Thesea and Astaurius

“Daddy, you’re telling it wrong.”
“Am I?”
Thesea smiles at her husband and daughter.
“You tell it then,” he says to the child.
“King Minos prayed to Poseidon, who sent him a magic bull but Minos didn’t sacrifice it like he was supposed to, so Aphrodite made Minos’ wife fall in love with it.”
Only the gods inflict love as a punishment, Thesea thinks.
“The bull and queen made a baby called the Minotaur.” Thesea’s glad that she’s too young to be concerned with the details. She bares her teeth and draws her fingers into claws. “It was a monster.”
“The Minotaur had a bull’s head on a man’s body.” Their son; older, placid, lacking his sibling’s drama.
“I’m telling it. Minos made Daedalus, his inventor, build the labyrinth to hold the Minotaur. He fed it human sacrifices that were sent from Athens.”
“Really?” her father asks.
“Yes, then Athens sent a prince called Theseus who was so handsome that Ariadne, Minos’ daughter, gave him a sword to kill the Minotaur and string to find his way out of the maze.”
She has no interest in being Ariadne. She leaps about pretending to be Theseus, imaginary sword in hand.
“Calm down,” Thesea puts an arm around her and draws her in. “You’ve all got it wrong. Listen and I’ll tell you what really happened.”

***

I once showed the true depths of my ignorance in public by pronouncing that I thought Picasso was rubbish.

I think of that moment with shame. I was lucky enough to visit the Picasso musuem in Malaga, Picasso’s birthplace. I won’t pretend to like or understand all of his work but I was fascinated by his Minotaur drawings. One in particular caught my eye. It’s a bit of a spoiler but if you want a look at it, it’s here on MOMA.

If you like myth based tales, “Pearls” is my version of Medusa’s story. My own favourites include “The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break” by Steven Sherrill,  “The Lost Books of the Odyssey” by Zachary Mason and “Weight” by Jeanette Winterson.

“Thesea and Astaurius” appeared in Issue 246 of  Interzone, with a striking illustration by Martin Hanford.

It was reprinted in Steve Haynes’ The Best British Fantasy 2014.

  IZ 246Thesea and Astaurius  The Best British Fantasy 2014

Reviews

Great cinematic sweeps of panorama with more Pinteresque or absurdist dialogue as if by a film directed by Jean Cocteau, recasting the Minotaur legend, where Theseus becomes Thesea, Asterius Astaurius, featuring, too,  Icarus and Daedalus. DF Lewis

An updating of the myth. See, it was never Theseus at all, that was just a disguise. With the Daedalus myth included…not to mention single-malt. Fun stuff, despite which, this isn’t primarily humor but a way to turn the elements of the story on their side as metaphor – for freedom, for tyranny, for love. An imaginative revision. Lois Tilton for Locus Online

When I reviewed Interzone 243, I highlighted Priya Sharma’s story as one of the best, and called her “one to look out for“. “Thesea and Astaurius” is, I think, the third of her stories that I’ve read, and again it steals the show. I was going to compare Sharma’s writing to sculpture, but actually I think it’s more akin to weaving. She joins threads of Greek mythology and bold ideas to retell the myth of the minotaur in an engaging and meaningful way. Beautifully told, with solid and penetrative messages. Matthew S. Dent

 

Beautiful re-telling of the Greek myth of the minotaur, told through a re-telling of the myth, which varies slightly from the myth. Sharma delicately skips over the nature of the conception (ahem) but paints a bleak picture of the works of King Minos, and his brutality. Young Thesea, virginal beauty, is raised to be a sacrifice to the minotaur, but all is not as it seems, as her fate is fated to be worse than that. However, she escapes that fate and Sharma creates a new myth with sfnal elements that pleases. Mark Watson at Best SF

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