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Myths and Symbols Assessment Task One
Theseus and the Minotaur by Gabrielle Squires
ID: 273926
There are several different versions of the Myth surrounding Theseus and the Minotaur, all however
contain the basic ‘Journey’ of Christopher Vogler’s ‘A Writers Journey’. There is not a great amount
of connection between Vogler’s beliefs in the hero system and what actually happened, there is
enough however to successfully understand the basis for every hero tale ever made, even dating so
far back as to ancient Greek Mythology. The most well known version of Theseus and the Minotaur
is based around the commands of a King Minos. Minos orders that every nine years, seven Athenian
boys and Seven Athenian girls be sent to Crete; whereupon their arrival they would be sent into the
Great Maze to be devoured by the Minotaur.
Like most myths the journey does not begin with The Ordinary World, mainly because Myths begin
without needing to portray a more human like quality to the Hero (Theseus). It is simply accepted
that he is a hero, that and it is assumed that the origin of Theseus is already known (Demi-God). This
particular Myth begins with Theseus volunteering to slay the monster, his Call to Adventure never
really disputed with a Refusal of the Call. Most likely because according to similar stories
surrounding Theseus; he was similar in stature to Hercules and Perseus, without fear or real
hesitation regarding his role in life. Proclaiming to his father Aegeus that when he returned
successful, he would return with the colours white for a sail; Aegeus would know he was alive and
had not been devoured. Theseus then takes the place of one of the youths sentenced to death; it is
assumed that considering the young age of the selected youths (fifteen to eighteen) he was in fact
quite youthful at the time. Vogler is correct in stating that nearly all hero tales come with the aid of a
Mentor, in this case it is Ariadne the daughter of King Minos, who gifts Theseus with a ball of string
to enable him to find his way out of the Maze. Generally the Mentor represents a higher version of
the hero, somebody who may have tried to undergo the task set but failed, then used their
knowledge to assist the hero. Ariadne is no such character; she is what modern wording would
consider selfish or vain. Not requiring Theseus to prove himself to gain her favour, she is completely
willing of her role unlike many different Mentors in separate Greek Myths. The First Threshold is one
that has several versions; one believes that Ariadne gave Theseus the string in exchange for freedom
from Crete, so that the entire world could worship at her beauty, rather than just Crete. She then
showed him to the maze so he may attempt slaughter of the Minotaur, however not without giving
him the advice from Daedalus (creator of the Minotaur) gave to her. The other version believes that
Theseus was not alone when he entered the maze; he was escorted there by guards along with the
other youths to be sacrificed. When the guards locked them in, he then tasked the others with
keeping the other end of the string safe while he searched through the maze, thus guaranteeing his
safe return upon the beasts’ slaughter. Unlike Vogler’s theory that this should represent a point at
which the Hero (Theseus) might feel fear or hesitation at entering the maze, Theseus presents none;
possibly because he believes himself to be blessed by the gods. The Road of Trials for Theseus was
reasonably simple and contained nothing beyond following the advice of Daedalus to go forwards,
always down and never right to eventually locate the Minotaur. The Ordeal in which Vogler writes
that in some cases a hero may experience a taste of death, which can give them a greater
understanding of life. However as Theseus and the Minotaur is a Mythical tale, it does not highlight
exactly what went on while they fought, except ‘a tremendous fight then occurred’, which could of
course mean that everything Vogler believes happens in The Ordeal did happen. If the story were
told in movie or TV setting, it would no doubt contain many of Vogler’s theories. The main one
portraying a change in the character as he prepares to fight the beast; or nearly dies (Taste of death)
which normally brings about an elation of emotion for audience. After the death of the Minotaur, in
which Theseus stabbed the beast through the throat with a sword, one he smuggled in through in
his tunic, The Reward comes into play. In Theseus’s case it was life for himself and the other youths,
but also the promised rescue of Ariadne and in turn her younger sister Phaedra from Crete.
According to Vogler’s theories, The Reward could have been anything from a realisation from the
Hero that he does want to live, or the initiation of Theseus into a True God rather than a Demi God,
similar in the was Hercules gained his God-dom. At this point in the myth it was expected that there
should have been a celebration or a love scene between Ariadne and Theseus. But that is quickly
altered when on The Road Back the boat they escaped on makes dock at a beach, Theseus is
ordered by the goddess Athena to leave Ariadne and Phaedra behind when they set sail. Theseus
stricken by grief, as he had fallen in love with Ariadne, does as Athena commands. Because Theseus
and the Minotaur is a myth rather than fiction book, it does not contain a great chase or escaping
villain at the end; it is simply an ending to a story with no expectation of continuation.
Vogler states that for a story to feel complete it must have ‘closure’ for the audience, Theseus and
the Minotaur is lacking in this regard, as like many Greek Myths it is a tragedy. For rather than
change his black sails for white ones upon his return to his home, Theseus forgets in his stricken
state. As a result Aegeus commits suicide, believing his son to be dead. In a way this could be
considered ‘closure’ for audience, especially considering Theseus’s adventure continues well past
the Minotaur trial; but it is in no way classic with its ending.