I’ve recently revealed the cover for some upcoming fiction of mine, Narmer and the God Beast, in which a young boy, Narmer, has been brutalized by his brother Bahek, and floats — bleeding — in the Nile, just waiting for a crocodile attack to finally kill him. Instead, he discovers a young Paralititan (a brontosaur-like dinosaur) playing in the river and realizes that it is in danger. What he does next will cement his legacy in the history of Egypt forever.
Obviously, my story is a work of fiction, and the final product is the work of my own (possibly deranged) mind, but I drew from many different sources when concocting the story. In fiction, it was Jackie French’s Pharaoh: the Boy Who Conquered the Nile from which I was drew a good deal of inspiration for Narmer’s character.
But Narmer was a real historical figure, credited for being the first Pharaoh, and the leader which united two halves of a disparate Ancient Egypt. A lot of what made it into my story, is pulled from what we know of him in real life.
My two main inspirations, were the Narmer Palette, and the Narmer Macehead, which really gave me an idea of the power this figure had, and the epic journey which he would need to go on to accomplish the feats attributed to him. And because I love words, the first thing that stuck out to me, was his name.
The Angry Catfish
Yes, you read that correctly. The name Narmer, comes from the hieroglyphs N’r and Mr which we would pronounce today as Narmer. N’r is represented by the glyph of a Catfish, while Mr shows a glyph of a chisel, which (according to wikipedia) means, “painful,” “stinging,” “harsh,” or “fierce”. I suppose I took a little bit of liberty to say that those things mean angry, but I think it’s a pretty good fit just the same. I believe the same chisel is also used in the word for ‘to be united in’, which seems to make a good deal of sense if Narmer really did unite Egypt under his reign.
But like many things in Ancient Egypt, the first pharaoh was more than just one thing. He had another name (which a lot of scholars seem to fight over whether either of these names is actually real), which was perhaps more fitting for a king, and conqueror. That name was Menes, which (also according to wikipedia) means ‘he who endures’.
These two names really shaped my conception of Narmer’s character.
So who was he IRL?
At this point, it is still difficult for scholars to pull fact from fiction, and myth from legend, but it seems that this Narmer had quite a resume. After first Pharaoh, and unifier of Egypt, Narmer/Menes is credited with founding the city of Memphis (after diverting a canal), inventing writing (I think Thoth might have something to say about that), and bringing Egypt into a general era of luxury and prosperity. He supposedly liked to hunt, and was attacked by his own dogs, then saved by a crocodile, for which he founded the city of Crocodilopolis.
He’s been implicated in the biblical flood myth, either as Noah, or some other player. And then was finally killed one day by a hippopotamus.
Ultimately, all of this made it pretty difficult to figure out what Narmer was actually like, and try to formulate into a neat little character, so ultimately I kept it simple, and stuck with the basics: First Pharaoh and Unifier of Egypt. From here I could weave in other bits of Ancient Egyptian history which interested me, and not have to worry too much about contradicting reality (although I guess after I put dinos in the story that contradicted reality pretty hard).
Anyway, that’s all I have on the history of Narmer right now. I’m hoping to do more research in the future as I feel like I’m only just scratching the surface. Perhaps I can follow up with more later.
I’ll certainly be following up with more posts about my inspirations for the story, so please keep coming back and reading. What do y’all think about Narmer? Was he on the Ark? Could he ride a Crocodile? What’s the coolest thing you’ve learned about him so far? Let me know in the comments.
Thanks all, and I’ll see you next time!
Still here? Awesome. I hope you enjoyed Who Was Narmer IRL? As mentioned at the beginning of this post, this was a major influence on my own story, Narmer and the God Beast. I revealed the story’s amazing cover art and blurb last week, illustrated for me by Lee Eschliman and I’ll continue to be putting out posts about my influences for this story all month until the story’s official launch on October 4th. If you like anything you’ve seen so far, you can head over to Amazon and preorder it now.
If you want more of my writing, please check out my fiction page, or consider signing up for my newsletter at https://jdweber.news/EgyptAndDinos. It will give you access to exclusive fiction, special offers, and just my general life and nonsense (here’s a sample newsletter). Just for signing up I’ll send you an email with the very first story I ever wrote about a Warlock Doctor.
Thanks for your time, and I hope to see you around here more!