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Egyptian Myth and Legend, by Donald Mackenzie, [1907], at

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The Peasant who became King

The Two Brothers--Peasant Life--The Temptress--Wrath of Anpu--Attempt to slay his Brother--Flight of Bata--Elder Brother undeceived--Kills his Wife--Bata hides his Soul--His Wife--Sought by the King--Bata's Soul Blossom destroyed--Wife becomes a Queen--Recovery of Lost Soul--Bata as a Bull--Slaughtered for the Queen--Bata a Tree--Bata reborn as Son of his Wife--The King who slew his Wife--mother--Belief in Transmigration of Souls.

THERE were once two brothers, and they were sons of the same father and of the same mother. Anpu was the name of the elder, and the younger was called Bata. Now Anpu had a house of his own, and he had a wife. His brother lived with him as if he were his son, and made garments for him. It was Bata who drove the oxen to the field, it was he who ploughed the land, and it was he who harvested the grain. He laboured continually upon his brother's farm, and his equal was not to be found in the land of Egypt; he was imbued with the spirit of a god.

In this manner the brothers lived together, and many days went past. Each morning the younger brother went forth with the oxen, and when evening came on he drove them again to the byre, carrying upon his back a heavy burden of fodder which he gave to the animals to eat, and he brought with him also milk and herbs for Anpu and his wife. While these two ate and drank together in the house, Bata rested in the byre with the cattle and he slept beside them.

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When day dawned, and the land grew bright again, the younger brother was first to rise up, and he baked bread for Anpu and carried his own portion to the field and ate it there. As he followed the oxen he heard and he understood their speech. They would say: "Yonder is sweet herbage", and he would drive them to the place of their choice, whereat they were well pleased. They were indeed noble animals, and they increased greatly.

The time of ploughing came on, and Anpu spake unto Bata, saying: "Now get ready the team of oxen, for the Nile flood is past and the land may be broken up. We shall begin to plough on the morrow; so carry seed to the field that we may sow it."

As Anpu desired, so did Bata do. When the next day dawned, and the land grew bright, the two brothers laboured in the field together, and they were well pleased with the work which they accomplished. Several days went past in this manner, and it chanced that on an afternoon the seed was finished ere they had completed their day's task.

Anpu thereupon spake to his younger brother saying: "Hasten to the granary and procure more seed."

Bata ran towards the house, and entered it. He beheld his brother's wife sitting upon a mat, languidly pleating her hair.

"Arise," he said, "and procure corn for me, so that I may hasten back to the field with it. Delay me not."

The woman sat still and said: "Go thou thyself and open the storeroom. Take whatsoever thou dost desire. If I were to rise for thee, my hair would fall in disorder."

Bata opened the storeroom and went within. He took a large basket and poured into it a great quantity of seed. Then he came forth carrying the, basket through the house.

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The woman looked up and said: "What is the weight of that great burden of thine?"

Bata answered: "There are two measures of barley and three of wheat. I carry in all upon my shoulders five measures of seed."

"Great indeed is thy strength," sighed the woman. "Ah, thee do I contemplate and admire each day!"

Her heart was moved towards him, and she stood up saying: "Tarry here with me. I will clothe thee in fine raiment."

The lad was made angry as the panther, and said: "I regard thee as a mother, and my brother is like a father unto me. Thou hast spoken evil words and I desire not to hear them again, nor will I repeat unto any man what thou hast just spoken."

He departed abruptly with his burden and hastened to the field, where he resumed his labour.

At eventide Anpu returned home and Bata prepared to follow after him. The elder brother entered his house and found his wife lying there, and it seemed as if she had suffered violence from an evildoer. She did not give him water to wash his hands, as was her custom. Nor did she light the lamp. The house was in darkness. She moaned where she lay, as if she were in sickness, and her garment was beside her.

"Who hath been here?" asked Anpu, her husband.

The woman answered him: "No one came nigh me save thy younger brother. He spoke evil words unto me, and I said: 'Am I not as a mother, and is not thine elder brother as a father unto thee?' Then was he angry, and he struck me until I promised that I would not inform thee. . . . Oh I if thou wilt allow him to live now, I shall surely die."

The elder brother became like an angry panther. He

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sharpened his dagger and went out and stood behind the door of the byre with purpose to slay young Bata when he came nigh.

