The Shipwrecked Sailor

Translation and Commentary by James L. Carroll

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A i a w b p f m n r h H x X z s S o k g t T d D
A i a w b p f m n r h H x X z s S o k g t T d D

[Home] [Egypt] [Texts] [The Shipwrecked Sailor]

Dd.in Smsw iqr
Then the Trustworthy Sailor Said:

wDA ib=k HAt-a
"Prosper your heart, my Captain,

mk pH.n=n Xnw
Behold, we have reached the interior [of Egypt]

        Ssp xrpw
       
a hammer having been seized 

        Hw mnit
       
the mooring post having been struck

        HAt.t rdi.t Hr tA
       
the towrope having been placed on land

        rdi Hknw
        praise having been given

        dwA nTr
        God having been praised

        s nb Hr Hpt sn.nw=f
       
every man embracing his companions

        iswt=tn ii.t ad.t
       
your crew having arrived safely 

        nn nhw n mSa.w=n
        without a loss of our crew!

        pH.n=n pH.wy wAwAt
       
We reached the end of northern Nubia,

        sn.n=n snmwt
       
We passed by the land of kush.

mk rf n ii=n m Htp
Look at us, we have come in peace

        tA=n pH=n sw
       
we have come to our land!"

The story opens with our hero, the sailor, speaking to his captain who is about to speak to Pharaoh.  

The term 'Xnw' means literally 'interior' and the author makes plays on this word repeatedly throughout the text, giving it every possible shade of meaning from "interior of Egypt" or "home" as used here, to the interior of an island, to the interior of a boat.

The story of the shipwrecked sailor is predominantly about reaching home, and the joys of family.

Although they have all reached home safely, something has obviously gone wrong with this expedition, and the captain is afraid to go and speak to Pharaoh.  Whatever went wrong is never explained.

sDm rk n=i HAt-a
Listen to me my captain

        ink Sw HAw
       
I am free of excess [or exaggeration]a

        ia tw
       
wash yourself

        imi mw Hr Dba.w=k
        place water upon your fingersb

        ix wSb=k wSd.t=k
       
so that you can answer what is asked of you

        mdw=k n nsw ib=k m-a=k
       
so that you can speak to the king with your heart in your hand.
                                                                        [idiom for bravery?]

        wSb=k nn nitit
       
so that you may answer without stammering

        iw rA n s nHm=f sw
       
a man's speach can always save him

        iw mdw=f di=f TAm n=f Hr
       
his words will always give him a covering [veil] for his facec

ir=k m xr.t ib=k
you will do what you want,

         s.wrd pw Dd n=k
         speaking to you is tiring
                         or
          s.wrd pw Dd. n=k
          what you have said is discouragingd

a)  There is a definite wit about this story.  Here the sailor claims to be free of any exaggeration, but he is about to launch into a totally unbelievable story.

b)  The ritual of washing is here preparatory to entering the presence of Pharaoh.   

c)  Another major theme of the text is that the words of a man can always save him.  Later in the text the sailor will "reach" a god, (meaning he has convinced the god not to kill him) by means of carefully crafted words.  He is implying that his captain can, through carefully crafted words escape from the wrath of Pharaoh, a god on earth.  It is interesting that the ritual washing is supposed to give the captain courage to speak to Pharaoh.  It is therefore not just clever words that the sailor believes will save his captain, but ritual preparation to make those words clever. 

d)  The last line is ambiguous.  The sailor seems to be reacting to his captain's discouragement, and is either saying that talking to the captain is discouraging (because he isn't getting any hope from what the sailor is telling him) or he is reacting to some previously given information about what has gone wrong with the voyage, and is recognizing that the captain is in a discouraging situation.

sDd=i rf n=k mitt iry xpr(.w) m-a=i Ds=i
Let me tell you something similar that happened to me myself.

