Anubis and Bata/The Two Brothers

trans. Miriam Lichtheim

[The prose redaction of this tale comes from the late Nineteenth Dynasty, circa 1190 BCE!  It comes from a stage in which the two deities, Anubis and Bata, are heavily de-mythologized and euhemerized into a folkloric story, and yet are obviously based on older, fully-fledged deities.  Echoes of the Osiris story can be seen in it clearly as well.  The story-type here is interesting, with many parallels in later literatures in terms of the "serial shapeshifting" and "conception by swallowing" motifs; some also believe that this story had an influence on the Potiphar's wife incident in the Joseph story at the end of Genesis; certain other symbols are connected with other Ecclesia figures, e.g. the Valley of the Pine, where Bata goes after he has emasculated himself, and the pinecones connected to Dionysus and Attis.]


It is said, there were two brothers, of the same mother and the same father.  Anubis was the name of the elder, and Bata the name of the younger.  As for Anubis, he had a house and a wife; and his young brother was with him as if he were a son.  He was the one who made clothes for him, and he went behind his cattle to the fields.  He was the one who did the plowing, and he harvested for him.  He was the one who did for him all kinds of labor in the fields.  Indeed, his young brother was an excellent man.  There was none like him in the whole land, for a god's strength was in him.

Now when many days had passed, his young brother was tending his cattle according to his daily custom.  And he returned to his house in the evening, laden with all kinds of field plants, and with milk, with wood, and with every good thing of the field.  He placed them before his elder brother, as he was sitting with his wife.  Then he drank and ate and went to sleep in his stable among his cattle. 

Now when it had dawned and another day had come, he took foods that were cooked and placed them before his elder brother.  Then he took bread for himself for the fields, and he drove his cattle to let them eat in the fields.  He walked behind his cattle, and they would say to him:  "The grass is good in such-and-such a place."  And he heard all they said and took them to the place of good grass that they desired.  Thus the cattle he tended became exceedingly fine, and they increased their offspring very much.

Now at plowing time his elder brother said to him:  "Have a team of oxen made ready for us for plowing, for the soil has emerged and is right for plowing.  Also, come to the field with seed, for we shall start plowing tomorrow."  So he said to him.  Then the young brother made all the preparations that his elder brother had told him to make.

Now when it had dawned and another day had come, they went to the field with their seed and began to plow.  And their hearts were very pleased with this work they had undertaken.  And many days later, when they were in the field, they had need of seed.  Then he sent his young brother, saying, "Hurry, fetch us seed from the village."  His young brother found the wife of his elder brother seated braiding her hair.  He said to her:  "Get up, give me seed, so that I may hurry to the field, for my elder brother is waiting for me.  Don't delay."  She said to him:  "Go, open the storeroom and fetch what you want.  Don't make me leave my hairdo unfinished."

Then the youth entered his stable and fetched a large vessel, for he wished to take a great quantity of seed.  He loaded himself with barley and emmer and came out with it.  Thereupon she said to him:  "How much is what you have on your shoulder?"  He said to her:  "Three sacks of emmer and two sacks of barley, five in all, are on my shoulder."  So he said to her.  Then she spoke to him saying:  "There is great strength in you.  I see your vigor daily."  And she desired to know him as a man.  She got up, took hold of him, and said to him:  "Come, let us spend an hour lying together.  It will be good for you.  And I will make fine clothes for you."

Then the youth became like a leopard in his anger over the wicked speech she had made to him; and she became very frightened.  He rebuked her, saying, "Look, you are like a mother to me; and your husband is like a father to me.  He who is older than I has raised me.  What is this great wrong you said to me?  Do not say it to me again!  But I will not tell it to anyone.  I will not let it come from my mouth to any man."  He picked up his load; he went off to the field.  He reached his elder brother, and they began to work at their task.  When evening had come, his elder brother returned to his house.  And his young brother tended his cattle, loaded himself with all things of the field, and drove his cattle before him to let them sleep in their stable in the village.

Now the wife of the elder brother was afraid on account of the speech she had made.  So she took fat and grease and made herself appear as if she had been beaten, in order to tell her husband, "It was your young brother who beat me."  Her husband returned in the evening according to his daily custom.  He reached his house and found his wife lying down and seeming ill.  She did not pour water over his hands in the usual manner; nor had she lit a fire for him.  His house was in darkness, and she lay vomiting.

