Mythology Bits: The Story of Tantalus

A hand reaching out to grab an apple, text above, describing the story

Zya Chow

A hand reaching out to grab an apple, text above, describing the story

Zya Chow, Editor

Your stop to Greek myths simplified. Of course, I had to start with the dude who’s name is hard to spell. And pronounce.

Tantalus was the king of Sipylus. (Pronounced si-suh-fuhs for anyone wondering) But he was the stereotypical wicked and greedy king. And of course, he was one of the many spawns of the king of the gods, Zeus. Zeus would mate with anything that moved so really, I’m not surprised. But because he was Zeus’s son, he was granted an immediate Fastpass to the table of deities in Olympus. 

But then, he got jealous. As he would, he is a king after all. And he wanted some of that sweet nectar and ambrosia that the gods themselves ate. He thought that the ambrosia helped them to become immortal and learn all the divine secrets. So he stole that. First crime against the gods.

His second crime was arguably worse than the first one. He ended up killing his son and chopping him up to throw him in the food. That he served. To the gods. Little extreme. All 12 gods were present, but only 11 were eating. Demeter wasn’t eating because she was mourning the loss of her daughter who was stolen by Hades. Once the gods had figured out what he had done, they were quite obviously disgusted. One thing to note, never make the gods angry. You will be smited. And that’s what Zeus did. He told his brother Hades (the daughter snatcher), to craft a clever punishment for him. 

So, Hades did. So Tantalus arrived in the underworld and was taken to the fields of punishment. Where he would be tormented for all eternity. His little world that was created, contained sunny fields, a gigantic fruit tree with one branch holding the most perfect piece of fruit, and a large lake from which he could drink. Obviously, he was skeptical. The sun’s heat grew to be unbearable. He went to drink from the lake. But the water level decreased as soon as he tried to. No matter what he did, he couldn’t get down low enough to drink from the lake. Then, he tried to reach the fruit. The branch moved on its own as it began to raise itself higher and higher so that Tantalus would be unable to reach it. He realized that this was what he was tormented with. Doomed to having things just out of his reach. So, learn a lesson from tantalus, don’t be greedy and chop your son up into pieces to feed heavenly deities.