Lotis Heroes Monthly - June 2021

Retelling Myths: Theseus, Slayer of the Minotaur

Hi everyone,

Hope that you had a good June!

Since I’m writing this during the very last hours of June, let’s not waste any time and get started with this month’s story!


Theseus, Slayer of the Minotaur

Quickly, I jumped out of the way of the deadly horns that were charging at me.

I looked back, and watched as the muscular man with a bull head halted his charge.

He turned and glared at me.

I might have called him a man just now, but, in truth, this was a monster - this was the Minotaur!

The Minotaur roared loudly.

So loud was his roar, that it threatened to put out the torches lighting the centre of the Labyrinth that I had found myself in.

I drew the sword that I had brought in with me.

We glared at each other.

Then, surprisingly, the Minotaur began to speak. Angrily, he said, "You're no mere sacrifice, who are you?!"

I shook off the shock, and recomposed myself.

"I am Theseus, son of King Aegeus of Athens!" I said, "And I will slay you, Minotaur!"

***

Perhaps it was fate that I would face the Minotaur.

After all, I was one who slew the Cretan Bull, the father of the Minotaur.

Not long ago, during my journey to Athens to meet my father for the first time, I had come across the white bull.

They say that it was a bull bestowed upon King Minos of Crete by Poseidon, as a blessing for the king's ascension to the throne.

But, instead of sacrificing it to honour Poseidon, as he was meant to do, King Minos had decided to keep the bull for himself.

Queen Pasiphae, the wife of King Minos, then had sex with the bull. Supposedly, she was under the spell of Poseidon, who had done so as some sort of punishment for the king.

Soon, the baby Minotaur was born. Then, years later, when he grew into a monster, he would be confined to the Labyrinth.

Meanwhile, the white bull had began causing so much havoc on Crete, that when Heracles came to take the bull away, apparently as part of his labours of some sort, King Minos quickly allowed him to do so.

After Heracles had delivered the bull to King Eurystheus of Tiryns, the bull broke free.

With Heracles already gone, the Cretan Bull was free to wreak havoc wherever it went.

And that was how I encountered the bull on my way to Athens.

After a long fight, I had finally managed to subdue the bull.

Bringing it with me to Athens, I sacrificed the white bull to honour Athena, finally putting the Cretan Bull to rest.

Then, I would meet my father, King Aegeus of Athens, for the first time, and he soon made me his heir.

~~~

A few months would pass, before I would learn about the sacrifices that Athens was forced to send to Crete every year.

A few years ago, another son of Minos, Androgeos, competed in the Panathenaic Games that my father hosted in Athens.

By all accounts, he had done superbly, winning many of the contests.

Unfortunately, while participating in the Games, Androgeos was killed.

Various accounts told different stories - some say that jealous competitors had killed him, while others claimed that he was killed in an accident involving the Cretan Bull that had still been rampaging at the time.

In any case, King Minos did not care, and he declared war on Athens.

When Athens lost the war, King Minos demanded that seven young men and seven young women be given as sacrifices every year to feed the Minotaur.

If his demands for reparations were not met, then he threatened to unleash the Minotaur itself on Athens.

Despairingly, my father complied.

And so, every year, fourteen people would be sent to meet their doom.

This year was to be the third year.

Determined to put an end to this horrific imposition, I volunteered to take the place of one of the men, and had set sail to slay the Minotaur.

~~~

The door opened, and someone entered, asking me, "Are you Theseus?"

I turned to see a woman entering my room, with a servant behind her.

I nodded, "Indeed, I am."

The woman turned to her servant, and said, "Please, wait outside with the guards."

The servant bowed and left the room, closing the door as she left.

"And who might you be?" I asked my visitor.

"I am Ariadne, daughter of King Minos."

"Ah," I said, "so I have your father to thank for these accommodations while I wait to be sacrificed. How many sacrifices have lived here before me?"

Ariadne looked away, with guilt on her face, "I'm not... happy about what my father is doing either."

An awkward silence hung in the air.

"My apologies," I finally said, "How did you know who I am?"

Ariadne turned back to me, "When the son of a king volunteers to be a sacrifice, word gets around quick - even if it was supposed to be a secret."

I chuckled, "I suppose you're right about that."

Ariadne walked up to me, and looked me up and down.

Embarrassed, I looked away, "W-What is it?"

"I..." Ariadne began to say, "I have fallen in love with you, Theseus."

"I-I beg your pardon?" I asked, stunned.

"I've fallen in love with you," she said again. Ariadne stepped back a little, "Or, at least, the you in the stories that I've heard."

