The Desire for Justice in the Eloquent Peasant
Ninth Dynasty ancient Egypt, rural area near Herakleopolis.
Khun-anup led his donkeys around the large linen sheet the overseer Nemtynakht maliciously spread across the public road. While crossing the fields the donkeys began eating the landowner’s wheat. Like a bird caught in the snare, Khun-anup was whipped under the blazing sun and his donkeys were confiscated by Nemtynakht.
Khun-anup went out to find the landowner, Rensi son of Meru. He found him at the banks of the Nile, in the heart of the fashionable city. He began by addressing Rensi with great praise, lauding his fields of rich amber grain, fine livestock, and the benefits of his successful industries.
“Only those who truly work the land will truly posses the land,” the Eloquent Peasant repeated, continuing in this fashion for nine days, stating his case for justice. Finally, believing he was being ignored, Khun-anup insulted the rich landowner: “My children will go hungry because you have stolen my donkeys. A thief rich or poor does not work the land. Only those who truly work the land will posses it!”
Khun-anup was punished with another whipping. Rensi, after sending the Eloquent Peasant away, went on a tour of his many enterprises and grain fields, visiting last his freshly hewed tomb, which compelled him to read the transcript of Khun-anup’s last speech. After reflecting on all this Rensi changed his mind. He ordered the donkeys returned to Khun-anup, along with all of Nemtynakht’s property and his job. Thus the overseer became in one day as poor as the peasant he oppressed.