The Mouse as Vizier
Government of the Animal Kingdom
This story of the Mouse as Vizier is a delightful example of the tall tales about animals the ancient Egyptians used to love. Animals were a huge part of ancient Egyptian daily life. Some were used for food and clothing, they were adored as pets, and some were used as guards.
The gods and goddesses used to sometimes take animal forms, and animals were deified into gods and goddesses due to having noticeably impressive qualities such as chasing away snakes or protecting their offspring.
But they were also a form of amusement for the ancient Egyptians.
Some of the most humorous fables and depictions were those of animals, such as the part of the Turin Erotic Papyrus that depicts Animals Doing Human Tasks, and The Lion Playing Chess With A Goat.
So now we’re going to take a look at another animal story from ancient Egypt… the story of how the Mouse as Vizier went from fame to shame.
The Riddle of the King
In the kingdom of the animals, there was a vizier to the pharaoh who was very wise, just and merciful. His advice was valuable and he ran the state’s affairs well. But he was 110 years old and he lay down and died.
The king began to look for a replacement, but none of his courtiers were suitable for the role of the new vizier. So he decided to pose a riddle and whoever could solve it would be appointed.
“What is sweeter than honey and more bitter than bile?”
The message about the riddle spread. And animals from all around tried to think of the answer, but it was too hard. An entire lunar month had almost passed and the king began to give up hope…
…until on the last day a little mouse ran up to the king and answered the riddle: “The Office of the Vizier”.
That was the correct answer!
And so the mouse was appointed and the king presented him with the gold of honor and read to him the instructions of how a virtuous vizier behaves. The little mouse was sworn in.
Now the time came for the festivities of the appointment. The mouse’s feet were washed and he put on his eye-liner, he was also adorned with a bow around his neck. A cat gave him wine to drink while another feline servant fanned him.
His family came riding in on a carriage followed by well-wishers.
The mouse came to sit on a little dais and he was dressed beautifully and has a lotus flower on his head. A follower sat behind him. The entire place was covered in garlands.
Food was offered to the mouse by a cat, who was then followed by a fox offering the vizier a bouquet of flowers. The fox was nervous and stammered in his speech. The fox that was playing the harp continued the song of praise without stopping anyway.
More animals came to honor the mouse and give their offerings. Clothes, jewelry, weapons, wine, cake, flowers and more… the music kept playing and all went smoothly. It was a festive occasion and all the animals enjoyed themselves eating, drinking and playing games.
During the festivities, a couple of almost-problems occurred. The first was when a crocodile came to wish the mouse well. He had brought with him a little fish the he loved, which a hyena thought looked delicious. She tried to eat the little fish but the crocodile managed to defend it with his tail.
Thankfully no harm came to the little baby fish, and the crocodile didn’t press further…
A puppy had witnessed this little accident and told his mother. She wanted to tell the vizier of this incident but the husband of the hyena who tried to eat the fish begged the mother-dog to stay quiet for the sake of not disturbing the harmony.
And so that is how the day ended with no troubles.
The Mouse as Vizier
Now that the festivities were over, the mouse took up his role in office and began to perform his duties, judging crimes and criminals being one of them.
He sent a cat and dog that committed crimes immediately to prison. A more violent and angry side of him began to appear. He’d fly into a rage and give a more severe punishment than the crime called for. Especially when the crime was theft.
One day he had a Nubian child severely beaten by the cat bailiff for stealing a few dates. And no matter how much the child cried and begged for mercy, the mouse pressed on with the punishment further.
When the pharaoh heard about this, he reprimanded the mouse and sent him off to correct his mistake.
And what did the mouse do?
He got the Nubian child to beat the cat bailiff, who was innocent of any crime. The child hesitated, but the mouse pressed him until he beat the cat until she cried.
Again, the pharaoh was enraged. He did not want a hot-head in his kingdom, so he stripped the vizier of his position and ordered all mice to henceforth live underground.
And this is why mice live in holes under the ground till this day…
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