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Sheet from the Tale of Two Brothers, Papyrus D'Orbiney

 

EA 10183/6

Ancient Egypt and Sudan

    Sheet from the Tale of Two Brothers, Papyrus D'Orbiney

    From Egypt
    End of the 19th Dynasty, around 1185 BC

    Making good, ancient Egyptian style

    The Papyrus D'Orbiney contains a style of story that became popular in the New Kingdom (1550-1070 BC). Similar to a folk tale, the story is less formal in style than those of the Middle Kingdom (2040-1750 BC). It has very human characters whose relationships are very realistic, though many of the events that take place in the story are pure fantasy.

    The story begins by presenting an idyllic household, consisting of Anubis, his wife, and his brother, Bata. Their pleasant lifestyle is destroyed when the wife of Anubis tries unsuccessfully to seduce her brother-in-law. She then claims that Bata had attacked her. Believing his wife, Anubis turns against his brother and forces him to leave the family. However, Anubis later discovers his wife's disloyalty and kills her. The brothers are reconciled.

    Meanwhile, the gods have fashioned a wife for Bata. Unfortunately, she spurns him in favour of the king. To regain her, Bata assumes a succession of different forms, the last being a persea tree. Bata's wife orders the tree to be cut down. A splinter from the tree flies into her mouth, 'she swallowed it and in a moment she became pregnant'. Bata is reborn, now as her son, and becomes king of Egypt. He elevates his brother, Anubis, to succeed him, overcoming the catastrophes that had beset the pair.

    M. Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian literature: a, 3 vols. (University of California Press, 1973-1980)

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