Monstrous man-bull in the labyrinth
Do you hear that? Even if we are leagues away, the howling of your foe, ever thirsty for blood in his subterranean lair, will send chills down your spine. This might not be the true Minotaur, this might only be a pale imitation spawned by some dark magic or fickle god, but it remains a terrible enemy. If you are to survive the coming battle, let alone defeat the monster, then you must first learn the story of its forebearer.
Any respectable adventurer knows that the Minotaur, the bull of Minos, is a merciless beast with the body of a man and the head of a bull. But to truly understand the creature, you must know that his true name is Asterion, that his mother was a queen, and that a king's arrogance is responsible for his monstrous nature. That presumptuous king is none other than Minos, ruler of Crete, an island dominating the Aegean well before Athens' rise. Minos, when he still needed to secure his claim, asked Poseidon to send him a sign confirming the god's blessing. Poseidon complied and sent Minos a wondrous white bull. But even though he had promised to sacrifice the beast to the sea god, Minos could not resolve himself to kill the glorious beast. Thinking he could fool an Olympian, he hid the white bull and sacrificed another one. To punish Minos' hubris, Poseidon drove the bull wild and made queen Pasiphaë fall in love with the animal. Taking place in a cow frame built by the famous inventor Daedalus, Pasiphaë mated with the white bull and bore Asterion.
Exiled to the Labryinth of Daedelus
The queen took care of Asterion for some time, but the child rapidly became too ferocious to stay in the palace. Minos, wanting to hide this constant reminder of his wife's infidelity and of his own arrogance, asked Daedelus to build the labyrinth where the monster could be hidden. Make no mistake, this is no garden maze made to amuse the children of wealthy nobles. It is a vast underground complex of passageways shrouded in total darkness. Asterion could not find his way out, but he still needed to be fed. And so Minos forced Athenians to send boys and girls to be devoured by the monster.
Many died this way until brave Theseus volunteered to sail to Crete. Before going underground, Ariadne, daughter of Minos, helped Theseus in exchange for a wedding vow. Having received advice from Daedalus, Ariadne gave Theseus a ball of yarn and a luminous crown to find his way, as well as a ball of wax to throw in the monster's maw. And so the Minotaur fell to his sister's lover, with the help of Ariadne herself.
Lessons of the Labyrinth
What can you learn from this? Historians will tell you that the story is but a symbol of the liberation of Athens from Cretan domination. I say that the most important lesson is that a minotaur will not be defeated purely by strength of arms. You will need adequate tools and cunning allies to overcome your own animal nature, to navigate the minotaur's dwelling and to overcome it. And know that slaying the man-bull might not end all your worries. As Asterion's birth resulted from a god's intervention, a minotaur's death cannot go unavenged. Just look at Theseus, how the gods forced him to abandon Ariadne and how his poor father killed himself because he thought his favorite son had not survived the duel with the Minotaur.
One last thing. If you ever want to test your mettle against the true Minotaur, then you must travel to another plane – to the realm of the dead ruled by Hades. But be ready for a formidable challenge, as all the reports confirm that Asterion and Theseus have settled their differences and have become allies in the afterlife. I do not know if it is even possible, but victory against these two former enemies would surely grant you fame, achievements, and blessings from the gods.