The Tale of Tawret

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
July/August 2005

By Emily deLisle, Illustrated by Jana Bernard

A large gray hippo waded in the clear, cool Nile River. His name was Akitomen. Akitomen’s wife, Tawret, glided alongside him. The couple both watched their children, Khufem and Maketuman. The kids played happily in the papyrus reeds, Tawret and Akitomen talked while keeping an eye on the kids. Tawret had always been a wonderful hippo mother. Loving, yet stern.

During the middle of a discussion about the Nile’s flood, Tawret checked on the kids. She saw a papyrus hunting boat off in the distance. Knowing they might be in the mood for hippo, she warned the others.

“Khufem! Maketuman! Hunters!” The family rapidly climbed into the sand-mud structure they lived inside.

Back at the boat, the Egyptian men were arguing in fierce, fast Egyptian.

“They got away, you moron!” the first man yelled.

“It’s your fault! You should have lowered the net at least five seconds earlier!” the second one exclaimed.

There was another person on board. She was a young woman, about seventeen in age. Her name was Cleometrapen. Cleometrapen had dark silky hair that cascaded to her waist. She had dark, smooth skin. At a quick glance, she looked like any other mildly attractive servant girl in a plain blue linen dress. Well, except for the golden flute tucked within the folds of her skirt. If you looked closely enough, you could see her eyes: celery green with thick lashes encircling them. One could look even harder and see the swirling specks of blue and purple within the green. But nobody ever did. She was a simple servant, an accessory to take on hunting trips, a person existing solely to cater to whims. No more. Possibly less, but no more.

The Tale of Tawret hippos in the water

Tawret had always been a wonderful hippo mother. Loving yet stern

While the two men were fighting, Cleometrapen took out her flute and put it to her lips, with their perfectly applied red ochre. She began to play. Cleometrapen’s fingers flew on the marble-rimmed holes. She played and played, the sweet, woody notes covering the unpleasant noise of the argument. Attracted to the music, the hippo family glided over.

Sadly, the men noticed the hippos and threw their weapons randomly in the water. A weapon was headed straight for Khufem. In a split second, Tawret jumped over. She saved Khufem, but the spear punctured her hide. With a cheer from the men, they hauled Tawret out of the water and onto the boat. Cleometrapen cast an apologetic glance at the hippos as the boat sped off.

Khufem, Akitomen, and Maketuman mourned. The Egyptians had bread and vegetables. Why did they need Tawret?

Every night, after the children fell asleep, Akitomen would pray to the god Osiris, leader of the underworld. He begged for the gods to return his wife.

During the second week, Cleometrapen sat in the servant hutch. It was a very modest place, made of mud brick. Against one wall a bed stood, its headrest a simple stone structure. Against the opposite wall, there was a small table with a piece of bread. Pushed neatly under the table was a stool.

This room was just like the servant girl who lived in it. At a quick glance it appeared modest, plain, nothing really special. But, also like Cleometrapen, at a second look you found something very interesting. There was a papyrus basket, complete with a delicate golden lock hidden carefully under the bed. A bit unusual (just like the girl’s celery-green eyes), yet still nothing really special. If one would actually take the locked basket from beneath the bed and snap the fragile lock, they would find a tiny sparkle of light inside. The same thing would happen if you cared to look deeper into Cleometrapen’s eyes.

And at this moment, Cleometrapen looked into the sparkle. She saw Ra’s face and began to speak to him.

“Ra, this is Isis here.” Yes, you heard that right. Cleometrapen was Isis, visiting her people in the form of a servant girl.

“Greetings,” Ra replied in his deep, loud voice.

“You must be hushed,” Isis replied. “I have another servant girl living near my hutch.”

“Yes,” Ra agreed. “Now why is it you contact me, Isis?”

