Sunday, February 24, 2013

Greek Myths, Part 2: Trapped

In the debate between fate and free will, the idea that free will is just an illusion is a main point of argument.  For the characters in stories, clearly they have no free will as they must do whatever the story dictates, but we still act as if they are the one's making the choices, whether they be positive or negative.  "Theseus and the Minotaur" is technically the first part of this miniseries, so it shows our Storyteller and Dog becoming trapped in the infamous Labyrinth while escaping those they have wronged.  This inspires the Storyteller to relate the most famous tale of the maze, in which the choices made by the characters cause their misfortune.

As seen in "Perseus," those who try to run from fate are doomed.  This story presents two instances of men with shameful secrets that they'd prefer to keep hidden.  The first is King Aegeus, who fathers Theseus with a common woman and leaves her, forbidding her from revealing his secret.  Years later, when Theseus yearns to learn of his parentage, he tracks down the King of Athens, who has since married the witch Medea.  Medea tries to poison Theseus so that her own children can remain the heirs to the throne, but Aegeus stops her plans.  As a result, she curses the two, promising that they will find grief at the end of the year.

Don't mess with Medea.

Meanwhile, in Crete, another king is keeping his own son hidden.  King Minos is the father to the half-man, half-bull Minotaur and keeps him locked in the Labyrinth.  Daughters and sons are continually brought into the Labyrinth as prisoners, and soon meet death at the hands of the Minotaur.  Only his sister Ariadne sees the man behind the monster, and tries to keep his humanity alive with secret visits.

Like Beauty and the Beast, if they were siblings.

When Theseus learns of these horrible sacrifices, he travels to Crete, planning to defeat the Minotaur.  Ariadne helps him traverse the maze, knowing that he can help put the creature out of it's misery.  During the battle between the two discarded sons, Theseus gains the upper hand and, despite Ariadne's change of heart to spare her brother, he kills the Minotaur.

His only crime was being misunderstood.

Theseus then promises to marry Ariadne, but steals away to return to Athens with the head of the beast.  Ariadne is distraught and laments the man who came and ruined her life.  Theseus sails home, hearing her cries, and accidentally wraps the head of the monster in the white sail that he promised to fly when he returned home, signifying to his father that he is all right.  Aegeus waits by the sea and instead sees the black sail and leaps to his death, fearing his son as died.

And so, Theseus, now the beloved King of Athens and slayer of the Minotaur, lives the rest of his life suffering from terrible nightmares in which he remains in the maze, hunting and killing his loved ones while he takes the guise of the Minotaur.

We are trapped with the choices we make.  We build our own Labyrinth of decisions and often find ourselves trying to escape it.  As Theseus learned, you cannot run from the truth.  When you come face to face with the monster, spare it, because sometimes it is difficult to tell heroes and monsters apart.

Who will I become?

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