Legend tells us that the Minotaur had the head of a bull and the body of a man. This unfortunate birth defect (but the desired transformation of every stock market trader) was the product of strange mating practices between the Minotaur’s mom, Queen Pasiphae, and a white bull. The bull was apparently beautiful, but that fact alone does not entirely explain the Queen’s lust. She was the target of revenge by the god Poseidon. Poseidon conjured the bull from the sea and gave it to Pasiphae’s husband, King Minos, who asked for a sign that Cretans were favored by the gods. Minos was then supposed to sacrifice the bull to Poseidon. He refused to carry out the offering because the white bull was magnificent and Minos decided that he wanted it for breeding purposes. Strangely, he got his wish.
Poseidon wreaked revenge on Minos like a mob boss. He went after generations of the King’s family, turning Pasiphae into a zoophile and the offspring of her union with the bull, into a Minotaur. This appears to have been a reasonably popular consequence in the ancient world, where centaurs, satyrs, manticore and sphinx apparently abounded, the hybrid offspring of questionable moral choices.
Minos decided to enlist a contractor, Daedalus, to build a Labyrinth, a huge holding pen for his monstrous stepson. Each year fourteen young people – seven boys and seven girls – from neighboring Athens were led into the Labyrinth and fed to the Minotaur as tributes in the original Hunger Games. This too was an act of revenge, payback for the assassination of Minos’ son Androgeus who was in Athens at an athletic competition. When the Athenians either refused, or could not identify the murderer, King Minos decided that the penalty should be an annual tributes dinner with the Minotaur.
Enter Theseus, the hero. Theseus’ superpower was wisdom (a state of mind that predictably deserted him in middle age). Theseus decided to solve the problem of the Minotaur’s tribute buffet by volunteering to take the place of one of their number. He was aided in his quest to kill the Minotaur by King Minos’ daughter, Ariadne. Apparently, Ariadne shared her mother’s predisposition to infatuation, falling in love with Theseus at first sight. Ariadne consulted her father’s man, Daedalus, about the specs for the labyrinth. She was advised: “Go forwards and always down, never left or right.”
Like a ninja, Theseus entered the labyrinth at night with the directions, a concealed weapon, and a ball of golden thread. He tied the thread to the doorpost and began stalking his prey. According to legend, the Minotaur was dispatched with a slash to the throat, or was strangled, depending on the source. Theseus, following the thread, retraced his steps and escaped the crime scene with the girl.
© Patrick O’Neill 2013. All rights reserved.