8

At the beginning of the book The Boat of a Million Years by Poul Anderson is a quote from the Book of the Dead:

May he depart in the sunrise boat
May he return in the sunset boat
May he go among the immortal stars
May he journey in the Boat of a Million Years

Labelled as 18th dynasty, and translated as:

May he go forth in the sunrise boat
May he come to port in the sunset boat
May he go among the imperishable stars
May he journey in the Boat of a Million Years

or as:

May he depart in the sunrise boat
May he return in the sunset boat
May he go among the immortal stars
May he journey in the Boat of a Million Years

What is the origin of this quote? Which version of the Book of the Dead? Are there any images of the original?

There's a similar passage in columns 5 and 6 of sheet 20 of the Papyrus of Ani (A Hymn of Praise to Ra, identified as Chapter XV of the Book of the Dead by Budge, 1898):

enter image description here

But that's 19th dynasty, and seems to be a different version:

May the soul of Osiris Ani, the triumphant one, come forth with thee into heaven, 
may he go forth in the Matet boat.
May he come into port in the Sektet boat,
and may he cleave his path among the never-resting stars in the heavens

So where's the 18th dynasty version from?

Edit: Some of the possible papyri: Nebseni/Nebseny, Nu, Hepres, Satiah, Hor, Nebettawy. Might also not be on a papyrus?

Edit: The acknowledgments section says that the author's wife, "Karen Anderson prepared the epigraph, slightly modifying her translation at my request"

6
  • 4
    There are a lot of copies of the Book of the Dead in museums around the world, many of them fragmentary, and (as far as I'm aware) none are exactly the same. The Petrie Museum in London has at least four 18th-dynasty versions that I'm aware of (all of them fragmentary) Of course, it's also possible that this is a rendering created by the author to better fit with the storyline. Your best bet is probably to contact the author, or their agent. Oct 1 '20 at 22:01
  • 3
    Translations can also very wildly, especially if the translator is trying to make the translation poetic. Unfortunately, Poul Anderson died almost twenty years ago. He was also known to play with languages so it wouldn't shock me if it was translated in some sense by the author. Oct 1 '20 at 22:08
  • @sempaiscuba: A list of 18th dynasty versions would be a good starting point. I've heard of two 18th dynasty Book of the Dead papyri: that of Nebseni, and that of Nu. But I haven't found translations or images of this passage in them.
    – tim_hutton
    Oct 1 '20 at 22:16
  • 1
    @tim_hutton The Petrie Museum has a list of their copies on its website. Unfortunately, there is no "central repository" of papyri that I'm aware of, so compiling a complete list may be a non-trivial task. Oct 1 '20 at 22:22
  • @GorttheRobot: You're right of course. And I've just found a note in the book about the translator; I've added it in the main question. However I think the last line is just too different to have come from that version on the Papyrus of Ani - it doesn't mention the boat of a million years (which is a specific thing and not just fanciful language). Sadly Karen Anderson (his wife) has also died.
    – tim_hutton
    Oct 2 '20 at 11:18

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.