Bedtime Stories with R.A. Spratt

'Sisyphus' as told by Nanny Piggins

December 29, 2021 R.A. Spratt Season 1 Episode 97
Bedtime Stories with R.A. Spratt
'Sisyphus' as told by Nanny Piggins
Show Notes Transcript

Nanny Piggins fills the children in on what really happened in the Ancient Greek Story times to the great cunning genius - King (or rather Queen) Sisyphus.

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Thank you to all the people who have donated to the podcast through the buy me a coffee page. It’s a huge help. I love the little messages too from all around Australia and the world. It’s been lovely getting them over the holiday period.


Back in ep 71 I said I would be doing a live story telling show. 


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The Story of Sisyphus as told by Nanny Piggins


Here we go…


Derrick, Samantha and Michael had just got home from school. They’d finished the 7 helpings of pancakes Nanny Piggins had made for their afternoon tea and this was when they usually tried to sneak in their homework, while their Nanny was too drowsy from eating to object. She didn’t approve of homework. She thought it was bad enough that the school forced children to work while they were at school. She didn’t see why they should ruin home time as well.

But Derrick had a problem he was hoping his nanny could help with.

‘Nanny Piggins, do you know anything about an Ancient Greek King called, Sisyphus?’ asked Derrick.

‘Why do you ask, my dear boy?’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘Have the police put you up to this. Have they got dirt on you, and they’ve promised you leniency if you squeal?’

‘No,’ said Derrick in alarm. He had never been in trouble with the police. Not unless his nanny caused it. The thought of being in that level of trouble horrified him.

‘Because snitches get stiches,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘And that’s not a threat. That’s just a statistical anaylsis of that specific demographic. I think it’s because snitches are so busy being busy-bodies they’re more likely to trip over or bang their head on something.’

‘No, it’s just that we’re studying Sisyphus this week at school,’ said Derrick. ‘We’ve got an exam on him tomorrow. But when my teacher taught us about him, he made the story so boring I fell asleep.’ 

This probably wasn’t helped by the fact that Nanny Piggins had kept the children up half the night, baking Argentinian Alfahores biscuits filled with delicious dulce de leche. 

Then the other half of the night, eating them. It’s so hard to stay awake on a stomach full of delicious South American baked goods.

‘The adventures of Sisyphus are a crackingly good swashbuckling tale,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘But your teacher has got one of the main details wrong already.’

‘They have?’ said Derrick.

‘Oh yes, Sisyphus the famous character from Ancient Greek mythology was not a king,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘She was a Queen.’

‘Really?’ said Derrick.

‘It’s amazing how often that happens,’ said Michael.

‘I know,’ agreed Nanny Piggins.

‘And was she perhaps a distant relative of yours?’ asked Samantha.

‘Well she was woman so legendarily crafty and brilliant she tricked Death not once but twice,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘So of course she was a Piggins.’

‘You’d better tell us the whole story,’ said Michael.

‘Well, it all started with Zeus, the king of the gods being a very naughty boy,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘Great Aunt Sisyphus was hanging out in her palace ruling her country brilliantly, when Zeus flew over. 

I’m not entirely sure what his means of transportation was – whether he had a flying chariot, or a flying horse, or a flying giraffe, or he just flew like a super hero. So imagine what you like.’

‘Can I imagine a flying wombat?’ asked Michael.

‘Please do,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘That sounds like fun. I do like a wombat. Let’s all imagine that. So Zeus was flying through the sky on his wombat at break neck pace, because he’d just kidnapped a beautiful young woman.’

‘What!’ exclaimed Samantha.

‘I know, it’s dreadful isn’t it?’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘But Zeus carried on like that all the time. This was the Ancient Story days and they had very odd ideas about appropriate behaviour back then. 

You could tell none of these gods had ever been raised properly by a pig who knew what she was doing.’

‘You don’t know what you’re doing as a nanny,’ said Michael. ‘And you’re the best Nanny in the world.’

‘True, very true,’ agreed Nanny Piggins. ‘And just imagine how much better I’d be if I had training and job experience. I’d be dangerously good. I’d be like the Pied Piper of Hamlin – I’d be able to control all the children of the world with my supreme childcare techniques. So it’s probably for the best I just wing it with my natural talent. I wouldn’t want the power to go to my head.

