Theseus & the Minotaur: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Shelley Vessels

Shelley has taught at the middle school level for 10 years and has a master's degree in teaching English.

Theseus and the Minotaur is a myth that shows how two warring kings find peace in quite an unusual way. Read on to learn what the strange arrangement is and how an unlikely character saves the day.

A Dangerous Arrangement

According to Greek mythology, there once was a ruler on the island of Crete named King Minos, and he routinely attacked Athens. The king of Athens became so distraught over the battles that he felt that he needed to negotiate with King Minos in order to get the attacks to stop.

The king of Athens offered up something quite unique in order to get safety for his city. The deal offered to King Minos went like this: If King Minos left Athens alone for nine years, the king of Athens would send fourteen tasty snacks - in the form of children - to King Minos and his pet monster, the Minotaur, which had the head of a bull and the body of a man. King Minos agreed to the deal and surprisingly stuck to it.

During the nine years of their arrangement, King Minos left the city alone. Once the nine years were up, the citizens of Athens became incredibly sad that they would lose fourteen of their children - seven boys and seven girls - to the hungry Minotaur.

Prince Theseus to Save the Day

Prince Theseus - the king of Athens' son - knew that 'your word is your bond,' but he did not want to see fourteen children be eaten by a monster. His solution was to go to the island of Crete as one of the fourteen in order to battle the fierce Minotaur. The king of Athens did not like this idea, but he reluctantly agreed to let his beloved son go.

Prince Theseus and the children arrived on the island of Crete to the reception of King Minos and his beautiful daughter, Princess Ariadne. Later, Prince Theseus received a letter from Princess Ariadne in which she asks the prince to take her with him in exchange for help in killing the monster.

Theseus was interested - anything to help him defeat the Minotaur. The prince and the princess met to discuss their plan, and Princess Ariadne gave Theseus a large sword and a ball of string. Her instructions were to bring both to the labyrinth - which is a maze - where the Minotaur lives. The sword was to kill the Minotaur, and the string was to clasp onto the entrance door of the maze, so Theseus could find his way out.

The Minotaur lived in a labyrinth - or a maze - like this one.

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