        Sm=kwi r biA n ity
       
I was going to the quarry of the sovereign

        hA=kwi r wAD-wr m dpt nt mH 120 m Aw=s mH 40 m wsx=s
       
I went to sea in a boat of 120 cubits in its length and 40 cubits in its breadth

        sqd 120 im=s m stp n kmt
      
120 of the choicest sailors of Egypt in it.  

                mA=sn pt mA=sn tA makA-ib=sn r mA.w
               
Whether they look at heaven, or whether they look at the 
                earth, their hearts are braver than lions.

                sr=sn Da n ii.t
               
they can foretell a storm before its coming

                        nSny n xpr.t=f
                       
foul weather before its formation

To overcome the discouragement of his captain, the sailor launches into a story about what happened to him once upon a time....
Da pr iw=n m wAD-wr tp-a sAH=n tA
A storm burst forth while we were at sea before we struck landa

        fA.t TAw ir=f wHmyt
       
a wind came up, and it created a howling

        nwyt im=f nt mH 8
       
a wave came with it, of 8 cubits

        in xt HH n=i s
       
and a mast [or other piece of wood] broke and it hit me
        [literally "it broke to me" meaning either it hit him, or broke 
        off for him to hold on to, I can't tell which]

a)  This is the first of the many highly ironic points of this story. Just one line after telling us that this crew could foretell a storm before it came, we are told that a storm burst forth that they couldn't foretell, and they were caught in it, and couldn't reach land in time.
aHa.n dpt mt(=t)
Then the boat died

        ntyw im=s n sp wa im
       
of those who were in it, not one survived.

aHa.n=i rdi=kwi r iw in wAw n wAD-wr
Then I was carried to an island by a wave of the sea

        ir.n=i hrw 3
       
I spent 3 days

        wa=kwi ib=i m sn.nw=i
       
I was alone, my heart as my sole companion

        sDr=kwi m Xnw n kAp n xt qni.n=i Swyt
       
I slept in the interiora of a hut of wood, I embraced nothingness
                                             [or
        I slept in the interior of the enclosure of a tree, I embraced the shadows]

a)  Interior, here the word Xnw is being played on again, but here it is the interior of the hut or enclosure of the tree in which he found shelter.  Homes, temples, and enclosures all provide shelter of one sort or another.
aHa.n dwn.n=i rd.wy=i r rx di.t=i m r=i
Then I stretched my legs in order to find something to eat
[literally to give me something for my mouth]

        gm.n=i dAb.w iArrt im
       
I found figs and grapes there

                iAq.t nb.t Sps.t
               
vegetables and every noble thing

                kAw im Hna nqwt Ssp.t mi ir.t=s
               
and sycamore figs, with notched figs and cucumbers like they were cultivated

                rm.w im Hna Apd.w
               
fish with birdsa

                nn ntt nn st m Xnw=f
               
there was not anything that was not in the interiorb of it

a)  This list highly resembles the lists of items from an offering list, implying that the items he found were of a ritual nature, and that the island is more than just a normal island but is also a type of temple.

b)  Another play on Xnw, here the interior refers to the interior of the island rather than home in Egypt.  The word can also mean the interior of a temple again implying that the island is a type of temple.  Because the word elsewhere refers to returning home to Egypt the implication is that returning home Egypt is like entering a temple.  This follows the major theme of the work of the value of family, friends, and home.  Although the sailor has found an island that is in essence a temple, what he really wants is to return to the temple of his  home.

aHa.n ssA.n(=i) wi
Then I satisfied myself

        rdi.n=i r tA n wr Hr a.wy=i
       
spilling the great abundance in my arms on the ground
        [literally: I gave to the land of the great abundance in my arms]

        Sdt=i DA s.xpr.n=i xt
       
I made a fire-drill, and built a fire

        ir.n=i sb n sDt n nTr.w
       
I made a burnt offering to the gods

 
aHa.n sDm.n=i xrw qri
Then I heard a rushing sound

        ib=kwi wAw pw n wAD-wr
       
I thought that it was another wave of the sea

                xt.w Hr gmgm
               
trees were breaking

                tA Hr mnmn
               
and the ground was quaking

kf.n=i Hr=i
I uncovered my face

        gm.n=i HfAw pw iw=f m ii.t
       
and I discovered that it was a snake that was coming

        n sw mH 30
       
he was 30 cubits long

        xbsw=f wr=s r mH 2
       
His beard was longer than 2 cubits!

        ha.w=f sxr.w m nbw
       
his body was overlaid with gold

        in.wy.fy m xsbd mAa
       
and his eyebrows were of real lapis lazuli

        arq sw r xnt
       
and he was bent [or reared] up in front

 
iw wp.n=f r=f r=i iw=i Hr Xt=i m-bAH=f
He opened his mouth against me while I was upon my belly in his presence

Dd=f n=i
and he said to me

        nm in tw (sp 2) nDs
      
"Who brought you, Who brought you little man? 

        nm in tw
       
Who brought you?

