Using historical narrative to teach history – ‘the setting’ in Little Hatshepsut

Like a miracle, a light rain had drifted in from the sea. The sea was a long, long way off and Ahmes looked at it as if it was some strange emissary from Hapi.  Rain was rare in her world. Little pock marks on the river below her. It looked pretty but she still thought the rain was sad. It was also a little cold, and Ahmes retreated beneath the roof of the shrine… Still she could see the water below her.  The river did not mind the rain at all; it simply took those pock marks and swallowed them up. The river is, it just is, she thought… I should not be sad either.

But she was.

She sat in her family’s shrine on the low cliff above the river, a favourite spot of hers…

1.      Why do you think the writer uses the word miracle to describe the falling rain?

2.      What do we discover about where the sea is?

3.      What is the God’s name? How might this reveal that the story is set in ancient Egypt?

4.      Who might the shrine be for?

5.      Is the river given a name? Why is this appropriate (according the John Baines) for ancient Egypt?

Answering these questions should indicate how the writer established that we are in ancient Egypt and probably beside the Nile River. NOTE that we are not told this – it is shown to us; the god’s name is ancient Egyptian, rain is rare in the desert kingdom, the girl Ahmes is sitting on a cliff a long way from the sea and the delta.

For another example of how setting is used check out Jackie French’s opening to the novel – Pharaoh. Read the opening three paragraphs. By the way, Jackie French’s excellent novel is an imagining of the life of King Narmer, who is credited with the beginnings of ancient Egypt society.

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