We’re doing Unit 30 from the Workbook today, which is the story of Theseus and the Minotaur. This version glosses over the part about the Minotaur’s mother being Pasiphae (Minos’ wife):
Mean-while the monster of a human-beast,
His family’s reproach, and stain, increas’d.
His double kind the rumour swiftly spread,
And evidenc’d the mother’s beastly deed.
Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book 8, 252-55.
Pasiphae, having fallen in love with the bull which Poseidon had given Minos, asked Daedalus to make a fake cow for her in which she hid so that the bull (obviously a rather thick creature) could bonk her. ([Ac] … maior con que d’autra femna nada.)
I know the story well enough, but when I got to the part where the little darlings are meant to start fleshing out elements of the story in detail, a couple of things suddenly struck me. One was how the Cretans got the Minotaur to go into the labyrinth if it was otherwise so savage; and the other was why Minos kept it alive. After all, it’s evidence of his wife’s bestial infidelity and some very advanced techniques in genetic manipulation.
As for the labyrinth, wouldn’t the Minotaur tend to get closer to the entrance because that’s where his lunch was most likely to be? And if there were fourteen people to eat, that means that the Minotaur was limited to one a month apart from his birthday and New Year. It’s no wonder Theseus defeated the creature because it was half starved most of the time. Minos was guilty of human-bovine hybrid abuse, although that’s understandable under the circumstances.
[22.10.08. It’s a year later and I’m about to teach the same unit (probably tomorrow). I note a sudden surge in hits for this particular topic; coincidence?]