THE TALE OF THE ELOQUENT PEASANT

Posted: May 19, 2016 in Chat
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The Oxford World’s Classics series book, THE TALE OF SINUHE AND OTHER ANCIENT EGYPTIAN POEMS, 11940 – 1640 BC (sic) is really quite a … classic.

It’s full of intriguing, interesting and stimulating material – and that’s not just the texts. The translator and commentator R B Parkison has fully explored the texts with the most up-to-date (published 1997) discoveries and thinking. His Notes and Introductions are really first-class.

I have already mined The Tale of Sinuhe itself quite extensively in my book (still waiting for its cover!) ‘Gifts of Rings and Gold, an Introduction to Ring-composition texts’.

I want to take a quick look at The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant, from the book.
This tale, along with the Sinuhe tale, were gathered together on the same manuscript source. They are very different, though. The tales are thought to have composed during the Twelfth Dynasty, in the reign of Senworset I (about 1875 BCE).

The tale is about a peasant called  Khunanup. He lived in the Wadi Natrun, and was married to Merep. They had children, but the tale doesn’t record their number or names.

 

There was a man called Khunanup2 . He was a peasant of the Wadi Natrun,He took six gallons of grain into Egypt to sell, to provide for his family. He loaded his asses with reeds and fan palms, natron, salt, wood, leopard and wolf skins, various plants.

eloqp1

He got so far on his journey when he was stopped by Nemtinaku, a highly placed regional liegeman. He saw and wanted. He had to make his siezure of the goods seem legit.
Khunanup came to a narrow crossing place. It was near Heracleopolis ‘ in the area of Per-fefi, north of Mednit.’
Nemtinaku scattered a clean sheet alongside the path so the peasant couldn’t pass without dirtying it. On the other side was the man’s barley: the peasant had to squeeze his asses past without besmirching the sheet or trampling the barley.
Then one of his asses took a mouthful.

That was the excuse he needed: he seized the peasant’s goods… everything. But the peasant knew the lord of the estate. He and  Nemtinaku argued over whether  Nemtinaku had stolen his goods – because if he had, the lord of the estate was very severe with robbers.
But Nemtinaku pulled rank, and the peasant had to give in.

Only, he didn’t.
Eight times he brought petitions to get his goods back. All were well argued; and all were met with abuse, violence, or outright ignored.
On the ninth attempt found in his favour. His entire goods and carriers were restored to him.

He took them to market, and was able to provide for his family.
……………………………………………………………………………………………

Nine times he had to petition!
Nine times he argued calmly, using all the codes of reasonable argument, acknowledging status, his social position.
He was chased off, beaten, shouted down.

How little things have changed, in nearly 4000 years!
It is still the same today.

Whatever the deeper reading there is to this tale – and there must be one for it to have lasted and been reproduced do often – it still comes down to this same status and greed.

 

For further readings, see:
https://mjn.host.cs.st-andrews.ac.uk/egyptian/texts/corpus/pdf/Peasant.pdf
http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/peasant.htm
http://www.reshafim.org.il/ad/egypt/texts/the_eloquent_peasant.htm

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