Posts Tagged "Greek gods"

The Story of Tantalus, DearKidLoveMom Style

Dear Kid,

Once upon a time, there was a blank page in the book of Greek mythology, so a story was written to fill it. This is that story.

As you probably guessed, it’s not a happy story because it’s Greek mythology and we have all that pathos to deal with. Also, the Greeks didn’t see a lot of benefit in telling happily-ever-after stories.

And the Greeks were human, so they messed up.

Most of them messed up on a human scale and we don’t know anything about them. Occasionally, someone would mess up on a colossal scale, and BAM! myth.

Here’s one of those stories.

Tantalus was a King. His dad was Zeus, and which made him half-deity, but it turns out that when you’re a twit being half a god is insufficient. (Remember, Zeus had about half a gazillion half-mortal children.)

The gods liked Tantalus (no clue why, except possibly because he could hold his liquor) so he was frequently invited up to Olympus for dinner.

If you had been invited into the Olympus kitchens, and if you’d happened to look in the pantry, you’d know that pretty much all the god ate and drank was ambrosia and nectar. Repetitive, yes, but on the plus side, it’s the food of the gods and therefore pretty dang yummy. Not available at your local McDonald’s.

Being something of an idiot, Tantalus stole some ambrosia so that he could impress his mortal friends.

The gods did not like that, but they didn’t really punish Tantalus. Instead, Zeus had A Serious Talk with his son who promised to behave himself.

He lied.

Adding to his rap sheet, Tantalus branched out from theft and told some Very Important Secrets that Zeus had confided in him.

Think that’s OK? Er, no.

Within a short amount of time, Tantalus had proven that he wasn’t really the Best of All Possible Personages. The gods (for reasons no one can fathom) continued not punishing him thinking he’d learn and start acting his age.

Apparently stealing ambrosia is a gateway crime because then Tantalus went overboard. And when he went overboard, he went big time.

Tantalus invited all the god of Olympus over to his palace for dinner. Either he ran out of food (unlikely—he was King) or he decided to test his guests.

He killed his youngest son, Pelops, roasted him, and served him. Ewww.

Demeter (you remember her) wasn’t paying attention and nibbled some shoulder. The rest of the gods didn’t eat. And when you combine hungry with disgusted with divine anger, you go way beyond hangry.

Zeus immediately went from “Awww, kids will be kids” to ranging fury. He restored Pelops’ life (Demeter made him a nice arm of ivory since she’d eaten his original appendage).

Then Zeus decided to punish Tantalus. First he crushed Tantalus and his kingdom (presumably not Pelops, but I’m not sure). Then he got serious about punishing.

Zeus took Tantalus to the lowest level of Hades and put him in a lake. A lovely lake full of sweet water with a fruit tree branching over the lake right to where Tantalus was imprisoned. Then Zeus cursed Tantalus with hunger and thirst. Yet whenever Tantalus bent to drink from the lake, the water moved away from him. And when he reached for some of the fruit, the tree moved the branch just out of his reach.

Tantalizing story, no?

Love, Mom

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Sisyphus | The Man, The Myth, The Rock

Dear Kid,

Once upon a time, in a not-so-nice part of Greece (back in the time of Mythology), there lived a king named Sisyphus. By the sound of his name you might think that he was bullied a lot. You would be wrong because he was meaner, nastier, and more powerful than anyone else. Also he was king and had a lot of soldiers at his command.

Sisyphus had lots of bad habits like chewing with his mouth open and killing travelers and guests. (Killing guests back then was an especially Wrong Thing To Do.) But Sisyphus had a marvelous time being a despot and decided that Manners weren’t going to intrude on his tyranny.

For reasons that are complicated and not all that interesting, Zeus got good and mad at Sis. Zeus ordered Thanatos to chain up Sisyphus in the lowest level of Hades.

On the one hand, Thanatos was a minor figure in Greek mythology. On the other hand, he was Death, so chaining people in Hades was well within his job description.

Sisy didn’t really like the idea of being chained up, so he tricked Thanatos by asking Thanatos (who after all wasn’t the god of wisdom) to demonstrate how the chains worked. Flattered, Thanatos obliged and Sisyphus trapped Thanatos in the aforementioned chains.

Back in the rest of the world, while Thanatos was chained up no one could die. For a short time, this wasn’t a big deal, but people were pretty accustomed to Death, especially the warriors who liked to see people die (because that was the whole point of fighting). Ares (our favorite god of war) was particularly put out, so he freed Thanatos and turned Sisyphus over to him.

