the subsequent movement of the narrative away from the court. His rank also contrasts him with the adulterous commoner of the second tale (2.4–4.10). The name Djedi means the ‘enduring one’—a positive quality. Djed-Sneferu (‘Enduring is Sneferu’) is a historical settlement linked to that king's pyramid at Maidum; the location associates Djedi with the good king Sneferu, under whose rule he will have spent much of his life, which amounts to the ideal age of 110. In this context, his being a commoner (literally ‘little man’) is a witty touch, as this word can also mean ‘youth’. Djedi's diet, which is envisaged as his daily consumption, testifies to his keen appetite and his extraordinary health (a result of his virtue), and in itself makes him a wonderful figure.

26. The three wonders match in number the three previous tales of wonder. The first miraculous activity is quasi-divine, and is an act elsewhere associated with the creator-god. The next deed—dominance over wild animals—is symbolic of the containment of chaos, and recalls the animal magic of the second tale (2.22–4.7; also the fish-pendant of the third tale: 5.16–6.10). Although these wonders are potentially serious, they are presented primarily for the audience's entertainment.

27. The list of wonders concludes with an obscure reference to mysterious knowledge: Thoth is the god of wisdom and of judgement; his Sanctuary may be an otherworldly, mythical place. The word for Chambers implies a private apartment. Hordedef may be claiming that Djedi knows how many chambers there are in the sanctuary, or number could mean ‘measurements’ or some other specifications. The word Chambers, however, could be used figuratively to mean small shrines. A royal search for the details of a particular divine image is a motif that is found in monumental inscriptions, which are parodied here. Whatever the meaning of this phrase (and the exact meaning may be irrelevant), the information is deliberately esoteric.

28. Cheops wishes to copy the chambers in his Horizon, i.e. his pyramid at Giza. Whereas Sneferu earlier roamed his palace for ‘relief’ (4.22–5.1), Cheops is seeking hidden knowledge.

29. This incidental echo of Sneferu's sumptuous oars (5.8–9) associates Djedi and Hordedef yet again with the good king; the materials also echo those of Ubainer's chest (2.21–2).

30. These serene and elegant activities (involving unguents) are shown being done to Vizier Ptahhotep II in his Sixth Dynasty tomb; they are the height of luxury, and an indication of Djedi's success.

31. Stately greetings compliment Djedi on both his youthful vigour and his extreme old age (the two are contrasted in a pair of threefold descriptions). Sleeping until dawn is a common description of the happy life of the virtuous. Blessed one is a term of respect often applied to the dead. The prince then makes two promises to Djedi, one for continuance of life, and one for its completion; the emphasis on food is pertinent for Djedi (see 7.2–4 and n. 25).

32. Literally ‘In peace!’ Djedi's greeting is elevated as befits a sage, and even more formal than the prince's. His four wishes repay Hordedef's promises twice over, and cover a wide spectrum. Two wishes refer to this life, the third is legalistic (but may have otherworldly reference), and the last refers to the otherworld: He who Shrouds the Tired One is the embalmer of the dead, and the Portal is one of the gateways in the underworld through which the dead must pass. Djedi, appropriately for an aged sage concerned with lasting wisdom, has one eye on eternity, and goes further than Hordedef in referring to the otherworld.

33. A striking gesture of respect from a prince to a commoner.

34. Djedi's children probably mean his pupils, who will assist him. Just as Djedi returned Hordedef's greetings by doubling them (see n. 32), so the prince gives him twice what he asked for. The two gentlemen are perfectly in accord.

35. Cheops earlier said he had metaphorically ‘seen’—i.e. heard accounts of—the wonders told to him (1.16, 4.16–17, 6.21), but now he actually sees a wonderworker. His speech is, characteristically, an impatiently abrupt question.

36. Djedi's answer is respectful, but almost impertinently polite. The meeting contrasts sharply with the elegant and leisurely dialogue between him and the virtuous Hordedef (7.16–8.1), and the earlier ones between Sneferu, the maiden, and Djadjaemankh (5.20–6.7 and n. 19). It is already clear that the king will not get what he wants, but that this commoner will get the better of him.

37. Cheops peremptorily proceeds with the first of the promised wonders, which should be an act of restitution, not injury, as Cheops demands. The Stronghold is a place where people were confined, a sort of work camp, but although the victim of Cheops’ entertainment is despicable, the king is clearly in the wrong, and Djedi directly contradicts his order with an evocative statement. The noble flock is mankind, the ‘flock of God’ (The Teaching for King Merikare, 46a), and god ordained that mankind should be cared for. Djedi alludes to the idea of a king as the shepherd of mankind, and implies that Cheops should know better. He proceeds to satisfy Cheops’ curiosity with a much smaller and less noble animal.

38. The khetaa is a larger type of goose, but is unidentified. Cheops proceeds to bring on bigger and better animals, but the slaughter is limited to animals, and not the ‘noble flock’.

