What is a Monster?
The dictionary definition is broad, with four different meanings for monster.
One, legendary creatures that combine aspects of animals and humans — like centaurs, griffins and werewolves
Two, anything that is huge, gigantic or oversized
Three, any animal or human that deviates from the norm in size, shape, character or behavior
Four, a person who inspires fear and horror with evil, cruelty or wicked behavior
There are a whole lot of monsters out there! This month, I’ll endeavor to share my thoughts on a variety of monsters and monstrous creatures. Every culture has monsters and monster stories. By flickering torchlight in the cave of Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc, I’m sure monster stories were shared with a backdrop of bison cave paintings.
Myths and fables are filled with fascinating monsters. Some have magical powers and others live with curses. They are ALL great starting points for stories. Long before I started writing my Candy’s Monsters series, I fell in love with Greek Mythology.
As a young teenager, I was very fond of the story of the story of Ariadne (the daughter of King Minos), Theseus and the Minotaur. Ariadne helps the hero Theseus kill the half human/half bull monster, by giving Theseus a string that he uses to find his way back to the entrance of the Minotaur’s labyrinth. A string was certainly a better navigational tool than Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumbs and — for someone like me with a dreadful sense of direction — it was very appealing. I wouldn’t walk around a labyrinth without one!
Of course Theseus, like many heroes in Greek myths, turned out to be less than heroic in romance. He dumped Ariadne after they escaped her father’s kingdom. In most versions of the myth, she becomes the mortal wife of the God Dionysos and she often turns up on vases surrounded by dancing Satyrs and Maenads. Marrying the god of wine is a definite upgrade over life with a deadbeat hero.
What about the monster?
I don’t think the Minotaur ever got a fair shake in the story. His origin goes back a generation to King Minos before he won the throne of Crete. Minos, jockeying for the crown with his brothers, prayed to Poseidon for a white bull, figuring that the appearance of such a creature would demonstrate that the gods picked him as king. He promised to sacrifice the bull, but it was just too beautiful, so he sacrificed the best bull from his herd instead. Poseidon was not happy with the substitute and made Minos’ wife, Pasipha, fall in love with the bull.
Now that is a serious kind of revenge.
Pasipha asked Daedalus (the most famous architect in the ancient world) to build her a wooden cow. Pasipha hid inside the wooden cow and had sex with the beautiful white bull. Then Pasipha gave birth to the Minotaur — with the head and tail of a bull and the body of a man, plus a disturbing appetite for human flesh. Daedalus was brought back to build a labyrinth for the Minotaur and every year seven youths and seven maidens were led to the labyrinth where they became the Minotaur’s buffet.
The Minotaur is a true monster on many levels. He’s a classic human/animal hybrid; he deviates from the norms of appearance and behavior; and he inspires monstrous fear. Most of the time he’s also depicted as HUGE. So he’s a monster four times over.
All in all, the Minotaur is a monster’s monster.