Westcar Papyrus: Story of the wax crocodile

The second story of the Westcar Papyrus is also incomplete. It is set during the reign of Nebka (Sanakhte. It tells of the chief lector priest Ubainer who discovers that his wife is having an affair with a villager. He makes a crocodile out of wax and brings it to life using magic before setting it to catch the villager. When he calls the crocodile to bring the villager before Nebka, he tells the crocodile to eat the villager and orders the wife to be burned and then thrown in the river (despite there being no evidence that capital punishment as opposed to divorce was the remedy in cases of adultery).

This story is recounted after the story set in the reign of Djoser and before a story set in the reign of Sneferu, implying that Nebka reigned between these two monarchs even though both the Turin Kings List and Manetho record that Nebka was Djoser's predecessor.


The full translation...

Then prince Khafre stood up to speak and said "I will let you majesty hear a wonder that happened in the time of your forefather, Nebka (Sanakhte) justified, as he proceeded to the temple of Ptah lord of Ankh-tawy (Memphis).

Now it was his majesty who went to [ ] and his majesty who performed the [rite of ]. The chief lector priest Ubainer was with [him and] the wife of Ubainer who had a chest full of clothes for him. The he came back with the maid. After days had passed after this [ ] there was a pavilion in the garden of Ubainer. And the villager said to the wife "is there not a pavilion in the garden of Ubainer, let us spend some time in it". The wife sent a message to the caretaker in charge of the garden to say "let the garden be prepared" and she spent the day there drinking with the villager. After the evening he came out and he went to the pool.

The maid [told] the caretaker of Ubainer. When the next day dawned, the caretaker went to [tell his master] of this matter. [ ]. He gave it to his lord [ ] the Ubainer said "bring me [my box of] ebony and electrum" and he formed a crocodile [out of wax]. The he read out [a spell] "[ ] he comes to wash in my pool [ ] the villager". He he said to the caretaker "as soon as the villager has gone into the pool (as is his daily custom) then you will throw this crocodile [in] after him". The caretaker then went and took the crocodile of wax with him.

Then the wife sent a message to the caretaker in charge of the garden to say "let the pavilion that is in the garden be prepared as I am coming to sit in it" and the pavilion was prepared with every good thing and they went and she spent a happy day there with the villager. After it was evening the villager came out (as was his daily custom). Then the caretaker threw the crocodile of wax into the water after him and it became a crocodile of seven cubits and it seized the villager.

Now, Ubainer was to stay with his majesty Nebka the King of Upper and Lower Egypt for seven days while the villager was [ ]. After seven days had passed, the King of Upper and Lower Egypt Nebka , the justified, proceeded [ ].

Then the chief lector priest Ubainer placed himself before his majesty and Ubainer said "[ ] told to me. May you see the wonder that has happened in the time of your majesty. [ ] a villager [ ]" [said] Ubainer. The Ubainer [summoned] the crocodile to say "bring the villager " and the crocodile came out [of the water].

Then the chief lector priest Ubainer said "[drop] him" and he [dropped] him and he placed him on the ground. Then the majesty King of Upper and Lower Egypt Nebka, justified, said "perhaps it is a crocodile [ ]" the Ubainer bent down and picked it up and in his hand it was a crocodile of wax. Then the chief lector priest Ubainer recounted the thing that the villager had been doing in his house with his wife to his majesty the King of Upper and Lower Egypt Nebka, the justified, and his majesty said to the crocodile "take what is yours". The crocodile then went down to [the edge] of the pool and the place where it went with him never became known.

Then his majesty the King of Upper and Lower Egypt Nebka, the justified, had his wife taken away to a plot of land to the north of the residence and he burnt her [and ordered that her body be] thrown in the river.

Behold a wonder that happened in the time of your forefather, the King of Upper and Lower Egypt Nebka, which is something the chief lector priest Ubainer did.

Then his majesty the King of Upper and Lower Egypt Khufu said "let an offering be made of a thousand loaves of bread, a hundred jars of beer, one ox and two balls of incense to the King of Upper and Lower Egypt Nebka, justified, and let there be given one cake, one jug of beer, a large portion of meat and one ball of incense to the chief lector priest Ubainer, as I have seen an example of his learning. One did as everything as his majesty had ordered.


Adapted from translations by Marc Jan Nederhof and A.M. Blackman


copyright J Hill 2010
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