The story of the most famous boy king of Egyptian history from his birth to his untimely death and his experiences in the afterlife.
Tutankhamun - Speak my Name
The year is 1341BC. The religion of Egypt has been polytheistic since its history began. The Egyptian Empire stretches from modern day Sudan to Mesopotamia and is ruled by a co-regency of the Pharaohs Amunhotep III and his son Akhenaten.
Akhenaten has been co-regent for 8 years, initially ruling with his father from Waset, now called Luxor. Four years ago Akhenaten forsook Waset and set out to establish his own capital. We find him, his wife Nefertiti, their three daughters and his entire court in the new city Akhetaten, the Horizon of the Sun Disc.
The Temple of Amun-Ra in Waset is the centre of a gigantic industry. Its wealth exceeds that of the King but it is under threat because Pharaoh Akhenaten has proclaimed that all the old Gods, including Amun-Ra are obsolete! He proclaims the only deity is the Aten, the Disc of the Sun. Temples and statues of the old Gods will be torn down, the Priesthood will be disbanded and all its wealth will flow to the Pharaoh.
The Priests who serve the old Gods are enraged and in fear for their future. The common people are totally confused. The most feared state of existence is about to descend on Egypt, the state of Chaos!
What of the Gods themselves? Pharaoh Akhenaten has rejected the old Gods after eons of watching over the ancient land of Egypt. The very existence of the old Gods has been challenged. The state of Order, personified by Maat is under threat. The Goddess Maat, custodian of truth and order proposes a solution to the Gods. A boy child will be born to a secondary wife of the Pharaoh and placed into the world by the Gods to resolve the Chaos caused by Akhenaten. The child will become Pharaoh and his name will be Tutankhamun.
This is the story of the young Pharaoh from the time of his birth. It tells of his early years, his marriage, his coronation and his death. The story follows his spirit into the Afterlife where the eternal existence of his Ka can only be assured if his name is spoken by the living, hence the title “Tutankhamun – Speak my Name.”
The book is a blend of fact and fantasy. Facts are used where they are available and fantasy is used to weave a magic carpet around those facts, to bring life and colour to the events that may have taken place in the life of the young boy-king seen from his own perspective and told in his own words.
‘Maat, why has this come about?’
She was there, the whispering voice of the Goddess who guarded the Mekhaat, the Balance of Justice.
‘Your destiny now unfolds before you! You were born to restore the balance that your father so grievously upset when he rejected all the old Gods.’
‘Why didn’t you use Menka to restore your balance?’
‘Smenkhkara did not have a special relationship with me. He did not know me!’
‘Why was his life taken from him?’
‘His death was required to reinstate divine order. The death of a Pharaoh creates a major disturbance in the halls of eternal peace. Your father pretended to die. People in the living world were told that the Pharaoh had died, whereas the divine world knew that no such death had taken place. There was imbalance between the two worlds. The Gods decided that a Pharaoh must die to restore order between the worlds!’
‘Why did he die in the way he did?’
‘The way was chosen because it caused the least turbulence. An extended illness would have been unfair to your brother. A violent death, either by murder or self-inflicted, would create further ramifications. The chosen way was best.’
‘You always have such a reasonable answer!’
My sharp response was born of frustration. There was silence. I knew Maat was still there. I addressed her again.
‘What am I to do?’
‘You are to become Pharaoh. You cannot avoid that destiny! In time you will receive the people’s acceptance, but not before you demonstrate your intention to restore religious order in the land. Learn all that you are able. Choose your advisers and your officials only from those that you trust. I repeat my warnings to you: Take heed of the hawk of Hebenu! Danger is disguised as duty! Harm hides in the halls of Hathor!’
Maat’s voice left me. I was ready.
I called Ankhesenpaaten and Aye to rejoin me. I addressed them.
‘Before I speak I would like Aye to tell me what he has planned. He has had two days to ponder the situation.’
My uncle put forward his ideas.
‘You, Ankhesenpaaten and Sheri will come back with me to Waset. We will meet with your grandmother. We will then make Smenkhkara’s death public and introduce you to the population as the new Pharaoh and his Royal Wife. After the funeral you will be crowned and return to Akhetaten for your immediate safety. Your grandmother and I will continue with matters of state as we have done for the past few years. We will continue repairing the relationship between the Priests of Amun-Ra and the throne. Once we have re-established that stability you will return to Waset from where you will reign.’
