Study Guide

The Egypt Game Spirituality

By Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Spirituality

Chapter 6

But as time passed and the game progressed, Set's face hardened and cracked into a wicked leer, and it became clear that his strange, sunken, formless body was the very shape of evil. Dark and deep as the mud of the Nile, Set brooded lumpily through a mist of sandalwood incense—ninety-nine cents at Schmitt's—over all kinds of mystic ceremonies, weird rites and wicked plots. (6.9)

At first, the sculpture of Set that the kids make is more funny-looking than anything else. But through the magic of the Egypt Game, the sculpture begins to look more and more sinister—and soon it really is the embodiment of evil. Thank goodness we get the reminder that the incense is from Schmitt's so we don't get too freaked out by the whole evil statue thing.

Right at first April and Melanie got terribly involved in composing and practicing rites and ceremonies for the two gods. The rituals were very complicated and the correct order of processions, chants, prostrations, sprinklings with holy water and sacrificial offerings had to be carefully written down so that they wouldn't be forgotten. (6.11)

Because there are so many gods and rituals in ancient Egypt, April and Melanie tackle those themes right away when they start creating the Egypt Game. They build altars to the different gods, learn about how people worshipped in ancient Egypt, and even come up with rituals of their own.

Chapter 7
April Hall

All of a sudden April grabbed Melanie's arm. "Look!" she whispered.
"What?" Melanie whispered back.
"Elizabeth," April said. "What does she look like?"
Melanie caught her breath. "Nefertiti," she breathed. (7.28-31)

Meeting Elizabeth also seems like it was meant to be when the girls look at her and realize that in profile, she looks a lot like the bust of Nefertiti. It's a pretty obvious sign that they have to let her join the game.

Chapter 9
Elizabeth Chung

"What sort of sign?" Elizabeth wanted to know.
"A secret omen," Melanie said.
"Will it be a pigeon feather?" Marshall asked.
"We don't know what it will be," April told him. "But we will know when it appears." She clasped her hands and struck a wonder-and-amazement pose. "The very air will smell of mystery," she breathed. (9.24-28)

On Halloween, the kids make a huge production of waiting for a sign from the gods so that they can return to Egypt. After all, it's a lot easier to justify being disobedient (when there's a murderer on the loose) if they receive an omen.

Chapter 10

"A shooting star!" Everybody repeated it in whispered unison as if they'd been rehearsed. Then everybody looked at April. She nodded. "The secret omen," she said slowly, making every syllable heavy with significance. (10.32)

And there you have it: when they see a shooting star, the kids are convinced that they have been summoned back to Egypt. So even though they're typically good, obedient kids, they sneak away from the trick-or-treating group and disappear into the night.

Chapter 15

In the next days he was anointed with spices and perfume, wrapped in thin strips of oil-soaked cloth, and laid to rest with a supply of birdseed and a few of his favorite toys, in a smallish pyramid made of old bricks. (15.27)

Having an actual ceremony and burial for Elizabeth's parakeet makes the grieving process a lot easier for her—and makes her feel like Petey is now in a better place with his very own pyramid.

Chapter 16

The oracles all had special sacred places, caves and grottoes or specially built temples, and there were all sorts of far-out things connected with them like sacred fires and mystic vapors and magical statues. (16.4)

The kids are immediately hooked when their teacher talks about oracles, because the spiritual and mystical aspect is super cool. That's definitely something that can be incorporated into the Egypt Game.

"...You see, I have this theory about how I was a high priestess once, in an earlier reincarnation. Do you think that's possible?"
"Possible?" The old man's voice quavered the world into a whole flock of syllables. "Many things are possible." (2.28-29)

The nice thing about the Professor is that he doesn't discount April's more out-of-this-world theories as rubbish. Instead, he hears her out and encourages her imagination. And this is long before he becomes the nice, murder-catching, key-giving Professor at the end of the book.

There she was, waiting for them in the shed, Nefertiti, the beautiful queen of ancient Egypt, like a magical omen, or, as April put it, "a beautiful messenger from out of the ancient past." There had to be something terribly out-of-the-ordinary about it. (4.19)

Finding the bust of Nefertiti in the abandoned yard isn't just a strange coincidence to Melanie and April: it's more like a sign from the gods. After all, they've just been obsessing over all things ancient Egypt, and up pops the beautiful queen of that land in person. Well, in bust. But still.

But, actually, that was the way with all of the Egypt Game. Nobody ever planned it ahead, at least, not very far. Ideas began and grew and afterwards it was hard to remember just how. That was one of the mysterious and fascinating things about it. (5.23)

The Egypt Game carries its own kind of magic and wonder. The whole games seems effortless and comes to the children as though someone else has planted the ideas in their heads. Or at least, with the inspiration and spontaneity of a make-believe game.

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