        ir wdf=k m Dd n=i in tw r iw pn
       
if you delay in telling me who brought you to this island

        rdi=i rx=k tw iw=k m ss xpr.t m nty n mA.t=f
       
I will give you to know yourself as ashes, 
        becoming like someone who never was seen [i.e. who never existed]."

iw mdw=k n=i nn wi Hr sDm st
"You speak to me, without my understanding it

        iw=i m-bAH=k xm nn wi
       
because I am in your presence!  I don't know myself!

 
aHa.n rdi=f wi m r=f
Then he put me in his mouth

        iT=f wi r st=f nt snDm
      
so that he could take me to his dwelling place  

        wAH=f wi nn dmi.t=i wDA=kwi nn iT.t im=i
       
he set me down, I wasn't touched and I wasn't injured, 
        there was nothing taken from me.  [as in no bites taken out
        of me]

 
iw wp.n=f r=f r=i iw=i Hr Xt=i m-bAH=f
He opened his mouth against me while I was on my belly in his presence.

aHa.n Dd.n=f n=i
Then he said to me

        nm in tw (sp 2) nDs
        "Who brought you, who brought you little man

        nm in tw r iw pn n wAD-wr nty gs(.wy)=fy m nwy
  
      who brought you to this island of the sea whose borders are waves?"

 
aHa.n wSb.n=i n=f st a.wy=i xAm m-bAH=f
Then I answered him, with my arms raised in his presence.

Dd=i n=f
I said to him:

        ink pw hA=kwi r biA m wpw.t ity 
        "I was going down to the quarry as a messenger of the king

        m dpt nt mH 120 m Aw=s mH 40 m wsx=s
       
in a boat of 120 cubits in length, and 40 cubits in bredth.

        sqd 120 im=s m stp n kmt
       
with 120 of the choicest sailors of Egypt in it.  

                mA=sn pt mA=sn tA makA-ib=sn r mA.w
               
Whether they look at heaven, or whether they look at the 
                earth, their hearts are braver than lions.

                sr=sn Da n ii.t=f
               
they can foretell a storm before its coming

                        nSny n xpr.t=f
                       
foul weather before its formation  

               wa im nb makA-ib=f nxt=f r sn.nw=f
               each in his heart was steadier, his arm more powerful than his companion

                nn wxA m Hr-ib=sn
               
there was not a sluggart among them.

        Da pr iw=n m wAD-wr tp-a sAH=n tA
       
A storm burst forth while we were at sea before we struck land

        fA(i).t TAw ir=f wHmyt 
       
a wind came up, and it created a howling

       nwyt im=f nt mH 8
      
a wave came with it, of 8 cubits

        in xt H(w)H n=i s(y)
       
and a mast [or other piece of wood] broke and it hit me

        aHa.n dpt mt=t
       
Then the boat died

                ntyw im=s n sp wa im Hr-xw=i
               
of those who were in it, not one survived, except for me.

        mk wi r gs=k
       
behold me, down beside you.

        aHa.n in=kwi r iw pn n wAw n wAD-wr
       
Then I was taken to this desert island by a wave of the sea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dd.in=f n=i
He said to me

        m snD m (sp 2) nDs
       
do not fear, do not fear, little man

        m Atw Hr=k
       
do not hide your face

        pH.n=k wi
        you have reached me

        mk nTr rdi.n=f anx=k
       
behold, God, He has caused you to live.

                in.n=f tw r iw pn n kA nn ntt nn st m Xnw=f
               
When he brought you to this island of souls, there is nothing that is not in its interior.

                        iw=f mH Xr nfr.(w)t nb.t
                       
it is full possessing every good thing.

        mk tw r ir.t Abd Hr Abd r km.t=k
       
Behold you will spend month on month until you have spent

                Abd 4 m Xnw n iw pn
               
four months in the interior of this island

        iw dp.t r ii.t sqd.w im=s rx n=k
       
then a boat will come from the interior with sailors in it that are known to you

        Sm=k Hna=sn r Xnw
      
you will go with them to the interior

        mt=k m niwt=k
       
and you will die in your own city

 
rS wy sDd dpt n=f sni xt mr
how happy is it to say what he has experienced after the pain has passed.

