Hunger Games inspired by Greek myth

(This is not an endorsement for the book or the movie, just a note on the interesting connection to Ancient History.)

King Solomon once said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” And so it seems true as history repeats itself, issues resurface and plots are reused. For anyone who has read or watched “Hunger Games”, the plot seems to be almost a remake of the Romans’ bloodthirsty use of their Colosseum for viewing senseless violence for sport. One is reminded of the gladiator fights where slaves or criminals were sent into the ring to battle fierce warriors or even ferocious animals to the death. Or when Christians were thrown into the arena to defend themselves from hungry lions.

But the story that fueled the Hunger Games, written by Suzanne Collins, was actually inspired by something older still… a nearly forgotten Greek myth from the island of Crete where the Minoan civilization flourished long, long ago.

Almost 4,000 years ago, a seafaring people founded and settled the island of Crete, 100 miles south of mainland Greece. These people were master storytellers. Around their fires at night, they told of a king named Minos, the son of the mythological god Zeus and his wife Europa. Minos was very clever and very cruel. This tyrant of a king built an elaborate maze, called a labyrinth, which became the home of the Minotaur, a creature with the body of a man but with the head of a bull. He had a tail like a bull too. This monstrous Minotaur was a ferocious man-eating beast. Every nine years, the cruel King Minos would send seven men and seven women to their doom down the corridors of the labyrinth to get hopelessly lost and disorientated before being consumed by the Minotaur monster.  Without exception, his subjects were afraid of their king. They needed a hero!

Word of the Minotaur and the cruelty of King Minos to his Cretan subjects spread far and wide until it reached the city of Athens on the mainland of Greece. The King of Athens, Theseus, also the son of gods, despaired for his distant neighbors and determined to slay the beast. Before another nine years had passed and seven more men and seven more women would be sentenced to their doom, King Theseus set off across the seas with his black sail raised, promising his father that he would return with a white sail raised in its place.

Once in Crete, Ariadne, the daughter of King Minos, fell instantly in love with Theseus. When she learned that he would secretly take the place of one of the sentenced youths so that he might slay the dreaded Minotaur, she pleaded with him to reconsider this heroic deed. Theseus promised her that if he survived and returned from the death maze, he would take her back with him across the seas to Athens.

On the day of his entrance into the labyrinth, he, like all of the others, was stripped of his weapons. With one final touch of his hand, Ariadne pressed into his a ball of string to help him find his way out again and back to her. Once inside, Theseus tied the string to the doorpost and brandished the small sword that he had concealed from the guards beneath his tunic. Following Ariadne’s directions, he moved ever forward and ever downward, never to the left or the right. At the center of the labyrinth, he met the hungry Minotaur and slashed him in the throat with his dagger, killing him instantly. Following the string, Theseus managed to get himself and the other 13 youths safely out of the labyrinth. Once outside, he collapsed from exhaustion on the beach. In a dream, his goddess mother Athena told him to sail quickly back to Athens and not to bring Ariadne with him. Reluctantly, he followed his mother’s instruction, but in his misery at the loss of Ariadne, he forgot to raise the white sail. Upon seeing the black sail of his son’s ship, Theseus’ father’s heart stopped instantly from searing despair.

Back on Crete, Ariadne wept in anguish for the loss of Theseus. Not a very happy ending, but that is how the story goes… Or so we are told by famous ancient Greek storytellers such as Homer, Ovid and Plutarch, who penned this exciting story and many others after centuries of oral storytelling, artfully passed from generation to generation.

Are you looking for some history and geography resources to round out your study of Ancient History? Be sure to check these out!

Happy homeschool planning!

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This entry was posted on Monday, July 23rd, 2012 at 1:01 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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