Mystical tales Children

Underwater battle

Illustration: Satheesh Vellinezhi   | Photo Credit: Illustration: Satheesh Vellinezhi

We left Theseus on board the ship to Crete, along with the other Athenians to combat the Minotaur — a half-man, half-bull monster that lived in the Labyrinth. Aegeus was distraught, and Theseus promised to give him a sign on their return. If he was successful, the ship would fly white sails. If the prince and his companions were dead, the sails would be black.

At Crete, King Minos was at the harbour to receive the Athenians. When he saw Theseus, he was taken with the young man’s bearing and asked him who he was.


“I am the Prince of Athens and son of Poseidon,” replied Theseus.

To test him, Minos threw a ring from his finger into the sea and asked Theseus to retrieve it. With a prayer to Poseidon, the prince jumped into the waters. As he went under, the sea nymph Thetis gave him the ring and a crown. When Theseus surfaced with both, Minos was startled but thought that, even if Theseus killed the Minotaur, he would not be able to find his way out of the labyrinth in which the creature was housed.

However Minos’ daughter Ariadne, who had watched the proceedings, had fallen in love with Theseus.

That night, she crept into Theseus’ room and said, “I will show you how to escape the labyrinth but you must take me with you when you leave.”

When Theseus agreed, she told him what to do and gave him a ball of string.

The next day, when Theseus was sent into the labyrinth, he removed the string he had hidden in his clothes and tied one end to the door. Moving silently, he let the ball of string roll in front of him. At the centre of the maze was the Minotaur. It rushed forward bellowing but the prince dodged it. A fight ensued but Theseus managed to overpower the monster and kill it. He then followed the string back to the entrance, where he found Ariadne waiting for him.

Before sailing away with her and his fellow prisoners, Theseus knocked holes into Minos’ fleet so that the Cretans could not follow them. The Athenians halted at the island of Naxos to celebrate their escape. While everyone feasted and drank, Ariadne fell asleep. When the ship sailed, no one noticed that she was not on board. When Ariadne woke up and found herself abandoned, she began to cry. This attracted the attention of Dionysius, the god of wine, who later married her.

Back in Athens, Aegeus would go up to the tower everyday to watch for the ship from Crete. As they approached their home, Theseus and his companions had forgotten the promise to change the colour of the sails. When Aegeus saw the black sails, he was so grief stricken that he flung himself into the sea and drowned. That patch is still known as the Aegean Sea. When Theseus’ ship docked, he was met with the news that his father was no more and that he was now the king of Athens.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2022 1:52:25 PM |

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