Phaethon, The Boy who flew in the Sun’s Chariot.

00.00.00 00.00.00 loading
Phaethon falls

Written by Bertie for Storynory
Read by Bertie
Sponsored by the fantastic Kiwico - we really recommend their crates of fascinating projects for kids of all ages.

Domino machine

Our educational Questions and Activities for this story are below the text.

Hello, This is Bertie, and I'm here with a Greek myth. It's a tale of a Greek boy named Phaethon and his extraordinary adventure that changed the face of the world. .Get ready for a tale of gods, superpowers, and a lesson that will stay with you! Listen on, and you will learn how the Sahara in Africa became a desert - or at least you will hear the story, according to ancient Greeks.

Long, long ago, the Sahara was a secret garden, a wonderland overflowing with leafy trees that touched the sky, waterfalls that glistened like diamonds, and flowers in every colour you could imagine.

The weather of the Sahara was a playful friend. The temperature was sometimes a bit warm, like a baby’s bath, and other times a bit cool, like a fresh slice of watermelon, but mostly it was just perfect.

The breeze knew how to put on a show, strong enough to rustle leaves and toss blossoms into the air, but it never got too wild or angry. And when the sky decided it was time for a little shower, it sent down droplets as soft and gentle as a butterfly's kiss, soothing the Earth in its own quiet way.

But today, as you might know, the Sahara is a vast desert. Only a few spots, called oases, are left to tell the story of when it was a cool, green paradise. So how did this greenery become a scorching, silent sandbox?

The ancient Greeks used to tell a story about a boy named Phaethon. He was just a boy but was convinced he was half a god. And you know what? Maybe he was right. His hair was as bright and golden as the morning sun, and his mother always told him that this amazing hair was a super gift from his father, who was none other than the god of the sun.

When he was little, Phaethon would often boast to the other Greek boys:

"My father is the god of the Sun, so don't mess with me!"

And while some of his friends were impressed, not all of them took him at his word. A boy called Epaphus, who believed that his father was Zeus, used to taunt him by saying:

"You're no son of a god. You are just an ordinary wimp of a boy. I should know because my father is the king of the gods."

Then Phaethon went to his mother, Clymene, and complained: "Epaphus is going around telling everyone that I'm a liar and that my father isn't the sun god!"

"Well, I promise you he is the god of the sun," replied his mother.

"But I need proof, Mother, or else I will be too ashamed to leave the house because everyone will think I'm boasting and telling fibs."

Hearing this, his mother raised her arms towards the sky and declared, "By the radiant sun above us, that sees all and hears all, I swear to you, my dear, you are truly the sun god's child. And if my words are not true, may I never see the sunlight again."

"But I need proof, Mother!" insisted Phaethon.

And at last, she said, exasperated:

"Well, if you don't believe me, your own mother, then all I can suggest is that you go and ask the Sun himself!"

"You leave me with no choice. I shall have to visit the god to ask if he is my father."

A couple of years went by before Phaethon kept his word. When he was old enough to travel alone, he sought the god of the sun, whom the Greeks called Apollo. So he headed East to where the sun rises in the morning, and after long travels, he came to the golden steps that lead up the Palace of the Sun.

The climb was quite a long one. He had to go up, up, up, ever upwards. He felt tired, hot, and thirsty but didn't stop.

After what felt like a million steps, he finally reached the world's top. It was there that he found the sun god's palace. It was taller than the tallest lighthouse, with shiny gold and sparkling bronze columns that looked like they were on fire. Shining ivory crowned the roofs, and the doors were engraved with star signs.

He quickly found his way to the grand room where the brilliant Sun god held court on his throne. The glow pouring from his father's golden crown was so intense, so dazzling, that he had to step back, raising his hand to shield his eyes from the blinding brilliance.

"Is that my boy?" his father, the sun god Apollo, blinked in surprise, "What lofty dream brings you to these sun-kissed heights?"

Phaethon, Apollo's child, mustered all his courage to answer. "You, the brilliant shining star of our grand world, if I truly am your son, give me some undeniable proof. Something that might hush those who dub me a storyteller who only tells tall tales."

When he noticed his son squinting against the radiant brilliance of his divine crown, Apollo softened the emanating rays in a show of fatherly love. "Come closer, my boy. Allow me to wrap you in a fatherly hug for the first time. And let it be known - your mother did not tell you fairy tales. I am indeed your father."

However, Phaethon wanted more. "Father, there’s one little favour I need you to grant me. Will you do it for me?”

“Why yes,” said the absentee father, who felt he had neglected his son until now, “I will do anything you ask, I give you my word as a god.”

“Well, Father, will you give me concrete proof of my parentage? Without this proof, the shame of being persistently labelled a fibber is too much to bear."

