Sunday, September 16, 2001

Story of the Day: The Green Jewel

The Ancient Egypt unit contains stories of Isis and Osiris and the other Egyptian gods as you would expect, but it also contains some wonderful ancient folktales, like the story of The Green Jewel which you can read below. The source is Egyptian Myth and Legend by Donald Mackenzie (1907). As you will see, it is a story of magic, which is a distinctive feature of the ancient Egyptian stories, whether or not they include the gods!




The Green Jewel

King Sneferu was one day disconsolate and weary. He wandered about the palace with desire to be cheered, nor was there aught to take the gloom from his mind. He caused his chief scribe to be brought before him and said, "I would fain have entertainment, but cannot find any in this place."

The scribe said, "Thy Majesty should go boating on the lake, and let the rowers be the prettiest girls in your harem. It will delight your heart to see them splashing the water where the birds dive and to gaze upon the green shores and the flowers and trees. I myself will go with you."

The king consented, and twenty virgins who were fair to behold went into the boat, and they rowed with oars of ebony which were decorated with gold. His Majesty took pleasure in the outing, and the gloom passed from his heart as the boat went hither and thither, and the girls sang together with sweet voices.

It chanced, as they were turning round, an oar handle brushed against the hair of the girl who was steering and shook from it a green jewel, which fell into the water. She lifted up her oar and stopped singing, and the others grew silent and ceased rowing.

Said Sneferu, "Do not pause; let us go on still farther."

The girls said, "She who steers has lifted her oar."

Said Sneferu to her, "Why have you lifted your oar?"

"Alas, I have lost my green jewel," she said. "It has fallen into the lake."

Sneferu said, "I will give you another; let us go on."

The girl pouted and made answer, "I would rather have my own green jewel again than any other."

His Majesty said to the chief scribe, "I am given great enjoyment by this novelty; indeed my mind is much refreshed as the girls row me up and down the lake. Now one of them has lost her green jewel, which has dropped into the water, and she wants it back again and will not have another to replace it."

The chief scribe at once muttered a spell. Then by reason of his magic words, the waters of the lake were divided like a lane. He went down and found the green jewel which the girl had lost, and came back with it to her. When he did that, he again uttered words of power, and the waters came together as they were before.

The king was well pleased, and when he had full enjoyment with the rowing upon the lake he returned to the palace. He gave gifts to the chief scribe, and everyone wondered at the marvel which he had accomplished.


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