Episode 44: The Shipwrecked Sailor


A Fable of the Sea.

Sometime during the Twelfth Dynasty, a folk-tale was composed (or became popular) that would echo through the ages as one of ancient Egypt’s most enduring tales.

The Shipwrecked Sailor tells of a nameless Egyptian who is marooned on a mythical island. He meets a god, gains valuable wisdom of life, and returns home to tell of his tale and share the wealth he has acquired. The story is a classic fable of the sea, the tropes of which can be found in tales like the Thousand and One Nights, or Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner


The only image I’ve found for this story. Why does the serpent have arms? (Source: Petrie’s publications, via levigilant.com, a dated translation).


John Baines, “Interpreting the Story of the Shipwrecked Sailor,” Journal of Egyptian Archaeology76 (1990). Online pdf.

Peter der Manuelian, “Interpreting the Shipwrecked Sailor,” in Festschrift für Emmer Brunner-Traut (1992). Free Online Copy.

W.K. Simpson (editor), The Literature of Ancient Egypt, 2006 (Archive.org Pdf Copy). Amazon page. Primary translation for this episode.

Fordham University – The Shipwrecked Sailor, online article.

St. Andrews University – Hieroglyphic text, transliteration and translation.

2 Comments Add yours

    1. DominicPerry says:

      Hi Craftytheatre,

      The serpent in the Shipwrecked Sailor is a prince, but not an Egyptian King. He is more a divine being, the golden skin/lapis lazuli hair and bones of silver are trappings of the gods.

      As for the cobra/nemes connection, I’ve wondered this myself but never found any serious scholarship on the matter. Aesthetically it seems likely, but to the best of my knowledge there is no proven connection.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s