Excerpt from Minotaur Revisited

 

1.

The President of the university stood before the multitude that packed the auditorium, a crowd composed of students, professors, politicians, religious leaders, and visiting dignitaries.

“Ladies and gentleman, I present to you ‘The Minotaur,’ the half-bull half-man resident of the Labyrinth of Crete, beast of myth and legend.”

A well-dressed being approached the podium. He was over six feet tall with the body of a man and the head, neck, and shoulders of a bull. Fingering the lapel of his perfectly-tailored black suit, his fingers were neatly manicured with a gold band on the left fourth finger and a gold watch on his left wrist. His polished and pointed horns sparkled from the stage as he began speak:

Let me just say from the start that the majority of the writing and artistic depictions of me have been utter lies; fabrications woven by jealous and envious individuals who cannot believe that someone who is different from the norm can be anything but a monster.

I mean, look at me; does the sight of me make you want to run and hide? I admit I’m different, but aren’t we all different outwardly. It’s really what’s inside that counts. At least that’s what people say, all those clichés that do nothing but irritate me: “Beauty is only skin deep; beauty is in the eye of the beholder; it’s what’s in your heart that counts,” and on and on. Let me tell you up front that I did not choose to look this way. My odd appearance is purely an accident of birth. One is never allowed to choose one’s parents, and in my case my exact parentage can only be called, at best, murky.

It seems my mother, Pasiphae, times being what they were, was not averse to sharing her affections with any willing person. She was not what one would call “discriminating,” even though she was married to the king. And King Minos, from what I was told, was more concerned with affairs of state, than affairs of the heart. It seems that over the course of a week or so, Pasiphae shared her affections with no less than twenty different suitors and she did her best to bestow favor on each. One of them was somewhat “bullish” in his affections, at least that is how she described his advances.

Perhaps, my unusual appearance is a joke played by the gods. Perhaps the particular suitor who fathered me was one of the gods. Or maybe I’m simply a genetic freak, a mutant. I do know for a fact that she did not mate with the famed white “Cretan Bull,” that particular story being part of the myth that surrounds me. Of course, the origin of my unique physique (how clever, that rhymes) is of no consequence. I am what I am, to quote Popeye, and that’s all that I am. I’m Quinton, the Minotaur Man. In actuality, my name is Quinton Arbus Taurus Aegus Minos, but please, just call me the Minotaur; the name commands respect.

At least far more than “Quint.”

I was lucky my mother was the Queen. If I had been born of the common folk, no doubt, I would have been cast into the sea to drown; it seems that a mother’s love had some limitations in those days. However, being a prince, of sorts, I was safe. My mother treated me as every mother should; she protected me, kept me safe, guarding me and threatening any would be assailant with summary execution should they attempt to harm me in any way. She did her best to educate me, but she herself was not the brightest star in the sky. Still, she was my mother and I wouldn’t be talking to you today except for her.

However, even a queen has restrictions to her influence. Minos saw me as a means to establish political order and maintain his power throughout the ancient world. When I was twelve, he built the Labyrinth and shut me inside. It was quite an elaborate maze, really. Its sides were nearly twenty feet high and were composed of dense shrubbery barbed with razor sharp thorns. The only escape was to find one’s way through the complex maze and, trust me, this was a daunting task. I was in there for years and I never found my way. And believe me, I searched and studied endlessly. I tried to mark my trail, but there was something about those bushes that made fruitless any and all attempts to escape.

All I could do was wait. I wasn’t completely idle, however; I tended a garden in the middle of that enormous maze, growing figs, dates, olives, and grapes. A colony of bees settled nearby and every autumn treated me to combs of very fine honey.

The stories accusing me of devouring young maidens and feckless youths are pure lies. Surely, you are aware that we bovines are strictly vegetarian. I know what you’re thinking; I’m at least partly human, but you can surely surmise that I am not such a barbarian as to be a cannibal? Those young people were delivered into the Labyrinth; that much is true, but I rarely saw any other human. They usually died of exposure and malnutrition, being lost for days and weeks among the endless twists and turns. Once in a while I would encounter a young lad or maid and would do my best to help, but they would flee in fright, and more than once they were flayed open by the razor-sharp spines that grew on that accursed hedge. Thus, my reputation was born. I was the feared Minotaur who devoured his victims every nine years. And what did I do all the rest of the time? Sit in the center of the Labyrinth, howl at the moon, and do Soduko? Give me a break; I’m not a beast, you know. These stories acted as propaganda spread by Minos to maintain control of his conquered territories. The implied threat, that the fierce Minotaur would be released and wreak havoc on the helpless inhabitants of the ancient world, was all Minos needed to maintain his power. And it would have continued for years if it hadn’t been for that scoundrel, Theseus.

2.

Theseus, the big hero of ancient mythology, my supposed slayer.

Theseus.

The hero of ancient mythology.

My supposed slayer. Yeah, right.

