theseus, minotaur, ostia antica, roman sculpture

Inside The Maze: The Legend of the Minotaur

Here it is less than three weeks from Release Day for The Maze: Book Three of the Osteria Chronicles, I’ve got all the absolute final versions loaded (and by “final,” I mean “if I have to proofread this book once more I will gouge my eyes out”), the pre-orders are trickling in, and I only just realized I’ve never told you the story behind the main plot line of the book. Plus, I’ve never made use of all these photos of statues of Theseus and the Minotaur I’ve been taking!

Silly me!

Although there are some minor plot lines going on such as certain gods hoping to take over the world, and plenty of set ups for events that will occur in Books Four and Five, the heart of The Maze a re-imagining of the legend of the Minotaur.

As with The Trials of Hercules and The Voyage, although the basic story and outcomes are essentially the same as in the original Greek legends, I’ve had fun changing some aspects of the myth of the Minotaur to better fit the world of Osteria, to match how my characters would normally behave, and to tie together the narrative of the series. And as with the first two books in the series, I’ve taken a rather straightforward myth and brought it to life.

Warning: if you don’t already know the legend of the Minotaur, the following does contain spoilers of events in The Maze. If you want to read just about the legend, read the paragraphs marked with “L“. The paragraphs marked with “B” explain a little of how the story changes in the book.

The Myth of the Minotaur Vs. The Maze

L In the original myth, Poseidon tricks Pasiphae—the wife of Minos, king of Crete—into making love to a bull (talk about kinky). This results in her giving birth to the Minotaur, a creature with the head of a bull and body of a man whose palate is only satisfied with human flesh. Minos locks the beast in an underground maze built by Daedalus. When his true-born son is killed, Minos demands the other city-states of Greece pay him tribute by sending seven men and seven women each year to be sacrificed to the Minotaur.

As you’ll see in The Maze, Minos (who you’ll remember from his part in The Trials of Hercules) is single and Pasiphae is working for war-hungry Ares and the avaricious and ambitious Osteria Council. When Minos refuses to give over his army to Pasiphae, she blackmails him and sends the Minotaur as punishment hoping he’ll cave in to her demands. As with the first two books, I simply can’t have time dragging on that long so the groups of sacrifices come within weeks of each other.

theseus, minotaur, ostia antica, roman sculpture

Theseus defeating a rather wimpy looking minotaur at Ostia Antica.

L In the legend, Theseus (who had a little cameo in The Voyage) vows to put an end to this savagery and heads off to Crete to kill the Minotaur. Before Theseus leaves, his father, Aegeus (king of Attica), tells him to return with his ship sailing under white sails if he succeeds, instead of the black sails ships normally sailed under.

B In The Maze, Aegeus’s new wife wants Theseus gone in the hope that her unborn child will be named heir. She’s clever enough to get Theseus to “volunteer.” Since Theseus will travel overland (with two of my favorite characters: Iolalus and Odysseus), there are no sails involved.

L Back to the legend…In Crete, Minos’s daughter, Ariadne, falls in love with Theseus and helps him by sneaking him a rope so he can find his way out of the maze once he kills the beast with a sword she has also given him. Theseus slays the Minotaur and makes it out thanks to her. Knowing her father will be outraged when he discovers her part in helping, Ariadne leaves with Theseus. When they stop on the island of Naxos, Theseus forgets Ariadne and leaves her behind (what a guy!). Luckily, Dionysus finds her there and they fall in love.

theseus, minotaur, greek myth, V&A, london

I’m not quite sure what Theseus is doing to the Minotaur in this state at London’s V&A Museum, but it looks more than a little naughty.

B I won’t give too much away about what happens in the book, but in The Maze, Ariadne is one of Minos’s priestesses and she does indeed give Theseus a little help (the scenes while ehe was in the maze were my favorite to write!). However, this help isn’t her own idea since by this point in the series you should know that the gods will meddle in anything they can, especially if it profits them. The meddlesome gods also allowed me to keep Theseus from being a forgetful jerk while still getting him to leave Ariadne behind (which will lead to some troublesome events in Books Four and Five).

L Finally, the legend wraps up with Theseus the hero sailing into Crete. I guess the Greeks enjoyed heroes who suffer from memory issues because Theseus forgets to switch his black sails to white. Aegeus, watching from the shore, assumes this means his son and heir is dead. In grief, he leaps to his death. Theseus then becomes king of Attica.

B I won’t detail exactly what happens upon Theseus’s return in The Maze, but let’s just say his stepmom is not happy to see him return.

If this has you craving more of The Maze, please enjoy these sample chapters from the book: The Maze Sample (PDF).

Thanks for stopping by, everyone. I look forward to any bullish comments so don’t forget to leave one!! Finn McSpool and I will be back Saturday with our encounters with some dangerous islanders.

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7 thoughts on “Inside The Maze: The Legend of the Minotaur

  1. crawcraftsbeasties says:

    Ooooh, exciting! I always enjoyed the story of the Minotaur, so I can’t wait to read how the Osterians deal with him… Although I will confess that I skipped the spoilers here too – thanks for your handy labelling system! 😀 Hey, did your research ever turn up a reason for why the Minotaur enjoys snacking on human flesh so much? I never really understood that part… 🤔

    Liked by 1 person

    • painterwrite says:

      You know I did watch a documentary about the possible explanations and realities of Greek myths, and the episode about the Minotaur said the whole flesh nibbling thing may have to do with the ancient Greeks wanting to put a face (or head with horns) on man’s baser nature and a taboo practice. And then somehow it got tied up into the bull-related Mithras cult rituals. The series was a little cheesy, but was really informative…and happened to be what got me started on the Hercules story. Glad the spoiler alerts helped! 😉

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