The Minotaur, by Nathaniel Hawthorne | Summary of The Minotaur
Theseus grows up in the palace of his maternal grandfather, King Pittheus of Troezene, instead of with his father, King Aegeus of Athens. Theseus' mother tells him Theseus can go to his father when he is strong enough to lift a big rock they use as a bench. When Theseus grows up, and is finally able to lift the rock, he finds a gift from his father: a sword and sandals.
Theseus' mother and her father try to talk Theseus into going to Aegeus by sea, since the roads are treacherous, but to Theseus, it just sounds like a hero-making adventure. Hawthorne quickly summarizes the glory-conferring adventures that await Theseus on the road to Athens, about which, see:
When Theseus arrives at the king's court, Medea is there, the only one aware of who Theseus is. She supports the king's nephews who have no love for the newcomer, seeing him as an intruder who will lessen their futures. Medea tries to persuade Aegeus that Theseus is plotting assassination. She prepares a poison for the king to give the young man the king has yet to recognize. At the last moment, the king sees the sword he had left his son, and so, Theseus is saved. Medea flies away; Theseus is treated to the honor he deserves.
Then Theseus learns about the Cretan Minotaur and its yearly tribute from Athens: 7 young men and 7 young women from Athens are sent as monster kibble. Theseus immediately volunteers to be the 7th. Aegeus agrees, but tells him to switch his ship's sails upon his return, should he defeat the Minotaur, so the king, who will be watching the sea, will be able to see the good sign as early as possible and be happy.
When the human tribute arrive in Crete, it becomes clear that the diet was selected by the king, Minos, not the monster. Minos looks over the 14 and selects Theseus to be the Minotaur's 1st victim to be consumed the next day. While they exchange taunts, Ariadne watches and develops an interest, or, as we might say, a crush. That night, while the 14 rest in prison, she leads Theseus out, gives him back his sword, and hands him one end of a silken string that she holds on to, so that he can find his way out of the labyrinth should he be successful with the Minotaur. Theseus then enters the labyrinth and finds the hideous, raging bull-headed beast. They fight. A horn scrapes Theseus, but then Theseus cuts off the monster's head.
Successful, Theseus easily finds his way out of the labyrinth to Ariadne, who helps further by getting Theseus and the other 13 prisoners back on board their ship before King Minos awakens and takes revenge.
Although Theseus wants Ariadne to come, too, Ariadne refuses to go, since her father still needs her. This lets Theseus off the hook for abandoning her, a crime he commits in other versions of the myth.
The youths set sail, but in their exhilaration, they forget to change the colors of the sails. The old King Aegeus has been watching from the cliffs for signs of his son. When he sees the sad color of the sails, he gives up all desire for life and plunges to his death in the sea.