Far away in the Mediterranean Sea, you can find a very old and rich island called Crete. A long time ago, it was ruled by King Minos. He was married to Pasiphaë, who gave birth to many princes and princesses, such as their beautiful daughters, Phaedra and Ariadne. But their happiness couldn’t stay unstained: one unhappy day, Minos forgot to honor Poseidon, the god of all the seas, well-known for his resentment. And the god decided to punish the mortal, by making the queen fall in love with the white bull he was supposed to receive as a present. The queen couldn’t do anything against the god’s will, the curse was too strong to resist. And from this monstrous love was born an extraordinary creature: it had the body of a man, and the head of a bull. This monster, Ariadne’s half-brother, was named Asterion, but everyone knows him under the name of Minotaur. The king was so ashamed he decided to hide him away from his people. He hoped nobody would ever discover his wife’s son. At first, she wanted to raise him as an equal to his brothers and sisters, but quickly, she discovered it would be impossible: as he grew up, he became cruel and brutish. The Minotaur was dangerous, even for his own family. So the king decided to call Dedalus, a genius architect, for help, and he gave him his orders:
“You will build a prison from where no one will ever be able to escape.”
And Dedalus built the Labyrinth, a maze so complicated nobody could find their way once they were inside. This is where Minos locked up the Minotaur, hoping to hide away both his fear and his shame, and to protect his kingdom from the barbaric creature.
Another unhappy day, some time after these events, Androgeos, one of Minos’ sons, was assassinated by some young Athenians, because he won every trophy during the Panathenaic Games. He was murdered just because of envy and jealousy. Minos, mad with anger, decided to get his revenge: he went on war against the Greek city, and vanquished its people. Once it was under his power, he required from the king Aegeus a retribution for his son’s death:
“Every seven years, Athens will send to Crete the seven bravest young men and the seven most beautiful maidens to be sacrificed for the Minotaur.”
The Athenian king had no choice: every seven years, fourteen youths were chosen to calm down Minos’ wrath and the Minotaur’s rage.
You should know that Aegeus had a son, a brave and strong young man, who had already accomplished many deeds, and was ruling Athens with his father. His name was Theseus, and he could not stand how unjust Minos was: he could not send innocent boys and girls to such a cruel death. Thus he took an important decision:
“Father, he said, let me go to Crete with the others next time. I will find the Minotaur, and kill him so that our city will be free again!”
And he left, to free his people from the Cretan domination. The king welcomed him in his palace, but laughed at him for his temerity when Theseus told him why he was here.
“You? he said. You think you can kill the Minotaur? You think you can find your way in the labyrinth, when no one has ever got back? Many left, none came back. Don’t even try, go back to Athens! It’s not worth it.”
Theseus, his mind set up on his idea, didn’t even think about giving up. He wanted to save the young Athenians. He was clever, he would find a way out! But this way out was offered to him from a support he did not expect: as soon as she saw him speaking to her father, Ariadne, one of the Cretan princesses, fell deeply in love with the Greek hero, and decided she would do anything to help him accomplish his mission. When Theseus was alone, she went to him and said:
“I am ready to help you kill the Minotaur, and get out of the Labyrinth. It’s easy, take this ball of thread: you’ll just have to follow the thread to find your way out once you’re done with the Minotaur.
– Thank you for your help. But why are you doing this? What do you want from me, whom city is under your father’s rules?
– Promise me to marry me and take me to Greece with you.”
Theseus, seduced by her beauty and her willingness to help him, agreed to marry her once he has killed the monster that terrorized both the Cretans and the Athenians. He took the ball of thread, and went inside the Labyrinth. Quickly, he found the Minotaur, and after a violent fight, he managed to take his life. He got out the prison as a victorious hero, following Ariadne’s thread. And there she was, waiting for him!
And both of them sailed away, alongside the Athenian youths Theseus had saved. They were on the way to the Greek city, where they would be married, but the fates decided otherwise. At some point, they had to stop to get some food and water. But once on the island of Dia, Theseus saw that a storm was going to burst, and he gathered the others to leave promptly. Unfortunately, Ariadne was sleeping, and didn’t hear his call. Theseus forgot the maiden on the beach, and sailed away to Greece without her. When she awoke, she could still see the boat, far away on the sea. She was so heartbroken she was ready to let herself die by the sea. A young playful god, Dionysos, who was incidentally passing by, noticed her crying and his heart filled up with compassion and love at this sight. He began consoling her, and did so well that she agreed on following him to Lemnos and marrying him. As a wedding present, Dionysos, overjoyed, gave her a golden crown, made by Hephaistos, and placed it among the stars in the sky. By night you can still watch it sparkle in the constellation of the Northern Crown. And being wed to the god, Ariadne lived eternally happy at his side.
Written and illustrated by Janyce.
As the French speakers got to read a tale, this was my little gift to you here. I hope you enjoyed the story of Ariadne! Also, please, let me know if you found huge spelling / grammar mistakes, I want this myth to be well told. =)
And thank you, The Common Tarte, for reading our stories and sharing our blog!