Theseus and the Minotaur

Last Updated January 17, 2019 by . First Published in 2013.

Athens' King Aegeus sends his son, Theseus, into the labyrinth to save the lives of Athenian hostages brought to Crete each year. Only by killing the Minotaur would Theseus be able to put an end to the continual danger of war.

Theseus and the Minotaur

Inside the tunnel, it was pitch black. Only a sliver of moonlight entered through the roof cracks. It was also cold. Theseus trembled. He could already hear Minotaur roaring and trampling inside the labyrinth. It sounded hungry and irritated. Yet the labyrinth had so many passages that Theseus couldn't identify where the sound was coming from. He'd have to walk deeper into the labyrinth if he wanted to discover and kill the monster.

Further into the maze! What a terrifying concept! No one who entered the labyrinth ever found their way out. The Minotaur had slaughtered and devoured them all.

Theseus' fingers clenched around the ball of thread in his grasp. His other hand was firmly gripping the hilt of his sword. A sword, a ball of thread, and a small golden phial in his tunic pocket. That was all he had to battle the monstrous Minotaur with. The Minotaur was a ferocious beast. It had the physique of a man, but the head and power of a bull, as well as fangs as sharp as those of a lion.

It's no surprise that Theseus' father, King Aegeus of Athens, wept when he learnt that his son was travelling to Crete to kill the Minotaur. "I shall never see you again, Theseus," the King had whispered, his eyes welling up with sorrow. "Do you have to leave? I am an elderly man. I need you here to assist me in running my empire."

Theseus was heartbroken to see his father in such distress, but he couldn't do what he wanted. ""If I don't slay this monster, you'll have to send more and more young Athenians to feed it every year," Theseus warned Aegeus. Consider how many people have already died!"

King Aegeus let out a heavy sigh. Theseus was correct. Athenians' youth had paid a terrible price. Years ago, King Minos' son was assassinated in Athens. Minos requested that fourteen Athenians, seven young men and seven young women, be taken to Crete in retaliation. They were fed to the dreadful Minotaur there. Minos vowed to attack and destroy Athens with his mighty army if this was not done. If the youthful Athenians killed the Minotaur, Minos vowed to stop demanding the yearly sacrifice.

'Well, King Minos is crafty and ruthless,' King Aegeus thought. 'He prevents anyone from killing the Minotaur by banning them from bringing weapons into the labyrinth.'

Aegeus could see the large ship with the black sail that made the mournful journey to Crete every year from his royal window. Aegeus saw dads like himself weeping in agony as they watched their sons and daughters board the ship. Unfortunately, Aegeus knew that Theseus had to accompany them.

"Look how my people suffer!" Aegeus groaned. "It is not acceptable for their King to keep his own son safe at home if their children must face the Minotaur."

Aegeus moved his gaze away from the window and murmured to Theseus, "My son, we must say our goodbyes. I'll beg all the gods of Olympus to protect you."

Aegeus took a small, golden phial from a neighbouring table and offered it to Theseus. "Medea, this is from your stepmother. She claims it will aid you in your fight against the Minotaur. As for me, I only have one request of you."

"What exactly is it, Father?" Theseus inquired.

Aegeus presented him with a huge crimson square of material. "If you return safely from Crete, hoist this red sail from your ship as you approach our shores."

Theseus smiled at his father, hoping to cheer him up with encouraging words. "My ship will not have a black sail, Father," he declared to Aegeus. "When I return, this red sail will be flapping from its mast."

The trip to Crete was filled with sadness. The fourteen Athenians could only think about the Minotaur and their awful fate. They sobbed and trembled. They became increasingly anxious as the ship approached its destination.

Theseus, on the other hand, was determined to put on a brave face when he confronted King Minos at his palace.

"What does the Prince of Athens have to do here?" Minos demanded, acknowledging.

At the same time, Theseus. "Surely King Aegeus has not given his son to the Minotaur?"

Theseus gave Minos a rebellious expression. "I'm not here to be eaten by the monster," he replied. "I've come to annihilate it. Only then will my people be free of your heinous vengeance."

There was a lot of chatter among the courtiers and nobles who encircled Minos at this point.

The King gave a wicked grin. "These are brave statements, young Theseus," he said. "But, the Minotaur is not so easy to slay when you don't have any weapons."

"I'll find a means to kill it," Theseus stated emphatically.

Princess Ariadne, King Minos' daughter, had been keeping a careful eye on Theseus.

Theseus was obviously young, bold, and strong. Even yet, he would want assistance if he were to succeed.

Ariadne decided right then and there that she would assist Theseus in this arduous and risky mission.

Ariadne stayed awake for long hours that night, until she was certain her father and his courtiers were asleep. She crept out of her room, carrying a large bottle of wine and a ball of thread. Ariadne moved quickly and softly through the passageways that led to the rooms where Theseus and his comrades were staying. The sentries outside the doors were shocked to see Ariadne, but they were pleased when she handed them some wine.