Nanny Piggins chomped on an alfahores biscuit she’d just found down the side of the couch as she considered this.

‘You were telling us about Sisyphus,’ Derrick reminded her.

‘Oh yes, so Sisyphus sees Zeus whizz through the sky on his jet powered wombat,’ said Nanny Piggins and doesn’t think much about it, until five minutes later when the king from the next door kingdom comes galloping up all puffed and angry looking saying, ‘Hey Sisyphus, have you seen Zeus. He just kidnapped my daughter!’

Sisyphus didn’t think much of it, ‘She’d just had some delicious honey cookies, and was about to have a nap. I told you she was really wise. The secret to being royalty is this sort of time management. As she drifted off she said, ‘Oh sure, he went that way, pointing out the direction she’d seen Zeus depart.’

‘Thanks,’ called this other king as he tore off to rescue his daughter.

‘Was he successful?’ asked Samantha.

‘At what?’ asked Nanny Piggins. 

‘Rescuing his daughter?’ asked Samantha. 

‘Oh yes,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘When he caught up with them, he gave Zeus a real piece of his mind – telling him he should be ashamed of himself, stealing girls and racing across the sky. Wombats don’t have seat belts you know. It just isn’t safe or responsible way to carry on.’

So he took his daughter and went home and Zeus was left feeling very sulky. Like all people who have been caught out doing something very wrong. They don’t like feeling ashamed of themselves, so they immediately convert that emotion into something more fun for them – anger. 

Zeus got really angry with Sisyphus for dobbing him in. And being a God, the king of the Gods in fact, Zeus is a dangerous person to annoy. 

He summoned death. You have to understand that back in the Ancient Story days ‘death’ was actually a person. When you died. You didn’t just die the way people do now. This person called “Death” came and fetched you and took you off to the afterlife.

‘So Zeus sent for Death and ordered him to capture Sisyphus and take him to the afterlife,’ said Nanny Piggins.

‘Like when the school rings you to come and fetch us,’ said Michael. ‘If we’ve just been sick in the teacher’s waste paper bin?’ This had happened to Michael just the week before after eating three dozen jammy dodgers, then playing a very vigorous game of handball.

‘Exactly,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘Except Death doesn’t take you home to lie down and sip lemonade with a lovely slice of medicinal lemon cake. No, Ddeath takes you to the underworld. No one knows what that is like because no one ever comes back from there. But you can assume it’s miserable. No tv reception. No wifi access. And absolutely no chocolate cake.

‘Oh my goodness that’s horrific,’ wailed Boris.

‘Exactly,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘So good old aunt Sisyphus was not keen to go. When Death turned up on her doorstep she was seriously reluctant. 

Now Death actually got quite a lot of this, as you can imagine, if all you do all day is turn up on people’s doorsteps and haul them off to the afterlife – people are not going to be happy to see you. They are going to be even more reluctant to go with you. And Death was busy, what with all the wars they were constantly having in the ancient story times, so he didn’t mess about. 

When he turned up to lead someone away, he brough chains. He would chain their hands and drag them off.

When Sisyphus opened her front door Death reached forward with his chains to capture Sisyphus wrists, but as I said earlier – Sisyphus was a legendarily cunning genius – as Death reached forward, she didn’t run or plead for mercy. No, she said, ‘They’re lovely chains you’ve got there. May I have a look at them?’

‘Now no one was ever polite to Death. Or asked Death about his work. Or enquired about anything he did. It was really lovely for Death to have someone take an interest.

‘Oh yes, they’re high carbon steel,’ said Death. ‘The absolute finest. We’ve got a really top notch ironworks down in Haedes. Have a look at the craftsmanship.’

Sisyphus reached out and took the chain in her own hands. ‘I see, this lock looks particularly strong,’ she said, trying the key in the padlock. ‘Excellent mechanism.’

‘Absolutely,’ agreed death. ‘No one can get out of that.’

‘Really?’ said Sisyphus. ‘Let’s see if that’s true.’ And quick as a wink. She locked the chains around Death’s wrists.

‘Hey, what are you doing?’ protested Death.

‘I’m going to throw you in my dungeon,’ said Sisyphus ‘And see how you like living all eternity in misery. And that is how she tricked death,’ said Nanny Piggins.

‘Clever,’ said Derrick.