Because of his trickery in this and other things and his hubris in thinking he was more clever than Zeus (have we not been clear that it is never wise to think you’re smarter/prettier/stronger than one of the gods), King Sisyphus was punished. And the Greek gods were known for their ability to punish people.

Sisyphus was made to push an enormous boulder up an even more enormous hill. Only just before he got to the top, the enchanted boulder would roll away from him and to the bottom of the hill. Rinse and repeat for all eternity.

Love, Mom

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The Story (More or Less) of Perseus | Part II

Dear Kid,

In case you have forgotten everything from yesterday (it was a long time ago, I know), I shall provide a brief recap. (Or you can go read Part I in its entirety.)

King Acrisius was told by the Oracle that his grandson (Perseus) would kill him. So Acrisius put his daughter Danae and her baby son Perseus (who also happened to be the son of Zeus) in a chest and tossed them in the sea hoping they’d drown. They ended up in King Polydectes’ realm. After Perseus grew up Polydectes decided he wanted to marry Danae. She said Eww. And in defense of his mother, Perseus said he’d get Polydectes anything he wanted. Polydectes sent Perseus off to get the head of Medusa (and hopefully die).

Any questions?


If you’ve seen Clash of the Titans, it might have something to do with this story (so My Friend the Internet tells me), but as I haven’t seen the movie I can’t comment. Well, I can’t comment accurately.

So there was Perseus, wandering around, not having a clue where he was going and feeling generally down about Life when poof! Athena and Hermes just happen to show up. Sibling relationships among gods and demigods are never straightforward but in this case they offered to help Perseus. Hermes lent Perseus his winged sandals and Athena lent him her shield. They also gave him directions on how to find Medusa and how to kill her. All of which was very useful.

Perseus said Thank You very nicely because his mother had taught him well and it’s never a good idea to annoy the gods even if you are siblings.

Eventually Perseus got to Medusa’s digs (I’m leaving out the long, complicated bits—you’re welcome) and he lopped of Medusa’s head and then dumped it into a magic bag. After which he had a bunch of adventures (I’m leaving most of them out—you’re welcome).

On his way home, however, he saw a Beautiful Maiden chained to a rock. It was Andromeda (remember her? She was chained to a rock because of a different oracle and her vain momma, Cassiopeia). Perseus fell in love, freed her from her chains (turned an annoying sea monster into stone using Medusa’s head), and married Andromeda.

They stopped at a lovely island so Perseus could compete in the Games (think American Ninja Warriors but with togas, races, and throwing things). Perseus did very well except when he threw the discus it hit an old man who died. News flash: the old man was his grandpa, King Acrisius, who was trying to avoid the death the oracle had predicted. Did I mention you can’t outsmart an oracle?

Then Perseus and Andromeda went home so Andromeda could meet her new Mom-in-Law and they found out that King Polydectes was still saying “marry me” and Danae was still saying “no way” and Polydectes hadn’t really read up on How to Treat Women. This Pissed Off Perseus in a big way.

Being a Good Boy, Perseus hiked up to the castle, told his friends to shut their eyes, pulled Medusa’s head out turning everyone else into stone, and took his mom off to meet his bride and live happily ever after. Until they died and got put in the sky as stars.

And that is exactly what happened.

Love, Mom

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Things We Learned On The Drive to Key Largo

Dear Kid,

We learned all kinds of things on the drive from Orlando to Key Largo.

Burglar Notice—Just kidding. We’re home. With our Vicious Attack Dog.

We learned there are services that dog groomers offer that we’d rather not know about.

We learned that you should not cross your legs while riding a moped (and that a wreath on a moped looks ridiculous).

We learned you need to be wary of falling coconuts when you are near coconut palms (and we learned that coconuts come from coconut palms not Some Other Coconut Tree).

Watch Out for Falling Coconuts! Key Largo

We learned that vans advertise butt lifts and breast augmentation and that such a van causes much discussion among people who live in Ohio.

We learned there are signs implying that people need to watch for falling bikes in Miami.

And we learned that driving to Key Largo is a Sisyphean task. Let me explain.

Once Upon a Time (not to worry, this is the short version), there was a King named Sisyphus. He was not a nice person (in Mythology, nice people are boring and don’t get stories written about them). Sisyphus had a bad habit of bragging about being more clever than the gods (which as we know is not smart) and of killing travelers and guests (which was not only not nice, it was a real affront to the gods).

