The Thief Who Became Ruler

Three thousand years ago, Rameses II was the Pharaoh of Egypt. Under his rule, Egypt became a land flowing with milk and honey. Rameses acquired great riches, and his treasury was overflowing with gold and precious stones.

The safekeeping of such a vast treasure was a perpetual worry. So Rameses ordered his architect to build a vault to hold all his glory, which had to be impregnable.

After several years of enforced labour, this immense vault was completed, with walls of enormous thickness built of great stone blocks. There was only one entrance, which only Pharaoh could open and lock.

The architect, however, had few scruples, and he built a secret entrance to the vault, which was impossible to detect, and from time to time, the architect would help himself to a diamond or two or a few pieces of gold.

One day the architect fell mortally ill and told his two sons of the secret entrance to Pharaoh’s treasure vault on his deathbed. But he warned his sons to be careful with Pharaoh would have no mercy on anyone stealing his riches.

The two brothers continued to raid Pharaoh’s treasure, and maybe they were too greedy” because Pharaoh discovered he was being robbed and devised a way to catch the culprit. One night he had a thousand soldiers digging man traps around his treasure house. These were deep pits fitted with swords to impale anyone unfortunate enough to fall in.

Later in the same week, the two brothers stealthily approached the treasure house, but before they reached the secret door, the elder brother was caught in one of the traps, and despite all their efforts, it was hopeless; he could not get out.

In the end, the elder brother painfully whispered, “Listen carefully; the only hope to save you from discovery is to cut off my head and take my clothes. Then Pharaoh’s guards will never be able to discover the identity of a headless, naked body. “

Realizing there was no alternative, the younger brother cut off his brother’s head and, wrapping it in his brother’s garments, hurried home to his mother, to whom he told the sad story.

The next morning the guards found the headless body, and although it could not be identified, they knew that the person who had cut off the head must be an accomplice. Pharaoh was more determined than ever to catch the second thief.

“Hang this body from the palace wall,” he ordered. “Then watch day and night. If anyone tries to remove the body or is moved at the sight of it, arrest them at once.

And so the brother’s body was hung from the palace wall, and when the mother heard what had happened, she could not be consoled.

“If your brother is not given a proper burial, he cannot go to the Land of the Blessed; she cried to her son. “You must fetch your brother’s body. Otherwise, he will wander the earth as a ghost.”

“But mother,” replied the son, It will be certain death for me to touch the body. Besides which, we have already given his head a decent burial.” But the mother kept wailing over her elder son, and the younger brother realized he would have to try and retrieve his brother’s corpse.

Disguised as an older man, he led a donkey carrying two leather jars of wine past the palace walls. When he reached the spot where his brother’s body was hanging, he made a hole in the bottom of one of the jars so that the wine leaked out. As soon as a pool began to form, he shouted, “O, my precious wine. I am ruined, I am ruined.”

Attracted by the noise, the soldiers guarding the corpse ran to the spot and demanded what was wrong.

The brother, between his sobs, cried, “Look at my costly wine. The jar is leaking, and soon it will all run out. I am ruined, but it would be better if you worthy men drank it than let it go to waste.”.

The soldiers did not need much prompting, and the leaking jar was very soon empty. The brother then turned to the soldiers and said, “My good men, the other pot of wine is now useless because my donkey will not be able to carry it without the other bank to balance the weight. So drink it and enjoy it.

Never before had the soldiers heard such welcome words, and very soon, the second jar was emptied, not knowing that the wine contained sufficient opium to drug a whole regiment.

Soon the soldiers had collapsed into a drugged stupor. With the guards taken care of, the younger brother soon scaled the palace wall; then, cutting down his brother’s body, he put it across the back of the donkey and was away as fast as he could.

When Pharaoh heard what had happened, he was in a terrible rage. The soldiers of the guard were flogged unmercifully, and then, the Pharaoh hit upon an idea which seemed sure to catch the culprit.

He made his daughter, the beautiful Princess Royal, dress as a foreigner and sit in a tent outside the palace walls after announcements had been made through the town that a wealthy young maiden from foreign shores would wed the man who had committed the most daring and cunning deed.

The younger brother immediately guessed that this was a trap to catch him. Yet, in his bravado, he wanted to show Pharaoh he could outwit him.

So he set out to meet this foreign maid, but on the way, he had to pass the gallows, so he cut off a dead man’s arm hanging there and hid it in his clothing.

On reaching the tent, he boldly entered and announced that he had come as a suitor.

“Then,” said the Princess, “Tell me your tale of cunning and daring exploits.”

So the brother told her the complete story of how he and his brother had robbed the treasury, how he was forced to behead his brother, and how he had regained his brother’s body from under Pharaoh’s nose.

She Princesrealizeded that here was the thief her father so badly wanted to catch, and in her sweetest voice, exclaimed, “Good sir, I am yours. Give me your brave hand.”

Instead of offering her his hand, the brother quickly pushed forward the arm he had cut from the gallows. The Princess grasped the hand, shrieking, “Guards! Guards! I have caught the thief.”

Leaving the Princess holding a dead man’s arm, the brother rushed out of the tent and was well away before the guards arrived.

Pharaoh acknowledged the young man’s daring and issued a royal proclamation that he would be pardoned and marry Princess Royal, recognising his daring cleverness.

The architect’s younger son presented himself at court, where he was received with suitable honour, as befitting the future husband of the Princess. And in time, he succeeded Rameses and became Pharaoh of Egypt.

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