Nanny Piggins tells the real story of 'The Goose that Lay the Golden Egg', including the dramatic action finale that Aesop left out of the original ancient fable.
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Hello and welcome to bedtime stories with me, R.A. Spratt.
If you think you can hear the pitter patter of rain during today’s story, that’s because you can. It’s raining here where I live and there is a skylight directly above my head, so it’s fairly loud here in my office. But this episode goes out tomorrow morning, so I don’t have much choice. I’ve got to record it now. So forgive me, although really the rain isn’t my fault. So forgive the rain.
Let’s get in to it.
Today story is…
The Goose that layed the Golden Egg – as told by Nanny Piggins.
Here we go…
Derrick, Samantha and Michael were exhausted. They’d had a fairly mundane day at school, but when Nanny Piggins had met then at the bus stop – she was hopping up and down excitedly.
‘You must run with me home this instant!’ cried Nanny Piggins.
‘What’s wrong?’ asked Derrick.
‘Is the house on fire?’ asked Michael.
‘Oh no,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘Much better than that! I’ve made an enormous tower of profiteroles filled with fresh whipped cream and smothered in hot chocolate sauce. And you must come home with me immediately before I lose control of myself fand eat them all without you.’
The children didn’t need to be told twice. They set off sprinting.
Twenty minutes later the ten-foot-tall dessert tower had been demolished. Eating that much choux pastry, chocolate and cream would have been tiring at the best of times, but add in the sprinting as well, and they were all knackered.
‘So how was school today?’ asked Nanny Piggins. She didn’t really want to know. But she didn’t want to move either and she reasoned that striking up a conversation would be a good excuse for sitting still.
‘Uuug,’ moaned Michael.
‘Eurgh,’ groaned Derrick.
This partly expressed their opinion of their educational experience but it mainly summarised their emotional response to the volume of food they had just eaten.
‘Well we learned about proverbs,’ said Samantha.
‘You poor thing,’ sympathised Nanny Piggins. ‘Proverbs are alright in themselves, but they are too often used by irritating people to be irritating. I don’t know why people think it’s clever to be brief.’
‘What is a proverb?’ asked Michael.
‘A short well known saying stating a general truth or advice,’ said Samantha, in a sing song tone having had this repeatedly drummed into her during the day.’
‘I still don’t get it,’ said Michael. ‘Can you give me an example.’
‘Like – a stitch in time saves nine,’ said Samantha.
‘That one is true,’ said Nanny Piggins, as she tried to lick chocolate sauce from her eyebrow. ‘If you have to run a country country race. It is always better to get one stitch at the beginning of the race so you can collapse and beg to be taken to hospital instead of enduring the whole thing and getting nine different stiches a long the way.
‘I know another one!’ said Derrick. ‘Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.’
‘That is an outrageous lie,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘If a cook book is covered in food stains then clearly it has been used constantly because the recipes are brilliant, so the cover is an excellent way to judge the excellent of the book.’
‘How about this one,’ said Samantha. ‘Kill not the goose that lays the golden eggs.’
Nanny Piggins gasped and clutched her chest.
‘Oh my dear, you must never mention her,’ said Nanny Piggins.
‘Mention who?’ asked Samantha.
‘Poor Roberta,’ said Nanny Piggins.
‘You’ve lost me,’ said Samantha. ‘I don’t know anyone called Roberta.’
‘You brought her up,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘My dear friend, Roberta the goose.’
‘You know the goose who layed the golden egg?’ asked Michael.
‘I just told you not to mention her!’ snapped Nanny Piggins.
‘Sorry,’ said Michael. ‘We just didn’t realise you knew her.’
‘I didn’t realise she was real,’ said Samantha. ‘I thought she was just a character from a story.’
‘Just because someone is fictional doesn’t make them any less real,’ said Nanny Piggins.
‘The children frowned as they thought about this. They were pretty sure it made no sense. But it was never a good idea to contradict Nanny Piggins.