The sun had gone down when the lad drove the oxen into the byre, carrying on his back fodder and herbs, and in one hand a vessel of milk, as was his custom each evening.

The first ox entered the byre, and then it spoke to Bata, saying: "Beware I for thine elder brother is standing behind the door. In his hand is a dagger, and he desires to slay thee. Draw not nigh unto him."

The lad heard with understanding what the animal had said. Then the second ox entered and went to its stall, and spake likewise words of warning, saying: "Take speedy flight."

Bata peered below the byre door, and he saw the legs of his brother, who stood there with a dagger in his hand. He at once threw down his burden and made hurried escape. Anpu rushed after him furiously with the sharp dagger.

In his sore distress the younger brother cried unto the sun god Ra-Harmachis, saying: "O blessed lord! thou art he who distinguisheth between falsehood and truth."

The god heard his cry with compassion, and turned round. 1 He caused a wide stream to flow between the two brothers, and, behold! it was full of crocodiles. Then it came that Anpu and Bata stood confronting one another, one upon the right bank and the other upon the left. The elder brother twice smote his hands with anguish because that he could not slay the youth.

Bata called out to Anpu, saying: "Tarry where thou art until the earth is made bright once again. Lo! when

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[paragraph continues] Ra, the sun god, riseth up, I shall reveal in his presence all that I know, and he shall judge between us, discerning what is false and what is true. . . . Know thou that I may not dwell with thee any longer, for I must depart unto the fair region of the flowering acacia."

When day dawned, and the sun god Ra appeared in his glory, the two brothers stood gazing one upon the other across the stream of crocodiles. Then the lad spake to his elder brother, saying: "Why didst thou come against me, desiring to slay me with treachery ere yet I had spoken for myself? Am I not thy younger brother, and hast thou not been as a father and thy wife as a mother unto me? Hear and know now that when I hastened to procure seed thy wife spoke, saying: 'Tarry thou with me.' But this happening hath been related unto thee in another manner."

So spake Bata, and he told his brother what was true regarding the woman. Then he called to witness the sun god, and said: "Great was thy wickedness in desiring to murder me by treachery." As he spoke he cut off a piece of his flesh and flung it into the stream, where it was devoured by a fish. 1 He sank fainting upon the bank.

Anpu was stricken with anguish; tears ran from his eyes. He desired greatly to be beside his brother on the opposite bank of the stream of crocodiles.

Bata spake again, saying: "Verily, thou didst desire an evil thing, but if thy desire now is to do good, I shall instruct thee what thou shouldst do. Return unto thy home and tend thine oxen, for know now that I may not dwell with thee any longer, but must depart unto the fair region of the flowering acacia. What thou shalt do is to come to seek for me when I need thine aid, for my soul

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shall leave my body and have its dwelling in the highest blossom of the acacia. When the tree is cut down, my soul will fall upon the ground. There thou mayest seek it, even if thy quest be for seven years, for, verily, thou shalt find it if such is thy desire. Thou must then place it in a vessel of water, and I shall come to life again and reveal all that hath befallen and what shall happen thereafter. When the hour cometh to set forth on the quest, behold! the beer given to thee will bubble, and the wine will have a foul smell. These shall be as signs unto thee."

Then Bata took his departure, and he went into the valley of the flowering acacia, which was across the ocean. 1 His elder brother returned home. He lamented, throwing dust upon his head. He slew his wife and cast her to the dogs, and abandoned himself to mourning for his younger brother.

Many days went past, and Bata reached at length the valley of the flowering acacia. He dwelt there alone and hunted wild beasts. At eventide he lay down to rest below the acacia, in whose highest blossom his soul was concealed. In time he built a dwelling place and he filled it with everything that he desired.

Now it chanced that on a day when he went forth he met the nine gods, who were surveying the whole land. They spoke one to another and then asked of Bata why he had forsaken his home because of his brother's wife, for she had since been slain. "Return again," they said, "for thou didst reveal unto thine elder brother the truth of what happened unto thee."

They took pity on the youth, and Ra spoke, saying: "Fashion now a bride for Bata, so that he may not be alone."

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Then the god Khnumu 1 fashioned a wife whose body was more beautiful than any other woman's in the land, because that she was imbued with divinity.

