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Watch Adam Savage Build a Kinetic Sisyphus Sculpture Out of LEGO

There are few things more zen than watching one of Adam Savage’s one-day builds. Add LEGO and a pinch of Greek mythology to the mix and well, you’ve got one happy Nerdist family. During his latest foray in tinker-thinkering, Savage and the Tested crew recreated an incredibly lifelike kinetic sculpture of Sisyphus: the man condemned by Zeus to roll a boulder uphill for eternity.

The custom piece of automata was designed by Jason Allemann, and inspired by a mechanical character computer-modeling system created by Disney Research Hub. Should you feel particularly ambitious, the entire 1,350-brick build instructions are available (for free) online.

According to Homer, Sisyphus was the “craftiest of men,” a silver-tongued devil who managed to outwit many-a-thief, and con his way into marrying Merope, daughter of the Titan Atlas. But the punishment embodied here in LEGO didn’t arise from crimes against man: as legend has it, Sisyphus cheated the gods.

His great triumph came at the end of  life, when Thanatos, the god of peaceful death, and a high-lord of the underworld who collected souls for Hades, came to claim him. Thanatos brought along a pair of handcuffs, and clever Sisyphus persuaded the god to demonstrate their use – on himself. Sisyphus managed to lock death away, keeping him chained within a closet in his home.

With Thanatos imprisoned, no one could die, and so the headless, bloodless, and diseased roamed the Earth. To return balance to nature, Hades rose to Earth, and with the help of the war god Ares, managed to free Thanatos. Sisyphus was, of course, ordered to report to the underworld – but as they say, once a trickster, always a trickster.



Yes, Adam. In your face.

Before descending for his eternal assignment, Sisyphus instructed Merope not to bury him, nor to give him a funeral feast, perform any sacrifices to Hades, or place a coin under his tongue (which was used to pay Charon, who ferried the dead for passage across the river Styx). In doing so, the cunning knave ensured he would arrive at the palace of Hades as an unburied pauper, someone whose soul had no place there.

Sisyphus begged for a three-day return to the land of the living, where he would arrange for his funeral, punish his wife for her mistreatment, and pay tribute to the gods of the underworld. Moved by his plea Hades’ wife Persephone granted the journey, and our antagonist returned – only to renege on his promise.

Sisyphus evaded fate for a number of years, pushing death far from his mind and reveling in the successes of his many scams. But little did he know, Zeus and Hades were brewing a plan of their own. When old age finally claimed him, Sisyphus was dragged to the deepest chasm of the underworld, where he was tried for crimes against the gods. Condemned to an eternity of hopeless labor, Sisyphus remains in the belly of Hades, where he will ceaselessly roll his boulder for all of time.

Check out more photos of the build in the gallery below!

Image: Tested; Jason Allemann,vJK BrickWorks


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