‘Yes, but possibly too clever,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘You see with Death locked up, no one could die. Which sounds like a good thing. But it did make battles and wars very difficult and confusing. 

And the ancient greeks loved their wars – so it ruined it totally if no one ever won because no one ever died.  As you can imagine when Zeus found out he was furious. He freed Death and ordered him to take Sisyphus off to the afterlife straight away.

There was no getting out of it this time.

‘Poor Sisyphus,’ said Michael.

‘This is a horrible story,’ wailed Boris.

‘Yes, but not too horrible yet,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘You see, Sisyphus had another brilliant idea. 

In the Ancient Greek Story days to pass into the afterlife you had to cross over the river Styx on a boat. And to do that you had to pay the boatman. So everyone who died had coins placed on their eyes during the funeral, so they could use these coins to pay the boatman.

Sisyphus had a brilliant idea. She told her husband. “Don’t put coins on my eyes”. The husband was confused. But she urged him to take the money and buy himself something nice instead. He liked the sound of that. So she went off to the afterlife without a cent on her. When she got to the river Dtyx the boatman held out his hand for payment and Sisyphus – said, ‘Sorry I don’t have any coins or cash? Do you take credit card?’

The boatman shook his head.

‘Apple pay?’ asked Sisyphus. ‘Paypal?’

The boatman shook his head more.

‘Do you take travellers cheques?’ asked Sisyphus. ‘Bitcoin? How about a used bus ticket?’

‘I only take coins,’ said the boatman.

‘Oh dear,’ said Sisyphus. ‘By husband didn’t give me any at my funeral. Gosh I’m cross with him. I’d like to give him a piece of my mind.’

‘I’m sick of this,’ said the boatman. ‘People coming down here expecting a free ride. How am I supposed to pay my mortgage and feed my children when so many of the dead people who come down here want to get across for nothing.

‘It’s outrageous,’ agreed Sisyphus. ‘I’ll tell you what. If you let me go back. I’ll give my husband a good telling off. I’ll really tear strips off him.’

‘You do that,’ urged boatman. ‘Take a stand. Tell him from me – it’s just not good enough.’

So Sisyphus returned to the world, having cheated death for a second time. 

When Zeus found out about this he practically had an aneurism. Sisyphus knew she had pushed her luck too far and was fully expecting to be taken off by Death once and for all. But Zeus was so angry now – he decided death was too good for Sisyphus. He was determined to think of something worse.

‘Worse than death?’ asked Michael.

‘Oh yes,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘He thought really hard and came up with the most horrible punishment he could imagine. He cursed Sisyphus so that she would have to spend all eternity pushing a really big rock up a hill. And every time she got to the boulder would roll back down and she would have to start over again.

The children thought about this.

‘That sounds bad,’ said Derrick. ‘But really, that was the absolute worst Zeus could think of.’

‘Yes,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘It’s a lot worse than it sounds. I’ll explain why. You see, once Zues’ cleaner at Mount Olympus had gone on holiday. 

She’d taken a lovely cruise with her sister around the Carribean. Anyway during that week, Zeus had to do all the house work on Mount Olympus himself. All the cooking, all the cleaning and all the laundry. And he had learned that there is nothing more miserable than doing the same meaningless task over and over again without end. And that was just one week. So to spent all eternity doing something like that would be unbearable. And so that was how Sisyphus was punished.

‘Poor Sisyphus,’ said Samantha.

‘Oh you don’t have to feel sorry for her,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘That’s just where the ancient Greek story ends. The story didn’t really end there. She was a Piggins after all.’

‘What really happened next?’ asked Derrick.

‘She built a robot who looked exactly like her, and really loved doing repetitive tasks and let the robot push the boulder up the mountain day after day,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘While she went off and had a lovely life working as an assistant in a cake shop.’

‘She never held down any one job for long because she kept getting in trouble for eating all the cake,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘Greeks are very good at making cakes. But she had a very happy life moving from town to town. The end. Time for bed.’

‘Nanny Piggins,’ said Samantha. ‘It’s only 4.30 in the afternoon.’

‘So it is,’ said Nanny Piggins, glancing at her wrist watch. ‘Then it’s time for second afternoon tea. I baked chocolate muffins. First one to the kitchen gets to stuff as many as they like in their mouths at once!’


The end. 


Thank you for listening. Until next time. Goodbye.