"I did promise I'd help you, however, I can," Apollo responded, with a question in the furrows of his divine forehead, "But what proof do you need?"

"Allow me to steer your Sun-Chariot, Father," Phaethon proposed. "Let the whole world see me in the sky, driving your flying horses and pulling the sun across its daily course, and then everyone will, without a doubt, know that I am your son."

Upon hearing this, Apollo's face filled with instant regret. Three times, he shook his radiant head. "No, no, no, I may have made a promise, but your wish is dangerous, my boy. Even Zeus, the lord of Mount Olympus, who casually tosses lightning bolts as if they were party sparklers, would think twice before handling my fiery steeds. How could you, a mortal boy, hope to undertake such a daring journey?"

"Because, Father, I am your true son," Phaethon replied, confidence resonating. "Handling chariots is our family superpower and horses? They're like our playmates."

Apollo shook his shining head for a fourth time, no less.

"Let me paint you a picture of the journey you're so eager to undertake. I'll tell you all there is to know about the sun chariot's daily trek across the sky. The initial stretch of the journey is a steep uphill climb. Even my spirited morning horses, all rested and full of energy, need to muster all their strength to ascend so swiftly.

When we reach noon-time, it's at the highest point of the sky, so high that even my godly heart skips a beat at the sight of the Earth so far below.

The final part of the journey? It's a dizzying dive downwards. The feeling of falling so fast often leaves me, a god, with a belly full of butterflies. I won't sugarcoat it, my boy, that.

The final descent is so intense that it can make the most seasoned traveller feel queasy."

"Father, I can handle it; I know I can."

"I did give you my word, and we gods. We can't go back on our promises. But I urge you to reconsider, my boy, lest I give you a gift that could be worse than your worst nightmares."

But Phaethon wouldn't hear it. Instead, his heart was on fire with the idea of driving that chariot. So, with a sigh, his dad led him to the magnificent sun-chariot, crafted by none other than Hephaestus, the god with some divine blacksmith skills. Phaethon just stood there, his eyes nearly popping out. The chariot was a marvel– it had a super shiny gold axle, a gleaming pole, wheels with golden edges, and circles of silver spokes. It was all decked out with sparkly jewels and shone as bright as the sun itself.

Just as Phaethon was busy checking out this crazy ride, Dawn woke up in the East. She swung open her huge palace doors and spilt out a rosy light that turned the sky all kinds of pretty pinks. At the same time, the stars and moon quietly slid off to their cosy beds, ready to nap through the day.

"It's go-time," said Apollo. "The world is waiting for their daily sunshine. We can't be late. But, even after all my scary stories, do you still want to steer the horses, my son?"

"I do, Father."

"Well, at least take this piece of advice to heart. There's no need to crack the whip. My horses, they're eager and full of energy. They'll run fast enough without any extra nudging. It's best to pull back on the reins and keep them steady," Apollo advised.

"Yes, Father, I shall do as you say."

"Well, good luck, my son," The boy climbed up into the chariot and thanked his unwilling father.

Meanwhile, the sun's spirited horses huffed and puffed, filling the air with their fiery breath. They kicked at the bars of the chariot with their powerful hooves. They could tell, too, that the boy in their chariot was a lot lighter than the god they were used to. So when they set off, the chariot sprang into the air and zipped upward as if it weighed nothing at all.

Phaethon was in over his head. He couldn't handle the reins, and he was going so fast he couldn't even see where he was going. The wind screamed in his ears, and he felt both a burning heat and a cold at the same time.

Poor Phaethon, when he dared to look down from the sky at the Earth way, way below, he turned a queasy shade of green, and his knees wobbled with fear. Oh, why hadn't he listened to his dad's advice? But it was too late to change his mind now! He was dizzy and didn't know what to do next. As if things weren't bad enough, he saw monstrous shapes appearing in the glowing sky. He spotted the place where the Scorpio constellation flexes its pincer-like arms. When he saw the massive scorpion, its body dripping with inky venom, threatening him with its raised sting, he lost his nerve and let go of the reins.

As the horses veered off course, they raced through unknown sky realms. Instead of descending, they soared even higher, defying gravity's pull.

The moon gazed in astonishment as they circled her, then dived back towards the Earth, engulf

ed in flames. The chariot exploded into a blazing inferno when they crashed upon the ground. Meadows turned ashen white, trees became consumed by the relentless fire, and cornfields ignited into roaring flames. Mount Athos was set ablaze, and the volcanic peak of Mount Etna spewed forth flames twice as high as usual. Even the chilly Scythian snow melted under the intense heat. All of this was dreadful enough, but the once lush and verdant land where the chariot touched down was reduced to golden sands.

