The Kebra Nagast, by E.A.W. Budge, , at sacred-texts.com
A curious and interesting legend of the way in which King Solomon became the father of Menyelek is found in a number of slightly varying versions among many of the tribes of Northern Abyssinia. 1 According to this the mother of Menyelek was a Tigrê girl called Ĕtêyê Azêb (i.e. Queen of the South), and her people worshipped a dragon or serpent, to which each man in turn had to present as an offering his eldest daughter, and large quantities of sweet beer and milk. When the turn of her parents came they tied her to a tree where the dragon used to come for his food, and soon after this seven saints came and seated themselves under the tree for the sake of the shade it gave. As they sat a tear dropped from the maiden above them, and when they looked up and saw her bound to the tree they asked her if she was a human being or a spirit, and she told them that she was a human being and, in answer to a further question, she told them that she was bound to the tree so that she might become food for the dragon. When the seven saints saw the dragon, one of them, Abbâ Tchêḥamâ, plucked at his own beard, another, Abbâ Garîmâ, exclaimed, "He hath frightened me," and a third, Abbâ Menṭelît, cried out, "Let us seize him"; and he forthwith attacked the monster, and aided by his companions they killed him by smiting him with a cross. As they were killing him some blood spurted out from him and fell on the heel of Ĕtêyê Azêb, and from that moment her heel became like the heel of an ass. The saints untied her fetters and sent her to her village, but the people drove her away, thinking that she had escaped from the dragon, and she climbed up into a tree
and passed the night there. On the following day she fetched some people from the village and showed them the dead dragon, and they straightway made her their chieftainess, and she chose for her chief officer a maiden like herself. Soon after this Ĕtĕyê Azêb heard a report of the medical skill of King Solomon, and she determined to go to him so that he might restore her deformed heel to its original shape. She and her chief officer dressed their hair after the manner of men, and girded on swords, and departed to the Court of Solomon at Jerusalem. Her arrival was announced to Solomon, who ordered his servants to bring the King of Abyssinia into his presence, and as soon as her deformed foot touched the threshold it recovered its natural form. Solomon had bread, meat, and beer brought in and set before the two women who were disguised as men, but they ate and drank so little that Solomon suspected that his guests were women. When night fell he caused two beds to be made for his guests in his own bedroom, and he hung up in the room a skin with honey[comb] in it, and he pierced the skin and the honey dropped down into a bowl set there to catch it, and Solomon and his guests betook themselves to their beds. At night the king was accustomed to keep vigil with his eyes closed, and to sleep with them half-open, and thus when the two women, who were longing to get off their beds and to go and drink honey from the bowl, saw him with his eyes half-open they thought that the king was awake, and they curbed their desire for the honey and lay still. After a time the king woke up and closed his eyes, but the women, thinking he was asleep, rose from their beds and went to the howl of honey and began to eat. By this Solomon knew that his two guests were women, and he got up and went with them to their beds and lay with both of them. When he left them he gave to each woman a silver staff and a ring, and he said, If the
child be a girl let her take this staff and come to me, and if it be a boy let him take the ring and come to me; and each woman being with child returned to her own country. In due course each woman gave birth to a son, and each told her child that Solomon was his father. When the boys grew up their mothers sent them to Jerusalem, and the Queen of Sheba gave her son, who resembled Solomon in every way, a mirror which she had brought when she visited Solomon, and told him to go with it to the king, who would hide from him, and not to speak to any other man who might be sitting on his throne. When the two youths arrived in Jerusalem and Solomon knew that they claimed to be his sons, he gave orders for them to wait for an interview, and kept them waiting for three years. At the close of the third year he arrayed a friend in his royal robes, and seated him upon his throne, whilst he dressed himself in rags and went and sat in a stable, and then ordered the two young men to be admitted to the presence. When the young men entered the throne room the son of the Queen of Sheba's minister grasped the hand of the man on the throne, who personified Solomon, thinking that he was the king, but the son of the Queen of Sheba, who was called "Menyelek," stood upright and made no obeisance, and when he looked in the mirror which his mother had given him, and saw that the features of the occupant of the throne were entirely different from his own, he knew that he was not standing in the presence of Solomon. Then he turned about in all directions and looked at all the faces that were round about him, and found none resembling his own; after a time he looked up and saw Solomon gazing at him from the stable, and he knew him at once, and went to the stable and did homage to him as king. And Solomon said, "My true son! The other is also my son, but he is a fool." Menyelek then took up his
abode in Jerusalem and assisted Solomon in ruling the kingdom, but after a time the people found that father and son did not always agree in their judicial decisions, and they became dissatisfied. On one occasion in the case of a trespass of cattle the king decided that the owner of the field might confiscate the cattle which had trespassed, but Menyelek ordered him to accept six measures of grain instead of confiscating the cattle. Thereupon the people told the king that they would not be ruled by two chiefs, and that he must send his son back to his native country. When Solomon told his son of the people's complaint Menyelek advised his father to say to them, Is not Menyelek my first-born son? I will send him away if you will sent your firstborn sons with him; and the people agreed to send their first-born sons to Abyssinia with Menyelek. When Solomon was arranging for Menyelek's departure he told him to take the Ark of Michael with him, but Menyelek, believing the Ark of Mary to be of greater importance, changed the covers of the two Arks, and took with him the Ark of Mary. A few days after the departure of Menyelek a storm visited Jerusalem, and Solomon told his servants to find out if the Ark of Mary was in its place, presumably with the idea of securing its protection against the storm. His servants went and looked and, seeing an Ark with the cover of Mary's Ark upon it, assumed that it was the Ark of Mary, and reported to Solomon that the Ark of Mary was in its place. He then told them to take off the cover, and when they had done so they found that the Ark was Michael's, and though Solomon sent a messenger after Menyelek to bring back the Ark of Mary, his son refused to give it up. Meanwhile Menyelek and his party went on their way, and when they arrived at Ḳayĕḥ Kôr, a deacon who was carrying the Ark of Mary died, and was buried there. After the burial they wished to resume their journey,
but the Ark of Mary refused to move. They then dug up the deacon's body, and laid it in a coffin, and buried it again, but still the Ark refused to move, and when Menyelek again ordered them to dig up the body, they found a finger of the deacon outside the coffin. When they had placed the deacon's finger in the coffin with the rest of his body, the Ark of Mary allowed itself to be moved, and Menyelek and his companions went on their way. In due course they came to Tegrây and arrived in Aksûm, where they found Satan building a house to fight against God. When they told him that the Ark of Mary had come he stopped building, threw down what he had built, and went away; and the stones which he had collected were used by Menyelek in building a church to hold the Ark of Mary. One very large stone, which Satan was carrying to his building when the news came of the arrival of the Ark of Mary, was dropped by him at once, and at the present day that stone stands on the same spot on which he dropped it.
lx:1 See Littmann, Dr. E., The Legend of the Queen of Sheba in the Tradition of Axum, Leyden, 1904; Conti Rossini, Ricordi di un Soggiorno in Eritrea, Asmara, 1903.