"Not only are you the son of the great King Aegeus of Athens," she said, "but they say that you are also the son of Poseidon - that your mother was blessed by the god's love shortly after receiving King Aegeus's love, making you the son of both a great mortal and a great god."

"My mother's mentioned it," I said, a little flustered, "Though who knows how true that is."

"And then there are the many stories about the great deeds that you've done, as you journeyed to Athens," Ariadne continued, "especially all the tales about your many victories over the wicked bandits."

"I was just helping where I could," I said.

"You are a true hero," she continued.

"T-Thank you," I replied.

"So then you must be here to put an end to my father's cruelty," she said, "Am I correct?"

I nodded, "Yes, I am. I am here to slay the Minotaur, and free my people from its grasp on us."

Looking a little sad, I could hear Ariadne mutter under her breath, "Brother..."

She shook her head, and said to me, "I will help you, Theseus. I will go to Daedalus, the architect of the Labyrinth himself, and ask for his guidance."

"But," she continued, "You must promise me one thing."

"And what would that be?" I asked.

"When you have succeeded in your task," she said, "You must take me with you."

~~~

It was the night before a sacrifice was to be sent into the Labyrinth.

Ariadne and I had quietly made our way to the entrance of the Minotaur's prison.

Thankfully, Ariadne had either bribed, ordered, or distracted the many guards that we would have encountered on our way, leaving our route devoid of any guards.

"Before they enter," Ariadne said, "the sacrifices are usually given several torches, and are told that if they could make it out from the other side of the Labyrinth, without getting killed by the Minotaur, then they are free to go."

"However," she continued, "that is a lie - the Labyrinth only has one opening, and this is it. They are told that lie, so that they will venture deep into the Labyrinth, where the Minotaur can hunt them down without drawing the Minotaur back to the entrance."

"How cruel," I said.

Ariadne nodded in agreement.

"I pray that you succeed, great hero," she said to me.

"Thank you," I said, as I walked up to the entrance. On my way, I lit one of the torches that she had given me.

The two guards that Ariadne had bribed unsealed the doors, and open the way into the Labyrinth.

After giving Ariadne one last look, I walked into the Labyrinth.

~~~

After the guards had closed the entrance to the Labyrinth once more, I tied one end of the thread from the clew, given to me by Ariadne from Daedalus, to a doorpost by the entrance.

Using the map supplied to me by the architect himself, I made my way to the centre of the Labyrinth, where the Minotaur should be.

As I walked, I continued to lay out the thread from the clew, marking my way back to the entrance.

I had questioned this at first, seeing as I was given a map. But, after several twists and turns, the maze had become so dizzying that even a map might have not sufficed.

Thankful for the architect's wisdom and Ariadne's aid, I continued on my way, carefully following the map for the quickest way to the centre.

After what seemed like a long journey, full of confusing turns and bewildering twists, I walked into the centre of the Labyrinth.

And in the middle of this lit room, was the Minotaur.

The Minotaur roared and charged at me.

Dropping my torch and the clew, I jumped out of the way of the monster's deadly horns.

As the Minotaur turned and roared at me once more, I drew the sword that Ariadne had given me.

"You're no mere sacrifice," the Minotaur said, "who are you?!"

"I am Theseus, son of King Aegeus of Athens!" I said, "And I will slay you, Minotaur!"

***

"Do not call me that!" the Minotaur roared at me, "I am not that man's bull! I am Asterion!"

"No matter what you name is," I said, "You are still a monster that's killed and ate too many innocent people!"

Surprising me again, the Minotaur relaxed his stance.

I kept my guard up.

Chuckling sadly, the Minotaur said, "Do you think... that I wanted any of this?"

"I've been trapped here, for so long," he continued, "that I've lost count of how many years it's been."

"At first, they would send food and torches for me, on a donkey," he recalled, "But then, when the first human came in..."

"I didn't want to do it, but I was so hungry," the Minotaur clenched his hand into a fist, "So I killed and ate that human."

"And they just kept coming, never bringing any food with them," he said, starting to get angry again, "All that they had on them were their meat and torches!"

"I don't know why my father is doing this," the Minotaur said, "but, even now, even after having been reduced to the monster that I am by my own father, I still want to live!"

"So, if you have come to kill me, then come and try!" he yelled, "But I will not lie down and let you do it!"

The Minotaur roared and charged at me again.

I jumped away.

"W-Wait!" I yelled, "Asterion, was it?"

The Minotaur paused.

"I know how to get out of here!" I said, "We can escape the Labyrinth together!"

