Ariadne by Jennifer Saint
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I'm always pretty receptive to myth retellings, be they feminist (by far the most common these days) or otherwise. This particular one is written well and explores a lot of the human condition and mental illness and just plain bad choices in regards to how mortals deal with heroes and gods.
Ariadne, the sister to the Minotaur, falls head over heels for Theseus, the prick, and helps conspire to kill her own brother. She does suffer for it. She doesn't suffer for her actual crime, of course, except incidentally and through her trust in a jerk, and for that reason, this retelling of the Greek myth is very true to form. Fate plays a big part. As it does with all the cast of characters, including Ariadne's sister and her own tale with Theseus.
It's good. The whole book is good. Not brilliant, but still entertaining.
Now, here's my issue:
It's not about this particular writer, but more about the trend of these modern retellings. The minotaur was a symbol in the originals. In this one, he was just a flat note of a nothing-burger. A means to an end and rather pathetic and unimportant.
In the grand scheme of myth, however, the iconography is pretty wild and interesting. There's a thing called the Great Ages that switch over approximately every two thousand years. We're currently close to or in the Age of Aquarius, leaving the Age of Pisces (the fish, of peace), and before that, it was the Age of Taurus, the bull. And before that, it was Gemini, the twins. Gilgamesh was all about the twins, and so were all the great gods of Sumeria and Egypt. Male/Female, entwined as one.
The thing is, the Age of Taurus was a time of endless wars and strife, be it in the meaning or in history. At the end of the age, at about the time of this particular myth, there was the whole idea of the killing of the bull. The religion of Mithraism was surrounded by the iconography of killing the bull god to usher in a new time of peace (Pisces). When Christianity was taking off, for hundreds of years, its major competitor was Mithraism. The ideas were fundamentally the same. There was the whole imagery of the Fish with Jesus, too, if you're familiar with it. Out with the old age, in with the new.
So here we are, with the Minotaur, the bull-man, with a rich, rich tradition in the Mystery religions, and Theseus going in like a bargain-rate murderer/Jesus to kill the old Age of endless wars, and so many people back then would have KNOWN about this. And yet, to us, it's mostly lost or a complete nothing-burger.
Let's not forget Ariadne, herself. The root of her name means Most-Holy. She later marries Dyonisis, the god of wine who also happens to be able to resurrect the dead. See any comparisons to another religion? lol
She's a granddaughter to Zeus on her father's side and a granddaughter to Helios (of the sun) on her mother's side. While there is some detail with this, none of the implications are explored. Certainly not the Mystery Religions. And that's a real shame. This kind of thing could have made a decent novel into a truly excellent one without ever needing to lose even a tad of that good ole Feminist Flavor.
But that's just me, I guess.
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