I’m sure that most of you, our wonderful blog readers, have already looked at the description for our upcoming summer production of Heavier than… But even though you have some idea of what our play is about, you may still be wondering what the original ancient Greek myth of the Minotaur entails…
Who is this Aster fellow? Why is he in a labyrinth? Where did he come from? Why does everyone want to kill him? Who is Icarus? And what’s this about wings???
Well, after many tiresome hours of thoughtful research (poor, poor intern), I’ve finally gathered together all of the details about the myth of the Minotaur. And I’m going to lay it all out on the table for you. Get excited.
But first, a side note…
While investigating this myth, I recognized something important about ancient Greek mythology that I feel I should tell you. Everything is interconnected. A myth is usually just a segment of a larger story. One may end, and a few key players may die, but some minor character inevitably lives on and becomes the subject of a completely different myth. After all, the Greek gods were immortal, so they had to constantly keep themselves entertained by the plight and struggle of us puny little humans.
What I’m trying to say is this: keep in mind that this is not just one myth, but a series of myths that together create one great story.
That being said, I shall now begin my tale…
To fully understand the story of Asterius the Minotaur (or Aster for short), we first begin with the life of Minos, who eventually became the King of Crete and married Pasiphae, Asterius’ mother. Minos was the son of the Phoenician princess Europa, and Zeus, the ruler of all Greek gods, who really had no intention of sticking around. He had to return to Mount Olympus. There were other gods for him to oversee. There was ambrosia to drink. There were other people’s lives that he had to intervene in. And in addition to all that, well, let me put it this way: he was the original philanderer.
So, Europa was married off to the King of Crete and Minos subsequently became a prince. After the death of the old ruler, all contenders for the throne quarreled to become king and Minos affirmed that he had in fact received the kingdom from the gods. To prove it, he declared that whatever he prayed for would be granted. While praying to Poseidon, the god of the sea, he asked for a bull to appear from the ocean, and promised to sacrifice it to the god afterwards. Suddenly, the most handsome white bull that Minos had ever seen soon appeared in the surf, so stunning that he could not bring himself to kill the animal and instead sacrificed another bull in its place. Well now, someone really should have told him not to screw with a god.
Anyways, Minos became the King of Crete but Poseidon soon figured out that he had been deluded and became completely enraged. In order to make King Minos pay for insulting him, Poseidon enlisted the help of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, who in turn enchanted Minos’ wife, Pasiphae, and created a strong lustful urge for the bull within her. Blinded by her passion, she called on the skilled inventor and architect, Daedalus, to help her. And Daedalus, being a truly ingenious inventor, pulled out all the stops for the Queen and created a wooden cow on wheels, hollowed out the inside, and sewed it up in the hide of a real cow. Talk about dedication. As you can imagine, the bull found the cow quite attractive and mated with it. But “it” was in fact Pasiphae, who had hidden inside the model. (How’s that for a plot twist?) So, their plan worked, and she eventually gave birth to Asterius, a bull-headed man who became known as the Minotaur…because humans and cows are in fact a part of the same species. Sorry, that was just my modern age scientific skepticism bursting out.
King Minos soon discovered the Queen’s betrayal and affair, and imprisoned Daedalus on the island for having used his skills for such unnatural purposes. He then forced Daedalus to construct a labyrinth so insanely complicated that no one could ever possibly find his or her way out. Minos then threw his monstrous step-son into the dark depths of the labyrinth. After this, seven male and seven female Athenian youths were chosen every nine years to be brought to the labyrinth and devoured by the Minotaur. This was the agreement that King Minos and the King of Athens reached after Minos won a war avenging his son, who had been killed in the city of Athens. Well that’s a fair punishment.
When the third sacrifice approached, Theseus, the prince of Athens, volunteered to slay the beast. Once he landed in Crete, Minos’ daughter, Ariadne, fell madly in love with him and refused to let him perish in the terrifying labyrinth. She paid Daedalus a visit, and (against his best judgment) he gave her a ball of fine silver thread. Theseus was then able to leave a traceable path as he plunged deeper into the foreboding darkness. When he finally entered the center of the labyrinth, he slaughtered Asterius pretty easily.
And so the dangerous Minotaur was foiled by an equally frightening ball of thread.
But what of Daedalus and his son, Icarus?
Well, Minos found out about Daedalus’ treason, of course, and imprisoned both the architect and his son in the labyrinth for what-was-meant-to-be all of eternity. Daedalus, sly inventor that he was, somehow managed to create two sets of wings out of feathers and wax and the pair were finally able to escape the treacherous island. But Icarus was young and foolish, and flew up higher that his father ever dared to go. As he soared higher through the clouds, the wax on his wings melted, and he plunged to his watery death. Heartbroken, and knowing that his son could not be saved, Daedalus flew on.
And that is the end of the story. A thousand words later, you’re an expert on all things Minotaur-related. Now that you’ve read the ancient Greek account, come experience a complete re-envisioning of the tale with us. Heavier than… opens on July 23rd and runs until August 21st.