The Pharaoh and the Loyal King


C. N. H


The Tale of Sinuhe is set during one of the many power fluctuations of the Egyptian Empire. Pharoah Amen-em-het is on the throne but realizes that the whispers of an impeding assassination attempt cannot be ignored. Worried for the rule of his son in case of rebellion, he makes Sen-Usert his second in command so in the eventuality of his death Sen-Usert can take the throne swiftly and without civil war. Unfortunately his fears were proven correct when soon afterward he is assassinated while his son is abroad at war. The main events begin with a messenger coming to Sen-Usert in the field and telling him he must leave quickly and come to Thebes to take the throne without informing his soldiers or anyone else. Among Sen-Usert's personal guard, the "Royal Companions", there is a young man by the name of Sinuhe who as far as the story tells has knowledge of the assassination plot and was possibly involved as well, he sees the messengers and eavesdrops on the conversation. Fearing that his new king would discover his part in the plot if he goes to Thebes or realize he has been eavesdropping if he requests to remain with the army he decides to flee for his life.

Sinuhe runs into the Desert of Sinai where he almost dies and is nursed to health by an Asiatic herdsman. After this it seems that he goes on something of an Odyssey. From the desert to Byblos he travels, he stays in Byblos for sometime then continues over the Lebanon range to the land of Retenu. Here, in this land of plenty, the King Ammi-enshi welcomes him with open arms asking for news of Egypt. Sinuhe tells him all he knows and the King informs him that Sen-Usert is on the throne and the land is stable, he asks Sinuhe whether he should swear loyalty to Sen-Usert or rebel. Obviously still quite fond of his former lord Sinuhe gives a great speech that exemplifies the virtues of Sen-Usert and telling the king that if he swears the Pharaoh his loyalty then his land will be made even greater. Ammi-enshi makes Sinuhe a commander of his army where he wins great lands and renown. Since the king has no sons he plans to make Sinuhe his heir by virtue of his marriage to the Princess royal. When news of this spreads the people begin to mutter over being ruled by a foreigner and word comes of a rebel leader who has never been bested in battle. Sinuhe tells the king that he will fight him and decide the matter.

For a day and night before their fight Sinuhe trains. On the day of battle he easily casts the rebel down and the king embraces him like a son declaring that none is worthier of becoming his son. Thus Sinuhe becomes king of Retenu on Ammi-enshi's death and rules peacefully for many years. In his old age however, Sinuhe begins to long for his homeland. Pharaoh Sen-Usert, having heard that this king of Retenu is none other than his old friend and comrade, writes him "As a loyal subject" calling him home for his final years. Happily, Sinuhe hands over the kingdom to his son, and in the company of some of his nobles makes, the long journey back over the distance and years to the throne of his Pharaoh at Thebes where he abandon him. Coming to Sen-Usert, Sinuhe prostrates himself upon the floor and "Lay as one dead" before the son of the king he had betrayed.

Pharaoh Sen-Usert speaks kindly to him and says, "Lift him up and let him speak! Sinuhe, you have arrived at your home. See, I greet you by name! Welcome Sinuhe!"

Rising, ashamed and desperate, Sinuhe stands before him, his eyes downcast, "Behold, I stand before you and my life is yours to do with as you will." Here Sen-Usert steps down from his throne, takes Sinuhe's hand and presents him to his Queen and the Royal children. Given the Pharaoh's full forgiveness, Sinuhe lives out the rest of his days in the royal palace and on his death is buried with full honors. The story of his life was inscribed on papyrus and handed down through many generations through book and fable.

Throughout this story Pharaoh Sen-Usert is not shown to be anything else than the epitome of manliness and straight up Arthurian honor. In the beginning he is the dutiful son who is off winning his father's wars when he gets the news of his death. Of course Sinuhe's involvement begs the question of whether or not some of the Royal Companions may have been trying to get their pretty boy prince on the throne but that is somewhat irrelevant. When Sinuhe flees it does not show what is going on back in the kingdom except that Sen-Usert has taken the throne just as planned and there is no threat of civil war. When Pharaoh 'out-of-whose-butt-the-light-shineth' Sen-Usert hears that his old… ah…friend, is king he sends letters 'As to a loyal subject' No really. Apparently Sinuhe is just as anxious to get back to his lord and master because even though he is a king in his own right he runs back to ole Senny as fast as his camel can carry him. After a scenic boat trip to Thebes with the Egyptians sent to meet him fawning over him and his retinue Sinuhe comes to the throne room of his king. Throwing himself on his face before Sen-Usert, Sinuhe awaits his pleasure. The magnanimous monarch tells his to rise and forgives him all his somewhat hazy trespasses. Sen- Usert introduces him to his family and gives him many lands. They become the closest of friends. When Sinuhe dies the Pharaoh has him buried in state and his adventures inscribed on his tomb. How romantic.

The End