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Literature / Uarda

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Uarda by George Ebers is a seriously dated historical romance set in ancient Egypt. Ebers was a 19th century amateur Egyptologist best remembered as the owner of an important medical papyri known by his name. The title Uarda is a mystifying choice, seeing as the girl is in fact a very minor character. She is, on the other hand, the catalyst that sets off the whole novel. Uarda is accidentally run over by the chariot of Princess Bent-Anath, favorite daughter of Rameses II. Bent-Anath carries the injured child home to her grandparents whereby which she becomes ritually unclean as they belong to a Pariah class of Necropolis workers. Bent-Anath's refusal to submit to a ritual cleansing brings her into conflict with the High Priest at the head of the college of King Seti. The morning after the accident Uarda's humble hut serves as a general rendezvous during which we meet all our primary characters: our hero, the tiresomely noble and perfect Pentaur who is a priest of the College of Seti, and the much more interesting and sympathetic antagonist the imperfect, tormented and unhappy Paaker. Of course we are supposed to root for Pentaur but the modern reader is much more likely to sympathize with Paaker.As is common with 19th century novels the long arm of coincidence is worked to exhaustion and the plot is stuffed full of tropes making it eminently predictable - at least to 21st century readers.



  • Alcoholic Parent: Uarda's father has had a drinking problem ever since her mother's death. He adores his daughter but he is a mostly absent parent.
  • Conveniently an Orphan: The deaths of Uarda's grandparents and father are amazingly convenient freeing her from Egyptian ties before she discovers her mother's lineage.
  • Dated History: Ebers was at the cutting edge of Egyptological thought - over a hundred years ago. We know a lot more now, enough to realize that almost all our early conceptions were wrong.
  • Doting Parent: As far as Ramesses II is concerned Bent-Anath can do no wrong. Lady Set-chem loves her son Paaker, warts and all.
  • High Priest: Ameni, head of the Priestly college of Seti I, is not evil as such - in fact he is widely admired for his benevolence - but his conservative views include unpleasant ideas about ritual purity and he firmly believes that the priesthood should rule Egypt.
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  • Inadequate Inheritor: All Egypt seems to agree that the homely, gruff Paaker is a poor successor to his handsome and noble father - except for his mother and apparently his late father too.
  • Lamarck Was Right: Thanks to heredity Pentaur is a splendid warrior - in spite of having had absolutely no weapons training of any kind - he's a priest for gosh sakes!
  • Lost Orphaned Royalty: What Uarda turns out to be to absolutely nobody's surprise.
  • My Beloved Smother: Katuti has ambitions for her son and daughter, and she's not going to let a little thing like their contrary wishes get in her way!
  • Orphan's Plot Trinket: Uarda has one, half of a golden pendant. Needless to say she finds the other half and her family before the end.
  • Princess Bent-Anath is not only politically active but a tomboy as well.
  • Raised by Grandparents: Uarda. Her mother is dead, her father is a soldier with a drinking problem.
  • Start of Darkness: Paaker's is when he chooses to use black magic to get back his girl rather than accept his loss and move on.
  • Suddenly Suitable Suitor: Needless to say a gardener's son and humble priest like Pentaur is an unsuitable match for Princess Bent-Anath. Isn't it lucky he turns out to have been Switched at Birth?
  • Switched at Birth: Pentaur and Paaker. To the infinite credit of their mother she continues to love the son she raised and all but ignores her 'real' son.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Princess Bent Anath and her good friend Nefret. The former drives her own chariot, the latter prefers to travel by litter. The Princess' private apartments are almost masculine in their stark elegance; Nefret's room is furnished with all the little luxuries of a high born lady.
  • Uncanny Family Resemblance: This makes Pentaur and Uarda's eventual recognition by their biological families so much easier.
  • Unlucky Childhood Friend: Paaker adores his cousin Nefret, her mother and his father agree they will marry when they are grown - and then Nefret accepts another man. He does not take it well.

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