The Last Egyptian

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The Last Egyptian
A Romance of the Nile
TheLastEgyptian.jpg
First edition
Author L. Frank Baum
Illustrator Francis P. Wightman
Country United States
Language English
Genre Adventure novel/romance
Publisher Edward Stern & Co.
Publication date
1907
Media type Print (hardcover)
Pages 287 pp
OCLC 419213619

The Last Egyptian: A Romance of the Nile is a novel written by L. Frank Baum, famous as the creator of the Land of Oz. The book was published anonymously on May 1, 1908[1] by Edward Stern & Co. of Philadelphia, with eight color plate illustrations by Francis P. Wightman. Baum left his name off of the book because he was concerned that "masquerading as a novelist" might hurt his career as a writer for children; but he identified himself as the author of the book during his lifetime when making fantasy films for children proved a financial disaster.

The novel was reissued as a 304-page trade paperback in July 2002 by Fredonia Books in the wake of the growing critical reappraisal and public interest in Baum's work. It was the first time the book was published under Baum's name. As with Baum's other adventure novels for adult readers (which were published under the name Schuyler Staunton, a slight alteration of his maternal uncle's name, not used here owing to the different publisher), it is inspired by the works of H. Rider Haggard that Matilda Joslyn Gage had encouraged him and his wife (her daughter) to read.

Plot summary[edit]

The extensive diacritical marks appear in the novel as published by Stern.

The novel focuses on three main characters, and is written in a third person limited point of view, which subtly shifts among the three characters, the narrator speaking with each character's very different prejudices as each becomes the temporary main focus. These three characters, in order of appearance, are Gerald Winston Bey, an English Egyptologist; an Egyptian, Kāra, and a dragoman named Tadros. Kāra, being white-skinned, is mistaken by Bey for a Copt, though he is no Christian, and he has no respect for Arab Muslims, either. Kāra claims to be a descendent of Ahtka-Rā, High Priest of Ămen, whom he says ruled Rameses II as his puppet, including hiding the latter's death for two years--archaeology says Rameses reigned 67 years, but according to Kāra, he ruled only 65.

All of this Kāra has learned since he was a child from his grandmother, Princess Hatacha, who had come to England when she was 17 and created a stir, ultimately marrying a Lord Roane, Kāra's grandfather. Hatatcha is a cruel and vindictive old woman, but as she is dying, she gives him information about the large treasure cache that they have been living on, including many hieroglyphic papyri from which she educated him as a child that will prove to the world that he is of royal lineage and avenge her against Lord Roane for leaving her in poverty. It is within the cliff that their home is built in that the treasure is kept, behind a wall built over an opening of a cavern too deep to use as a shelter.

Tadros and the Bey compete to acquire these papyri from him to sell, and Kāra nearly kills the former for stealing one, but he stops, knowing he can use him. He allows him to have that one in exchange for the girl Nepthys, whose principal interest is cigarette smoking, whom Tadros is set to acquire for another's harem.

After Hatatcha's funeral, Kāra steals the donkey of Nikko, an old blind man, for the elderly black-skinned dwarf embalmer, Sebbet, to transport her remains for mummification. He meets Winston on his dahabeah and accompany him to Cairo. In Cairo, Kāra seeks to have his gems recut in the modern style, but instead sells them for cash, and takes his steps toward revenge on Lord Roane.

Charles Consinor, 9th Earl of Roane, is now elderly and of poor reputation, while his son, Viscount Roger Consinor is a professional gambler. Kāra manipulates things to get Charles (Lord Roane) a diplomatic post in Cairo. There, he catches Roger cheating with marked cards and loaded dice at the club, puts Nepthys in his personal harem, and then proceeds to make moves on Lord Roane's granddaughter, Aneth Consinor, who has been sent back to the family from school on account of unpaid tuition. He falls in love with Aneth (as does Winston), causing him to send Nepthys back home, but when she refuses to marry him, considering him a friend and herself unready for marriage, he quickly returns to his desire for his grandmother's revenge. Winston tells Kāra that thee latter cannot marry her because they are cousins, but Kāra cares not, stating that Egyptian kings married their sisters, so marrying a cousin is nothing.

Lord Roane has embezzled money via McFarland, a contractor on a sham embankment project. Kāra is aware of this and tries to blackmail Lord Roane into forcing Aneth into marriage with him. Roane refuses, saying his granddaughter should not hurt for his misdeeds, calling Kāra an "infamous nigger," to which Kāra "redden[s] at the epithet." Kāra then approaches Aneth with the proposition, and she agrees to marry him out of filial duty, to which he responds by giving her forged documents for her to destroy, while he retains the incriminating documents. Winston, upon learning that Kāra's accusation is true, conspires with Aneth's companion, Mrs. Lola Everingham, (wife of an engineer known for his work in Asia) to woo her into marriage with himself. This causes the dutiful girl more pain if anything, creating a longing for something she will not let herself have.

Paying off Tadros to help them instead of Kāra, Winston and the Consinors plan to abduct Aneth to Winston's dahabeah. When this is accomplished, they tell her that Kāra has decided he does not want to marry her, Lord Roane again referring to him as a "rascally nigger." They have learned this, in effect, is true: he has hired a wiley Copt named Mykel into his employ, to whom he has provided the garments of a Coptic priest, and a Coptic Bible from which to conduct a ceremony. Mykel being a false priest, Aneth would not be legally married, and thus shamed and unmarriageable.