Her husband said to her:  "Who has had words with you?"  She said to him, "No one has had words with me except your young brother.  When he came to take seed to you, he found me sitting alone.  He said to me:  'Come, let us spend an hour lying together; loosen your braids.'  So he said to me.  But I would not listen to him.  'Am I not your mother?  Is your elder brother not like a father to you?'  So I said to him.  He became frightened and he beat me, so as to prevent me from telling you.  Now if you let him live, I shall die!  Look, when he returns, do not let him live!  For I am ill from this evil design whih he was about to carry out in the morning."

Then his elder brother became like a leopard.  He sharpened his spear and took it in his hand.  Then his elder brother stood behind the door of his stable, in order to kill his young brother when he came in the evening to let his cattle enter the stable.  Now when the sun had set he loaded himself with all the plants of the field according to his daily custom.  He returned, and as the lead cow was about to enter the stable she said to her herdsman:  "Here is your elder brother waiting for you with his spear in order to kill you.  Run away from him."  He heard what his lead cow said, and when another went in she said the same.  He looked under the door of his stable and saw the feet of his elder brother as he stood behind the door with his spear in his hand.  He set his load on the ground and took off at a run so as to flee.  And his elder brother went after him with his spear.

Then his young brother prayed to Pre-Harakhti, saying:  "My good lord!  It is you who judge between the wicked and the just!"  And Pre heard all his plea; and Pre made a great body of water appear between him and his elder brother, and it was full of crocodiles.  Thus one came to be on the one side, and the other on the other side.  And his elder brother struck his own hand twice, because he had failed to kill him.  Then his young brother called to him on this side, saying:  "Wait here until dawn!  When the Aten has risen, I shall contend with you before him; and he will hand over the wicked to the just!  For I shall not be with you any more.  I shall not be in the place in which you are.  I shall go to the Valley of the Pine."

Now when it dawned and another day had come, and Pre-Harakhti had risen, one gazed at the other.  Then the youth rebuked his elder brother, saying:  "What is your coming after me to kill me wrongfully, without having listened to my words?  For I am yet your young brother, and you are like a father to me, and your wife is like a mother to me.  Is it not so that when I was sent to fetch seed for us your wife said to me: 'Come, let us spend an hour lying together'?  But look, it has been turned about for you into another thing."  Then he let him know all that had happened between him and his wife.  And he swore by Pre-Harakhti, saying:  "As to your coming to kill me wrongfully, you carried your spear on the testimony of a filthy whore!"  Then he took a reed knife, cut off his phallus, and threw it into the water; and the catfish swallowed it.  And he grew weak and became feeble.  And his elder brother became very sick at heart and stood weeping for him loudly.  He could not cross over to where his young brother was on account of the crocodiles.

Then his young brother called to him, saying:  "If you recall something evil, will you not also recall something good, or something that I have done for you?  Go back to your home and tend your cattle, for I shall not stay in the place where you are.  I shall go to the Valley of the Pine.  But what you shall do for me is to come and look after me, when you learn that something has happened to me.  I shall take out my heart and place it on top of the blossom of the pine.  If the pine is cut down and falls to the ground, you shall come to search for it.  If you spend seven years searching for it, let your heart not be disgusted.  And when you find it and place it in a bowl of cool water, I shall live to take revenge on him who wronged me.  You will know that something has happened to me when one puts a jug of beer in your hand and it ferments.  Do not delay at all when this happens to you."

Then he went away to the Valley of the Pine; and his elder brother went to his home, his hand on his head and smeared with dirt.  When he reached his house, he killed his wife, cast her to the dogs, and sat mourning for his young brother.

Now many days after this, his young brother was in the Valley of the Pine.  There was no one with him, and he spent the days hunting desert game.  In the evening he returned to sleep under the pine on top of whose blossom his heart was.  And after many days he built a mansion for himself with his own hand in the Valley of the Pine, filled with all good things, for he wanted to set up a household.

