Moses, Man of the Mountain Additional Summary

Zora Neale Hurston


(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Set in Egypt during the time of the Hebrew captivity, Moses, Man of the Mountain opens before Moses’ birth. The pharaoh had decreed that all male Hebrew newborns would be put to death. When Jochebed gives birth to a third child, a boy, the family hides him for three months from the secret police. After several experiences when the baby is almost discovered, the parents put him in a basket and set him adrift on the Nile.

Miriam, Jochebed’s daughter, is supposed to watch the basket and report the baby’s fate to her parents. She falls asleep, and when she awakens, the basket is gone. Before she can comprehend this event, her attention is distracted by the sight of the Egyptian princess and her ladies-in-waiting. Miriam forgets all about her brother and rushes home to tell her mother about seeing the princess. When she arrives, her mother’s frantic questioning reminds her of her original mission. She makes up a story in which the princess rescues the baby and takes him home with her to the palace. Thus, a legend was born.

Both Miriam and Jochebed go to the palace on separate occasions, asking to help care for the baby. They are told that the princess had brought her own son home from Assyria and that their help is not needed. Still, the legend persisted.

At the palace, Moses grows into an intelligent boy, filled with curiosity. He makes friends with Mentu, the elderly stablehand, and learns much about the mysterious ways of animals. Mentu first tells Moses about the deathless snake that guards the book of Thoth, located at the bottom of the river at Koptos. This book holds all the secrets of heaven and earth. Moses also learns many secrets from the palace priests.

When the biannual military contests are held, Moses defeats Ta-Phar, engendering a rivalry that lasts until Ta-Phar’s death. As a leader, Moses argues for more rights and better treatment for the...

(The entire section is 785 words.)