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The Doomed Prince

Egyptian prince and princess with greyhound pharaoh dog

Ever since humans could talk, they have told stories.

This is a charming fairy tale from ancient Egypt. It was written down on a papyrus manuscript which is now in the British Museum (you can see it here). The papyrus survived thousands of years but is badly damaged and the ending is lost.

We are asking you to finish the story and send your endings to us. We will read out the best answers on Storynory. Get your answers to [email protected] by 14 June 2021.

You might spot some familiar fairy tale themes - lookout for hints of stories you know, and bear in mind, this story was written down 3000 years ago.

The Doomed Prince

Dedicated to Sophie Lin who kindly supports us on Patreon.

Hello, this is Bertie and in a moment, Jana is going to be reading a fairy tale from ancient Egypt. First I’m going to ask you to do something for us. Let me explain.

You may know that the ancient Egyptians wrote on paper made out of the papyrus reeds that grew along the banks of the River Nile. Some of these papyrus scrolls survived thousands of years buried in the dry sands of the Sahara desert. This story was written on just such a scroll which is now in the British museum. Unfortunately the papyrus has been damaged; and we’ve lost the final part of the story. So what we want you to do, is to the listen to the story until it cuts off abruptly in mid sentence, and then tell us how you think it should end . We’ll read out some of the best answers on Storynory. Now. over to Jana.

Once upon a time, a Pharaoh of ancient Egypt had everything a Pharaoh could desire - everything, except for one thing: a child. He prayed to the gods with all his heart for a baby to be born to his wife. Eventually, the gods of Egypt agreed among themselves to grant his wish.The Queen fell pregnant; the months passed by, and, one happy day, she gave birth to a son. The parents' hearts filled with joy.

That night, the seven stars of the goddess Hathor twinkled brightly in the sky. In the morning, they came down to earth in the form of seven sacred cows. Each of them had a name:

The "Lady of the Universe",
The "Sky-storm",
"The Hidden One"
"The Cow from Khemmis",
The "Red-hair",
The "Bright Red" and
"The Cow from the East"

When the seven sacred cows of Hathor appeared in front of the palace, the Pharaoh and the Queen brought the newborn baby out to show them. The cows lowed in admiration, and announced the child's destiny.

"His fate shall come to him in the form of a dog, a snake or a crocodile."

His parents were horrified. One of those animals could kill their beautiful baby boy? How could this be so?

The Pharaoh placed his hand over his heart and pleaded with the sacred cattle:

"Oh, Cows of Hathor, we have waited so many years for this baby son. Can't you please pronounce a happier fate for him?"