Skipping over the middle of the story (you can read it on your own if you so desire), Sisyphus ended up in Hades (the land of the dead) pushing a huge boulder up a big hill. Not only does Sisyphus have to push the boulder to the top of the hill, the boulder never makes it. Each time Sisyphus gets close, the boulder rolls down to the bottom of the hill. So Sisyphus must spend eternity in useless effort and endless frustration.

Like driving to Key Largo through Miami.

Original estimated arrival time: 3:45pm. Around 5pm, there was an hour left to drive. At 5:30pm, there was an hour left to drive. At 6pm, there was an hour left to drive. It felt like we were on a car treadmill—with no potty breaks.

Dinner at Mrs Mac's Kitchen in Key Largo

We learned that dinner at Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen is still delicious and that Key Lime Fudge is yummy-to-die-for.

Love, Mom

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Echo and Narcissus Interpreted and Explained

Dear Kid,

Once upon a time, there was a god named Zeus. The only thing Zeus liked better than hurling the occasional thunderbolt was cheating on his wife (Hera). Hera did not generally (and by “generally” I mean “ever”) take these extramarital bouts with grace and dignity.

In this case upon a time, there was a lovely young mountain nymph named Echo. Echo was a sweet young thing and by “sweet young thing” I mean Echo loved to talk—and to hear herself talk. (You are too young to remember the doll called Chatty Cathy, but it may be a toned-down version of Echo.) There was nothing Echo felt compelled to keep quiet about. Echo was often amusing and entertaining and on the day of this part of the story she was amusing and entertaining Hera.

Zeus loved having Hera amused and entertained and therefore not paying attention to his every move. So he put those moves on the other mountain nymphs. No one said Zeus was brilliant—just randy.

Hera jumped directly to the (incorrect) conclusion that Echo was amusing and entertaining her (Hera) so Zeus could get away with his shenanigans. Which shows the dangers of circumstantial evidence. It also shows the danger of hanging out in the vicinity of the gods, because Hera punished Echo even though her only crime was being in love with her own voice (and therefore being something of a twit).

As punishment, Hera took away Echo’s voice and gave her (Echo) only the ability to repeat words someone else said. This did not improve Echo’s twitness.

Meanwhile, there was a boy (the son of a nymph and a river god) named Narcissus. Narcissus was a good looking dude. From the time he was a wee tot, he made the annual Top Ten Good Looking Dudes list and from the time he was 10 he owned the number one slot. People fell all over themselves falling madly in love with Narcissus, but Narcissus was the most vain individual on the planet (measured by the Bloomberg Vanity Score) and showed no interest in women, men, or goats.

Echo, in her voiceless nymph body, also fell madly in love with Narcissus. Like a love-sick puppy, she followed him around, saying (of course) nothing.

Narcissus; Echo and Narcissus; DearKidLoveMom.comOne day during all this following aroundness, Narcissus thought he heard someone. “Yo! Who’s there?” asked Narcissus. “Yo! Who’s there?” repeated Echo (since all she could do was repeat his words). Narcissus was unimpressed by this dialog. “I said ‘Who’s there’” challenged Narcissus. “I said ‘Who’s there?’” Echo echoed. After this had gone on for a while, Echo leaped out from behind the tree where she’d been hiding and threw her arms around Narcissus.

Much to her amazement, Narcissus did not thereupon declare his undying love for her. Rather, he declared his undying assessment that she belonged in a looney bin. Devastated, Echo wandered off, wasting away until only her voice was left.

Narcissus continued to shun all who adored him. At some point (the timing is sketchy) someone (the gender is sketchy) fell in love with Narcissus and, being scorned, called on Artemis (goddess of the hunt, the moon, and falling in love) to do something about Narcissus and his vanity. Artemis was big on revenge and decided to punish Narcissus.

It’s amazing what deities could get away with in those days.

It so happened then that Narcissus found a pond and wished to take a drink. It was a beautiful pond full of beautiful, clear water that reflected like a mirror. When Narcissus leaned over to take a drink, he saw the most gorgeous creature he’d ever laid eyes on.

Yep, he’d fallen head over heels with his own reflection. And because of Artemis’ intervention, there was no escape.

Narcissus sat at the edge of the pool gazing at the reflection of his beautiful self until either he faded away or killed himself out of desperation (the details in the autopsy report are sketchy). What is clear is that where he died a flower grew. Its blossom leaned out over the water to watch itself. And the nymphs called it narcissus.

Lessons for the day: Do not piss off the gods. Be humble in thy mirror.

Love, Mom

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