Upon hearing the roar over the stone paws of an ancient Egyptian sphinx found in northern Israel, I immediately wondered, “Where is the rest?” Feet are nice, they even make a cute photo, but if you could find the head and body (do these things have tails?) and display them in the correct setting — think Las Vegas in scale — then you have a major tourist attraction.
Getting on the trail of the missing sphinx parts, I found that the stone paws were found in Hazor, a UNESCO World Heritage site north of Yam Kinneret, the Sea of Galilee. Between the stone paws was a clue — a hieroglyphic inscription — about a once-powerful king.
Checking with my “Pop-Up Guide to Ancient Egypt,” I learned that I was searching for a mythical creature with a human head grafted onto a lion’s body. What a concept. Do you call it a hu-lion? A lio-man? Did it roar, or talk? Did it like its steak cooked, or on the hoof? And again, where was the rest of it?
In search of the truth, a journalist learns to ask the right questions, so getting into the sphinx mind-set I asked: If I had a lion’s body where would I go? Out for a night on the prowl?
More likely, I would go to Hollywood Boul-evard to pose for tourist photos alongside the movie and film characters who hang out in front of Grau-man’s Chinese Theater, or whatever it’s called now.
But maybe that’s just me.
A sphinx more dedicated to his craft would take a couple of acting classes and get himself an agent. He would start small, a couple of WWE wrestling matches billed as “The Lion of Judah,” then some cameos on Animal Planet’s “Finding Bigfoot.” Finally, he would be offered the host job of a new game show, “Riddle of the Sphinx.” (What else could they call it?)
After half a season, the show just blows up. “Imagine Alex Trebek with a tail,” writes Variety. “His hungry eyes are ever soulful,” gushes Vanity Fair. Soon Sphinx (like other celebs, he drops “the”) has it going with McDonald’s tie-ins, buff-bodied look-alikes posing in the entryways of Abercrombie & Fitch, even a contract to do a haggadah cover.
Then, true to script, just as he can’t live any larger, there would be a scandal. Sphinx would be caught with an underage female Greek sphinx — wings and all. Denials would blaze atop the tabloids: “Who’s Lion Now?” asks Entertainment Tonight.
Following would be an attempted rehabilitation: tearful confessions, apologies and a very limp tale on “The Today Show.” But sponsors would cancel contracts, and even Nike would withdraw Sphinx’s “Predator” line of shoes.
What would become of the warehouses of now worthless Sphinx tchotchkes? Dumped into landfills around the world, is my best guess.
As to those excavated sphinx feet in Israel, my intuition tells me that under scrutiny, they will turn out to be as old as this Hollywood story. If the archaeologists just dig a little deeper into the Galilee, they will find the proof: key chains, sippy cups and giant foam paws, all dumped after Sphinx’s fall.
As for the rest of the sphinx parts? That’s all, folks, there are no other parts. Those paws were leftovers from a McDonald’s in-store promotion that had to be called off.
Edmon J. Rodman is a JTA columnist who writes on Jewish life from Los Angeles. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.