Then came the seven Hathors 2 and gazed upon her. In one voice they spoke, saying: "She shall surely die a speedy death."

Bata loved her dearly. Each day she remained in his house while he hunted wild beasts, and he carried them home and laid them at her feet. He warned her each day, saying: "Walk not outside, lest the sea may come up and carry thee away. I could not rescue thee from the sea spirit, 3 against whom I am as weak as thou art, because my soul is concealed in the highest blossom of the flowering acacia. If another should find my soul I must needs fight for it."

Thus he opened unto her his whole heart and revealed its secrets.

Many days went past. Then on a morning when Bata had gone forth to hunt, as was his custom, his girl wife went out to walk below the acacia) which was nigh to the house.

Lo! the sea spirit beheld her in all her beauty and caused his billows to pursue her. Hastily she fled away and returned to the house, whereat the sea spirit sang to the acacia: "Oh, would she were mine!"

The acacia heard and cast to the sea spirit a lock of the girl wife's hair. The sea bore it away towards the land of Egypt and unto the place where the washers of the king cleansed the royal garments.

Sweet was the fragrance of the lock of hair, and it perfumed the linen of the king. There were disputes among the washers because that the royal garments smelt

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of ointment, nor could anyone discover the secret thereof. The king rebuked them.

Then was the heart of the chief washer in sore distress, because of the words which were spoken daily to him regarding this matter. He went down to the seashore; he stood at the place which was opposite the floating lock of hair, and he beheld it at length and caused it to be carried unto him. Sweet was its fragrance, and he hastened with it to the king.

Then the king summoned before him his scribes, and they spake, saying: "Lo! this is a lock from the hair of the divine daughter of Ra, and it is gifted unto thee from a distant land. Command now that messengers be sent abroad to seek for her. Let many men go with the one who is sent to the valley of the flowering acacia so that they may bring the woman unto thee". 1

The king answered and said: "Wise are your words, and they are pleasant unto me."

So messengers were sent abroad unto all lands. But those who journeyed to the valley of the flowering acacia returned not, because that Bata slew them all; the king had no knowledge of what befel them.

Then the king sent forth more messengers and many soldiers also, so that the girl might be brought unto him. He sent also a woman, and she was laden with rare ornaments . . . and the wife of Bata came back with her.

Then was there great rejoicing in the land of Egypt. Dearly did the king love the divine girl, and he exalted her because of her beauty. He prevailed upon her to reveal the secrets of her husband, and the king then said: "Let the acacia be cut down and splintered in pieces."

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Workmen and warriors were sent abroad, and they reached the acacia. They severed from it the highest blossom, in which the soul of Bata was concealed. The petals were scattered, and Bata dropped down dead. 1

A new day dawned, and the land grew bright. The acacia was then cut down.

Meanwhile Anpu, the elder brother of Bata., went into his house, and he sat down and washed his hands. 2 He was given beer to drink, and it bubbled, and the wine had a foul smell.

He seized his staff, put on his shoes and his garment, and armed himself for his journey, and departed unto the valley of the flowering acacia.

When he reached the house of Bata he found the young man lying dead upon a mat. Bitterly he wept because of that. But he went out to search for the soul of his brother at the place where, below the flowering acacia) Bata was wont to lie down to rest at eventide. For three years he continued his search, and when the fourth year came his heart yearned greatly to return to the land of Egypt. At length he said: "I shall depart at dawn to-morrow."

A new day came, and the land grew bright. He looked over the ground again at the place of the acacia for his brother's soul. The time was spent thus. In the evening he continued his quest also, and he found a seed, which he carried to the house, and, lo! the soul of his brother was in it. He dropped the seed into a vessel filled with cold water, and sat down as was his custom at evening.

Night came on, and then the soul absorbed the water.

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[paragraph continues] The limbs of Bata quivered and his eyes opened and gazed upon his elder brother, but his heart was without feeling. Then Anpu raised the vessel which contained the soul to the lips of Bata, and he drank the water. Thus did his soul return to its place, and Bata was as he had been before.