sDd=i rf n=k mitt iry xpr.w m iw pn
let me tell you something similar which happened in this island

        wn=i im=f Hna sn.w=i Xrd.w m oAb=sn
       
I lived on it together with my siblings, and my children in their coils
                                                 [i.e. wound up with them like snakes do]

                km.n=n HfAw 75 m msw=i Hna sn.w=i
                a total of 75 snakes, my children with my siblings

                nn sHA=i nk sA.t ktt in.t n=i m sSA
                I will not recall to you a small daughter brought to me by prayer

        aHa.n sbA hA.w pr.n nA m xt m a=f
       Then a star fell, and these went up in flames with it

                xpr.n r=s nn wi Hna Am ny
                ???it happened that I did not burn with them???

                nn wi m Hr-ib=sn
                becaise I was not in their midst

        aHa.n=i mt=kwi n sn
        gm.n=i st m XAy.t wa.t

 
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
ir qn{n}=k dAr ib=k mH=k qni=k m Xrd.w=k
        sn=k Hm.t=k
        mA=k pr=k
        nfr st r xt nb.t
        pH=k Xnw
        wn=k im=f m qAb n sn.w=k
wn=k rf dmA=kwi Ht Xt=i
        dmi.n=i sAtw m-bAH=f
Dd=i rf n=k
        sDd=i bAw=k n ity
        di=i sSA=f m aA=k
        di=i in.t n=k ibi Hknw iwdnb
                XsAyt snTr n gs-pr.w sHtp.w nTr nb im=f
        sDd=i rf xpr.t Hr=i m mA=tn m bA.w=k
                dwA-nTr tw n=k m niwt xft Hr qnb.wt tA r Dr=f
                sft=i n=k iw.w m sb n sDt
                wSn.n=i n=k Apd.w
        di=i in.t n=k Haw Atp.w Xr Spss nb n km.t mi ir.t n nTr mrr=i
                rmT.w m tA wA n rx sw rmT.w
aHa.n sbt.n=f im=i m nn Dd.n=i m nf m ib=f
Dd=f n=i
        n wr.n=k antiw xpr.t nb snTr
        ink is HqA pwn.t
                antiw n=i im sw
                Hknw pf Dd.n=k in.t=f bw pw wr n iw pn
                xpr is iwd=k tw r st tn n sp mA=k iw pn xpr m nwy
aHa.n dpt tf ii.t(i) mi sr.t.n=f xnt
aHa.n Sm=kwi rdi.n wi Hr xt qA siA.n=i ntyw m Xnw=s
aHa.n Sm=kwi r smit st gm.n=i sw rx st
aHa.n Dd.n=f n=i
        snb=t(i) (sp 2) nDs r pr=k
        mA=k Xrd.w=k
        imi rn=i nfr m niwt=k
        mk Xr.wt=i pw im=k
aHa.n rdi.n(=i) wi Hr Xt=i a.wy=i HAm m-bAH=f
aHa.n rdi.n=f n=i sb.wt m
        antiw
        Hknw
        iwdnb
        XsAyt
        ti Sps
        SAas
        msdm.t
        sdw nw mama
        mrry.wt aA.t n.t snTr
        nDHyt n Ab.w
        Tsm.w
        gwf.w
        kyw.w
        Spss nb nfr
aHa.n Atp.n=i st r dpt tn
xpr.n rdi.t wi Hr Xt=i r dwA-nTr n=f
aHa.n Dd.n=f n=i
        mk tw r spr r Xnw n abd 2
        mH=k qni=k m Xrd.w=k
        rnpy=k m Xny
        qrst=k
aHa.n hA(i)=kwi r mryt m hA.w dpt tn
aHa.n=i Hr iAS n mSa.w nty m dpt tn
rdi.n=i Hknw Hr mryt n nb n iw pn
        ntyw im=s r mitt iry
na.t pw ir.n=n m xd r Xnw n ity
spr.n=n r Xnw Hr Abd 2 mi Dd.t.n=f nb.t
aHa.n aq=kwi Hr ity ms.n=i n=f in.w pn in.n=i m Xnw n iw pn
aHa.n dwA-nTr.n=f n=i xft Hr qnb.wt tA r Dr=f
aHa.n rdi=kwi r Smsw
        sAH=kwi m tp rmT.w 200
        mA wi r-sA sAH tA r-sA mA=i dpt.n=i
sDm rk n r=i
        mk nfr sDm n rmT.w
aHa.n Dd.n=f n=i
        m ir iqr Xnms
        in-m rdi.t mw n Apd HD-tA n sft=f dwA
iw=f pw HAt=f r pH(.wy)=fy mi gmyt m sS m mDAt
        sS iqr n Dba.w=f imny sA imny-aA
                anx(=w) (w)D(A=w) s(nb=w)