Mythology, that’s an understatement. Oh, sure he was sent into the Labyrinth to be devoured by the mean old Minotaur, but the actual events have little to do with the myth that surrounds him. I am living proof that he never assassinated the fierce Minotaur. Here’s what really happened:

Theseus came with the usual group of so-called sacrifices from Athens to serve as my dinner. While waiting to have his sentence executed, Ariadne, the king’s daughter, got the hots for our less than noble hero. She fixed it so that he could find his way out by giving him a special ball of thread and also instructions as to where I could be found. Of course, he didn’t really have a sword hidden in his tunic. The guards weren’t that stupid. He bribed one of the guards to leave a sword inside. And Theseus really was a buffoon. He didn’t care about that girl, but, being the pig that he was, he still was willing to use her and seduce her for his own lust, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Theseus made his way to the center where I wasn’t sleeping. I heard him coming an hour before he arrived. Anyway, he came at me as if to fight, lunged at me with his sword and fell flat on his face and passed out. The great hero was stone cold drunk. I sat by him and poured cold water on his head until he sobered up and, when he started to rouse, I picked the poor lad up by his hair and gave the meanest snarl and growl I could. Well, this “great hero” immediately passed out again, but not before he vomited all over me. I threw him to the ground in disgust and was about to walk away when he finally spoke.

“I can help you, Minotaur,” he cried. “I can give you what you want, even more than you want or could wish for. Just help me out a bit.”

“What could you possibly have that I could want, you sniveling, cowardly excuse for a man?” I answered, but I did stop to listen.

“Your freedom, if you play your cards right.”

This certainly piqued my interest, but I was also wary. How could this drunken, lowlife excuse for a man get me out that place? I thought about fulfilling the legend, just once; you know, bump him off. I figured the world would be a better place without him. Still, the possibility of getting away intrigued me. Zeus knows I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life tending fruit in the middle of a Labyrinth. So, we hatched a plan.

I let loose with wild howls and screeches and scratched my arm with his sword. I smeared my blood on his arm, tunic, and sword, and then I gave him a horn I had shed, definitive proof of his conquest. He strapped the prize to his tunic and left, promising to leave the path of thread in place so I could follow him out at nightfall. Still, I didn’t trust him.

Night fell and I proceeded to follow the white thread to freedom. I promised him I’d leave Crete immediately, so as not to interfere with the “great man’s” plans for power. As I followed the thread in the dark I was careful to leave the trail intact, just in case. Halfway out, my worst fear came to pass; the path disappeared. Theseus, I’m sure, figured I’d be stuck, either have to go back or die, lost in the maze like so many others. But, I wasn’t as stupid as he thought.

I’d filled my old horn with some dust, dust with special properties, dust that glowed in the moonlight. Having been trapped inside that Labyrinth all those years, I’d become a student of astronomy and I knew there was supposed to be a bright full moon that night. Just as planned, the full moon emerged from behind a cloud and, like magic, the path before me became clear. It wasn’t a revelation from above or anything in the least bit mystical; it was the carelessness of Theseus. The dust that had trickled silently from the horn glowed in the moonlight. Theseus , as I’d anticipated, had pulled on the fine thread before he exited, assuming that this would obscure the escape route. But, the path lay plainly before me and, with a bit of care, I found my way closer to the exit.

I was making pretty good headway when the moon went behind the clouds and the path started to fade. I followed as far as I could, but a short time later I was stuck in the dark. Then to make matters worse, there was a crack of thunder, a flash of lightning and a torrential downpour started. It lasted only about ten minutes, after which the full moon returned, but the path was no longer visible, washed away like the “itsy bitsy spider.” Now I really was stuck.

“Think…think,” I said aloud. “Maybe I’m close to the exit.” I closed my eyes and sniffed the night air. The salty scent of the sea filled my nostrils and I followed my nose to the exit, which was only a few twists and turns away. Before long I was free.

I should have simply left, made a clean getaway, and gone on with whatever life had in store, but I couldn’t resist a bit of fun sprinkled with revenge. I followed that drunken fool, Theseus, in my own ship, followed him and his smitten maid to the island of Naxos. She was prostrate at his feet, about to surrender herself to that lowly rascal, when I burst out of the surrounding bushes and confronted the double-crossing loser.

“You have the audacity to pretend to love this woman, you cheating, lying scum,” I growled. “Tell her, tell her your plan; tell her about every other unsuspecting maiden you’ve had your way with, how you use them and throw them away like the pit of an olive. Tell her.”

I had him about the throat and the look of terror in his eyes as he felt my hot breath on his neck was all the revenge I needed. But I’d underestimated his charm and overestimated his “innocent” prey. Instead of the indignation, anger, and remorse I’d expected, when Adriane learned the truth about Theseus, that little wench stood at his side; fearless, she got between us and pushed me away.
“Get lost, you big ape, this is my affair; I know what I’m doing!” she screamed, standing on her tip toes, her face only a inches from mine.

“I’m not going to spend my life as handmaiden to that wretched old Minos,” she continued screaming, poking her finger into my chest. “I’m here to have a bit of fun and maybe I’ll end up Queen of Athens, but you had to stick your pointy-headed nostrils into my affairs. Butt out, you freak. I can take care of myself.”

The sight was surely comical; diminutive little girl staring down the fierce Minotaur and, truly, at the time, I almost burst out laughing. Of course, having the head of a bull has its benefits. I’m sure neither one of them recognized the big smile on my face. I’m sure they thought my expression to be more of a defiant sneer. Anyway, I left them to themselves. Theseus got what he deserved. Years later, I learned that he had abandoned her on that island and she had cursed him and tragedy followed. These facts are accurately reported in the current mythology. Personally, I don’t blame him for leaving her, just as I’m sure that Minos breathed a sigh of relief when he learned she’d left with Theseus.

But, enough of those two. I left them to their ways and headed west, making my way to Egypt, where I was greeted with a most unexpected reception.

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