Apollo, heartbroken and filled with sorrow, concealed his face, and an entire day passed without the sun's radiant presence.

As the light returned to Earth, the fires finally ceased their burning. The people and gods looked upon the charred aftermath, their hearts heavy with sorrow. They could hardly recognize the land called The Sahara where the chariot had landed. No longer did gentle breezes whisper through leafy branches, nor did sparkling rivers meander through lush valleys. Instead, endless stretches of golden sand replaced the delightful fragrances of blooming flowers.

From that moment on, the Sahara Desert became a living lesson etched on the Earth's surface. The ancient Greeks saw it as a reminder of important things like being humble, not getting too full of yourself, and never pretending to be a god. They even had a word for it: "hubris." They believed that whenever someone had too much pride and thought they were above everyone else, something bad called "Nemesis" would happen and bring them down.

And so, the story of Phaethon and the sun-chariot will forever be told, serving as a lesson for future generations. May it remind us to be careful, listen to wise advice, and cherish our world's delicate balance.

And that was the Story of Pheathon and the Sun, but don’t go away, because we’ve put together some fun and fascinating facts about the Sahara desert for you. But first, I’d like to tell you about a sponsor we really love and think is very high quality and innovative.

Remember those activities from your childhood that filled you with confidence and excitement?

For me, I used to perform conjuring tricks for my parents' friends. But of course, there are many activities to increase your confidence and creativity.

That's why I'm delighted to share our family's experience with KiwiCo, the perfect way to inspire your child's creativity and learning at the same time.

KiwiCo delivers a wide range of crates designed by a team of experts that cater to kids of all ages.

KiwiCo believes that every kid is naturally creative and curious, and they provide seriously fun learning experiences. . They start with activities for younger kids, and also offer ones that are sophisticated enough to engage 9 to 12 year-olds like ours - and dads! I love doing them too.

Recently I spent an evening building Kiwico's domino machine with my son, Sasha.

What could be cooler than building an incredible domino run? Well, how about assembling battery powered a machine that carefully lays out the dominos in amazing patterns, all ready to topple? It took us a little while to assemble the engine, it was a fun and constructive time together, and the results were terrific. It's a great way to learn about the power of chain reactions, kinetic energy, and more.

Host: So, Will you put your tip-top toppling skills to the test?

Are you ready to redefine learning with play? It's time to explore hands-on projects that build creative confidence with KiwiCo! And guess what? As a special offer for our listeners, you can get 50% off your first month plus FREE shipping on ANY crate line at kiwico.com/story.

That’s 50% off your first month at K-I-W-I-C-O dot com, slash story.
Host: That's K-I-W-I-C-O dot com. Start your domino adventure now!

Now, our story this week was all about the Sahara Desert. It was of course a myth, with a kind of inner truth, but not a strictly scientific one. I thought you might like to learn some fun facts about the Sahara.

The Sahara Desert stretches across an area that's even bigger than the United States! It's the largest desert in the world.

You will find it in northern Africa, covering parts of different countries, including Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia.

During the day, The Sahara gets hot! And I mean hot; it can feel like standing in an oven, with temperatures over 50 degrees Celsius But at night, it can get super chilly! Brrr...

Even though it's a tough place to live, the Sahara is home to some fantastic creatures and plants. Imagine a fox with big ears called the Fennec fox. And, of course, camels live there. The camels of the Sahara desert are called Dromedary Camels and only have one hump to carry their water.

The Sahara has these enormous sand hills called dunes. Some of them are taller than the tallest buildings in the world! They're like giant mountains made of sand.

Did you know that the Sahara has a fascinating history? Thousands of years ago, the Sahara was much greener and more fertile. Rock paintings in the region depict a much different landscape filled with trees and wildlife.

It was home to ancient civilisations like the Egyptians. And you will still find the Berbers living there.

But Even if you live far away from the Sahara, it affects your life.

Because the Sahara has a secret superpower! It can affect the weather all around the world. The winds and currents it creates can even bring rain to faraway places. It's like a global weather wizard!

And finally, let’s test your memory. Can you recall the following?

For now, from me, Bertie, at Storynory.com.

Comprehension Questions:

  1. Describe the Sahara as it was portrayed at the beginning of the story.
  2. Who was Phaethon, and why was he unique among the boys of ancient Greece?
  3. What proof did Phaethon seek from his father, Apollo?
  4. Why did Apollo hesitate to give Phaethon the proof he wanted?
  5. What advice did Apollo give Phaethon before he set out on the Sun-Chariot?
  6. Describe the sequence of events that led to the transformation of the lush, verdant Sahara into a vast desert.
  7. What did the ancient Greeks believe was the moral lesson of this story?

