‘Sinuhe’ story papyrus – Wikimedia Commons ‘Sinuhe’ story papyrus – Wikimedia Commons

Ancient Egypt VIII: Ancient Egyptians initiate world literature

Wed, Jan. 3, 2018
CAIRO – 3 January 2018: Prominent archaeologist and author, Enas El Shafie, traced the origins of Ancient Egyptian history in a TV interview with Ibrahim Hegazy, aired on state-owned TV.

El Shafie has introduced evidence to illustrate how world literature was inspired by Ancient Egyptian heritage, including the stories of Snow White and Cinderella, and narrative poems, like Divine Comedy and Iliad.

El Shafie initiated her talk by stressing the importance of ancient Egyptian manuscripts and how they provide archaeologists with information about this important era.

“Sinuhe” is considered one of the greatest pieces in Ancient Egyptian literature, according to El Shafie. She added that the story is a good example for democracy and mercy.

The Story revolves around King Amenemhat I’s official called “Sinuhe”, who was connected to the king’s death. Sinuhe then fled to Palestine after King Senwosert I reached the throne.

Through the story, Sinuhe expresses his feelings during his journey to Palestine, narrating the dangers he faced.

Shortly, he manages to form great connections with the Palestinian tribes and he becomes the son-in-law of one of the greatest tribe leaders, Ammunenshi.

Sinuhe, then, asked Egypt’s king to come back to Egypt to spend his final years, and the King accepts his request.

According to El Shafie, the story of Sinuhe attracted the west. This led to the release of different adaptations of the story, such as American epic drama film “The Egyptian”, released in 1954. The film is based on the Finish best-selling novel “Snuhi, The Egyptian” written by Mika Waltari, and released in 1945.

Another worldwide story that is adapted from Ancient Egyptian literature is “Cinderella”. It is originally inspired by the story of “Rhodopis”, according to El Shafei. Written in the first century B.C, it revolves around a beautiful girl whose mother gives her a closed box containing a pair of slippers. After her mother’s death, her father gets married to another women and she delivered two beautiful daughters. Rhodopis’ stepmother and half sisters oppress her.

One day, Rhodopis seeks to discover the treasure of her mother’s box, and she finds the pair of slippers. While checking the slippers, a bird catches one slipper and throws it on the hands of a prince who happens to be on the lookout for his one true love.

According to El Shafei, archaeologists do not know how the story ends. She also added that the prince sees Rhodopis in a vision, and she asks him to build her a pyramid.

Greek historian Strabo mentioned in his Rhodopis version, that the prince manages to find Rhodopis, according to Greek archaeologist and researcher Joshua J. Mark’s article, published on Ancient History Encyclopedia.
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