Friday, 13 June 2014

Lego Review -- Rise of the Sphinx (7326)

Pieces: 527

Build Time: 1 ½ hours

Year: 2011

Theme: Pharaoh’s Quest
RRP: See “Availability”


I love Ancient Egypt, and Ancient Egyptian religion has always particularly fascinated me. Their curious animal-headed gods and the myths that surrounded them were particularly intriguing to me, as someone who had been raised (and still identifies) as a Christian. But in the 20+ years that I have been reading about Ancient Egypt, none have fascinated me more than Anubis. Jackal-headed, he appealed to my early fascination with dogs. Osiris and Horus may have been more prominent in the popular Egyptian pantheon, but for me it was all about Anubis.

Though there is very little mythological material surrounding Anubis, he was a very important deity, particularly in the New Kingdom era. The Egyptians of the New Kingdom believed that the path to the afterlife was guarded by various threats and hazards, and thus undertook all sorts of protective measures – usually in the form of spells, many found in the Book of the Dead, to protect themselves as they made this journey.

After the deceased had made their way through the various challenges, they would encounter one final test – the weighing of the heart, overseen by Anubis. The heart would be weighed against maat, here represented by a feather. My (limited) understanding of maat seems to be that it was some kind of universal order, and things could be either in or out of harmony with maat. We don’t really have a direct modern counterpart in other world religions that I’m aware of, but perhaps we might be able to draw an analogy with the concept of karma – namely, good deeds will be rewarded, bad deeds have consequences.  

If the heart balanced with the feather, the deceased was judged worthy to enter the afterlife. But if the heart was heavier than the feather, it would be devoured by Ammit, seen here as the crocodile-headed beast lurking beneath the scales. Ammit almost looks cute by modern standards, but she was terrifying to the Egyptians. To have your heart consumed by her was a “second death” – total obliteration of the soul, to my understanding, and the ultimate horror which seemed to exist in Egyptian metaphysics. So on this basis alone, Anubis would have a fairly vital role in Egyptian religion.

Additionally, Anubis was seen as important to the mummification process – to the extent that one of the priests overseeing the mummification process would dress as Anubis, presumably noting important details and reciting prayers and/or spells to ensure the safe passage of the deceased.

Were we to give Anubis a DnD-style alignment, we would probably call him “lawful good”. What relevance does this have to today’s review? Well, despite his reasonably benevolent presence in the pantheon, more modern takes on Egyptian mythology tend to paint Anubis as a villain – understandable, given his association with death, if inaccurate. This particular Lego set follows that mould, casting him as a sphinx and – judging by the context of the set – an evil one who springs to life when certain ancient artefacts are disturbed.

This set comes with three minifigures – Jake Raines and two Mummy Warriors.

Jake Raines is okay, but suffers from the same problem that plagues most of the Monster Fighters human characters – and indeed, most human characters in any sort of monster/horror movie. Namely, he’s just not that engaging. He does come with a few accessories though, most of which have slots on the car for you to stick them in – a pick (for archaeological digging), a bundle of dynamite (for old-school archaeological digging) and a shotgun (for blasting the undead back to their graves).

The Mummies are identical, with printing on both sides of their head. One side depicts a face with two unwrapped eyes, while the other shows only one unwrapped eye. You can use them to differentiate the two if you want, but I was happy enough with them looking the same. Additionally, they come with two weapons – a spear and a scimitar. How you divvy them up is of course your choice.

I do kind of prefer the minifigure Mummy from series 3 of the minifigures range. White wrappings and green skin just worked a little better for me, personally. Nonetheless, they’re cool troopbuilders, and they do look like they’d present a genuinely menacing threat to Jake Raines and his companions.

The set consists of three main elements. The first is the car. It’s a 1930s-style jalopy with a bit of hot rod thrown in, looking straight off the set of an Indiana Jones movie. I’m no real car fan, but it fits the pulp adventure style well and also wouldn’t look out of place with the Monster Fighters theme.


The second is the "temple" itself. This is the resting place of the golden sword, one of the artefacts which will apparently resurrect the long-dead Pharaoh if it falls into the wrong hands. This being an adventure-based set, I think it’s fairly safe to say that in most cases, it will fall into the wrong hands and the evil Pharaoh will return – but good will eventually triumph over evil. As a side note, the golden scimitar is identical to the regular one for the Mummy warrior, save its casting colour.  

The action feature of this section is kind of cool, though fairly unnecessary to me, personally. Pushing on a lever, the section of wall between Anubis’ front legs pops out, simulating the explosion of dynamite – you’ll see there’s even a little clip in there to click Jake Raines’ bundle of it in. The “explosion” then thrust the sword forth, revealing the ancient artefact to the world – now it’s up to you to decide whether the Mummy soldiers are successful in defending it.

Here is where the third element comes in – once the sealed chamber has been broken open and the golden sword revealed, Sphinx-Anubis can lurch to life, raising his legs up off the ancient podium it has sat atop for untold millennia, ready to wreck destruction on all whoever has disturbed him.

Sphinx-Anubis has a reasonable amount of articulation – his knees and ankles have ratcheted joints, and his hips all have swivel hinges. Additionally, his jaw can be opened and closed. I like to go for closed while dormant, open as he springs to life.
All of the hieroglyphics that dot the set are applied as stickers. I have mixed feelings about this; I tend to prefer printed bricks when possible, but I can also appreciate that people who build “outside the set” may have had their use from these bricks subsequently reduced. Fortunately I managed to align them all more or less correctly, a rarity for my often clumsy hands.   


This set is a few years old now, so your chances of finding it at retail are pretty slim. Finding it on the aftermarket shouldn’t be too problematic, but be prepared to pay through the nose. I found this set in a Barnes and Noble while visiting Hawaii a few weeks ago, for $USD50 – which seems about right (though I don’t think throwing in an extra minifigure would have hurt). However, I seem to recall it being far more expensive in Australia, which probably put me off at the time. The B & N I visited had one more of this set left when I bought it, but whether it will still be there now is pretty uncertain.

Despite my love of Ancient Egypt, I wasn’t too impressed with the Pharaoh’s Quest theme when I first came across it. I was also buying the second series of Atlantis at the time, and with my limited resources I couldn’t afford to be split between the two. However, the benefit of hindsight has revealed that there were a couple of cool sets in the range – particularly this one and the Scorpion Pyramid (7327), which was the big set of the theme.  

Wildly historically inaccurate, the Sphinx is nonetheless a fun set which fits well into an Indiana Jones-style pulp adventure setting, which is exactly what I hoped for. Purists will decry the exclusion of a more historically accurate version – and it would be nice to get one in future – but whether it would offer the same sort of play value is questionable. For the time being, I have a giant Lego Sphinx-Anubis, and that makes me very happy…and I’ve enjoyed it enough to also buy the Scorpion Pyramid!


  1. I hope Anubis comes with a giant-sized pooper scooper -- now maybe that's what the Ancient Egyptians feared in the afterlife -- Seymour Knutts

    1. You taught me more about ancient Egypt than what I remember from High School, so history teachers should probably use more Lego in class!