The ancient Egyptian story of the doomed
prince dates to the reign of Seti I or Ramses II (c. 1314–1237 B.C.E.). The tale contains several folk motifs, including “the child kept in a secret tower” and “the princess in the glass [or in this case stone] tower.” The ultimate fate of the protagonist has not been preserved.
A king begged the gods for a son. When one was ﬁnally born to him, the Hathors, who were nature spirits that gathered to plan the life of a child, visited to declare the child’s fate: “He will die by the crocodile, the snake, or the dog,” they claimed. To protect his son, the king ordered a stone house to be built inthe desert, and the boy was forbidden to leave the house.
The boy grew up with everything he desired, until one day, gazing down from his rooftop, he saw a man walking along with an unfamiliar animal. Upon learning it was a dog, the prince asked for one, and the king ordered that he should receive a puppy.
As a young man, the prince grew restless. The prince was fully aware of his decreed fate as he went out into the world. He traveled with a chariot, weapons, a servant, and his dog. He headed northwest and lived on wild game. Eventually, quite footsore, he came to the land of Naharin, also known as Mitanni, a kingdom situated on the upper reaches of the Euphrates River.
A number of Syrian princes were assembled there to vie for the hand of the princess of Naharin. The king kept his daughter in a house with windows that were 1,200 feet (approximately 70 Egyptian cubits) from the ground. She would be permitted to marry a man who was able to leap up to the windows. When the prince arrived, the Syrian suitors were practicing to accomplish this feat. The group welcomed the prince, who introduced himself as the son of an Egyptian ofﬁcer and claimed that he was ﬂeeing a wicked stepmother.
The youth rested his weary feet awhile, and when they had healed sufﬁciently, he too attempted to leap at the princess’s window. He succeeded. The princess immediately fell in love with him, but her father became angry when he heard that the successful suitor was a mere fugitive from Egypt and not a prince. His daughter threatened to kill herself if the Egyptian was sent away or murdered. Upon meeting the digniﬁed young man, the ruler of Naharin revised his opinion and accepted him as his son.
The prince and the princess lived in an estate, which the princess, whom the prince had told of his decreed fate, would not let him leave. She asked him to have the dog killed for fear that it would bring about his death. The prince scoffed at this, refusing to slay his childhood companion.
Unbeknownst to the prince, a crocodile had followed him from Egypt. It lived in a lake near the estate but was occupied ﬁghting a demon.
The prince’s other threat, the snake, approached him when he lay in a drunken sleep. His wife caught the snake by offering itbeer, making it drunk, and having it cut into pieces. This turn of events pleased the prince.
Sometime later, while they were out walking around the estate, the dog announced, “I am your fate.” The prince tried to escape by plunging into the lake, where the crocodile seized him. The crocodile offered the prince a bargain. If the prince agreed to help him defeat the demon, the crocodile would let him live. The prince agreed.
The conclusion of the tale has been lost, but it is generally assumed to have an ultimately satisfactory outcome for the prince.