Bedtime Stories with R.A. Spratt

'Hercules and the Augean Stables' as told by Nanny Piggins

November 10, 2021 R.A. Spratt Season 1 Episode 90
Bedtime Stories with R.A. Spratt
'Hercules and the Augean Stables' as told by Nanny Piggins
Show Notes Transcript

When Derrick studies the Ancient Greek story of Hercules 5th labour - when he had to clean the Augean Stables - Nanny Piggins tells the children the true story as witnessed by a her great great great times 197 greats aunt Iolaus Piggins.

Support the show

Hello and welcome to Bedtime Stories with me R.A. Spratt.


I’m recording today’s podcast a couple of days early, it’s Friday and usually I record on Mondays, because I’m going down to Sydney next week to record the audiobook of Nanny Piggins and the Wicked Plan (which is book 2 in the series). So thank you to everyone who bought the audiobook of book one – for making that possible. 

And while we’re talking of audiobooks. I do get a lot of messages asking me to do more Friday Barnes on the podcast. I can’t really do any more than the amount I do at the moment – because I’m still writing Friday Barnes books – so I need to use all my Friday Barnes ideas for that. But if you do want to listen to more Friday Barnes – there is an audiobook available of book 1. So you can check that out. Hopefully I’ll eventually get to record more books in that series too.


Anyway, that’s enough housekeeping. Let’s get down to today’s story which is...


‘Hercules and the Augean Stables’ as told by Nanny Piggins


Here we go…


The children were sitting around the coffee table in the living room doing their homework. Nanny Piggins normally didn’t approve of homework, but she had baked a particularly good bread and butter pudding (she had improved the recipe by taking out the bread and replacing it with chocolate cake, then taking the butter and tripling the amount in the recipe) so she was occupied eating her 8th helping and the children used the rare moment of quiet to get some work done. Until Derrick struck a problem and he needed his Nanny’s help.

‘Nanny Piggins’, said Derrick. ‘Do you know anything about the Augean Stables?’

‘Is it a chocolate shop?’ asked Nanny Piggins. ‘If so, I categorically deny that I broke in and ate their chocolate display. I went back and slipped the money under the front door the next day so I don’t know why they need to involve the police.’

‘No the Augean stables, from Greek mythology,’ said Derrick. ‘It’s got something to do with the 12 labours of Hercules.’

‘Oooooh,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘Those Augean Stables. Yes, I know all about that.’

‘You do?’ said Derrick.

‘Yes, because one of my relatives was there,’ said Nanny Piggins.

‘Really,’ said Michael. ‘That’ s a coincidence.’

‘Not really,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘It was stables. A lot of pigs live in stables. Those lucky enough not to be abducted my ringmasters and forced to endure a life of fame and show business as the circus as the world’s most glamourous flying pig’. 

This is what had happened to Nanny Piggins when she was just a piglet.

‘Who was your relative?’ asked Samantha.

‘Iolaus,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘She was my great great great times 197 greats aunt. She travelled with Hercules as a kind of assistant. She was his niece.’

‘At school we were told that Iolaus was Hercules nephew,’ said Derrick.

‘Typical,’ said Nanny piggins. ‘And I bet they forgot to mention that she was a pig.’

‘Was Hercules a pig?’ asked Michael.

‘What a ridiculous question!’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘Haven’t you seen all the paintings of him on urns and statues. He’s always portrayed as a handsome devil – but no where near as handsome as a pig. Why would he be?’

‘Well if his niece was a pig,’ said Michael. ‘I thought it might follow.’

‘No, he was just very lucky to get a niece who was a pig,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘Things were a lot more flexible in the ancient story days. The gods were forever turning into animals for one reason or another. Usually to cause mischief. Zeus, that was Hercules father – he was king of the gods. Anyway, he once became a swan once. I can’t imagine why. But this is what people were reduced to before Netflix and podcasts – they were so bored they did some very odd things.

‘I have to do a report on the story of Augean Stables for school,’ said Derrick. ‘Can you tell me what happened?’

