Ariadne

This is a post for my March book challenge, #marchmonthofmythology.

A Minotaur, a Labyrinth, and a feud between cities

Ariadne was a princess, the daughter of king Minos of Crete. On their island lived the half-bull, half-human Minotaur, the offspring of queen Pasiphaë and a bull (I feel another weird myth coming up). As the Minotaur had the nasty habit of eating human flesh, he was locked away in a labyrinth built by legendary inventor Daedalus. You’d think a Minotaur in a labyrinth would be an inconvenience, but Minos found a way to make use of both. There had been a conflict with Athens, you see, which Crete had won. Because of this, Athens was now forced to pay tribute to Crete, either every nine years or every seven years, by sending fourteen Athenian youths – seven boys and seven girls – into the Labyrinth.

A hero arises (but he needs some help)

After this had occurred three times, Theseus, the son of king Aegeus of Athens, decided to go along as one of the tributes (insert Hunger Games joke here) and kill the Minotaur. He promised his father that, when he sailed back, he would switch the ship’s black sails for white ones, so Aegeus would know immediately that everything had gone well. He would hide his sword under his tunic, slay the monster, and, well, he’d figure out a way to escape the Labyrinth somehow.

When the Athenians arrived on the island, Theseus caught Ariadne’s eye and she fell in love. Determined to help him, she payed a visit to Daedalus. He told her what the quickest way to the Minotaur was, and gave her a spool of red string to give to Theseus: this would be his way out. Before the Athenians entered the Labyrinth, Ariadne met with Theseus, repeated Daedalus’s instructions, and gave him the string, telling him to fasten it to the entrance of the Labyrinth. Theseus promised to bring Ariadne home with him to Athens.

Theseus breaks his promise

With the instructions, the red string, and his hidden sword, Theseus’ job was easy (well, sort of – it was still quite a challenge to slay the Minotaur). He escaped the Labyrinth following the string he’d let trail behind him, all the way back to the door, where his fellow tributes were waiting. Along with Ariadne, the Athenians left Crete on the ship that had brought them there.

When they were halfway there, they stopped to rest on the beach of an island. Theseus was awakened before dawn, however, by the goddess Athena, who instructed him to move on. Either because Athena told him so, or because he was an asshole (or perhaps both), Theseus did not wake up Ariadne and sailed away without her. He unfortunately also forgot to change the black sails to white ones. King Aegeus, on the lookout for the ship on top of a high cliff, saw the black sails, thought his son was dead, and jumped off the cliff to his death. The stretch of sea he fell into is still known as the Aegean Sea.

Ariadne gets something out of it after all

When Ariadne woke up that day she was alone, abandoned on an island with no way of going anywhere, and without any idea why. She searched the beach, calling out for Theseus, panicking more and more as time went by. Somewhere on Mount Olympus, or wherever he was at the moment, Dionysus heard her calling. The god fell in love with the girl and married her, and even ended up saving her from the Underworld when she died. She still lives on Mount Olympus with the gods.

Ariadne – a character who deserved better

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I think we can all agree that after the help she gave Theseus, Ariadne deserved way more than to be left behind on some random island. Luckily, Dionysus thought so too. Other characters who deserved better: all of the Starks from A Song of Ice and Fire. Someone (G. R. R. Martin) give them a break, please! I just want them to be happy… the ones that are still alive, at least…

 

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