A very long time ago, a boy named Asterius was born an innocent into the world, as we all are. Unbeknownst to the boy, he was born amidst a curse, his father was not the king but his mother was the queen. The curse he was born into was born into him also, all due to the king and his games with the gods. You see, the king disrespected a god through the breaking of a promise – he tried to trick the god and, as a result, his wife was impregnated by another. The boy was born deformed due to the unnatural conception and the punishment the god was bestowing upon the king. What was the king to do but banish the boy into dark depths, starve him, drive him mad sending humans into his only home to be killed, resulting in the creation of a murderous monster.
How interesting would it have been if the story of the Minotaur were told in such a manner? After all, he was the son of the finest Cretan bull, bestowed as a gift by the god Poseidon and a Queen; he had components of a human and yet his story was written in a manner that focuses on his monstrous nature.
The story of the Minotaur begins with the King of Crete, Minos, who prayed to Poseidon for a bull that he would sacrifice as a display of gratitude for an answered prayer. Poseidon sent him a fine bull that the King was in awe of and he decided that a different bull should be sacrificed instead. This decision was not appreciated by Poseidon and so the god aggravated the fine bull and placed an affliction upon the king’s wife, so that she would be enthralled by the bull and desire it. With the assistance of an architect by the name of Daedalus, Queen Pasiphae, was placed inside a manufactured cow to trick the fine bull into mating with it. They succeeded in their plans and the Queen became pregnant with the Minotaur and birthed her son, naming him Asterius. The very architect who had assisted in the building of a mechanical cow, built the Labyrinth in which the king banished the half-human, half-bull offspring. As a punishment, the king would send humans inside the Labyrinth, to be lost in its twisting mazes until they ran across the Minotaur whereby their lives would end.
King Minos, sent Asterius into a labyrinth specially created to keep all who enter, stuck. Liane Posthumus argues how the isolation that the Minotaur was subjected to, symbolised the separation by which the Minotaur existed, apart from communal life, society and people. This isolation and division between this offspring and society is the very aspect by which his humanity is diminished and his animalistic side is fully realised.
How different would life have been had he been treated as a human? Is nurture the answer here to the creation of a human? It is unclear as to whether it was the animalistic side of the Minotaur that led to the murder and devouring of the victims sent into his labyrinth, or was it the starvation, the isolation into a darkness, both literal and symbolic, that led to the lack of human contact to guide and teach.
The Minotaur was born in a human and completely natural manner and had the body of a human. Symbolically, this is some indication of his natural human qualities. After all, he was the offspring of a queen. Perhaps the fact that it was the body that was human, not the head, that was the downfall. The body of a human is weaker than that of a bull’s and the head of a bull is weaker than that of a human, intellectually speaking of course. Must we then conclude that this creature, due to a lack of human intellect, possessing instead the psychological drives of an aggressive animal, was doomed from birth to be living the life of a monster?
Or, must we look deeper, is this story an example of the animalistic tendencies of humans, not those displayed by the Minotaur but that of the king? The king disobeyed the gods and literature shows that it was the king’s decision, alongside the guidance of oracles, to banish the Minotaur. Was the king, and not the Minotaur, the true monster living amongst the community? The Minotaur may have shown animalistic qualities physically, but was that the deception; that we must not look at what is shown on the outside, but that which is inside?
A very long time ago, a boy named Asterius, with the heart of a human was banished into the dark depths and the human was never to be seen again.