I thought about the plan he proposed. It was fundamentally sound. In reality Aye and Tiye would rule the land until I sat on the throne in Waset. I might have difficulty with that!
Maat had advised me to choose my advisers from those I trusted. I reviewed the list. It was regrettably short. First and unquestioned was Ankhi. I also trusted my ‘Key Tiye’ implicitly and that faith was more than the blind acceptance of a grandchild. I also felt I could rely on Aye, although I knew that he was forthright and lacked the diplomacy required in handling matters of state. I had often placed my life in the hands of Setmose and he had my complete confidence. I respected Hiknefer and Khai for their respective skills and their friendship. I considered them to be trustworthy. Beyond those few, trust would have to be demonstrated and earned. Being very young would make my task difficult. The positive aspect of my youth was that I had a lifetime ahead of me.
I stood up. I was a boy, still carrying the side-lock of youth. I held the hand of my childhood friend who was my wife. My cheeks were wet with tears that had now begun to flow uncontrollably. I was the last male of the great royal family of Thutmose. I had a duty and a destiny ahead of me. My voice was breaking with emotion and with the onset of manhood.
‘In the name of the Aten and all the Gods of Kemet that wield his power, I accede to your request to ascend the Throne of the Two Lands. I, Tutankhaten son of Akhenaten and Kiye and brother of Smenkhkara, by the grace of Maat will be King of Kemet.’
Keith Grenville - Egyptologist
TUTANKHAMUN – SPEAK MY NAME
Trafford Publishing, Canada, USA, Ireland & UK, 2005
www.trafford.com/05-1236 www.amazon.com Email firstname.lastname@example.org
The very name excites our imagination. Other names associated with ancient Egypt such as Cleopatra, Rameses and Alexander have all spread their web of allure, but it is Pharaoh Nebkheperure Tutankhamun or more popularly ‘King Tut’, who has captivated the public’s heart.
These are the opening words of Anthony Holmes’ Foreword to his compelling and spell-binding historical novel which reflects the effect the boy-king of ancient Egypt has exerted over generations of people of all nations since Howard Carter’s discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb and its treasures in 1922. That sensational discovery proved to be the greatest archaeological discovery of all time and the boy-king, whose name was purposely removed from the historical record by Rameses the Great, is now immortalised as one of the iconic figures of ancient Egypt along with his famous gold mask and tomb treasures which have attracted millions of visitors to Egypt.
Tutankhamun – Speak My Name is no ordinary novel – it is an epic presentation spanning three thousand years in which author Anthony Holmes has fleshed out historical characters in a living setting of a timeless Egypt. Apart from a general appeal, this is a book that should be read by every Egyptophile - not only does it tell a remarkable personal story of a young man amidst the grandeur of ancient Egypt with temple ritual, royal life (private and public), ancient customs, religious beliefs and schisms, it is also informative, educational, powerfully descriptive of the influential priesthood, conspiracies and espionage. These ingredients are skilfully enmeshed into a massive canvas of the 18th and 19th dynasties (c. 1400 BCE), the so-called “Golden Age” of ancient Egypt. This period has to be one of the most challenging periods of Egyptian history for any writer to attempt to personalise and make live. Anthony Holmes meets that challenge admirably and succeeds with aplomb. He applies his considerable skills as a writer to combine historical fact based on sound knowledge and an intimate familiarity with the country itself. There is so much that impresses in this remarkable literary excavation of Egyptian history. The book is a veritable royal pageant as the author presents the royal family and the child Tutankhamun to the reader from the time of his birth, cleverly written in the first person with his Ka, (the spiritual double) scrutinizing life around the infant as the child becomes a teenage king. The boy-king’s relationship with his half-sister wife Ankhesenamun is described with the innocent intensity of young love which in so short a time met a tragic end. The story of Tutankhamun unfolds with a keen observation of the vagaries of human life and inner personal conflicts as well as fine descriptions of the eternal Nile, the awesome beauty of the desert, the mountains, hills, stars, planets and natural life – demonstrating the harmonious relationship the ancient Egyptians enjoyed with their environment.