Tadros and Viscount Consinor leave the vessel at Fedah, expecting Kāra to return soon for more treasure, as he has secured the help of his brother-in-spirit, Sheik Antar, a large Arab who dyes his grey beard black, and his Muslim followers, who also live in a small town on the Nile inhospitable to strangers. Tadros is aware that Kāra has been buying on credit, and will be forced to soon return for more gemstones, including to pay Antar.

Kāra attacks the dahabeah with Antar, but Antar refuses to dirty his sword more than once, and only after receiving payment. Unable to find Tadros, whom he wishes thrown overboard, and shot at by Mrs. Everingham, he returns to Fedah, where Tadros has had Roger hide under the rushes that Hatatcha used as a bed. Tadros asks him if he is "comfortable"—to which he replies "not very"—but he clarifies enough to remain still for several hours. From there he is able to see what Kāra presses in the wall to enter into the secret passage.

Kāra places the Talisman of Ahkta-Rā on his finger, believing it will give him his ancestor's power if he uses it only temporarily, in spite of the curse upon it, but as he is trying to lug two sacks full of gems, a statue of Isis, which had fallen the last time he was in the tomb, falls again, knocking it off his hand, and when he stumbles, a lamp he has tied to the button of his shirt is knocked out. In the darkness, he sees the Talisman return to its spot, or at least he is confusing it with the candle Consinor is using that was left for him by Tadros.

Kāra attacks Roger, but Roger is a skilled wrestler and manages to get on top of him as Kāra tries to asphyxiate him. He is able to knock Kāra's head to the ground long enough that he loses consciousness, allowing Roger to flee. Kāra, though, has inadvertently removed the dagger that keeps open the vault door, which Hatatcha informed him cannot be opened from the inside, and even as Roger can hear him regain consciousness and get up, he is unaware that Kāra is quite trapped and continues to run. Mistaking Roger for Kāra, Nepthys stabs him fatally.

When Winston's dahabeah arrives at Fedah, Tadros tells Antar that the police have come and taken Kāra and will also arrest Antar and his men if caught. Although he must work to convince Antar he has nothing to do with the police, eventually he gets them to flee northward. Not knowing what has happened to Kāra, and not wishing Nepthys to be punished for the death of Roger Consinor, he gives the same story to Winston and the Consinors, and is triumphantly hired to be their dragoman as they go on to Luxor for the wedding of Aneth Consinor to Gerald Winston.

Film adaptation[edit]

The Last Egyptian
Directed by J. Farrell MacDonald
Produced by L. Frank Baum
Louis F. Gottschalk
Written by L. Frank Baum
Starring J. Farrell MacDonald
Vivian Reed
J. Charles Haydon
Howard Davies
Jane Urban
Music by Louis F. Gottschalk
Cinematography James A. Crosby
Distributed by Alliance Program
Release dates
December 14, 1914
Country USA

That the book was Baum's was made clear in the December 1914 release of a film version of the novel, written and produced by Baum, and directed and starring J. Farrell MacDonald in the title role. (However, the October 17, 1914 issue of Motion Picture News stated that the film was being directed by Baum and J. Charles "Hayden" [sic].) According to a company press release, the film was representing a new direction for The Oz Film Manufacturing Company, and would be followed by adaptations of both "Schuyler Staunton" novels, The Fate of a Crown and Daughters of Destiny, although they are now both attributed to Baum with no mention of Staunton. The film was not successful; the Oz name had been temporarily tainted as "box office poison" for producing films then-considered too juvenile, and even a name change to Dramatic Feature Films did not help it in the eyes of exhibitors.

This film, unlike the other three features of The Oz Film Manufacturing Company, has never been issued for home use. The only known copy of the film is held by the Museum of Modern Art. Experimental filmmaker Bill Morrison used clips of it in his 2002 film, Decasia, the Hatatcha name on a tomb being the giveaway. Morrison was contacted about his use of the film by Scott Andrew Hutchins, and told him that he had obtained the print from MoMA. Hutchins alerted a skeptical Michael Patrick Hearn to its presence at MoMA, which had never screened it. Hearn attended a private screening, after which he arranged for the film's first public screening since 1914/5 at "The Wonderful Weekend of Oz," October 10–12, 2008, in conjunction with the Matilda Joslyn Gage home and sponsored by Classic Carpet Care. The film was shown on the 11th at 6:30 PM at the Palace Theatre in Syracuse, New York, but only three of the five reels are owned by MoMA. Baum scholars Hearn and David Moyer presented the film with commentary.

Cast[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Katharine M. Rogers, L. Frank Baum, Creator of Oz: A Biography, New York, St. Martin's Press, 2002; p. 152. The copyright page of the first edition bore the misleading date "1907." The mistake was not unique in Baum's bibliography; see Aunt Jane's Nieces Abroad.

This article written with a third printing of the Stern edition.

  • Richard Mills and David L. Greene. "The Oz Film Manufacturing Company, Part Three." The Baum Bugle, Autumn 1973.
  • The Last Egyptian at matildajoslyngage.org

External links[edit]