Coming out of his mansion, he encountered the Ennead as they walked about administering the entire land.  Then the Ennead addressed him in unison, saying:  "O Bata, Bull of the Ennead, are you alone here, having left your town on account of the wife of Anubis, your elder brother?  He has killed his wife and you are avenged of all the wrong done to you."  And as they felt very sorry for him, Pre-Harakhti said to Khnum:  "Fashion a wife for Bata, that he not live alone!"  Then Khnum made a companion for him who was more beautiful in body than any woman in the whole land, for the fluid of every god was in her.  Then the seven Hathors came to see her, and they said with one voice:  "She will die by the knife."

He desired her very much.  She sat in his house while he spent the day hunting desert game, bringing it in and putting it before her.  He said to her:  "Do not go outdoors, lest the sea snatch you.  I cannot rescue you from it, because I am a woman like you.  And my heart lies on top of the blossom of the pine.  But if another finds it, I shall fight with him."  Then he revealed to her all his thoughts.

Now many days after this, when Bata had gone hunting according to his daily custom, the young girl went out to stroll under the pien which was next to her house.  Then she saw the sea surging behind her, and she started to run before it and entered her house.  Thereupon the sea called to the pine, saying:  "Catch her for me!"  And the pine took away a lock of her hair.  Then the sea brought it to Egypt and laid it in the place of the washermen of Pharaoh.  And the king quarreled with the royal washermen, saying:  "A scent of ointment is in the clothes of Pharaoh!"  He quarreled with them every day, and they did not know what to do.

The chief of the royal washermen went to the shore, his heart very sore on account of the daily quarrel with him.  Then he realized that he was standing on the shore opposite the lock of hair which was in the water.  He had someone go down, and it was brought to him.  Its scent was found to be very sweet, and he took it to Pharaoh.

Then the learned scribes of Pharaoh were summoned, and they said to Pharaoh:  "As for this lock of hair, it belongs to a daughter of Pre-Harakhti in whom there is the fluid of every god.  It is a greeting to you from another country.  Let envoys go to every foreign land to search for her.  As for envoy who goes to the Valley of the Pine, let many men go with him to fetch her."  His majesty said:  "What you have said is very good."  And they were sent.

Now many days after this, the men who had gone abroad returned to report to his majesty.  But those who had gone to the Valley of the Pine did not return, for Bata had killed them, leaving only one of them to report to his majesty.  Then his majesty sent many soldiers and charioteers to bring her back, and with them was a woman into whose hand one had given all kinds of beautiful ladies' jewelry.  The woman returned to Egypt with her, and there was jubilation for her in the entire land.  His majesty loved her very very much, and he gave her the rank of Great Lady.  He spoke with her in order to make her tell about her husband, and she said to his majesty:  "Have the pine felled and cut up."  The king sent soldiers with their tools to fell the pine.  They reached the pine, they felled the blossom on which was Bata's heart, and he fell dead at that moment.

When it had dawned and the next day had come, and the pine had been felled, Anubis, the elder brother of Bata, entered his house.  He sat down to wash his hands.  He was given a jug of beer, and it fermented.  He was given another of wine, and it turned bad.  Then he took his staff and his sandals, as well as his clothes and his weapons, and he started to journey to the Valley of the Pine.  He entered the mansion of his young brother and found his young brother lying dead on his bed.  He wept when he saw his young brother lying dead.  He went to search for the heart of his young brother beneath the pine under which his young brother had slept in the evening.  He spent three years searching for it without finding it.

When he began the fourth year, his heart longed to return to Egypt, and he said:  "I shall depart tomorrow."  So he said in his heart.  When it had dawned and another day had come, he went to walk under the pine and spent the day searching for it.  When he turned back in the evening, he looked once again in search of it and he found a fruit.  He came back with it, and it was the heart of his young brother!  He fetched a bowl of cool water, placed it in it, and sat down according to his daily custom.

When night had come, his heart swallowed the water, and Bata twitched in all his body.  He began to look at his elder brother while his heart was in the bowl.  Then Anubis, his elder brother, took the bowl of cool water in which was the heart of his young brother and let him drink it.  Then his heart stood in its place, and he became as he had been.  Thereupon they embraced each other, and they talked to one another.

Then Bata said to his elder brother:  "Look, I shall change myself into a great bull of beautiful color, of a kind unknown to man, and you shall sit on my back.  By the time the sun has risen, we shall be where my wife is, that I may avenge myself.  You shall take me to where the king is, for he will do for you everything good.  You shall be rewarded with gold and silver for taking me to Pharaoh.  For I shall be a great marvel, and they will jubilate over me in the whole land.  Then you shall depart to your village."

