king Khufu's Boat
Ancient Egyptian story that gave Snefru the title of The Good King, this
literature work shows his good nature and his willingness to please others.
Snefru is father of the Ancient Pharaoh Khufu who built the Great Pyramid of
Giza, he reigned long over a peaceful country with no foreign wars.
day he wandered through his palace at Memphis, seeking for pleasures and finding
none that would lighten his heart. Then he bethought him of his Chief Magician,
Zazamankh, and he said, 'If any man is able to entertain me and show me new
marvels, surely it is the wise scribe of the rolls. Bring Zazamankh before me.'
his servants brought Zazamankh to the presence of Pharaoh. And Snefru said to
him, 'I have sought throughout all my palace for some delight, and found none.
Now of your wisdom devise something that will fill my heart with pleasure.'
said Zazamankh to him, 'O Pharaoh life, health, strength be to you! - my counsel
is that you go sailing upon the Nile, and upon the lake below Memphis. This will
be no common voyage, if you will follow my advice in all things.'
that you will show me marvels, I will order out the Royal Boat,' said Snefru.
'Yet I am weary of sailing upon the Nile and upon the lake.'
will be no common voyage,' Zazamankh assured him. 'For your rowers will be
different from any you have seen at the oars before. They must be fair maidens
from the Royal House of the King's Women: and as you watch them rowing, and see
the birds upon the lake, the sweet fields and the green grass upon the banks,
your heart will grow glad.'
this will be something new,' agreed Pharaoh, showing some interest at last.
'Therefore I give you charge of this expedition. Speak with my power, and
command all that is necessary.'
said Zazamankh to the officers and attendants of Pharaoh Snefru, 'Bring me
twenty oars of ebony inlaid with gold, with blades of light wood inlaid with
electrum. And choose for rowers the twenty fairest maidens in Pharaoh's
household: twenty virgins slim and lovely, fair in their limbs, beautiful, and
with flowing hair. And bring me twenty nets of golden thread, and give these
nets to the fair maidens to be garments for them. And let them wear ornaments of
gold and electrum and malachite.'
was done according to the words of Zazamankh, and presently Pharaoh was seated
in the Royal Boat while the maidens rowed him up and down the stream and upon
the shining waters of the lake. And the heart of Snefru was glad at the sight of
the beautiful rowers at their unaccustomed task, and he seemed to be on a voyage
in the golden days that were to be when Osiris returns to rule the earth. But
presently a mischance befell that gay and happy party upon the lake. In the
raised stern of the Royal Boat two of the maidens were steering with great oars
fastened to posts. Suddenly the handle of one of the oars brushed against the
girl who was using it and swept the turquoise amulet she wore into the water,
where it sank out of sight. With a little cry she leant over and gazed after it.
And as she ceased from her song, so did all the rowers on that side who were
taking their time from her.
have you ceased to row?' asked Pharaoh. And they replied, 'Our little steerer
has stopped, and leads us no longer.' 'And why have you ceased to steer and lead
the rowers with your song?' asked Snefru.
me, Pharaoh - life, health, strength be to you!' she sobbed. 'But the oar struck
me and has brushed my beautiful amulet which your majesty gave to me, and it has
fallen into the water and is lost forever.' 'Row on as before, and I will give
you another,' said Snefru. But the girl continued to weep, saying, 'I want my
amulet back, and no other!'
said Pharaoh, 'There is only one who can find the turquoise amulet that has sunk
to the bottom of the lake. Bring to me Zazamankh my magician, he who thought of
this voyage. Bring him here on to the Royal Boat before me.'
Zazamankh was brought to where Snefru sat in his silken pavilion on the Royal
Boat. And as he knelt, Pharaoh said to him: 'Zazamankh, my friend and brother, I
have done as you advised. My royal heart is refreshed and my eyes are delighted
at the sight of these lovely rowers bending to their task. As we pass up and
down on the waters of the lake, and they sing to me, while on the shore I see
the trees and the flowers and the birds, I seem to be sailing into the golden
days either those of old when Re ruled on earth, or those to come when the good
god Osiris shall return from the Duat. But now a turquoise amulet has fallen
from the hair of one of these maidens fallen to the bottom of the lake. And she
has ceased to sing and the rowers on her side cannot keep time with their oars.
And she is not to be comforted with promises of other gifts, but weeps for her
turquoise amulet. Zazamankh, I wish to give back the turquoise amulet to the
little one here, and see the joy return to her eyes.'
my lord - life, health, strength be to you!' answered Zazamankh the magician, 'I
will do what you ask - for to one with my knowledge it is not a great thing. Yet
maybe it is an enchantment you have never seen, and it will fill you with
wonder, even as I promised, and make your heart rejoice yet further in new
Zazamankh stood at the stern of the Royal Boat and began to chant great spells
and words of power. And presently he held out his wand over the water, and the
lake parted as if a piece had been cut out of it with a great sword. The lake
here was twenty feet deep, and the piece of water that the magician moved rose
up and set itself upon the surface of the lake so that there was a cliff of
water on that side forty feet high. Now the Royal Boat slid gently down into the
great cleft in the lake until it rested on the bottom. On the side towards the
forty foot cliff of water there was a great open space where the bottom of the
lake lay uncovered, as firm and dry as the land itself. And there, just below
the stern of the Royal Boat, lay the turquoise amulet. With a cry of joy the
maiden who had lost it sprang over the side on to the firm ground, picked it up
and placed it once more one her person. Then she climbed swiftly back into the
Royal Boat and took the steering oar into her hands once more. Zazamankh slowly
lowered his rod, and the Royal Boat slid up the side of the water until it was
level with the surface once more. Then at another word of power, and as if drawn
by the magician's rod, the great piece of water slid back into place, and the
evening breeze rippled the still surface of the lake as if nothing out of the
ordinary had happened.
the heart of Pharaoh Snefru rejoiced and was filled with wonder, and he cried:
'Zazamankh, my brother, you are the greatest and wisest of magicians! You have
shown me wonders and delights this day, and your reward shall be all that you
desire, and a place next to my own in Egypt.' Then the Royal Boat sailed gently
on over the lake in the glow of the evening, while the twenty lovely maidens in
their garments of golden net, and the jeweled lotus flowers in their hair,
dipped their ebony and silver oars in the shimmering waters and sang sweetly a
love song of old Egypt: 'She stands upon the further side, Between us flows the
Nile; And in those waters deep and wide There lurks a crocodile. 'Yet is my love
so true and sweet, A word of power, a charm - The stream is land beneath my feet
And bears me without harm. 'For I shall come to where she stands, No more be
held apart; And I shall take my darling's hands And draw her to my heart.'