When I was younger, my parents (probably due to a lifetime’s worth of brainwashing by the church) themselves brainwashed me into thinking that Rameses was evil because he was mean to the Hebrews, which meant he was indirectly being mean to God. Naturally, at the tender age of 9 when I first saw The Prince of Egypt, I couldn’t wait until it got to the part when his son dies (too morbid for a nine-year old, huh). I relished in his sorrow, his pain, his agony… and when the scene came where he was kneeling by the shore shouting out Moses’s name, defeated and weak, I felt something akin to victory.
Of course, it’s been years since I stopped seeing Rameses as evil simply because it’s been years since I’ve started thinking about the truth (or lack thereof) behind what priests say, but it is only now after re-watching the movie that I started feeling sorry for the man. I must be clear, however, that I only talk about the Rameses in the movie and not the one in the bible.
When Moses ran away from Egypt because he had issues with his birth and the crime he committed, Rameses lost a younger brother whom he loved very much. Moses left on foot, without any supplies, and headed into the desert. He might as well have been dead. Just imagine the months of sorrow that caused Rameses. Remembering the good times they had every time he passed his brother’s room, or went to check on his horses in the stables, or saw his statue in the entrance hall; and knowing that he might not see his brother ever again.
But wait. He’s alive. And even better, he’s back in Egypt! But Moses did not come back to reunite with his brother. He was only back to free his people. Way to go, Moses. You did well taking that dagger out of your brother’s heart and replacing it with a sword. However, even with this betrayal, Rameses could not bring himself to hurt his brother despite being able to order for Moses’s execution with a snap of his fingers. It actually took the death of his son for him to take to arms, and I couldn’t help but think that all that time, while he was seeing his kingdom being destroyed by plagues partially brought on by his brother, all he wished was for Moses to switch to his side so they could be brothers again.
Rameses, at least the one in this animated cartoon, was a good and tolerant man, and only ever wished for his brother back; and I am ashamed for having relished at his defeat and sorrow when I was younger.