When it had dawned and the next day had come, Bata assumed the form which he had told his elder brother.  Then Anubis, his elder brother, sat on his back.  At dawn he reached the place where the king was.  His majesty was informed about him; he saw him and rejoiced over him very much.  He made a great offering for him, saying:  "It is a great marvel."  And there was jubilation over him in the entire land.  Then the king rewarded his elder brother with silver and gold, and he dwelled in his village.  The king gave him many people and many things, for Pharaoh loved him very much, more than anyone else in the whole land.

Now when many days had passed, he entered the kitchen, stood where the Lady was, and began to speak to her, saying:  "Look, I am yet alive!"  She said to him:  "Who are you?"  He said to her:  "I am Bata.  I know that when you had the pine felled for Pharaoh, it was on account of me, so that I should not live.  Look, I am yet alive!  I am a bull."  The Lady became very frightened because of the speech her husband had made to her.  Then he left the kitchen.

His majesty sat down to a day of feasting with her.  She poured drink for his majesty, and he was very happy with her.  Then she said to his majesty:  "Swear to me by God, saying:  'Whatever she will say, I will listen to it!'"  He listened to all that she said:  "Let me eat of the liver of this bull; for he is good for nothing."  So she said to him.  He became very vexed over what she had said, and the heart of Pharaoh was very sore.

When it had dawned and another day had come, the king proclaimed a great offering, namely, the sacrifice of the bull.  He sent one of the chief royal slaughterers to sacrifice the bull.  And when he had been sacrificed and was carried on the shoulders of the men, he shook his neck and let fall two drops of blood beside the doorposts of his majesty, one on the one side of the great portal of Pharaoh, and the other on the other side.  They grew into two big Persea trees, each of them outstanding.  Then one went to tell his majesty:  "Two big Persea trees have grown this night--a great marvel for his majesty--beside the great portal of his majesty."  There was jubilation over them in the whole land, and the king made an offering to them.

Many days after this, his majesty appeared at the audience window of lapis lazuli with a wreath of all kinds of flowers on his neck.  Then he mounted a golden chariot and came out of the palace to view the Persea trees.  Then the Lady came out on a team behind Pharaoh.  His majesty sat down under one Persea tree and the Lady under the other.  Then Bata spoke to his wife:  "Ha, you false one!  I am Bata!  I am alive in spite of you.  I know that when you had the pine felled for Pharaoh, it was on account of me.  And when I became a bull, you had me killed."

Many days after this, the Lady stood pouring drink for his majesty, and he was happy with her.  Then she said to his majesty:  "Swear to me by God, saying:  'Whatever she will say, I will listen to it!'  So you shall say."  He listened to all that she said.  She said:  "Have the two Persea trees felled and made into fine furniture."  The king listened to all that she said.  After a short while his majesty sent skilled craftsmen.  They felled the two Persea trees of Pharaoh, and the Queen, the Lady, stood watching it.  Then a splinter flew and entered the mouth of the Lady.  She swallowed it, and in a moment she became pregnant.  The king ordered made of them whatever she desired.

Many days after this, she gave birth to a son.  One went to tell his majesty:  "A son has been born to you."  He was fetched, and a nurse and maids were assigned to him.  And there was jubilation over him in the whole land.  The king sat down to a feast-day and held him on his lap.  From that hour his majesty loved him very much, and he designated him as Viceroy of Kush.  And many days after this, his majesty made him crown prince of the whole land.

Now many days after this, when he had spent many years as crown prince of the whole land, his majesty flew up to heaven.  Then the king said:  "Let my great royal officials be brought to me, that I may let them know all that has happened to me."  Then his wife was brought to him.  He judged her in their presence, and they gave their assent.  His elder brother was brought to him, and he made him crown prince of the whole land.  He spent thirty years as king of Egypt.  He departed from life; and his elder brother stood in his place on that day of death.

It has come to a good end under the scribe of the treasury, Kagab, and the scribes of the treasury, Hori and Meremope.  Written by the scribe Ennana, the owner of this book.  Whoever maligns this book, Thoth will contend with him.


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