‘I thought that the story of the…’
Nanny Piggins glowered at him.
‘…The precious metal laying farm-bird,’ said Derrick carefully, ‘Was a story from the ancient story times, told by Aesop.’
‘Yes,’ agreed Nanny Piggins. ‘And she told it about an old family friend of the Piggins’, Roberta the Goose.’
The children thought about this. They knew that Nanny Piggins had fabulously glamorous relatives throughout history, so it made sense that she would also have fabulously glamorous family friends as well.
‘So what’s the true story?’ asked Michael. He knew his nanny claimed not to want to talk about it, but she loved regaling them with a good yarn. He sensed she was itching to share it with them. And he was entirely correct.
‘Well Roberta was a goose,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘But she always had a fabulous eye for beautiful things. Her feathers were always beautifully coiffed. Her bill the most elegant orange. Her feet delightfully webbed.
So naturally, when she started laying eggs Roberta wanted them to look good. Eggshell coloured eggs are nice enough. Most geese put a lot of thought into whether they lay an egg that is off-white, or beige, or perhaps the more daring might choose a tinge of blue. But Roberta was not a goose of half measures. She wanted her egg to be fabulous. So she decided to lay an egg that was gold.
‘The shell was actual gold?’ asked Derrick. He was wondering if Nanny Piggins meant real gold or if Roberta had just bought some gold spray paint from her local hardware store.
‘Oh no, the whole thing was gold,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘Solid right the way through. Pure 24 carat gold. And I mean carat as in the measurement of gold purity. Not carat as in that horrible orange vegetable that people use to ruin cake.
Anyway, her solid gold egg was stunning. You had to wear sunglasses when you looked at it, it was that shiny. The other geese applauded when they saw it. They knew immediately that it was a work of art and that Roberta was a maestro of egg laying.
The problem was, the peasants who owned her were deeply stupid.
‘You’re not meant to say people are stupid, Nanny Piggins,’ Samantha reminded her.
‘Oh, I know,’ agreed Nanny Piggins. ‘It is deeply wrong to say someone is stupid when they are not. And if someone is stupid, it’s cruel to let them know. After all they are stupid so they won’t figure it out for themselves if you don’t tell them. But in this instance, it’s true and it’s also crucial to the plot that you understand that these two peasants were deeply deeply, all the way through to the bone – stupid.
They were also greedy. When Roberta started presenting them with great big solid gold goose eggs in her nesting box – they were delighted. Now you three children have led sheltered lives so you probably have never eaten a goose egg.
‘No,’ agree the children.
‘What you need to understand is – they are big,’ explained Nanny Piggins. ‘Twice as big as a chickens egg. In fact, geese generally are much bigger than chickens. You can’t tell when you see a goose in the distance in a field. But let me tell you when an angry goose is running at you honking, flapping its wings and trying to bite you – you immediately become conscious of the fact that geese are large birds. There is a reason people eat them at Christmas time – because there is a lot to go around.
Anyway, where was I – oh yes, the silly peasants,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘They couldn’t believe their luck having a goose that would lay massive solid gold eggs. For the first time in their lives they had something of value.
But of course – as is always the case – as soon as someone gets something of value, they never pause for a millisecond to enjoy it – no they leap straight to wanting something of greater value.
So the peasants looked at this golden egg and wandered – how did Roberta do it? To be fair, this was excellent scientific thinking – they were attempting to use deductive reasoning – like detectives. How did a goose lay an egg of gold, instead of an egg made out of egg?
Unfortunately their cleverness stopped there. The peasants reasoned that the goose must have laid a golden egg because she had a big lump of gold inside her.
‘That’s just…’ began Derrick.
‘Stupid?’ asked Nanny Piggins.
‘Silly,’ said Derrick.
