Long ago in Egypt, Prince Thutmose – the son of the great Pharaoh Amenhotep II – was next in line to the throne.
This made his brothers seethe with jealousy, as each of them wanted to be the next pharaoh, so they did everything they could to make his life difficult and even plotted to overthrow him.
Thutmose’s brothers were so scheming and cruel, Thutmose began to avoid them and spend as little time as he could in the royal court at Memphis. Instead, the young prince spent his days exploring the desert with his servants. He especially liked to visit the wonderful pyramids.
Early one morning, at the beginning of a feast to celebrate the sun god Ra, Thutmose suspected his brothers were scheming again, so he rode away with his servants.
“Let’s venture as far as we can into the desert,” he said. “I wish to see the old pyramids and honour the pharaohs who built them.”
As they travelled across the scorching sands, the sun rose higher in the sky. The day was hotter than they expected and they were relieved when they found a shady oasis.
As they gulped down water, Prince Thutmose said to his servants, “Rest here. I will drive my chariot to the pyramids and meet you here later.”
His servants were too hot to refuse his offer, so Thutmose galloped away towards the Great Pyramids.
Once there, he was awed by their immense size and clever construction. Though the pyramids were well over a thousand years old, the sun still gleamed brightly against their smooth stone. He fell to his knees to pray to the Egyptian gods but, as he did so, he noticed a large stone jutting out of the sand just ahead of him.
“It must be a mirage,” he thought, but as he drew closer, he realised it was the top of a carved head.
He had visited this sacred site many times and had never noticed it before. Thutmose looked more closely and recognised the carving as a sphinx – a mythical creature with the body of a lion and the head of a human.
He recognised the sphinx’s face as the great pharaoh Khafra, who had built one of the pyramids at Giza. Thutmose wondered how long it had been hidden in the sand.
Falling to his knees again – this time from heat and weakness – he began to pray to the gods and to the sphinx.
“Oh, sacred and magnificent sphinx, it is an honour to uncover your secret. I hope it is a good omen and I pray that you can deliver me from my troubles with my brothers.”
The sun was beating down intensely on Thutmose’s back, but a rumbling sound made him look up again. The sphinx’s head had moved! It shook itself off, freeing itself from the sand that shrouded its shoulders.
In a kind but powerful voice, it spoke. “Prince Thutmose, son of a pharaoh, I am Harmachis, god of the rising sun and father of the pharaohs of Egypt. You too will become a pharaoh one day, and you will lead Egypt to a time of great wealth and power.
“You will have health and happiness, and your brothers will no longer trouble you. You will have all this and my blessing, but it is on one condition. I ask something of you.”
“Anything you ask, Harmachis!” cried Thutmose, bowing his head.
“When you become pharaoh, I ask that you clear away the sand that hides me from sight, so that my people can pray to me again.”
“I promise I will!” said Thutmose.
There was a dazzling flash of light and the prince became dizzy. He felt himself fall onto the hot sand.
Hours later, when the sun began to sink below the horizon, Thutmose was woken by his servants shaking him anxiously. He had fallen asleep in the shade of the sphinx and had been missing for hours.
As he looked up at the spectacular carved head, he remembered the promise he had made. Had it been a dream or had the secret sphinx truly come to life?
After Thutmose’s return, his brothers no longer schemed against him and, when he eventually became a pharaoh, his first order was to clear the sand from around the Great Sphinx of Giza. He also asked a stonemason to carve a tablet, telling the story of his magical encounter. The tablet was placed between the sphinx’s paws.
Centuries later, when the desert winds had covered the sphinx’s body again, archaeologists uncovered the tablet. This is how we know the story of the secret sphinx today.