"The night is long, and there are cold winds blowing here," Ariadne remarked sweetly, smiling. "A glass of wine will keep you warm."

The sleeping pill that Ariadne had hidden in the wine took some time to kick in. A few minutes later, all of the sentries were fast asleep on the floor.

Ariadne rapped on the door of Theseus' chamber. He was astonished to see her and even more surprised to hear what she had to say.

"I've come to assist you, Theseus,"

Ariadne muttered something. "Take this ball of thread and a sword from one of the sentries from here."

"But, why are you doing this?" Theseus inquired, surprised. "Are you not worried about upsetting your father?"

"My father is a terrible man," Ariadne murmured. "He has no sympathy for those who perish in the maze! The only way to put an end to his cruelty is to kill the Minotaur... but we can't afford to squander time! We need to go to the labyrinth as soon as possible."

Theseus quietly snatched a sword from one of the sleeping sentries and followed Ariadne out into the palace gardens, across the courtyard, and into the labyrinth. Ariadne had informed Theseus everything he needed to know by the time they arrived at the entryway.

Theseus was within the labyrinth a few minutes later. Ariadne's ball of thread unrolled slowly on the floor as he travelled along the tunnel. The other end of the thread was attached to the inside of the labyrinth's entrance door.

Theseus hadn't gotten far when he heard the Minotaur roar. He moved forward a little more, letting the thread unravel in his grasp. The roaring was significantly closer the next time he heard it.

Theseus' heart pounded furiously. 'Any minute now, I'll see it!' he thought. Theseus quickly concealed the ball of thread behind a rock. Then he removed the stopper from the golden phial his stepmother had given him and crushed himself against the tunnel's wall.

Suddenly, the Minotaur appeared in front of him. It was yelling, pounding, and shaking its huge thick fists against the roof of the labyrinth that held it captive.

"Ugh! It's dreadful!" Theseus mumbled angrily. Theseus noticed the Minotaur's broad shoulders, pointed horns on its bull's head, and huge blazing eyes in the dark light.

The eyes were dead set on Theseus. The Minotaur charged at him with a mighty howl. But before the creature could seize him, Theseus flung the phial's powder on its face. As the powder filled the Minotaur's eyes and jaws, it screamed. It stumbled back, coughing. It beat its fists on its eyes. The Minotaur was helpless at the time.

Theseus leaped forward. He struck at the monster's legs with his sword.

The Minotaur screamed in agony as he fell to the ground. It grasped furiously at the tunnel walls, attempting to bring itself back to its feet. Its jaws were snapping at the assailant it couldn't see the whole time.

Theseus remained behind and waited until the Minotaur was exhausted. Finally, the beast collapsed on the floor, panting and wheezing. It flapped its arms unmoving beside its hairy body.

Theseus lunged forward once more. He drew his sword and raised it above his head. He thrust the blade into the Minotaur's heart with all his strength.

The Minotaur yelled. The furious glare in its eyes then disappeared. It was no longer alive.

"The great gods be thanked!" exclaimed Theseus as he knelt beside the monster's body. Theseus suddenly felt sorry for it. "It wasn't its fault it was half-man, half-bull," he explained. "Maybe it's better to be dead than imprisoned in the maze."

It was time to depart and join Ariadne outside, who was waiting. Theseus removed the ball of thread he had placed under the rock. He returned along the tunnel, following the line of thread on the floor. Theseus gradually coiled up the thread until he reached the entrance to the labyrinth.

Ariadne nearly burst out laughing when Theseus went out into the cool, fresh air of the night.

"We must leave Crete as soon as possible," Theseus advised her. "Ariadne, you must accompany us. You would be in grave danger if it became known how you assisted us."

Ariadne agreed with a nod. Theseus and Ariadne dashed back into the palace, where the drugged sentries slept. They roused the fourteen young Athenians and crept down to the harbour together. The captain was taken aback when they ran on board the ship.

"Go out to sea right away!" Theseus gave the order. "Hurry up! Hurry up!"

It was still dark when the ship departed back to Athens, but it was a happy voyage, unlike the one that had taken the ship to Crete.

A few days later, the Athens harbour appeared. Theseus forgot his vow to his father in the euphoria of his victory over the Minotaur. When King Aegeus saw the ship with the black sail, he assumed Theseus was no longer alive.

"I can't take it any longer," he sobbed.

King Aegeus committed himself by throwing himself into the sea and was never seen again.


If you enjoyed reading this article, or it helped you in some way, all I ask in return is you leave a comment below or share this page with your friends. Thank you.

There are no comments yet. Why not get the discussion started?

We respect your privacy, and will not make your email public. Hashed email address may be checked against Gravatar service to retrieve avatars. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.