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Long ago, during a time of peace in Egypt, many explorers journeyed in search of treasures. Ship captains and sailors returned to their land with spices and jewels for the Pharaoh. They brought tales, too, for the Pharaoh loved stories of the world beyond his horizons and the lessons they taught.
One day a sailor came to the Pharaoh and bowed before him. In the custom of the day, he said, “Life, health and strength be to you,” and began to tell this tale:
“I sailed from home on a great ship,” he said. “One hundred sailors rowed our ship. Each man was strong and brave, and we rowed for many days. We sailed across the Red Sea and into the ocean beyond. All was well when suddenly a great storm rose from the east. The wind thrashed our ship, whipping us toward land, and waves broke over us. Terrified, I grabbed a piece of wood and threw it overboard, and then I threw myself over as well and held onto the wood for dear life. I prayed, and then watched in horror as our ship was crushed upon the shore. Tears filled my eyes, but I had no time to mourn, for at that moment another wave rose up and cast me and my plank upon the shore.
“There I lay upon the sand, panting for breath. With the little strength I had left, I crawled to a grove of trees for shelter, and there I lay, watching the sky turning purple, listening to the howling wind.
“The storm raged for two days, but at last the sun broke through a blanket of clouds. I thanked the gods who saved me. And then, for the first time, I looked around and I saw that I was all alone in a land of plenty. Figs and grapes grew from the vines and trees, and the ground was thick with herbs and berries. When I walked deeper into the thicket I found gardens dense with fruit, and when I walked back to the sea I saw more fish than it is possible to imagine.
“I was beginning to feel at peace when suddenly I heard a roar like thunder. I threw myself behind the bushes, certain that a tidal wave was about to sweep me out to sea once more. The trees bent low to the ground. The sky turned dark. The earth trembled.
“But then the sound stopped, and again I felt the sun on my shoulders. I opened my eyes and saw an enormous serpent with a beard the color of rainbows and a body covered with golden scales. He was crawling toward me.
“The serpent slithered closer, reared his head high, and in a grumbling voice asked, ‘What has brought you here, little man?’ The serpent reached down and picked me up in his jaws, careful to cause me no harm. He carried me to the beach and lay me down before him. ‘Speak quickly now,’ the serpent said.
This article was written by Amy Friedman and Meredith Johnson