For a moment, the Minotaur was stunned.

Then, he started to cackle.

"Foolish man!" he said, his laughter tinged with sadness, "There is no place for a monster like me outside!"

The Minotaur leaped at me, pulling back his fist, "At least in here, I'll be fed!"

I dodged out of the way of his punch, "Wait, surely, we can-"

The Minotaur growled, "Either fight me, or die!"

The Minotaur swiped at me with his fists again.

I ducked, and sprinted away. As I passed by the Minotaur, I slashed my sword across his thigh.

The Minotaur roared in pain.

"Please, stop!" I yelled again.

"Enough!" he yelled.

He lowered his horns, and charged at me.

Seeing no other way, I dodged away from the horns. As I did so, I slashed the Minotaur's thigh again.

The Minotaur roared as his legs tripped from the pain, sending him crashing into the wall.

Seeing that the Minotaur's horns were now lodged into the wall, I rushed over.

"I'm sorry," I said.

Then, as the Minotaur was trying to dislodge his horns, I swung my sword down at his neck.

***

After I had killed the Minotaur, I was able to find the clew that I had dropped.

Easily, I followed the thread back to the Labyrinth's only opening.

The guards unsealed the exit of the Labyrinth, after I had confirmed who I was.

As I walked out, the guards and Ariadne stepped back, stunned.

I had carried the Minotaur's head with me.

"Y-You did it!" Ariadne said.

"I did," I replied.

I stabbed my sword into the ground, and placed the Minotaur's head on the pommel - a declaration that I had won, and that there would be no more sacrifices.

I looked at the poor creature one last time.

Then, I turned to Ariadne, "Let's go free the others."

***

After we had freed the other would-be sacrifices, we made our way to the ship that we had sailed to Crete on.

I had instructed the sailors to wait for me, hopeful that I would be able to defeat the Minotaur.

As we sailed away, I turned to Ariadne.

"I'm sorry about your brother," I said.

Ariadne looked at me, surprised.

Finally, she said, "It's alright. I just hope that he is at peace now, finally free from my father's cruelty."

"I hope so too," I said.

And so, we continued on our journey, back to an Athens that was finally freed from the Minotaur's grasp.

---

Although the sacrifices did stop, Theseus would find himself beset by tragedies as he sailed back to Athens.

When stopping at the island of Naxos for rest and water, Theseus was forced by the gods to abandon Ariadne there, for the god Dionysus had chosen Ariadne to become his wife.

Although Ariadne eventually became Dionysus's faithful consort, this had left Theseus distraught.

In his distress, Theseus had forgotten to put up the white sails that were meant to signal his victorious return to Athens.

When King Aegeus saw that the ship had returned with black sails instead, he threw himself off a cliff and into the sea, believing his son to be dead.

Reluctantly, Theseus ascended the throne.

In honour of his father, he named the waters where his father had died the Aegean Sea.

To honour Theseus, the Athenians decided to keep his ship, the one that he had sailed on to defeat the Minotaur, as a memorial on the habour of Athens for several centuries.

Though, after centuries of replacing many parts of the ship that had been worn down over time with new parts, some wonder if the ship can really still be said to be the Ship of Theseus...

And so, through his many great deeds, Theseus was enshrined as the great hero-king of Athens.

---


(Image from Pixabay)


Commentary

The second part of the Daedalus trilogy.

Although Daedalus himself doesn't appear, his contribution to Theseus's victory plays a huge part in the story, and this is an event that would impact his own life.

The whole thing with Theseus being said to share two fathers (and gaining the characteristics of both) because they both had sex with his mother within a short amount of time, is an old and debunked theory called telegony. This is somewhat important in Theseus's backstory, so I had to include it here.

Theseus has several stories that could be good prequel material (his whole journey to meet his father, his own Labours, etc.), but I felt that the plot threads with Ariadne, the Aegean Sea, and the Ship of Theseus were too tied-in with this story to stand alone, so I quickly wrapped them up here.


A Single Rose in a Field of Lavender

If you haven’t seen it yet, I recently released a short film adaptation of my short story, A Single Rose in a Field of Lavender.

The lovely illustrations were done by characterofyours (Tumblr, Instagram), with narration from Tasha A. Jones (Tumblr)!


Project Updates

  • The Sun Aegis - Continuing work on Part 7; though it was a bit slower this month, since I worked on the video as well.

  • Audrey, The Unicorn Girl - Still looking for an illustrator for this comic. Let me know if you know anyone who’s interested!


Thank you for reading!

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More Retelling Myths can be found here!

See you all next month!

From E. H. Lau