Tales from Ancient Egypt Translated into English

After years of painstaking research, all of those ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics we heard so much about in Middle School are finally getting published -in English. This means a lot when trying to understand the nature of society during those crucial years in the Fertile Crescent.

The translation comes from a single Cambridge academic named Toby Wilkinson, one of the most decorated Egyptologists alive today. Don’t get too excited though, Wilkinson’s book Writings from Ancient Egypt is still considered literary fiction. His book is not a 100% accurate depiction of what the ancient Egyptians were actually saying.


One of the stories included in the book is The Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor, which is about a giant snake that lives on a mysterious island. Eventually the snake tells the story of its experience on the island: “I was here with my brothers and my children…we totaled 75 snakes … Then a star fell and they were consumed in flames … If you are brave and your heart is strong, you will embrace your children, you will kiss your wife and you will see your house.”

From this single excerpt we see a story of loss and tragedy. The snake seems to be the last remaining of its family. All of the grief and loss associated with such an event comes through in the advice he gives the shipwrecked sailor. It tells him to love his family and his wife, probably because there is no guarantee that they will always be there.

This was probably a stark reality for humans in 1930 BC. Amazingly these stories show that humans were struggling with the some of the same things we struggle with today. Another example of our similatires is found in a letter concerning land management: “Be extra dutiful in cultivating. Watch out that my barely-seed is guarded.” If these quotes are accurate, they can provie a glimpse into what life was actually like all those years ago. 

Egypt has always been an incredibly fascinating part of the world. The land is so mysterious that some serious historians even believe it was created by an alien race! This just goes to show how amazing human beings were even without the aid of modern technology. Wilkinson’s work may not be able to receive the official title of non-fiction just yet, but each step we take gets us closer to the fascinating truth of this ancient civilization.

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