Enter the labyrinth
Traditional versions of the Minotaur legend often portray Ariadne as a tragic figure: After helping her lover Theseus escape the labyrinth, she is later abandoned on an Aegean island. Tracy Barrett’s retelling of the legend, Dark of the Moon, turns this image on its head. Barrett’s Ariadne is a powerful but socially isolated priestess, and the Minotaur who lives under her palace is no monster, but instead her beloved, deformed brother Asterion. Ariadne is confident in her hereditary role of She-Who-Will-Be-Goddess and the future it will bring her. But when she meets Theseus and his fellow tributes, she finds friendship for the first time, learns about the world beyond her palace and begins to question the role she might play in determining her own path.
Barrett both incorporates and undermines well-known aspects of her story, giving new interpretations to Ariadne’s ball of thread, Theseus’ interaction with the Minotaur and the reason for black sails on the Athenians’ returning ship. Details of the complex politics and rituals of her reimagined Krete abound, as do references to other people and places of Greek mythology. She does not shy away from violence, but the bloodiness always serves to establish the characters and setting and is never gratuitous. Chapters are alternately narrated by Ariadne and Theseus, allowing the reader to gain insight into the actions, thoughts and motivations of both characters. In the end, this tale leaves both its characters and its readers questioning the very nature of how stories are told and retold. Fans of mythological retellings will relish this fresh, feminist interpretation of the tale of Ariadne and Theseus.