The brothers embraced and spoke one to the other. Bata said: "Now I must become a mighty bull with every sacred mark. None will know my secret. Ride thou upon my back, and when the day breaks I shall be at the place where my wife is. Unto her must I speak. Lead me before the king, and thou shalt find favour in his eyes. The people will wonder when they behold me, and shout welcome. But thou must return unto thine own home."

A new day dawned, and the land grew bright. Bata was a bull, and Anpu sat upon his back and they drew nigh to the royal dwelling. The king was made glad, and he said: "This is indeed a miracle." There was much rejoicing throughout the land. Silver and gold were given to the elder brother, and he went away to his own home and waited there.

In time the sacred bull stood in a holy place, and the beautiful girl wife was there. Bata spoke unto her, saying: "Look thou upon me where I stand, for, lo! I am still alive."

Then said the woman: "And who art thou?"

The bull made answer: "Verily, I am Bata. It was thou who didst cause the acacia to be cut down; it was thou who didst reveal unto Pharaoh that my soul had dwelling in the highest blossom, so that it might be destroyed and I might cease to be. But, lo! I live on, and I am become a sacred bull."

The woman trembled; fear possessed her heart when

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Bata spoke unto her in this manner. She at once went out of the holy place.

It chanced that the king sat by her side at the feast, and made merry, for he loved her dearly. She spoke, saying: "Promise before the god that thou wilt do what I ask of thee."

His Majesty took a vow to grant her the wish of her heart, and she said: "It is my desire to eat of the liver of the sacred bull, for he is naught to thee." 1

Sorrowful was the king then, and his heart was troubled, because of the words which she spake. . . .

A new day dawned, and the land grew bright. Then the king commanded that the bull should be offered in sacrifice.

One of the king's chief servants went out, and when the bull was held high upon the shoulders of the people he smote its neck and it cast two drops of blood 2 towards the gate of the palace, and one drop fell upon the right side and one upon the left. There grew up in the night two stately Persea trees 3 from where the drops of blood fell down.

This great miracle was told unto the king, and the people rejoiced and made offerings of water and fruit to the sacred trees.

A day came when his majesty rode forth in his golden chariot. He wore his collar of lapis lazuli, and round his neck was a garland of flowers. The girl wife was with him, and he caused her to stand below one of the trees, and it whispered unto her:

"Thou false woman, I am still alive. Lo! I am even Bata, whom thou didst wrong. It was thou who didst cause the acacia to be cut down. It was thou who

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didst cause the sacred bull to be slain, so that I might cease to be."

Many days went past, and the woman sat with the king at the feast, and he loved her dearly. She spake, saying: "Promise now before the god that thou wilt do what I ask of thee."

His Majesty made a vow of promise, and she said: "It is my desire that the Persea trees be cut down so that two fair seats may be made of them."

As she desired, so was it done. The king commanded that the trees should be cut down by skilled workmen, and the fair woman went out to watch them. As she stood there, a small chip of wood entered her mouth, and she swallowed it.

After many days a son was born to her, and he was brought before the king, and one said: "Unto thee a son is given."

A nurse and servants were appointed to watch over the babe.

There was great rejoicing throughout the land when the time came to name the girl wife's son. The king made merry, and from that hour he loved the child, and he appointed him Prince of Ethiopia.

Many days went past, and then the king chose him to be heir to the kingdom.

In time His Majesty fulfilled his years, and he died, and his soul flew to the heavens.

The new king (Bata) then said: "Summon before me the great men of my Court, so that I may now reveal unto them all that hath befallen me and the truth concerning the queen."

His wife 1 was then brought before him. He revealed

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himself unto her, and she was judged before the great men, and they confirmed the sentence. 1

Then Anpu was summoned before His Majesty, and he was chosen to be the royal heir.

When Bata had reigned for thirty years, 2 he came to his death, and on the day of his burial his elder brother stood in his place.

Egyptian Love Songs

(Collected by Scribes over 3000 years ago, and laid in tombs so that they might be sung by departed souls in Paradise.)


Oh! when my lady cometh,
    And I with love behold her,
I take her to my beating heart
    And in mine arms enfold her;
My heart is filled with joy divine
For I am hers and she is mine.

Oh! when her soft embraces
    Do give my love completeness,
The perfumes of Arabia
    Anoint me with their sweetness;
And when her lips are pressed to mine
I am made drunk and need not wine.