“I have spoken with my husband, Osiris. He has said that river horses of the Nile have begged for their missing family member.” Cleometrapen began her story, making sure to include the fact that it was she who was to blame and the part when Tawret saved her child, Khufem. Isis said all this because she knew that the god and goddess council had decided that a goddess of motherhood and home was needed, and preferably in animal form. Many divine creatures had the head of an animal, but none were pure animal. They felt they needed at least one to represent the non-humans on the earth.

The Tale of Tawret girl sitting in the bed

“Ra, this is Isis here”

Ra listened carefully. He was particularly impressed with the part when Tawret saved her children. He too was thinking exactly what Isis was: animal goddess. However, they would have to consult Osiris. He had Tawret in the Valley of Laru.

“We will consider giving her goddess power. Isis, you should talk to your husband, Osiris. He should have input.”

“Thank you.” Cleometrapen looked away for a second to hide the basket further, and when she looked back, Ra’s face had left and the spark was plain once more.

Following his ritual, Akitomen prayed that evening. Cleometrapen stayed up later than usual waiting. She had the basket in her arms, yet this time it was to be used as a communication with common creatures, not with her fellow gods and goddesses.

Khufem and Maketuman went to sleep, and Akitomen knelt on the hard-packed dirt floor. He pleaded for his wife, though at this point he had lost hope.

“Will my wife be returned to me, Great Ones?” Akitomen asked.

Cleometrapen, sitting on her bed, heard the prayer through her spark. She said one sentence: “She may return, yet not in the form you remember.” Isis then shut off the connection and climbed into bed.

Akitomen was amazed by the words he had heard. By this time he was so sleep-deprived and depressed that he believed without question that the gods had contacted him. This was true of course, but fully sane people rarely believe things like that. For the first night since Tawret’s death, he climbed onto his papyrus hammock and slept contentedly.

Isis’s job had been done. She had to go to a God and Goddess Council meeting. She locked her hutch door and flew out the roof in a beam of holy light.

In three seconds, Isis (alter ego Cleometrapen) arrived at a pure gold table with silver, gem-encrusted chairs. It had been a while since she had seen this sort of splendor (having lived as a servant girl), and it was still delightful. She took her place at the head of the table, next to Ra. She saw only fruit, bread and vegetables for refreshments and was relieved. If there was hippo meat the conversation might be difficult and awkward.

Isis glanced to her right and saw her husband, Osiris. He gripped her hand.

It was a long, difficult meeting. The council finally decided that Tawret, given her acts of kindness during her life and bravery at the end, would be the perfect goddess. Osiris was second to sign the agreement, and just as he put the flourish on the s, he vanished, only to return moments later with a white-faced hippopotamus with tears down her cheeks.

“Tawret, you are now pronounced . . .” Ra paused for a moment. This was partly for the dramatic portion, partly to give Tawret time to calm down. “. . . Goddess of Motherhood and the Home.”

She smiled politely, thanked Ra, took a bow, and sat down. Within seconds, when the gods were discussing the finer details, Isis (sitting beside Tawret) heard her cry. It was soft, but you could definitely hear it. Isis leaned over.

“Are you all right?” she asked.

“Akitomen. . . Khufem . . . Maketuman . . . my family. . .” Tawret’s voice trailed off. Isis understood. Tawret wanted her family with her. All the other gods and goddesses had their loved ones, so why couldn’t Tawret have them? They weren’t gods, but still.

Tawret left the table to go to bed. The Council talked for a bit longer, and it was arranged that Akitomen, Khufem, and Maketuman would join Tawret.

Unlike real life, fairy tales end the way they should. And this one does. Tawret lived forever with her family, carefully tending to her duties as goddess and mother. She has led her long career to this day, where we learn about her from the Egyptians’ tales. Yes, this truly is a happily ever after.

The Tale of Tawret Emily deLisle

Emily deLisle, 10
Villanova, Pennsylvania

The Tale of Tawret Jana Bernard

Jana Bernard, 10
Far Hills, New Jersey

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