I did it! I killed the monster!


By Aliki Ammerman


It took me a long time to reach Athens and the palace of my father Aegeus. It was about time, too; I could not take any more crooks and murderers lurking on the road.

My father did not recognize me, of course.  He had never seen me. But he saw his old sword in my hand, and knew immediately who I was. “Welcome to Athens, Theseus,” he said. “I’m happy to see you at last, my son!”

Despite his joy at seeing me, my father was sad.

“Forgive me, Theseus,” he said. I should be celebrating your arrival, but my heart is full of sorrow. It’s time to send our annual tribute to Minos. Seven girls and seven boys will travel to Knossos, to be thrown to the labyrinth where the Minotaur lives. He will eat them all one by one. I wish there was a way to stop this outrage.”

I never had a second thought. “I will go along and kill the monster,” I said, “leave it to me, father.”

In a few days, our ship was ready. We got on board, and our captain raised the black sails, while the citizens of Athens stood weeping on the shore. “If you kill the Minotaur,” my father said, “take down the black sails and put up white ones. This way I will know you are all safe.”

That was an easy promise to make, and I made it.

When we got to Knossos, Minos waited for us on the dock. He took our weapons and led us to the palace, which was like an enormous city. What’s the labyrinth like? I wondered. Everyone in Athens said it was like a maze: there was no way out of it, once you got in. I began to worry about the task I had ahead of me. Could I carry it through?

During the night, I went around looking for the labyrinth. There were guards everywhere, but I knew how to escape their attention. Eventually I found a set of steps going down to the basement, and came to a closed door. “This may be the entrance,” I thought. “But where is the exit?” I walked around for a long time and found none, so I came back to where my fellow Athenians lay asleep.

I had just drifted into sleep myself, when a slight noise woke me up. A woman motioned me to go near. Ariadne: the daughter of Minos. By Zeus, she was beautiful!

“I came to help you,” she whispered, but my father will kill me if he finds out. You have to take me with you when you go. Promise!”

“I do,” I said. “I will take you with me, Ariadne.”

“The labyrinth is at the bottom of the steps over there,” she pointed. “Take this sword and this ball of string. Unwind the string as you go along; when you kill the Minotaur, start winding it up. When you get out run to the boat as quickly as you can.”

I woke up the boys and girls, and told them to go quietly to the port, and wait in our boat. Then I walked to the labyrinth; I took a deep breath, and opened the door. I did as Ariadne said. I walked in the dark for some time, and finally heard the Minotaur. I walked faster, and there he was. My blood froze in my veins. He was enormous, ugly, and frightful. The rumors were true! His body was that of a man’s, but his head was a bull’s head.

As soon as he saw me, he lunged at me and almost pushed his horns through my chest. But I was fast with my sword. It went through his heart like a knife goes through a ripe melon. He was dead in a minute.

I didn’t wait. I took the end of the string and began to wind it as I ran back. I was out sooner than I expected. I dashed to the boat and ordered the captain to move fast.

A fine wind helped us get to Naxos in good time, and we all went on shore to stretch our legs. I guess I dozed off. How else did I get to see Athena, my patroness? She came close to me and said, “you must go away now, Theseus, and leave Ariadne here. She’ll be alright.”

And so we sailed away while Ariadne was asleep on the beach. I was not happy, but I had to do Athena’s bidding.

In awhile, the thought of getting back home to Athens, filled my heart with joy. I would see my father again, and all of us were alive and well.

Getting close to Phaliron, I saw the Athenians waiting for us on the beach. “I did it! I killed the monster!” I shouted at them. But they stood in silence. Nobody cheered! What was going on?

Then I saw it. All hands were pointing at it: the black sail. In our rush to come home, we forgot to change the black sail.

“Where is my father?” I asked.

“He is dead, my boy,” an old man said. “He saw the black sail, and could not stand his grief. He jumped off the bastion of the Acropolis.”

The news stunned me and I did not move; my joy was wiped out clean. Was this punishment from the gods? Were they angry because I left Ariadne in Naxos? I will never know.

And what good would it do now, if I did?



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