‘I can but are you sure you want to hear it?’ asked Nanny Piggins. ‘It’s a terrible tale. There’s madness, violence and an unimaginably enormous amount of… how should I put this… droppings.’

‘Droppings?’ said Michael.

‘I’m trying to say poop in the nicest possible way,’ said Nanny Piggins.

‘Oh,’ said Michael.

‘Droppings is probably the best choice,’ agreed Samantha. ‘She didn’t want to encourage Nanny Piggis to run through all the possible synonyms.

‘I have to learn about the Augean Stables for school,’ said Derrick.

Nanny Piggins shook her head sadly. ‘Well if your school is that morally bankrupt, I can’t be held to blame. They are the “education professionals”. I’ll tell you all about it then. Have you all got a good snack? This story is a cracker and you might need some sustenance. Although when we get to the dropping part it might be best to stop eating. I don’t want to put you off your food.

So the children gathered a large supply of chocolate chip cookies and curled up beside Nanny Piggins on the couch as she began her tale.

‘It all started in the Ancient Greek Story days when Hercules was driven mad by his stepmother and killed someone. Actually three people.’

‘That’s terrible,’ said Samantha.

‘I know,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘I told you it was a dreadful story. But noooo you had to hear it.’

‘Well it’s a classic,’ said Derrick.

‘That doesn’t make violence alright does it?’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘Anyway, when the spell was broken and Hercules realised what he’d done he felt terrible about the whole thing. He was wracked with guilt. So to atone for his terrible crime he had to perform 12 labours. 

These labours were thought up by his sickly half brother Eurystheus, who was, as it happened the king of Greece. As I’m sure you’ve already guessed he totally got that job through trickery. It should have gone to Hercules. 

Anyway, this guy Eurystheus just hated Hercules so he thought up the most crazy dangerous challenges he could think of. Tame a monsterous bull. Kill a magical lion. Steal an Amazon Queen’s girdle. That sort of thing.

But Hercules was so awesome and muscley and honourable that he performed each task successfully and each time he was successful people just loved him more and more. This made Eurystheus totally jealous and infuriated. He wanted to think up something really really humiliating for Hercules to do and that’s when he thought of – droppings.

‘Poop?’ said Michael.

‘Michael there is no need to make this story any more tawdry than it already is,’ said Nanny Piggins.

‘Sorry, Nanny Piggins,’ said Michael.

‘There was a king, called King Augeus,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘And he had an enormous stables where he kept 3000 cows. 

And these were not ordinary cows. Because it was the ancient story times and – as with just about everything back then – these were divine cows – they were immortal. Although why anyone would want an immortal cow I don’t know. Anyway, they were more hale and hearty than regular beasts and as a result they also produced way more…’

‘Droppings?’ guessed Michael.

‘Michael don’t read ahead,’ said Nanny Piggins.

‘I wasn’t reading,’ said Michael.

‘You were reading my mind,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘And I don’t approve. But you are quite right. Each cow produced an unearthly amount of droppings. And when you consider that there were three thousand of them in this stables. The level of manure production was beyond belief.’

‘That sounds horrific,’ said Samantha.

‘You must have been able to smell it for miles,’ said Derrick.

‘You could smell it in China,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘And China is not the next door country. So all the countries in between had to deal with an even more toxic odour. But it gets worse.’

‘Worse than three thousand imortal cows going to the bathroom in the once place?’ asked Michael.

‘Oh yes,’ said Nanny piggins. ‘You see no one likes cleaning up after cows. They think it is a terrible humiliating job. So no one did.’

‘What do you mean?’ asked Samantha.

‘No one cleaned up after them,’ said Nanny Piggins.

‘But they would have to,’ said Derrick. ‘Or the amount of manure would just grow and grow.’

‘It did,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘For thirty years!’

‘Ewwww!’ squealed the children.

‘That’s disgusting,’ said Samantha.

‘Exactly,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘Every year it just got worse and the smell got worse. It was putrid. So people wanted to deal with it less and less.’

