Minotaur by Phillip W. Simpson
Publication Date: September 29, 2015
“Where shall I start?” asked Minotaur.
Ovid made an expansive gesture with both hands. “Where else but the beginning of course.”
Minotaur nodded his huge head. “Yes,” he said. “Yes,” his eyes already glazing over with the weight of thousand year old memories. And then he began.
So begins the story of Asterion, later known as Minotaur, the supposed half bull creature of Greek legend. Recorded by the famous Roman poet, Ovid, Asterion tells of his boyhood in Crete under the cruel hand of his stepfather Minos, his adventures with his friend, Theseus, and his growing love for the beautiful Phaedra.And of course what really happened in the labyrinth.
This is the true story of the Minotaur.
Is there any type of fictional spin in Minotaur? What kind of research did you do on the lore and mythology?
Minotaur by Phillip W. Simpson
I definitely put a fictional spin on Minotaur. In all fairness, however, the original story was a work of fiction (in all likeliness – you never know). I took what I knew, held it up to the light, turned it this way and that. Scratched some parts, polished others. It intrigued me.
I already knew a fair amount given my background in ancient history but then I started digging deeper and deeper. I also needed someone for the Minotaur to tell his story to. A poet and a scholar from Roman times. I’d heard of Ovid before and read some of his work but I had to refresh my memory and it turned out he was perfect for the role. It was almost like I was auditioning.
I also looked at the archaeological evidence. It helped that I was once an archaeologist. I poured over maps, especially ancient ones, read up on flora and fauna and worked out geographic routes. In other words, if I had to get from this point to this point and I was on foot, what would it look like? How long would it take? What would I eat? Etc. etc.
But while I was looking into mythology and the origins of monsters, I discovered some interesting facts. It turns out that the Minotaur was a product of his time. Many mythical creatures were once believed to have actually existed. The dragon, the unicorn and the griffin were all such creatures. Some people (myself included), even hold out the forlorn hope that they still could.
Most mythical creatures were based on eye-witness accounts. Early explorers came back from their adventures with tales of strange creatures. With no-one to argue against them, many were taken at face value. The unicorn myth, for example, was started by a traveler returning with stories of the rhinoceros. Some were based on fossil evidence. Ancient miners discovered dinosaur bones, lending credence to the dragon myth.
Mythical creatures were almost always made up of two or more separate animals. If they weren’t, chances are they would be half animal, half man. This is because scholars at the time used the world around them to describe and invent the more fantastical elements. For example, the chimera was part lion, part goat and part snake. The Minotaur was half man, half bull while the centaur was half horse, half man.
Almost all mythical creatures were based on an animal or animals that exist today. Writers used none of this creative business of making up a completely different and foreign (well, to us) creature that bore no similarity whatsoever to anything else.
But, as the centuries marched on, so too did its monsters, transforming with the times. Monsters emerged with more human characteristics—both physically and mentally. In Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, the creation of Victor Frankenstein has both human appearance (although hideous) and easily recognizable human emotions, seen in his desire for acceptance, companionship and love.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula (you knew I was going to talk about him next, right?) was also recognizably human, albeit with supernaturally creepy abilities. Such as drinking blood for instance. Not that that’s an ability—more like a trait—but you get the idea.
Since then, there’s been a spate of humanesque monsters: zombies, ghosts, werewolves, demons. All have human appearance and/or emotions. Zombies are human and certainly maintain that appearance even when their only emotion is an urgent need for ‘brains’.
But it’s the ancient monsters that I have always found the most interesting, the ones I have always turned to for inspiration. The Minotaur and I go way back. He and I are old friends, it seems.
ABOUT PHILLIP W. SIMPSON:
Phillip W. Simpson is the author of many novels, chapter books and other stories for children. His publishers include Macmillan, Penguin, Pearson, Cengage, Raintree and Oxford University Press.
He received both his undergraduate degree in Ancient History and Archaeology and his Masters (Hons) degree in Archaeology from the University of Auckland.
Before embarking on his writing career, he joined the army as an officer cadet, owned a comic shop and worked in recruitment in both the UK and Australia.
His first young adult novel, Rapture (Rapture Trilogy #1), was shortlisted for the Sir Julius Vogel Awards for best Youth novel in 2012.
He is represented by Vicki Marsdon at Wordlink literary agency.
When not writing, he works as a school teacher.
Phillip lives and writes in Auckland, New Zealand with his wife Rose, their son, Jack and their two border terriers, Whiskey and Raffles. He loves fishing, reading, movies, football (soccer) and single malt Whiskeys.