Monday, March 8, 2010

Day XCVIII - Minotaur

Tragic Cretan bull,
Labyrinth of King Minos,
Falls to Theseus.

One of the most infamous supernatural entities in Greek mythology, the mighty Minotaur of Crete is a compelling creature of depth and pathos. Described as a brutal hulking human with the head of a bull, the horned hybrid was condemned to a solitary life in the labyrinth below King Minos' palace at Knossos according to ancient legend. The story goes that Poseidon decided to punish the Cretan king after Minos failed to sacrifice his beloved white bull in honour of the sea god and so struck his Pasiphaë with odd bestial desire. Falling in love with the bull and consequently making love to it (assisted by a bull disguise crafted by the legendary inventor Daedalus) she ended up pregnant and gave birth to a monstrous half-human, half-bull hybrid named Asterion. Wider society would come to know the creature as the Minotaur and his shamed royal stepfather imprisoned the ugly, violent being to the subterranean maze. Sacrificial victims paid as tribute by other city-states were sent down to the labyrinth for the vicious captive to devour until Theseus of Athens arrived intent on bringing its demise. With his cunning, encouragement from Minos' daughter Ariadne and a ball of thread to guide him back out of the maze, Theseus took his sword to the bull and cut its sad life short. An iconic creature in art across the ages, the poor Minotaur strikes me as one of the most tragic of all mythical beasts that deserves at least some love just for its distinctive appearance and tremendous lack of luck. Here's to the unfortunate Asterion: the mighty Minotaur of the labyrinth.

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