Epilogue: Reimagining Theseus

Myth has been a major part of culture throughout human history, especially in the foundational world of oral traditions, where myth became the vehicle of conceptualizing the intuited principles of existence. Though anything produced in oral cultures cannot be as elaborate, at least not when produced by a single source, as its parallel form in literate cultures, the foundational myths passed on in oral cultures were not merely ignorant, uncreative tales of supernatural lore.[1] These myths are the formative vehicles of truth and foundational to civilization because of their insightful conjecture, ability to challenge their hearer, and, most importantly, pull their hearer along the beam of the tale’s intuited moral without requiring abstraction.

No doubt, some of these myths are vulgar, disturbing, contradictory, and miss the moral marks set by our Christian heritage when taken as a whole. Bacchus’s image as a dying and rising god is a great example of a story which, in part, foreshadows Christ’s resurrection, but as a whole is disturbingly vile. Still, there is an element in myth that passed from the oral traditions through to Homer, Hesiod, Sophocles, and the like, and down to modern mythmakers such as J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert Louis Stevenson, Herman Melville, and C.S. Lewis. Lewis considered this passed on element to be a story’s “mythical quality:” the element in a story that allows the reader to taste the “more concrete,” “concretely.”[2] It is this ‘mythical quality’ that I have emulated in the reimagining of the Theseus myth.

In every part of the Theseus myth, his pride rules him and is the root cause for much turmoil in his life and the life of his people, the Athenians. Ironically, it is for one of the negative effects of his pride that Theseus is most celebrated—his victory over the Amazons after they attacked Athens in retaliation. Theseus’s pride was his downfall and, in my reimagining, his pride had to be profound. I chose Theseus’s journey to the underworld as the specific part of his myth to be his hamartia because this is a rebellion against the gods, and this type of rebellion is common to all mankind via Adam and is overwhelmingly displayed in contemporary western society. Also, I do not think people recognize, as Theseus did not recognize, the ills that come from such a lifestyle—in this life and the next. Redemption is needed and, although Hercules gives a certain grace to Theseus in the original myth, Theseus is never redeemed. This reimagining is meant to ‘concretely’ reveal the necessity of redemption. Grace is waiting.

[1] David C. Lindberg, The Beginnings of Western Science: The European Scientific Tradition in Philosophical, Religious, and Institutional Context, Prehistory to A.D. 1450, 2nd ed. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2007), 11.

[2] C. S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), 42-43; Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2017), 289; “Myth Became Fact,” in God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, ed. Walter Hooper (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdman’s Publishing Co., 1970), 58.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s