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(Sung by a girl snarer to one she loves.)

With snare in hand I hide me,
I wait and will not stir;
The beauteous birds of Araby
Are perfumed all with myrrh--
Oh, all the birds of Araby,
That down to Egypt come,
Have wings that waft the fragrance
Of sweetly smelling gum!

I would that, when I snare them, Together we could be,
I would that when I hear them
Alone I were with thee.
If thou wilt come, my dear one,
When birds are snared above,
I'll take thee and I'll keep thee
Within the snare of love.


A sycamore sang to a lady fair,
    And its words were dropping like honey dew.
"Now ruby red is the fruit I bear
    All in my bower for you.

"Papyri green are my leaves arrayed,
    And branch and stem like to opal gleam;
Now come and rest in my cooling shade
    The dream of your heart to dream.

"A letter of love will my lady fair
    Send to the one who will happy be,
Saying: 'Oh, come to my garden rare
    And sit in the shade with me!

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"'Fruit I will gather for your delight,
    Bread I will break and pour out wine,
I'll bring you the perfumed flow'rs and bright
    On this festal day divine.'

"My lady alone with her lover will be,
    His voice is sweet and his words are dear-
Oh, I am silent of all I see,
    Nor tell of the things I hear!"


I hear thy voice, O turtle dove--
    The dawn is all aglow--
Weary am I with love, with love,
    Oh, whither shall I go?

Not so, O beauteous bird above,
    Is joy to me denied. . . .
For I have found my dear, my love,
    And I am by his side.

We wander forth, and hand in hand
    Through flow'ry ways we go--
I am the fairest in the land,
    For he hath called me so.


My face towards the door I'll keep
    Till I my love behold,
With watching eyes and list'ning ears
    I wait . . . and I turn cold,
        I sigh and sigh;
        He comes not nigh.

My sole possession is his love
    All sweet and dear to me; p. 60
And ever may my lips confess
    My heart, nor silent be.
        I sigh and sigh;
        He comes not nigh.

But now . . . a messenger in haste
    My watching eyes behold . . .
He went as swiftly as he came.
    "I am delayed", he told.
        I sigh and sigh;
        He comes not nigh.

Alas! confess that thou hast found
    One fairer far than me.
O thou so false, why break my heart
    With infidelity?
        I sigh and sigh;
        He'll ne'er come nigh.


Oh! fair are the flowers, my beloved,
    And fairest of any I wait.
A garden art thou, all fragrant and dear,
    Thy heart, O mine own, is the gate.

The canal of my love I have fashioned,
    And through thee, my garden, it flows--
Dip in its waters refreshing and sweet,
    When cool from the north the wind blows.

In our beauteous haunt we will linger,
    Thy strong hand reposing in mine--
Then deep be my thoughts and deeper my joy,
    Because, O my love, I am thine.

Oh! thy voice is bewitching, beloved,
    This wound of my heart it makes whole--
Ah! when thou art coming, and thee I behold,
    Thou'rt bread and thou'rt wine to my soul.

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With sickness faint and weary
    All day in bed I'll lie;
My friends will gather near me
    And she'll with them come nigh.
She'll put to shame the doctors
    Who'll ponder over me,
For she alone, my loved one,
    Knows well my malady.



48:1 Ra is here in his human form, walking through Egypt.

49:1 He was thus mutilated like Osiris, Attis, Adonis, and other gods.

50:1 Probably in Syria.

51:1 A creative god who resembles Ptah.

51:2 The seven Fates.

51:3 A non-Egyptian conception apparently.

52:1 An early version of the Cinderella story.

53:1 Like the typical giant of European folklore, who conceals his soul and is betrayed by his wife.

53:2 The Egyptians always washed their hands before and after meals.

55:1 It was believed that the soul was in the liver.

55:2 The belief that the soul was in the blood.

55:3 Out tree for the spirit and one for the soul.

56:1 Who was also his mother. Bata was reborn as the son of his wife. The tale is based upon belief in the transmigration of souls.

57:1 The sentence is not given, but is indicated by the prophecy of the seven Hathors, who said she would die "a speedy death" (a death by violence).

57:2 This suggests that he was sacrificed at the Sed festival.

Next: Chapter V: Racial Myths in Egypt and Europe