39. A problematic passage. It seems that, as the bull was decapitated, the leash fell on the ground, and remains there when the head is restored. On this reading, the promised miracle of making ‘a lion walk with its leash behind it’ (7.4–5) is not performed, and Cheops rushes impatiently to his chief concern. However, it is also possible that the copyist accidentally omitted the miracle of the lion, except for this concluding phrase (cf. the omission a few verses later: 9.5 and n. 42).

40. Djedi makes another negative reply to the king. His lack of knowledge about the Chambers (see n. 27)—which contradicts the prince's claim about his knowledge (7.5–6)—suggests that they must be extremely esoteric information.

41. As Cheops’ impatience grows, the Chambers become more and more distant: now their number is hidden in a strange flint chest (as are books of magic in other tales). In funerary texts, chests are connected with the Sungod, who dominates the following episodes, as is flint (a fiery stone). Sipti means ‘investigation’, and the name may denote a room of inventories, although it may also allude to the ‘investigation’ of the soul after death. Heliopolis is the city sacred to the Sungod, and one with which Thoth too was associated. The whole description is deliberately obscure and evocative.

42. The copyist seems to have omitted a half verse and a whole verse here. As king, Cheops is nominally high priest of every temple, and so should have access to the room in Heliopolis. Either the author did not take this into account, or Cheops’ inability (like his partial knowledge) is a sign of his failure to be an ideal king; Sneferu only needed a sage to tell him how to enjoy himself (4.22–5.13), but Cheops’ failing is more serious in every respect.

43. Djedi's answer puts a conclusive stop to Cheops’ questioning. Sakhbu was a cult centre of the Sungod Re, in the 2nd Lower Egyptian nome in the west Delta, near modern Zat el-Kom, c.40 km north-west of Memphis. Ruddjedet's name recalls Djedi's, with its positive associations (see n. 25). The Sungod will have appeared to her in the form of her husband: subsequent events suggest she is unaware of her children's divine paternity. The worthy office is the kingship. Great Seer is the title of the High Priest of the Sungod in his city of Heliopolis; this office, which the eldest will hold before becoming king, gives him access to Sipti. In the Middle Kingdom the king's role as intermediary between men and gods was expressed both through his status as a sun-priest and through the title ‘Son of Re’. Thus, the offices and parentage of the children imply that they are worthier to be king than Cheops is, and at this snub he falls into a sulk. The actual succession of the Fifth Dynasty is completely rewritten here in a folklorelike manner.

44. Djedi attempts to placate the king with a limited promise of the ideal pattern of filial succession. Your son is presumably Chephren (see n. 2), and his son is Mycerinus (c.2490–2472 BC), the builders of the second and third pyramids at Giza; the Tale passes over Cheops’ immediate but short-lived actual successor (Redjedef, see n. 1) and Mycerinus’ (Shepseskaf). Cheops’ response conspicuously ignores Djedi's reassurance (see n. 45).

45. There is no marker of a change in speaker, perhaps indicating Djedi's quick certainty. The Season of Emergence was when the fields were due to emerge from the Inundation—a season of creation, the Egyptian spring. There may have been some symbolism in the date, but it was probably chosen simply to cause Cheops difficulties reaching Sakhbu, and so advance the plot, since water is needed to cross Two-Fish Canal, which presumably lay south of Sakhbu, between it and the capital. Cheops addresses Djedi as servant, whereas the jovial Sneferu called his wonder-worker ‘brother’ (6.1). Cheops’ response is probably disingenuous; after his peremptory behaviour with the earlier wonders, it seems likely that he has a specific and unworthy motive. This could be to take the chest for himself, but his attention seems to have shifted to the children: the narrative arouses in the audience suspicions that his journey is to ensure his own children's succession, or even perhaps to do away with the rival claimants to the throne. Whether such suspicions are justified would only have been answered in the missing final episodes of the Tale.

46. This promised wonder recalls Djadjaemankh's water-miracle during Sneferu's boating trip (6.7–13). Compared with the earlier wonder, Djedi will move a small amount of water—some two metres depth; this may suggest that Djedi's compliance is grudging. The earlier wonders are about to be surpassed by the divine birth.

47. The allowance is similar to the offerings bestowed on the dead kings (with vegetables instead of the ritual incense since Djedi is still alive (see 1.15 and n. 1)); it is in excess—roughly double—of even Djedi's lively appetite (7.2–4 (see n. 25)). Cheops acts in a proper manner here, and the endowment marks the end of this episode, but not necessarily the end of Djedi's role in the original complete Tale.

48. A narrative formula introduces a new stage in the Tale. The narrative moves from the imperfect court of Cheops to the divine court, ruled by the Sungod, the archetype of kingship (for Sakhbu, see n. 43). Re's announcement confirms Djedi's prophecies. Isis and Nephthys are the mother and aunt of the royal god Horus; Meskhenet is a goddess of birth and destiny; Heqet is a goddess of the primordial creation and birth; and Khnum is the creator-god who models human bodies in the womb. The gods are encouraged through reciprocity, a fundamental principle of virtue and piety: they should help the children as they will be pious kings. Their piety may contrast them with Cheops, whom much later Classical accounts describe as impious.

