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The Gods of Ancient Egypt -- The Sphinx and the Prince


The Sphinx and the Prince

An interesting fable


Once upon a time, many more years than you can tell me, and twice as many as I can tell you, there was a prince in Egypt named Thutmose. He was the son of the great Amenhotep and had been named for his grandfather, the pharaoh Thutmose III who had succeeded the great queen, Hatshepsut.

Because he was the eldest son of Amenhotep, many of his brothers and half-brothers would plot against him, for they desired to be pharaoh. They would plot to make Amenhotep think that Thutmose was unworthy to succeed him. They would plot to make him look a fool in front of the people so that they would not want him as pharaoh. As he got older they would even plot against his life. But all these plots would fail, for Thutmose honored the gods, and so they smiled upon him.

Yet Thutmose was troubled in his heart, and these things made him unhappy. He would frequently leave Memphis to go hunt in the desert, or to seek solitude in the mountains. Even when his father wished his presence for a festival or simply to speak to him, Thutmose would stay as short a time as he could and then leave with his trusted servants once more. Amenhotep grieved that his son was unhappy, and prayed to the gods that his heart might be lifted.

One day, during the great Festival of Ra at Heliopolis, when all of the pharaoh's court was present, Thutmose escaped once more, for he wished to see the pyramids of Saqqara, the oldest of them all. He and two servents rode out into the desert where they found the great Step Pyramid of Zoser, the ancestor of Amenhotep.

The next day, they went hunting for gazelle all morning, and when Ra had reached the height of the sky, and the day grew hot, Thutmose and his servants found themselves near the Great Pyramids of Giza, which the pharaohs Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure had built over twelve hundred years before Thutmose was born.

Thutmose bade his servants rest at a pool nearby, for he wished to go off for a time that he might offer prayer to his ancestors. He rode his chariot out to the pyramids, the sun gleaming off their polished sides. He stopped and marveled at them, knowing that nowhere else was their like equaled, and that at no time since could anything like them be built. He gazed upon them for a time and then noticed a huge stone head that rose out of the sand.

Thutmose had heard of this marvel, the Sphinx of Khafre, though he had never see it before. It was modeled on the sacred animal of Harmakhet, Horus of the Rising Sun, and a creature of great wisdom and power. During the many ages since the reign of Khafre, the sands had buried it almost completely. Only its head remained above the sand, defying all attempts to hide it forever.

Thutmose sat and contemplated the great face, which was said to be the face of Khafre. It wore the headdress of the pharaoh, a great crown and veil, with the uraeus cobra and udjat eye, symbols of power, placed in it. He had never seen such terrifying beauty. He prayed to Harmakhet for deliverance from his troubles.

When he was finished, there was a rumbling sound, and the sand trembled beneath his feet. Thutmose looked up at the sphinx and started, for the head had moved! The sphinx moved like a great cat attempting to free itself from bonds, and then turned its head toward Thutmose and spoke in a mighty yet kind voice.

"Behold, Thutmose, son of Amenhotep, who is pharaoh of men by the power of Horus, know that I am Harmakhet, Horus of the Rising Sun. I am your father, and the father of all pharaohs of Egypt. It is your destiny that the Double Crown of Upper and Lower Egypt shall come to you, to be taken up or cast aside as you will.

"Know that if you become pharaoh, my blessings will be upon you, and you shall have long life and health all your days. Under your rule, Egypt will become strong and rich, and its people shall never want, for there shall be days of plenty.

"You have shown me devotion this day, when my statue is all but forgotten in the desert, and so I have looked kindly upon you. But I ask of you one thing: see how the sand encloses me and hides me from my people? I ask that if you are a good son, that you will help me and free me from the desert sands. Clear away that which holds me fast so that the people may once again come to me and and worship."

Then Thutmose was surrounded by light and he knew no more. When he awoke, the Sun Boat of Ra was sinking in the west. He heard the voices of his servants calling to him and he called out that he was alive and well. He looked up and saw the Sphinx, lifeless once more, and he remembered the vision.

He stood and shouted aloud, "Harmakhet my father! This day I do swear an oath, and I call upon the gods to witness it! If I become pharaoh, my first command shall be that your sacred image, this Sphinx, shall be freed from the sand and restored to its glory, that all men may come and give you honor!"

Thutmose and his servants rode back to Memphis, and from that day forth, all that Thutmose did was blessed. Soon his father Amenhotep named him as heir to the throne, and years later, Thutmose became pharaoh. He was regarded as a great king, and the gods blessed him all the days of his long life and he was beloved by his people. Egypt did indeed become strong and rich, and there was abundance in all of Egypt.

Around two hundred years ago the Great Sphinx was found once more buried in the sands by an expedition led by Napoleon Bonaparte. He had come to Egypt to conquer it, but had also brought with him scientists, archaeologists, biologists, and all manner of learned men to study Egypt and bring its secrets to the whole world. Some years later, an effort was made to clear away the sand from the Sphinx and the pyramids that some portion of their former glory might be seen by all.


When the Sphinx was free of the sands the archaeologists found a red granite tablet fourteen feet high that was clearly younger than the Sphinx itself. It was covered in hieroglyphics, which could be deciphered now that the Rosetta Stone had been found. It told the tale of how Prince Thutmose had spoken with the Sphinx long ago, and also gave the proclamation that in the first year of his reign, in the third month, Pharaoh Thutmose IV had cleared away the sand and restored the Sphinx of Khafre.

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