Egyptian Myth and Legend
The Island of Enchantment
A Sailor's Story--Shipwrecked--The Sole Survivor--A Lonely Island--A Voice like Thunder--The Giant Serpent God--A Threat--Sailor given Protection--Sacrifice of Asses--Rescued by a Ship--The Parting--A Man of Wisdom.
ONCE upon a time a ship set forth on a voyage to the mines of Sinai, and it was swamped in a storm. All the sailors were drowned save one, who swam to the Isle of Enchantment, which was inhabited by the "manes"--serpent gods who have heads and arms like to human beings and are able to hold converse in speech.
When this man returned to Egypt he related his wonderful story unto his lord, saying: "Now, be well satisfied that I have come back although alone. Your ship on which I have returned is safe, and no men are missing. I was rescued by it, and I had no other means of escape. When you have cleansed your limbs, I pray you to inform the Pharaoh of the things which have befallen me."
The master said: "So you persist in repeating this tale of yours. But speak on. I will hear you to the end, and, perchance, your words will betray the truth. But lower your voice and say what you have to say without excitement."
The sailor said: "I will begin at the beginning, and relate what happened to myself. I voyaged towards the mines in your great ship, in which were 150 of the finest
sailors in Egypt. They were all stout-hearted men. Now, some said that the wind would be unfavourable, and others said that there would be no wind at all. As it chanced., a great storm arose, and the ship was tossed about in the midst of high billows so that it was swamped. When I found myself in the angry waters., I clung to a floating spar. All the others were drowned. In time I was cast ashore, and I found myself on a lonely island, where I lay helplessly for three days and three nights. Then I began to revive. I was faint with hunger and thirst, and went to search for food, and I found fruit and birds and fishes, and ate thereof. I gave thanks to the god because that I was alive, and offered up a sacrifice.
"No sooner had I given thanks in this manner than I heard a loud noise like to thunder, and the earth trembled beneath me and the trees were stricken as with tempest. I hid my face with terror, and after I had lain a time on the ground I looked up and beheld a giant serpent god with human face and arms. He wore a long beard, and his body was golden and blue.
"I prostrated myself before him, and he spake, saying: 'Speak and tell, little fellow, speak and tell why you have come hither. If you do not speak without delay, I will cause your life to end. If you do not tell me what I have not heard and what I do not know, [*1] I will cause you to pass out of existence like a flame which has been extinguished.'
"Ere I answered him he carried me inland and set me down without injury, whereupon I said that I had come from the land of Egypt in a great ship which perished in the storm, and that I had clung to a spar and was washed ashore.
"The serpent god heard, and said: 'Do not be terrified, little fellow, do not be terrified, and be cheerful of countenance, for it is the god who sent you hither to me. Here you may dwell until four moons wax and wane; then a ship will come, and you will depart in it and return once again to the land of Egypt. . . . It is pleasant to hold converse. Know, then, that I dwell here with my kind, and I have children, and there is also a girl who perished by accident in a fire. I will take you to my home, and you will return to yours again in time.'
"When the giant serpent god had spoken thus I prostrated myself before him, and I said: 'To the King of Egypt I will relate the things I have seen. I will laud your name, and offerings of oil and perfumes will be made to you. Asses [*1] and birds will I sacrifice to you, and the king will send you rich offerings because you are a benefactor of mankind.'
"'I need not your perfumes,' answered the serpent god. 'I am a ruler of Punt, and these I possess in abundance, but I have no oil of Egypt here. But know that when you go away this island will never again be seen by any man; it will vanish in the midst of the sea.'
"When four moons had waxed and waned, a ship appeared as the serpent god had foretold. I knelt down and bade farewell to the inhabitants of the island of enchantment, and the great god gave me gifts of perfumes and ivory and much treasure, and he gave me also rare woods and baboons. I took my leave with grateful heart, and I thanked the god because of my deliverance. Then I went to the shore and hailed the ship, and was taken aboard it.
These are the things which happened unto me, my lord and master. Now conduct me, I pray you, before His Majesty that I may present him with the gifts of the serpent god. . . . Look upon me, for I have returned to tell of the wonders I did behold with mine eyes. . . . In my youth I was instructed to acquire wisdom so that I might be highly esteemed. Now I have become a wise man indeed."
Apparently "the master" was convinced by this wonderful story, which was duly recorded by a scribe of the temple of Amon.
^249:1 The Norse giant Vafthrudner similarly puts to death those who cannot tell him something he does not know.
^250:1 The reference is unique. Set is associated with the wild ass, but except in this tale there is no indication that asses were sacrificed in Egypt. The Aryans sacrificed the horse.