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The Sphinx
Riddle me this, riddle me that...

A colossal statue in the form of a lion with a human head wearing an ancient Egyptian headdress (and which may or may not have originally been a normal lion head) The Sphinx is one of the best known man-made structures in the real world. It is so closely associated with Egypt that it serves as an instant visual clue of the setting, even more so than The Pyramids (which also exist in other parts of the world.) The Sphinx is located next to the Great Pyramid of Giza, the largest one in the world.

This Sphinx has nothing to do with the one from the Greek Myth of Oedipus (the one with the Riddle of the Sphinx). Rather, the Greek called the statue (which is at least 4000 years old) Sphinx due to its resemblance to that monster. However, The Sphinx is considered "riddling" because, even today, we don't know who made it or why; most puzzling, there are no surviving records from that time that explain these things. Naturally, that has led to lots of crazy theories about it.

It is famously without a nose. Popular History attributes this to Napoleon Bonaparte's cannons accidentally shooting it off during the brief French occupation of Egypt (1798-1801), but in reality the nose was most likely hacked off by a 14th-century Muslim religious fanatic (who was hanged for vandalism by the Sultan in response).

In fiction, often the target of Monumental Damage or even Monumental Theft. Or just getting off its duff and stomping on people.

Tropes

  • Ambiguous Gender: One of its many riddles: Is the head a man's or a woman's? Looks kind of manly, but it's missing the intricately coiffed beard that ancient Egyptian men sported.
    • Bits of an alleged beard have been found, but given the lack of damage to the chin, it's likely that it was added on later and then fell off.
  • Ancient Astronauts: Hey, if they made the pyramids...
    • A 1971 Incredible Hulk story had the Sphinx being left behind by aliens as a weapon.
  • Ancient Egypt
  • And Man Grew Proud: The civilization that built it is long gone. It may still be around after ours is gone, as well.
    • Though it was almost swallowed by the desert (it was fully excavated in the early 20th century.)
  • Cats Are Mean: Subverted, felines were considered sacred in ancient Egypt.
  • Dungeon Crawling: Another popular feature in fiction: that it contains secret chambers to find, with long lost secrets inside.
  • Fridge Logic: Why are there no records of the building of such a monument, not even engravings on its sides? Were they erased by someone?
  • I Am Not Shazam: It's not really a sphinx, but rather an homage to some important ancient Egyptian figure (there are similar statues in Egypt, just not so big.) What the statue was originally called (or who is it based on) is a mystery.
    • A popular theory says it is Pharaoh Khafre, the one who had the Great Pyramid made.
    • Another theory says it was originally a full lion (compare the head to the body - it's really tiny) later remade into a human head. The theory says it also originally looked into the star sign "Lion" - 8000 YEARS AGO.
    • Its name in Arabic means "The Terrifying One".
    • Ironically, The Wizard Shazam did live in Ancient Egypt, maybe he knows the answers!
  • Living Statue: In some stories. Often shown speaking in cartoons (in riddles, of course.)
    • In an issue of DC's Adventure Comics from the early 80's, the heroes of Dial H For Hero battled it- but it (conveniently) turned out to be an imitation and not the real statue, so they destroyed it.
  • Monumental Damage: The statue is missing its nose, believed to have been an act of religious vandalism long ago.
  • Name's the Same: It has many namesakes, most intentional.
    • there's a Marvel Comics supervillain based on it (who resembles the X-Men's foe Apocalypse, except he came first.)
  • Nice Hat
  • The Noseless
  • The Seven Wonders of the World


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