‘Yes yes, and silly is the polite word for stupid,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘But to be fair, it was the ancient story days. There were no published works on poultry anatomy, or indeed published works on anything because it was still two thousand years before the invention of the printing press. The peasants had no idea how the insides of a goose works. There was a lot of silliness going around in Aesop’s time.
Anyway the peasants lay in bed that night thinking about their goose and the big lump of gold they believed to be inside her and they soon decided that they wanted that big lump of gold. Because the only thing better than a big egg of gold, was an even bigger lump of gold.
So they woke up the next morning and killed Roberta.
‘Noooooooo,’ wailed Boris.
‘Boris,’ Samantha said kindly, ‘It was over two thousand years ago. You had to know that Roberta wasn’t still alive.’
‘There’s a difference between knowing and knowing,’ said Boris, sobbing into his sleeve, not that he wore a shirt, but he liked to pretend that the fur on his arm was a sleeve.
‘And what do you think they found inside Roberta?’ asked Nanny Piggins.
‘Not a lump of gold,’ guessed Michael.
‘Exactly,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘They just found normal goose guts. Roberta had died for nothing. And now the peasants no longer had a goose that laid golden eggs.’
‘That’s a horrifically violent story,’ wailed Boris. ‘You shouldn’t tell it to children. Or bears. The children might be able to cope, but it’s too much for a bear of my sensitive nature.’
‘I know,’ agree Nanny Piggins. ‘A dreadful story. In every way. But that’s just the way Aesop tells it.’
‘What do you mean?’ asked Derrick.
‘Well the story is famous because it was told by Aesop the great storyteller 2600 years ago in ancient Greece,’ said Nanny Piggins.
‘Yes,’ said the children.
‘Well she must have had a bus to catch that day or something,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘Because that’s just the first half of the tale. She makes out the story is a fable teaching you that it is foolish to destroy what you have out of greed for more, because you’ll be left with nothing.’
‘Yes, that’s why our teacher told us the story,’ agreed Samantha.
‘But that’s not how the real story ended,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘Roberta’s demise was just the beginning.’
‘It was?’ asked Samantha.
‘You see Roberta had sisters,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘She had 13 identical sisters in fact. They were fourteen-uplets.’
‘Just like you,’ said Michael. ‘You’ve got thirteen identical sisters too.’
‘Yes,’ agreed Nanny Piggins. ‘It is quite the coincidence. Naturally none of the sisters got along.’
‘That’s just like you and your sisters too,’ said Derrick.
‘That’s just like all sisters everywhere, my dear,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘But just because sisters don’t get along, did not mean they would tolerate their sister being killed just to see if she had solid gold internal organs.
When they heard what the peasants had done they were seriously cross. None of them had seen each other for years – they couldn’t bear to be in the same barnyard. But when Roberta died they set aside their petty differences and regrouped, and they swore an oath of rewenge!
Rewenge?’ asked Michael.
‘It’s what you do when you want revenge but you want to be more dramatic,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘So they set to work hunting the peasants down.
The peasants tried fleeing. They travelled from country to country desperate to evade the terrifying flock of angry vengeful geese. But Roberta’s sisters were relentless. They persuaded the peasants across Europe, into Asia and looped back around through Africa. So they got to do a lot of sight seeing along the way. They particularly enjoyed taking in the ancient Pyramids at Giza.
Eventually Roberta’s sisters cornered the peasants in India right at the very bottom of the country. They couldn’t swim so they couldn’t get away from the geese. And the peasants gave up.
Of course this pursuit had taken many decades and the peasants were now aged 102 and 103 respectively – so the geese took pity on them. They merely bit them hard on the shins, gave them a stern talking to and made them promise to never hurt a goose again.
And that is the real story of the goose that lay the golden egg – and the real moral to that story is – don’t aggravate a goose – especially if that goose had 13 identical twin sisters. Which is why to this day people still use geese as watch dogs on farms and properties because they are so grumpy and vengeful you know they will keep intruders at bay. The end. Time for bed.