Memory Test:

  1. What is the name of the boy who doubted Phaethon's claim of being the son of the sun god?
  2. What is the sun god's name, according to the ancient Greeks?
  3. Describe the sun god's palace as mentioned in the story.
  4. Who crafted the sun-chariot?
  5. What happened when Dawn woke up in the East?
  6. What were the consequences when Phaethon let go of the reins of the sun-chariot?
  7. What is the Greek word for excessive pride, as mentioned in the story?

Grammar Questions:

  1. Can you find the 'tense' of the first paragraph?
    'Tense' helps us know when something happened. It's about time! Is it happening now (present tense)? Did it happen before (past tense)? Or will it happen in the future (future tense)?
  2. Can you spot a 'compound sentence' in the text?
    A 'compound sentence' is like two small sentences glued together with words like 'and', 'but', 'or'. It's like saying, "I like ice cream, and I love cookies" instead of "I like ice cream. I love cookies."
  3. What job does 'which' do in the sentence "The luminous moon hung low in the sky, its pale light casting long, eerie shadows across the terrain, which was dotted with small hills and rocks?"
    The word 'which' is like a finger pointing back to something we just talked about. It helps us add more info to it.
  4. Can you find an 'adjective' in the text and the noun it describes?
    An 'adjective' is like a colour you paint on a noun. It tells you more about it. For example, in 'red ball', 'red' is the adjective that tells us more about the 'ball'.
  5. Can you find a 'simile' in the text?
    A 'simile' is when we say something is like something else. For example, "He runs like a cheetah." Here we're comparing 'he' to a 'cheetah' to show how fast he runs.
  6. Can you find a verb in the text's 'past participle' form?
    'Past participle' is a fancy name for a verb form. It's like a costume the verb wears to show it happened in the past. It usually ends in '-ed' or '-d', but not always. For example, 'loved' is the past participle of 'love'.
  7. Can you find a 'coordinating conjunction' in the text?
    A 'coordinating conjunction' is a small but mighty word that connects sentences, ideas or phrases. Words like 'and', 'but', 'or' are examples.
  8. Can you find a 'participial clause' in the text?
    A 'participial clause' is like a mini-sentence that gives us more detail about something. It often starts with a verb that ends in -ing or -ed. For example, "Dancing wildly, the girl felt free."
  9. Can you find a sentence written in the 'passive voice'?
    A 'passive voice' sentence is like a flipped sentence. Instead of saying, "The cat chased the mouse," we'd say, "The cat was chased by the mouse."
  10. In the sentence, "The luminous moon hung low in the sky, its pale light casting long, eerie shadows across the terrain," what is 'its' referring to?
    The word 'its' is pointing back to something mentioned earlier. What is it?

Educational Activities:

  1. Mythical Mapping: Draw a map of Phaethon's journey, from his initial meeting with Apollo to his disastrous ride in the sun chariot.
  2. Creative Writing: Write a diary entry or a letter from Phaethon's perspective, expressing his thoughts and emotions during this adventure.
  3. Drama Activity: In small groups, act out different scenes from the story.
  4. Science Connection: Research more about the actual science behind deserts, specifically the Sahara desert. How did it form in reality? Compare and contrast this with the myth.
  5. Art Project: Draw or paint a picture of the Sahara before and after Phaethon's journey. This could either be two separate drawings or one split scene.
  6. Vocabulary Building: Identify any words in the story that are new or challenging and create a word wall or vocabulary flashcards with definitions and sentences.

Flash Card 1:

Front: Name of the main character in the story.
Back: Phaethon

Flash Card 2:

Front: Who Phaethon believed was his father.
Back: Apollo, the sun god

Flash Card 3:

Front: The object Phaethon requested from his father as proof of his lineage.
Back: The sun-chariot

Flash Card 4:

Front: The event that triggered the Sahara's transformation into a desert.
Back: Phaethon losing control of the sun-chariot

Flash Card 5:

Front: The moral lesson of the story, represented by a Greek word.
Back: Hubris (excessive pride)

Flash Card 6:

Front: The identity of the person who crafted the sun-chariot.
Back: Hephaestus, the god of fire and metalworking

Flash Card 7:

Front: The result of Dawn waking up in the East.
Back: The stars disappeared and the sky brightened

Flash Card 8:

Front: What happened when Phaethon let go of the reins of the sun-chariot?
Back: The sun-chariot veered off course, causing the sun to come too close to the earth and scorch it.

Flash Card 9:

Front: The transformation of the Sahara as a result of Phaethon's action.
Back: The Sahara changed from a lush, green landscape into a vast, hot desert.