Your Weekend Creature Comforts: The Minotaur
Welcome back you fiendish monster-loving fans, this weekend our creature feature comes as a special request for our buddy Biff. Of course he chose quite a legend for us to go over this weekend: The Minotaur. While some of the Greek mythological beasts we might talk about in this column are more extraneous, this monster is probably well known by those who have no familiarity with mythology in general. This creature has the head of a bull and the body of a man. It is most famously known for wandering the mazes of a great Labyrinth, and typically not something you wanted to come across while navigating said maze. Let’s see what I could dig up on this iconic creature for this week’s post.
The origins of the Minotaur in Greek legends? Well, it’s kind of gross, but the Greeks seemed pretty ok with bestiality if you read many of their ancient stories. Hopefully that’s not still the case but we might have to ask our resident Greeks on this website, of which there are a couple. So here’s the story: Minos was a king that turned for Poseidon to help him defeat his brothers, and Poseidon sent Minos a white bull that he was supposed to sacrifice in his name as tribute for his support. Sadly Minos liked the bull too much to slaughter it, so instead slaughtered one of his ordinary bulls. As punishment, a spell was cast on Minos’ wife so that she slept with the white bull, and the baby that emerged from this intercourse was the Minotaur. Seriously, why was there so much inter-species sex in ancient Greece? I might get slaughtered myself if I make a comment about what that implies with today’s Greek lineages…
OK, so getting back to the Minotaur. While he was a baby he was able to nurse from his mother, but being an unnatural abomination created by the union of a woman and a beast (at least they acknowledged it was wrong) the creature was not able to be sustained on milk. What sustenance could keep this baby alive? Human flesh…how did they come to that conclusion? Oh well, that’s how it was. To try to keep the Minotaur from devouring too man people, Minos created an elaborate labyrinth that was meant to keep the Minotaur in as much as it was to keep people out.
Now we already know that the Minotaur feeds on people, so Minos made a rival king who owed him a debt from Athens send seven youths and seven maidens to his kingdom to feed to the Minotaur every year. This is eventually how Theseus, a young warrior, heard about the monster and set about travelling to Minos’ kingdom to eventually slay the beast. And hence the Minotaur was no more.
Reading up on the Minotaur, it seems that many philosophers feel it represents man’s internal struggle with his inner beast. That is an interesting take on the creature. It is probably obvious that the bestiality associated with the monster grosses me out, but maybe it is my female persona that is so disturbed by the Minotaur. I am quite a fan of Greek mythology in general, but there is something intimidating, disgusting, and abhorrent about the Minotaur to me. Having the body of a muscular, gladiator like man seems imposing, and there is something about the monster that makes me think of the word “Rape” just like Avatar did the same for Arthur. Maybe it is that inner animal that both scares and attracts people to the Minotaur. I am not sure why it is such a famous monster, but let’s now talk about some popular culture references of the animal.
There are naturally many films that take place or try to depict ancient Greece that feature this monster: more recent films like Immortals and Wrath of the Titans give the minotaur a moment in the spotlight. There was even a 2006 film titled Minotaur that featured several of the sacrificial children being given to the beast escaping with their lives, which sadly I have never heard about. I am sure it was low budget but there is quite an extensive write up about it on Wikipedia, maybe it is worth the watch.
Straying away from the Minotaur’s traditional position in a labyrinth, I very much enjoyed the use of the creature in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. In this story the White Witch has several monstrous creatures as her supporters, and several Minotaurs serve as her minions.
If you want a spectacular blast from the past, let’s reminisce in the TV show Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. God I used to love Hercules and Xena. Well it turns out the show Hercules made a full length TV movie once, titled Hercules in the Maze of the Minotaur. Kevin Sorbo vs. the Minotaur does sound quite entertaining.
A gigantic version of a Minotaur is set lose on Percy and his friends in family in the first Percy Jackson book/movie: Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. I know these movies are really geared towards kids and are kind of corny, but if you are a lover of Greek mythology they are a really cute modern twist on some of your favorite stories.
And I just have to mention one of the most god-awful films I have ever watched with a portrayal of the Minotaur here. Your Highness features two of my favorite actors, Natalie Portman and James Franco. But don’t let their names full you, this movie also features Danny McBride, and is an atrocious film in so many ways. That being said, there is a scene where the trio must traverse a labyrinth to find a unicorn blade and they encounter one hell of a Minotaur. I mentioned earlier that there is something intimidating and sexually imposing about the Minotaur? Well this movie tried to put all of that on the big screen for you. It’s scary to think that Danny McBride and I might have felt the same way about the Minotaur.
But since I don’t want to leave you with a bad taste in your mouth after mentioning that particular version of the minotaur, I will instead end this post with a spotlight of one of my favorite book series: The Bartimeus Trilogy, which most recently had a prequel released as well. This series features one hilarious little demon that can take on almost any form he would like. Minotaurs are a particular favorite form for many demons. And why wouldn’t they be? As much as there is something disturbing about the Minotaur, I have to say it is pretty well known and powerful. While the Minotaur is not the central part of these stories, it still gives you a great vision of one, and these books are great for a good laugh and adventure. I highly recommend them.
That wraps up this week’s weekend creature post, hope you all enjoyed it, especially you Biff. Sorry if I missed out on any particularly favorite versions of the minotaur you all might have, but leave a note for me in the comments section and I will have to check it out myself some day being such a fan of Greek mythology. Until next week!
All images and characters depicted are copyright of their respective owners. Please click on the “About Us” tab for our takedown policy.