Episode 44: The Shipwrecked Sailor

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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 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 felt in such diverse tales as the Thousand and One Nights of Arabia, or Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s epic poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

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

Bibliography

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

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

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

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.

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