But his pleading was no use. The cows were already turning into stars and rising to the heavens. The Pharaoh and his Queen decided that their baby boy should grow up far away from any danger, especially dogs, snakes and crocodiles. His Majesty ordered workers to build a stone palace for him far away in the mountains. They sent the baby there to grow up, along with his nurse, surrounded by guards and every precaution for his safety. He did not even know what a dog was. Then one day, he found a way up onto the palace's roof from where he could view the world outside. A servant followed him to make sure that the prince did not fall from a great height. The prince looked out and saw a man walking up the road with a dog trotting alongside him. "What is that wondrous creature?" the prince asked. "Your highness, that is a greyhound," replied the servant. "Well, I must have one of those. Write to my father at once!" said the prince.
When the Pharaoh received the message that his son wanted a dog, he became very distressed and pulled his hair in agony. "I see the hand of fate at work!” He replied that under no circumstances was his son to have a dog, but the messages kept on arriving at the palace: "I must have a dog! It's the most beautiful animal I have ever seen. I can't be happy without one Father. What is the point of living if I can't be happy?" And in the end, the Pharaoh gave in and bought a puppy for his stubborn child.
The young prince was delighted with his greyhound puppy, and as they grew up together, it was clear that the prince was as devoted to the dog as the dog was to him.
The years passed, and the prince wondered why he could not take his dog for a walk outside. He persistently wrote to his father asking why he was a prisoner inside a palace. He said that life without freedom was not worth living. And finally, he told his father that if he could not walk out he would have to jump off the roof and escape his fate that way.
Finally, the Pharoah relented. He ordered the guards to set his son free. They gave him all sorts of weapons to protect himself, and the people gathered to wish him farewell and told him, "May the gods bless you. Follow your heart's desire."
The prince and his greyhound dog travelled through the country, living off the game that they hunted. Then he left Egypt, heading North through Syria, where he arrived at the city of Neharina. It was there that he discovered an interesting situation. The Duke of Neharina had only one child, a beautiful daughter. He was reluctant for her to marry, and he set up an impossible competition for her hand. He put her in a high tower and decreed that the first person to jump up to her window could marry her. Nobles from Syria and beyond tried all day and every day to leap up to her window sill. None had succeeded. When the Egyptian and his greyhound arrived on the scene, they greeted him warmly and asked him who he was. The young man did not want to receive any special treatment, so he made up a story. He told them that he was the son of a chariot driver of the Egyptian army. He explained that when his mother had died, his father had taken a new wife - and when her children were born, she began to hate him and treat him unkindly. He had decided to take his dog and wander wherever fate led him. The nobles were sympathetic and took a shine to the boy. They called servants to wash his feet and anoint him with oil, and they fed his horses and his greyhound dog.
When the boy had rested, he went out through the city and saw the suitors trying to jump up to the window of the tower. "What sport is this?" he asked.They explained that a princess lived in the building, and the first person to leap up to her window would win her hand in marriage. The young prince thought this sounded highly amusing, and he stood back to watch their efforts. Time and time again, the suitors jumped, and not one of them could reach even a quarter of the way up the tower. Sometimes the princess appeared at the window and laughed at them. The prince noticed that she was lovely. And she saw that he was handsome and had a nice dog. She liked dogs too.
The prince came to the tower for several days running to watch the sport. Finally, he asked the nobles if he could have a try at jumping up to the window. "Go ahead,” they said. “Nobody else has succeeded. Perhaps you will be the first lucky one!" The prince ran, and he jumped - and BOYNG! He lept right up to the princess’s window. She held out a hand to pull him in. Then they both knew what to do. They embraced and kissed, and everyone who was watching clapped and cheered. The sound of the people's rejoicing soon reached the ears of the girl's father. He asked what had happened, and his chief of staff told him that a young man had succeeded in jumping up to his daughter's window.
"Who is this chap?" asked the Duke.
"They say he is the son of an Egyptian charioteer, sir!"
"What!" exclaimed the Duke. "I can't let my daughter marry such a low-life. Isn't there a single nobleman in all of Syria who can jump up to the window of a high tower?"
"Apparently not, sir."
"Well, I won't allow it. Tell my daughter not to marry him."
When the girl heard her father's wishes, she said: "I love this man, and if I can't marry him, I shall never eat or drink again."
The Duke was not pleased with this reply, and he sent soldiers to kill the Egyptian. When they arrived at the tower, the girl stood in their way and declared, "You shall have to kill me first!"
Finally, the Duke relented and called the young couple to come to his palace.They stood before him, and the Duke asked, "Who are you?"
"I sir, am the son of a Chariot driver in the Egyptian army," replied the boy. "When my mother died, my father took a new wife. She was cruel to me, and that is why I have left my country and travelled all the way here."
The Duke did not like this story, but he noticed that the boy had a noble look in his eye, and he saw how his daughter put her arms around him and was obviously in love. He agreed to their marriage and gave them plenty of cattle and servants, lots of rich and gorgeous things, and a fine house. You might have thought the couple would live happily ever after.
One day, after they were married, the young man said to his bride: "This is my true story. I am a prince of Egypt. When I was born, the Seven Cows of Hathor decreed my fate. I am to die by a snake, a dog or a crocodile."
"What?" exclaimed his new wife. "How can we allow this fate to destroy our happiness. You must take your sword and kill your dog immediately."
"You've got to be kidding!" exclaimed the prince. "I love my dog. We've grown up together. I would never do such a thing."
His wife knew that he spoke the truth, so she watched very closely over him from that day on.
One night, as he slept, she lay awake and thought that she heard something. She sat up. The moonlight was shining through the window, and she saw a snake slowly slithering across the floor. She quietly got up and put down a saucer of milk with a sleeping potion in it. The snake drank the milk and fell into a deep sleep. Then she called a guard who chopped the snake up with his sword. When her husband awoke, she showed him the bits of the snake and said:
"This is one fate that you have escaped. There are two to go."

She hated to let her husband out of the house, but he insisted on his freedom. One day, when he was out hunting, his beloved greyhound dog looked at him and snarled: "I am your fate."
The prince started to run, and the dog came after him. Although the prince could run faster than almost anyone, he was not as speedy as a greyhound. He knew his dog hated water, and so he ran into a lake.

There lived an old crocodile in this lake, and when the prince ran into the water, the crocodile swished his great tail and swam towards him, saying, "I am your fate." He grabbed the prince in his mouth and dragged him to his palace on an island. When they arrived, he let the prince go and said:

"There is only one way in which you can escape your fate. You must do me a favour. An evil spirit lives in this lake. We are at war with another and we fight daily. If you help me kill the evil spirit, I will let you go."

The prince heard this story and said..."

And that’s where the papyrus paper is torn off. We don’t know how the story ended. But what do you think happened? Do you expect the crocodile ate the doomed prince? Or do you think he helped the crocodile defeat the evil spirit of the lake and lived happily ever after with his princess? Or is there another ending you can think of? And what happened to the dog and the princess - did they help the prince. And what about the sacred cows of Hathor? Would they mind if their fate was not fulfilled?

And separately, did you notice how familiar some of the story is. Although it was written down 3000 years ago, there are parts of the story that sound a little like some fairy tales that we know and love. Can you spot any famous fairy tales?

Well, write to us, at the following email address. [email protected] that’s [email protected] Tell us how you think the story ended, and for bonus marks, let us know if you can spot any famous fairy tales in the plot. Keep your answers quite short because we want to read out as many answers as possible.

We will read out at least three - and maybe a few more if there is time. Get your answers to us on June 14 2021. And here's that email address one more time [email protected]

And before I go, I want to thank Sophie Lin whose family kindly supports us on Patreon. Her dad tells me that they discovered StoryNory a few years ago and they love listening to it every night as they fall asleep and during road trips!

Well, thank you so much Sophie for listening and for supporting us on Patreon.