Phillip W. Simpson is the author of the new novel Minotaur. I was able to connect with him through Chapter by Chapter to get his personal perspective on the book. I hope it sparks your interest!
Greek mythology is a popular subject for many authors, spanning across a multitude of subtopics and genres. As a well-read lover of mythology based books, I would like to know what makes Minotaur unique? Besides being told from the “monster’s” point of view, how does this novel stand out from all the other stories of demigods, underworld creatures, and dangerous quests?
Good question. It’s because it takes a story that everyone knows well and turns it on its head. We know the ‘facts’ of the story. We know what ‘really happened’ but when all is said and done, to really know what happened is an impossibility. Writing didn’t exist then. It was a story based on an oral tradition. Nothing was written down. There are no photos. In other words, the only evidence exists from the story telling – the story has been told and retold over countless generations. It has been diluted and changed to suit the needs of the most powerful city state at the time – Athens. There is no evidence, no eye-witness reports. Essentially, I have created my own ‘truth’ in this book.
Let’s assume for a minute that there was a Minotaur, a Theseus and a labyrinth. Let’s assume we ‘know’ all there is to know about them. But what is the truth? We ‘know’ that the Minotaur was part bull, part human. We ‘know’ that he was imprisoned in the labyrinth. We ‘know’ that the Athenians sent young people there as tributes, to be consumed by the Minotaur. Finally, we ‘know’ that Theseus slew the Minotaur.
But, we don’t. There is so much room to manoeuver amongst this myth, it’s incredible. What if the Minotaur only had a slight deformity giving rise to the myth? What if the Minotaur was imprisoned because his father was embarrassed by him? What if Theseus and the Minotaur were old friends and secretly in cahoots? Now you’ve got a different story.
The story is told in first person by the Minotaur (Asterion) but he is telling his story to the Roman historian, Ovid, trying to convince the poet that this indeed is the truth. I think structurally, this also makes the story a little different as we come back to present action (Asterion telling the story to Ovid) from time to time. This is also an underdog’s story. When you are dealing with a hero, you expect to cheer for him but the Minotaur is not what you’d consider a hero. For thousands of years, he has been demonized, hated and spurned.
In my story, he is not particularly heroic either. He isn’t better or more handsome than other men. He is just a misunderstood youth with a deformity and a desire to fit in. Most of all, he wants to be loved. I think this is a point of difference when compared to other stories based on Greek myth. It makes him a much more sympathetic character and ironically, more human and less godlike (in my opinion).