The legend behind the story in the Westcar Papyrus and Children of Stone.
Will the real Jedi Knights please stand up?
From the earliest versions of Children of Stone, my friend Annette and I knew there was some strange connection between fantasy, dream and real history. My first inspiration to write the stories we saw was as a chronicler. The first setting for Children of Stone was in Santorini, before the volcano in the center of that round island exploded and arguably spawned the tale of Atlantis – an advanced culture the gods smote and caused to sink in the ocean.
Later the tales meandered among early Mycenean and Greek myths, made a home in Rome and then traveled through Celtic northeast Europe, stopped over in Frisia or Denmark and then ended up in Wales. We based our tales on a sort of “We were there” or "time traveler" format, picked names we might have had in those “past lives” and ran with it through art and random stories. I never thought of cultures that were earlier but something seemed as if it was missing. Something earlier was left unexplored. I had just looked at Ancient Egypt and Sumer but without direction. Then Star Wars burst upon the screen. With it came the word Jedi and Jedi Knights. "But that sounds like Djedi, a character in an old Egyptian legend." I thought. I wondered if George Lucas had visited the same universe we saw, to focus on that word.
His Jedi knights were mystical and wise, as well as physically able to defend themselves. The more I studied the priesthoods of ancient Egypt the more similarities I saw between Lucas' knights and the School of Wisdom with its priesthoods. The differences were that priests and priestesses in the various disciples in ancient Egypt were mostly royal, composed of minor princes and princesses. They were scholarly priesthoods that were the wisdom behind the ancient thrones and the educators of kings and princes who eventually ruled. as the centuries advanced, wealthy or royal members from other cultures were educated in these "schools". As I looked back and read more about these schools, I saw priests who were more wizard than priest, more godlike than scholarly. Two other names emerged in my writing. I had seen my characters becoming entangled with the priesthood: one I interpreted as Horsaphet and another, his protégé Kaf-User. There was also a “Yoda”-like figure whose name I didn’t get, but I vaguesly saw a scenario of magical texts and tricks. I had the feeling I either knew these people or was about to approach their plane of existence with my own characters.
Historical Fantasy vs. Visionary Fiction.
What started as Historical Fiction had already morphed into Historical Fantasy because I was writing about magic, gods, super-powers and things archaeologists pooh-pooh. Speculative? Maybe it was that. Visionary Fiction – maybe, but I like to call it Visionary not necessarily fiction (because the ideas came via visions and dreams)-- basically writing about my dreams and visions and making them into stories.
AND THEN I FOUND SOMETHING.
There’s an old group of legends on a ragged papyrus called the Westcar Papyrus.
In a now typical trope of the king deciding on his successor, King Khufu’s sons were competing by presenting tales and finds of wonder. Each prince needed to prove wisdom, knowledge and fitness to succeed.
I glanced over them once and was and when I came to the story Khufu and the Magicians I made a full stop. There was a story that fit what I needed more than well. It spoke of mysticism become real, a search for ancient secrets from a time “When the gods walked as men” and then there were the names that strangely matched too well. Here's a version.
Khufu & the Magician
Prince Hordjedtef (I thought that was fairly close to Horsaphet, actually) stood up and said to Khufu, "You have heard examples of the skill of gods when they walked as men, but of that time one cannot know truth from falsehood. But there is with Your Majesty, in your own time, one who is not known to you." He then tells his father about a magician named Djedi (<- Son of a gun! The name!) who is over 100 years old, eats 500 loaves, a shoulder of meat, drinks 100 jugs of beer and knows how to reattach a head which has been severed from a body and make the person live again as well as perform other miracles and wonders. Hordjedtef also claims that Djedi knows the Ways and Numbers of shrines of the enclosure of Thoth (or Djehuti), something Khufu has been interested in finding out. Khufu is intrigued and sends him to fetch this man. Below is an old illustration for the Westcar Papyrus. Below that is my version of the two men.
Hordjedtef finds Djedi and requests he return with him to the palace. Khufu is anxious to see the feat of reattaching a head which has been severed and sends for a prisoner to be brought, but Djedi says he cannot perform this on a human being because it is against the will of the gods.
A goose is brought instead and its head cut off. The body is placed on one side of the hall and the head on the other and the two move toward each other, the goose's body waddling headless and the head cackling until they join again and the goose is whole. This same is then done with a waterfowl and an ox.
Khufu is well pleased and then says how he has heard that Djedi knows the number of shrines in the enclosure of Thoth,
but Djedi claims he does not, he only knows where they are kept. When Khufu asks him to bring them, he says he cannot because it is written that only the eldest son of Reddedet will be able to bring them. When Khufu asks who Reddedet is, he is told that she will bear three sons who will hold high office in the land and replace Khufu's line. Khufu is upset to hear that his own sons will not inherit the throne but is assured that they will rule and, only after one of his sons (Khafre) and then his son (Menkaure), will the son of Reddedet come to the throne.
The king after Menkaure was Shepseskaf, so the legend isn't exactly fulfilled. After him was a possible regency and then came Wserkaf or Userkaf - Could that have been Kaf-User the assistant? I knew only that Ancient names are uncertain because the writing of characters
This was hard to resist gold. How I wove it with the story will be in next issue, and also another mystery from literature and history that served as a backdrop for the fantasy that became Children of Stone.
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