Home  »  library  »  prose  »  The Doomed Prince

C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

The Doomed Prince

By Egyptian Literature

  • Translation of Francis Llewellyn Griffith
  • [‘The Story of the Doomed Prince’ was written at some time during the XVIIIth Dynasty (about 1450 B.C.). The papyrus on which it has been preserved to us, and which is in the British Museum, is much mutilated, and the end is entirely lost.]

  • THERE was once a king to whom no male child was born; he prayed for himself unto the gods whom he worshiped for a son. They decreed to cause that there should be born to him one. And his wife, after her time was fulfilled, gave birth to a male child. Came the Hathors to decree for him a destiny; they said, “He dies by the crocodile, or by the serpent, or by the dog.” Then the people who stood by the child heard this; they went to tell it to his Majesty. Then his Majesty’s heart was exceeding sad. His Majesty caused a house to be built upon the desert, furnished with people and with all good things of the royal house, out of which the child should not go. Now when the child was grown he went up upon its roof and saw a greyhound; it was following a man walking on the road. He said to his page who was with him, “What is this that goeth behind the man coming along the road?” He said to him, “It is a greyhound.” The child said to him, “Let there be brought to me one like it.” The page went and reported it to his Majesty. His Majesty said, “Let there be brought to him a little trotter, lest his heart be sad.” Then they brought to him the greyhound.

    Now when the days were multiplied after these things, the child grew up in all his limbs, he sent a message to his father saying, “Wherefore should I remain here? Behold, I am destined to three dooms, and if I do according to my desire God will still do what is in his heart.” They hearkened to all he said, and gave him all kinds of weapons, and also his greyhound to follow him, and they conveyed him over to the east side and said to him, “Go thou whither thou wilt.” His greyhound was with him; he traveled northward following his heart in the desert; he lived on the best of all the game of the desert. He came to the chief of Naharaina.

    Behold, there was no child born to the prince of Naharaina except one daughter. Behold, he built for her a house; its window was seventy cubits from the ground, and he caused to be brought all the sons of all the chiefs of the land of Kharu, and said to them, “He who shall reach the window of my daughter, she shall be to him for a wife.”

    Now when the days had multiplied after these things, as they were in their daily task, the youth came by them. They took the youth to their house, they bathed him, they gave provender to his horse, they did every kind of thing for the youth; they anointed him, they bound up his feet, they gave him portions of their own food; they spake to him in the manner of conversation, “Whence comest thou, good youth?” He said to them:—“I am the son of an officer of the land of Egypt; my mother is dead, my father has taken another wife. When she bore children, she began to hate me, and I have come as a fugitive from before her.” They embraced him and kissed him.

    Now when the days were multiplied after these things, he said to the youths, “What is it that ye do here?” And they said to him, “We spend our time in this: we climb up, and he who shall reach the window of the daughter of the prince of Naharaina, to him she will be given to wife.” He said to them, “Lo! I desire to try, I shall go to climb with you.” They went to climb, as was their daily wont: the youth stood afar off to behold; and the face of the daughter of the prince of Naharaina was turned to him. Now when the days were multiplied after these things, the youth came to climb with the sons of the chiefs. He climbed, he reached the window of the daughter of the prince of Naharaina. She kissed him, she embraced him.

    One went to rejoice the heart of her father, and said to him, “A man has reached the window of thy daughter.” The prince spake of it, saying, “The son of which of the princes is it?” He said to him, “It is the son of an officer, who has come as a fugitive from the land of Egypt, fleeing from before his step-mother when she had children.” Then the prince of Naharaina was exceeding angry; he said, “Shall I indeed give my daughter to the Egyptian fugitive? Let him go back.” One came to tell the youth, “Go back to the place from which thou hast come.” But the maiden took hold of him; she swore an oath by God, saying, “By the life of Ra Harakhti, if one taketh him from me, I will not eat, I will not drink, I shall die in that same hour.” The messenger went to tell unto her father all that she said. Then the prince sent men to slay him, while he was in his house. But the maiden said, “By the life of Ra, if one slay him I shall be dead ere the sun goeth down. I will not pass an hour of life if I am parted from him.” One went to tell her father. Then … the prince came; he embraced him, he kissed him all over, and said, “Tell me who thou art; behold, thou art to me as a son.” He said to him:—“I am a son of an officer of the land of Egypt; my mother died, my father took to him a second wife; she came to hate me, and I fled from before her.” He gave to him his daughter to wife; he gave also to him people and fields, also cattle and all manner of good things.

    Now when time had passed over these things, the youth said to his wife, “I am destined to three dooms—a crocodile, a serpent, and a dog.” She said to him, “Let one kill the dog that runs before thee.” He said to her, “I will not let my dog be killed, which I have brought up from when it was small.” And she feared greatly for her husband, and would not let him go alone abroad.

    One did … the land of Egypt, to travel. Behold, the crocodile,… he came opposite the city in which the youth was…. Behold, there was a mighty man therein; the mighty man would not suffer the crocodile to go out,… the crocodile. The mighty man went out to walk when the sun … every day, during two months of days.

    Now when the days passed after this, the youth sat making a good day in his house. When the evening came he lay down on his bed; sleep seized upon his limbs; his wife filled a bowl of milk and placed it by his side. There came out a serpent from his hole, to bite the youth; behold, his wife was sitting by him; she lay not down. Thereupon the servants gave milk to the serpent; it drank and became drunk, and lay down, upside down; his wife cut it in pieces with her hatchet. They woke her husband … she said to him, “Behold, thy god hath given one of thy dooms into thy hand; he shall give….” And he sacrificed to God, adoring him, and praising his mighty spirit from day to day.

    Now when the days were multiplied after these things, the youth went to walk in the pathway in his enclosure, for he went not outside alone; behold, his dog was behind him. His dog put his nose to the ground [to pursue some game], and he ran after him. He came to the sea, and entered the sea behind his dog. The crocodile came out, he took him to the place where the mighty man was…. The crocodile, he said to the youth, “I am thy doom, following after thee….”

    [Here the papyrus breaks off.]