Myths and Legends of Ancient Egypt
Page: 41Then was Set very greatly incensed, and decided to come forth in person to do battle with Horus. Horrible indeed were his cries and curses when he heard the losses his army had sustained. And Horus and his followers went out to meet the army of Set, and long and furious was the battle. At length Horus took a prisoner whom he believed to be Set. The wretched being was dragged before Ra, who gave him into the hands of his captor, bidding the latter do with him what he would. Then Horus killed his prisoner, cut off his head, dragged him through the dust, and cut his body in pieces, even as Set had done to Osiris. But, after all, it was only one of Set's associates who had perished thus miserably. The Evil One himself was still at large, vowing vengeance on his enemies. In the form of a large snake he hid himself under the earth, while his followers took courage from the knowledge that he had eluded his enemy. Yet again, however, were they defeated by Horus, who slew great numbers of them. The gods remained for six days on the canal, waiting for the reappearance of the foe, but none were to be seen. Then Horus scattered abroad his followers to destroy the remnant of Set's army.
The last two battles were fought at Thalû (Zaru), and at Shaïs, in Nubia. At Thalû Horus took the form of a fierce lion, and slew a hundred and forty-two enemies. At Shaïs he appeared once more in the shape of a great shining disk with wings of splendid plumage, and with the goddesses Nekhbet and Uazet[Pg 91] on either side of it in the shape of crowned snakes. On these occasions also Horus was victorious.
There are various endings to this myth. It is said that the prisoner whom Horus caused to be decapitated was none other than Set, whose fate, however, did not hinder him from living again and taking the form of a serpent. According to this version Horus of Edfû was accompanied by Horus the Child, son of Isis and Osiris. In the same inscription which gives an account of the battles Horus the Elder and Horus the Child are utterly confused at the end. So while Horus the Elder fights the battles, Horus the Child kills Set. They are looked upon as one and the same. On capturing Set, therefore, Horus, according to one account, delivered him into the hands of Isis, who cut off his head.
Another version, again, has it that the decisive battle has not yet been fought, and that Horus will finally destroy his enemy, when Osiris and the gods once more return to earth.
Yet another account states that when Horus the Child had become a man Set came forth and challenged him to mortal combat. So Horus set out in a boat splendidly decorated by Isis, who also laid magic spells upon it, so that its occupant might not be overcome. Meanwhile the arch-foe of the gods had taken upon himself the shape of a huge red hippopotamus. And he caused a raging storm to break over the boats of Horus and his train, so that the waters were lashed into fury; and had it not been that the boats were protected by magic, all would assuredly have perished. Horus, however, held on his course undismayed. He had taken the form of a youth of giant stature, and towered at the gilded prow of his boat, which shone[Pg 92] like sunlight amid the storm and the darkness. A great harpoon was poised in his hand, such a weapon as an ordinary mortal could not lift. In the water the red hippopotamus waited for the wrecking of the boat, so that he might swallow his enemies. But this he was destined never to do, for directly he showed himself above water the mighty harpoon was launched at his head and sank into his brain. And this was the end of Set, the Evil One, the murderer of Osiris and the enemy of Ra. In honour of Horus the Conqueror hymns and triumphal choruses were sung throughout the land.