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Rhampsinitus and the Headless Man


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(Egypt)

Rhampsinitus was a king of Egypt.

He was rich and greedy, and had so much gold and silver he had no place to put it. He had a mason build a strong room with no windows in a corner of the palace; the gems and gold filled that place, and the king was happy and secure. The mason who had built the room, however, had been badly paid by the king. Now he was dying and had nothing to leave to his two sons. He told them of a mark he had made on a stone in the king's room. When it was removed, they would have access to the valuables. One night, they went there and took as much gold and silver as they could carry. This went on and on, until the king began to notice that his treasure was diminishing. Finally, he set a trap big enough to hold a man's leg. When the two brothers entered, one was caught in the trap. He told his brother to cut off his head so that the king would not know who had penetrated his room; otherwise, the brother would be killed as well. Reluctantly, he did that, and the king was amazed the next day when he went into the room and found the headless man. The king, to catch the thief's accomplice, had the body hung on a wall to see if anyone came to mourn. The other son told his mother what had happened, and she said he must get the body and bury it, that she would tell the king what had happened if he did not do this. The son then placed leather sacks of wine on the backs of six asses, wine he had purchased with the king's money. He drove the asses to the wall where his brother's body was hanging, and allowed the wine to trickle onto the ground. He tore his hair, crying out, trying to keep the wine from dripping, and the guards hurried and got cups to catch the wine to drink it. They became drunk, fell asleep, and the youth, having shaved the beards of the soldiers, took his brother's body from the wall and buried it. In the morning, people laughed at the soldiers, the king was furious, and he sent a herald around the country to say that rather than punish the inventive man who had stolen the money he would give him his daughter in marriage. But he must first tell the king how he gained access to the treasure room. When the young man came forward and confessed, the king concluded that Egyptians were cleverer than other men, and that this youth was cleverer than all the Egyptians.

Subjects: Religion.


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