Anthony Holmes displays a masterly and easy use of words making this challenging period of Egyptian history tangible and accessible to the reader. After more than 1500 years of the worship of a multitude of deities, the so-called “heretic-pharaoh” Akhenaten created a deep fissure in the establishment and angered the powerful priesthood with his enforcement of a monotheistic doctrine. It is highly impressive to note how the author discusses and argues for and against monotheism through his characters – a dialogue between the author and his inner self. Akhenaten desperately needed his wife, the renowned beauty Nefertiti, to give birth to a son to ensure the dynastic blood line. His only son, albeit through a secondary wife within the royal harem, was originally named Tutankhaten honouring the Aten deity, an impersonalised sun-disc. Tutankhaten was never expected to be king but fate played a hand and the 9 year-old boy unexpectedly found himself on the mighty throne of Egypt obeyed as a king and honoured as a god. Following his father’s death (a clever device perhaps inspired by Shakespeare?) the boy-king changed his name to Tutankhamun, honouring the “old” religion and returning the kingdom to the former polytheism.
Memorable sections of the book include a full description and virtual tour of the great temple of the female pharaoh Hatshepsut known today as Deir el Bahri. There is an excellent account of the famous gold throne, exhibited today in Cairo, when it was first presented to the young pharaoh. For the connoisseur or cognoscenti of ancient Egypt, the unidentified reference to what is today called “The Erotic Papyrus” held in Turin, is extremely amusing – and other factual references and details are slipped in to the fabric of the work to colour the vast canvass with authenticity. At the same time, the novel has a major hypothesis regarding the disappearance of Akhenaten, an ingenious device which brings the Israelites, supposedly held in bondage in Egypt, into the picture, and the subsequent exodus. The young king’s coronation is a highlight and the adroit use of the king’s Ka being energised by the speaking of the name Tutankhamun, used to span thousands of years, is fittingly appropriate in the context of ancient Egyptian religious beliefs.
A goose-bump moment occurs with Holmes’ version of the cause of Tutankhamun’s death. As his book was already in the hands of the publisher at the time of the CT scanning in January 2005 of the actual mummy of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings organised by Dr. Zahi Hawass, one wonders whether the author had a retrospective crystal ball. The CT results and the reconstructed face of Tutankhamun were only made known in March. Serendipity, prescience?
A useful facility in the book is a detailed 40-page comprehensive Glossary indicating which characters are factual and which are not, as well as a miscellany of definitions and details of deities, people, objects, locations, customs and festivals. Additionally, there are helpful short notes at the end of each Chapter. When I was at school I recall the set work for the equivalent of today’s Matric was Rudyard Kipling’s Kim, a novel which captured the exotic opulence and exotic landscape of India with the uneasy occupation of the British Raj. If I had my way, Anthony Holmes’ Tutankhamun – Speak My Name would be a set work for today’s scholars as this engrossing book opens up the world of ancient Egypt which has directly influenced our civilisation and so much in our daily lives. This apart, the book is a valuable contribution to the corpus of literature on Tutankhamun and the controversial period of Egypt’s history – and with 600 pages, holding an average of 600 words per page, this is can be considered not only a “good read” but a compelling historical novel which, incidentally, would make the most superb film – it’s all there.
Keith Grenville, previously well-known as a Shakespearian and Classical play director, leading actor and broadcaster, now focuses on Egyptology. He is a member of the Egypt Exploration Society and was the Founder of The Egyptian Society of South Africa of which he has been Chairman for ten years. He recently retired from the chair to devote more time to his responsibilities as Chief Executive of Egypt Today cc., a travel company specialising in tours to Egypt, the Mediterranean and the Middle East. He has led more than forty tours to Egypt and is an acknowledged specialist in Egyptian history. He is a much sought-after lecturer and speaker on various aspects of ancient Egypt.
Dr Julie Anderson
Many thanks for the copy of ‘Tutankhamun-Speak my Name’. I did enjoy it - in fact I have to say it probably is the most detailed fictional work I have ever read about Tut or Egypt for that matter. I read your book in August during the flight to Sudan and my first few weeks there.Since then I've completed a 2-month field season and dismantled the Sudan exhibition in the north of England, so I'm afraid the last several months have rather been a blur. Funnily enough, when I was dismantling the exhibition, we ended up watching Howard Carter and the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun on BBC2 and I thought of your book.
Good luck and best wishes
Dr Julie Anderson
The British Museum
Department of Ancient Egypt and the Sudan
Want to review or comment on this
Click here to login!
Need a FREE Reader Membership?
Click here for your Membership!