|by Charles Kingsley|
|Stories of the heroes of ancient Greece, told in fine poetic prose. Includes accounts of Perseus who slew Medusa the Gorgon, Jason who sought the Golden Fleece, and Theseus who slew the Minotaur. By preserving the Greek spirit in the retelling of these myths, Kingsley gives us plain strength and seriousness, courage, steadfastness, and beauty. Dozens of attractive illustrations by T. H. Robinson enliven the text. Ages 9-12 |
HOW THESEUS SLEW THE MINOTAUR
 AND at last they came to Crete, and to Cnossus, beneath the
peaks of Ida, and to the palace of Minos the great king, to
whom Zeus himself taught laws. So he was the wisest of all
mortal kings, and conquered all the Ægean isles; and his
ships were as many as the sea-gulls, and his palace like a
marble hill. And he sat among the pillars of the hall, upon
his throne of beaten gold, and around him stood the speaking
statues which Daidalos had made by his skill. For Daidalos
was the most cunning of all Athenians, and he
 first invented
the plumb-line, and the auger, and glue, and many a tool with
which wood is wrought. And he first set up masts in ships,
and yards, and his son made sails for them: but Perdix his
nephew excelled him; for he first invented the saw and its
teeth, copying it from the back-bone of a fish; and invented,
too, the chisel, and the compasses, and the potter's wheel
which moulds the clay. Therefore Daidalos envied him, and
hurled him headlong from the temple of Athene: but the
Goddess pitied him, (for she loves the wise,) and changed him
into a partridge, which flits forever about the hills. And
Daidalos fled to Crete, to Minos, and worked for him many a
year, till he did a shameful deed, at which the sun hid his
face on high.
Then he fled from the anger of Minos, he and Icaros his son
having made themselves wings of feathers, and fixed the
feathers with wax. So they flew over the
 sea toward Sicily;
but Icaros flew too near the sun; and the wax of his wings
was melted, and he fell into the Icarian Sea. But Daidalos
came safe to Sicily, and there wrought many a wondrous work;
for he made for King Cocalos a reservoir, from which a great
river watered all the land, and a castle and a treasury on a
mountain, which the giants themselves could not have stormed;
and in Selinos he took the steam which comes up from the
fires of Ætna, and made of it a warm bath of vapour, to cure
the pains of mortal men; and he made a honeycomb of gold, in
which the bees came and stored their honey, and in Egypt he
made the forecourt of the temple of Hephaistos in Memphis,
and a statue of himself within it, and many another wondrous
work. And for Minos he made statues which spoke and moved,
and the temple of Britomartis, and the dancing-hall of
Ariadne, which he carved of fair white stone. And
 in Sardinia he worked for Iölaos, and in many a land beside,
wandering up and down forever with his cunning, unlovely and
accursed by men.
But Theseus stood before Minos, and they looked each other in
the face. And Minos bade take them to prison, and cast them
to the monster one by one, that the death of Androgeos might
be avenged. Then Theseus cried,—
"A boon, O Minos. Let me be thrown first to the beast. For
I came hither for that very purpose, of my own will, and not
"Who art thou, then, brave youth?"
"I am the son of him whom of all men thou hatest most, Ægeus
the king of Athens, and I am come here to end this matter."
And Minos pondered awhile, looking steadfastly at him, and he
thought, "The lad means to atone by his own death for his
father's sin;" and he answered at last mildly,—
 "Go back in peace, my son. It is a pity that one so brave
But Theseus said, "I have sworn that I will not go back till
I have seen the monster face to face."
And at that Minos frowned, and said, "Then thou shalt see
him; take the madman away."
And they led Theseus away into the prison, with the other
youths and maids.
But Ariadne, Minos's daughter, saw him, as she came out of her
white stone hall; and she loved him for his courage and his
majesty, and said, "Shame that such a youth should die!" And
by night she went down to the prison, and told him all her
heart; and said,—
"Flee down to your ship at once, for I have bribed the guards
before the door. Flee, you and all your friends, and go back
in peace to Greece; and take me, take me with you! for I dare
not stay after you are gone; for my father will
 kill me
miserably, if he knows what I have done."
And Theseus stood silent awhile; for he was astonished and
confounded by her beauty: but at last he said, "I cannot go
home in peace, till I have seen and slain this Minotaur, and
avenged the deaths of the youths and maidens, and put an end
to the terrors of my land."
"And will you kill the Minotaur? How, then?"
"I know not, nor do I care: but he must be strong if he be
too strong for me."
Then she loved him all the more, and said, "But when you have
killed him, how will you find your way out of the labyrinth?"
"I know not, neither do I care: but it must be a strange
road, if I do not find it out before I have eaten up the
Then she loved him all the more, and said,
 "Fair youth, you
are too bold; but I can help you, weak as I am. I will give
you a sword, and with that, perhaps, you may slay the beast;
and a clue of thread, and by that, perhaps, you may find your
way out again. Only promise me, that if you escape safe, you
will take me home with you to Greece; for my father will
surely kill me, if he knows what I have done."
Then Theseus laughed, and said, "Am I not safe enough now?"
And he hid the sword in his bosom, and rolled up the clue in
his hand; and then he swore to Ariadne, and fell down before
her, and kissed her hands and her feet; and she wept over him
a long while, and then went away; and Theseus lay down and
And when the evening came, the guards came in and led him
away to the labyrinth.
And he went down into that doleful
 gulf, through winding
paths among the rocks, under caverns, and arches, and
galleries, and over heaps of fallen stone. And he turned on
the left hand, and on the right hand, and went up and down,
till his head was dizzy; but all the while he held his clue.
For when he went in he had fastened it to a stone, and left
it to unroll out of his hand as he went on; and it lasted him
till he met the Minotaur, in a narrow chasm between black
And when he saw him he stopped awhile, for he had never seen
so strange a beast. His body was a man's; but his head was
the head of a bull; and his teeth were the teeth of a lion;
and with them he tore his prey. And when he saw Theseus he
roared, and put his head down, and rushed right at him.
But Theseus stept aside nimbly, and as he passed by, cut him
in the knee; and ere he could turn in the narrow path,
 he followed him, and stabbed him again and again from behind,
till the monster fled bellowing wildly; for he had never before
felt a wound. And Theseus followed him at full speed,
holding the clue of thread in his left hand.
Then on, through cavern after cavern, under dark ribs of
sounding stone, and up rough glens and torrent-beds, among
the sunless roots of Ida, and to the edge of the eternal
snow, went they, the hunter and the hunted, while the hills
bellowed to the monster's bellow.
And at last Theseus came up with him, where he lay panting on
a slab among the snow, and caught him by the horns, and
forced his head back, and drove the keen sword through his
Then he turned, and went back limping and weary, feeling his
way down by the clue of thread, till he came to the mouth of
that doleful place; and saw waiting for him, whom but Ariadne!
 And he whispered "It is done!" and showed her the sword; and
she laid her finger on her lips, and led him to the prison,
and opened the doors, and set all the prisoners free, while
the guards lay sleeping heavily; for she had silenced them
Then they fled to their ship together, and leapt on board,
and hoisted up the sail; and the night lay dark around them,
so that they passed through Minos's ships, and escaped all
safe to Naxos; and there Ariadne became Theseus's wife.
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