When History is a Dream, is it True? - The Story of Thutmose IV


Illustration of surprised pharaoh Thutmose IV

About 3,400 years ago a young Pharaoh ruled in Egypt. He attributed his reign to the magical power of the Great Sphinx, who he claimed granted him the throne after he dug the giant cat out of the sand.

That's right y'all, the sphinx was already old 3,400 years ago. Old enough to be built, buried, forgotten and then uncovered and reconsecrated by Pharaoh Thutmose IV.

Illustration of Egyptians running

I'm hanging out in Rome now and looking at buildings that are 2,000 years old and thinking about how long ago that was. But 1,400 years before the colosseum was built, the Great Sphinx was already old. Sometimes thinking about the incredible span of human civilization astounds me.

But I digress...

Illustration of Egyptian pharaoh and princes

This blog is supposed to be about Thutmose IV. So let's get back to that part where a statue told the prince that it would be great if all the pesky sand covering him up could be removed. 

The story goes that Thutmose IV was out on a hunting trip and fell asleep in the shadow of the Great Sphinx's head (the only part of the creature still sticking out of the ground.) He had a dream in which the great human-headed cat promised that if Thutmose IV dug him out, the prince would be the next king of Egypt.

Illustration of horse inspired by ancient Egyptian art

We know this story because Thutmose IV did dig the sphinx out, did become king of Egypt, and then wrote the whole story down on a great tablet and placed it between the sphinx's paws. It still stands there today.

There are lots of theories about Thutmose IV and his dream. Some scientist speculate that he may have suffered from a medical condition that caused hallucinations (and ultimately his early death). Whether it was a dream or a hallucination, it's pretty clear that digging out the sphinx and erecting the "dream stele" (that giant stone that told the story) were part of how Thutmose IV legitimized his claim to the throne. The blessing of a giant pharaoh lion is pretty powerful.

Great sphinx in front of pyramids of Egypt

I love history, and found this story particularly fascinating. There's something interesting that happens when a dream becomes history. We have to ask questions like, is the story of Thutmose IV true? Can a story be true without being factual? If a story isn't factual, is it history? (Thutmose IV digging up the sphinx is factual, but despite my deep love of mystery and the idea of magic, I have a hard time believing the statue speaking part.)

This story is the 4th in my Arabic Folktales retold series, but it's not exactly a folktale. Neither is it exactly history. But whatever it is, it's a good story.

Thutmose in hieroglyphs

In our retelling, we've abandoned a bit of the history, and added a few embellishments. Honestly, I think Thutmose IV might have liked our changes. He seems like the kind of guy who liked a few embellishments for the sake of a better story.

Thutmose IV is a story about the value of hard work and perseverance. It's the story of determination, the value of learning, and even a bit of kindness. And it's the fantastical story of the boy who freed the Great Sphinx from the sand.

This is the last book in the Arabic Folktale series that will be available in print. You can find the limited edition in the store by clicking here.

1 comment

  • Rashon

    Let me say that I am a lover of both history,reading, and art! So I’m sure you can understand how much I enjoyed this! Thx for sharing your art and I will continue to follow your blog… sincerely,
    Impressed
    Rashon Fuller

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