49. The goddesses’ disguise as singing- and dancing-girls recalls the court beauties en travesti of the third tale (5.9–13).

50. Reusre (‘Re-is-powerful’) is a fitting name for a priest of Re. His disordered kilt is probably an indication that he is distraught, but it may allude to an act of sympathetic magic, in which undoing knots was supposed to ease giving birth. The necklaces and sistra are pieces of jewellery and musical instruments that are appropriate for goddesses in disguise: they would be carried by temple dancers in rituals, but were also worn by the goddesses in whose honour such rituals were performed. Thus presenting Reusre with these regalia is a greeting with a ritual aspect (cf. The Tale of Sinuhe, B 268–70 and n. 73).

51. Although childbirth was an exclusively female concern, the secrecy surrounding it here is probably due to the importance of the children. The description of the births is highly repetitive (still more so than elsewhere), which may be appropriate for these stately, ritual actions. The episode alludes to representations of the birth of the king at the hands of the gods, which are attested on temple walls only from later periods, but which probably already existed in the Middle Kingdom.

52. Egyptian birth names are often a wish, or have a meaning connected with the mother's experience of birth. Here folk etymologies are accordingly invented for the names of the actual kings, in the form of wishes for them to come peaceably out of Ruddjedet's womb. The first son's name recalls that of his earthly father, Reusre (see n. 50). To be powerful in Egyptian is user; the first king of the Fifth Dynasty was actually named Userkaf, meaning ‘His spirit is powerful’ (c.2465–2458 BC). The Tale treats the historical kings’ names rather freely.

53. The children are 52 cm tall, rather large by natural standards. They are described, as befits their god-like status, as divine images, gilded and inlaid; the word appearance is synonymous with the word for the king's titulary; the headcloth was a royal headdress.

54. To kick in Egyptian is sah. Sahure was the second king of the Fifth Dynasty (c.2458–2446 BC)—a name that may mean ‘One close to Re’.

55. To stay dark (i.e. to stay hidden in the womb) is in Egyptian kek. The third king of the Fifth Dynasty was Neferirkare Kakai (c.2446–2426 BC).

56. This difference in the order of events of the third birth is presumably a slip of the copyist.

57. Tip is literally ‘the price of beer’ (i.e. ‘pour-boire’); Egyptian beer was made from partly baked bread (see n. 59). The tip is very generous; drunkenness often accompanied religious ceremonies as well as dances, so the tip is more appropriate than Reusre realizes.

58. The regal crowns are the specific wonder of this episode, whose general atmosphere is more marvellous than that of the preceding ones; the crowns are also necessary for the plot to continue, as they reveal the children's destiny to their mother, and thus indirectly provoke the next episode. The rain is created to prevent the transporting of the grain, and thus to give the gods an excuse to return.

59. A period of purification after giving birth. The making ready of the house and the mention of a housemaid recall the adulterous celebrations of the second tale (3.6–9). The grain will enhance the jars by being made into beer to fill them.

60. Ruddjedet is characterized as a dutiful wife who acts responsibly with the grain while her husband is away, but she breaks the goddesses’ seal, and her plan to replace the grain later is less than ideal (to judge from the dissatisfaction at a similar repayment in 5.23–4): the divine children are born into an imperfect world, where there are family shortages and squabbling.

61. Her going around recalls Sneferu's search for pleasure (4.22, 25). The box recalls the mysterious chest in Heliopolis (9.4–5 and n. 41), and another mentioned earlier (2.21–2).

62. The mention of a pastoral landscape prepares for the couple's holiday mood. The episode recalls the couple of the second tale, whose holiday was, in contrast, adulterous (3.9–10 and n. 9), as well as the end of the third tale (6.13–14 and n. 21).

63. A new incident begins here (cf. n. 48). There is nothing unsympathetic in Ruddjedet's action: beatings were part of a servant's lot. Any doubts about this are dispelled by the girl's subsequent actions, for which she is beaten by her own brother (12.16–17). Nevertheless, the world of the Tale is becoming increasingly fraught and ‘everyday’.

64. The maid sees a chance to cause trouble and revenge herself. The incident reminds the audience of Cheops' ambivalent intentions. The existence of more than one claimant to the throne was always a potential source of conflict, and the audience would assume that Ruddjedet wanted to keep her children secret from Cheops.

65. The housemaid is now punished by more potent forces than her brother. The crocodile recalls that of the second tale (2.22–4.7 and n. 8); here it is not of wax and the work of a man, but a real reptile, presumably an agent of vengeance from Re.

66. The phrase was earlier used of Cheops (9.12); this echo may contrast the wicked Cheops and the dutiful Ruddjedet, or may instead suggest that she is, like him, not perfect.

67. This is the end of the final surviving written page on the back of the roll; following it there is no lacuna, only a blank surface. The present incident ends conclusively here, but this is unlikely to be the end of the whole Tale, as Cheops has announced his wish to visit Sakhebu, with unstated intent. Either the papyrus was an incomplete copy or the rest of the Tale was erased from the papyrus; it is probable that there was at least one other page to the original Tale.

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