‘I wish I hadn’t eaten so many cookies,’ said Michael. He was starting to turn quite green.

‘Anyway, said Nanny Piggins. ‘This gave nasty King Euryseus an evil idea. He wanted to humiliate Hercules, so he set him the task of cleaning the Augean Stables.’

‘What a meanie,’ said Samantha.

‘He loved the idea of his super fit and muscley beloved brother forced to wade into the stables and shovel manure for years and years to clean it up,’ said Nanny Piggins.

‘He’d be there forever,’ said Derrick. ‘Because the cows would keep producing gmore.’

‘Exactly,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘Euryseus was really a wicked King. But Hercules knew he had to atone for his previous naughtiness, so he accepted the task and travelled to the neighbouring kingdom where the Augean stables were housed. 

He met with the owner of the stables King Augeus. The stables were named after him. Although why you would name stables after yourself then not clean them for 30 years is beyond belief. It makes you wonder if he ever cleaned himself.

‘So Hercules met him and was, naturally disgusted because the smell was pretty dire in the palace. And Hercules liked to show off – so he said he would clean the stables in just one day, if King Augeus promised to give him ten percent of his cattle.

King Augeus laughed. He thought it wasn’t possible. But he wanted to see Hercules try. So he agreed.

When Hercules and Iolaus arrived at the stables the smell was appaling. And the stables were huge. It’s hard to imagine a stable big enough to house 3000 cows. But just think - three thousand giant immortal cows – it was staggeringly huge. 

Even brave and noble Hercules began to worry that he may have bitten off more than he could shovel. But my great times 197 aunt was very good at lateral thinking. She looked at the stables and she looked at the two nearby rivers and she had an idea.

Hercules was just about to wade in with a shovel and bucket and get to work when she stopped him.

‘Uncle Hercules,’ she said. ‘I don’t think shovelling out will work. There’s 30 years of stench built up there. It needs to be flushed out cleaned properly.’

‘What do you mean?’ asked Hercules.

He was so used to solving problems with brute strength or by killing things he wasn’t used to domestic tasks like cleaning.

‘To wash something,’ said Iolus, speaking slowly so as not to confuse her uncle. ‘You need water.’

‘Yes,’ said Hercules. He understood this much.

‘To wash something big,’ said Iolus. ‘You need a lot of water.

‘Yes,’ agreed Hercules.

‘There are two mighty rivers, one running either side of the stables,’ Iolaus pointed out. ‘You could divert them and run them through the middle of the stables.

‘Oooh, I like that idea,’ said Hercules. ‘I wouldn’t have to get poop on my hands.’

‘So that’s what he did,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘Hercules ripped holes in either end of the stables, dug trenches between the rivers and the stables. Then released the water. The water gushed through flooding the stables and flushing out all the manure. 

And that is how the Augean stables were cleaned in just one day. The end.

‘But what happened to the cows?’ asked Michael.

‘I don’t know,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘They never mention that in the ancient story books.’

‘And where did all the manure go?’ asked Samantha.

‘Back into the river I suppose,’ said Nanny Piggins.

‘That must have been terrible for the environment,’ said Derrick.

‘I don’t suppose it was a lot of fun for the fish downstream, that’s for sure,’ said Nanny Piggins.

‘The animal rights activists must have been cross with him,’ said Michael.

‘I don’t think animal rights activists had been invented back then,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘If they had, they would have put a stop to pretty much all twelve of Hercules labours.’

‘Well I suppose, Hercules did complete his task,’ said Derrick.

‘Actually, no,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘His evil brother said it didn’t count because he had been paid by King Augeus and that wasn’t part of the deal. So he added another labour on to the list.’

‘This is a terrible story,’ said Derrick. ‘Why have people been telling it for thousands years?’

‘Because it teaches children a very important moral lesson,’ said Nanny Piggins.

‘It does?’ asked Michael.

‘Oh yes,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘It teaches children to regularly clean their bedrooms, otherwise your parents will have to divert a waterway into your house, causing a massive natural disaster that destroys untold wildlife – the end, time for bed.’