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Children's & Fantasy/Sci-Fi Books

Meet the Monsters – Minotaurs

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Meet the Monsters is a web series providing background on the mythological creatures featured in MONSTER GOOSE NURSERY RHYMES.

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MINOTAURS

According to Greek mythology, minotaurs are strong, man-eating creatures with the head of a bull and the body of a human. The original Minotaur lived within a labyrinth created by Daedalus* for King Minos of Crete. The Minotaur was the monstrous offspring of the white Cretan Bull (a gift from Poseidon to Minos) and Minos’s wife Pasiphaë (who Poseidon made fall in love with the bull as punishment for Minos’s disrespect for Poseidon. It was only much later that the word “minotaur” came to represent a species of fantasy creatures.

*Recall Daedalus later created wings for his son Icarus, who ignored his father’s advice and flew too close to the sun, with disastrous results.

minotaur01Conflicting legends tell that Minos’s son Androgeus was either killed by the Athenians, or by the Cretan Bull at Marathon. Minos waged a war of vengeance against Athens and won. Minos’s cruel revenge included a demand for seven boys and seven maidens be periodically sent to be fed to the Minotaur. Prince Theseus, son of the Athenian king Aegeus, volunteered to fight the Minotaur. It was agreed upon his successful return that he would put up a white sail. If he died, his crew was to hoist a black sail.

Upon Theseus’s arrival in Crete, Ariadne, the daughter of Minos, fell in love with Theseus, and aided him in navigating the labyrinth using a ball of thread (knowing full well the futility of a bread crumb trail). Theseus slayed the Minotaur and sailed home. BUT, he forgot to put up a white sail. King Aegeus, seeing no white sail, assumed Theseus had died, and jumped into the thereafter eponymously named Aegean Sea. The Greeks are really into the whole tragic tale thing, no?

Minotaurs appear in the movies Time Bandits, The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior, and Wrath of the Titans, in the tabletop games Dungeons & Dragons and Warhammer, and in the books INFERNO by Dante, SEDUCTION OF THE MINOTAUR by Anais Nin, THE LIGHTNING THIEF by Rick Riordan, THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE by C.S. Lewis, and MONSTER GOOSE NURSERY RHYMES by Henry Herz.
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Pasiphaë and the Minotaur, Attic red-figure kylix found at Etruscan Vulci (Cabinet des Médailles, Paris)

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The Minotaur in the Labyrinth, engraving of a 16th-century CE gem in the Medici Collection in the Palazzo Strozzi, Florence

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William Blake’s image of the Minotaur to illustrate Inferno XII

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Detail of a paved floor in Conímbriga, Portugal, showing a minotaur

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Minotaur bust (National Archaeological Museum of Athens)

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Sculpture of Theseus and the Minotaur by Antoine-Louis Barye

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Theseus fighting the Minotaur, mosaic from Formia in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples, Italy

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Theseus slaying the Minotaur (1932), Archibald Fountain in Hyde Park, Sydney, Australia

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Theseus slays the Minotaur. Sculpture at the entrance of the Zwinger at the side of the Gemäldegalerie in Dresden, Germany

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Author: Henry Herz

Children's book author

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