The King Must Die: A Novel

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The only monsters are all too human; but the bulls, at least, are real. The societies she recreates are as compelling and strange as any myth.

The King Must Die [Book 3, Chapter 1]

A king is granted the best of all things; but, if his people are struck by plague, drought or natural disaster, it is his duty to offer up his life as a sacrifice, to restore the balance and appease the gods. Such is the way of the Hellenes: the tall, fair raiders from the north who have come into Greece with their patriarchal societies and their Sky Gods.

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But the Hellenes live among the remnants of an earlier culture: the native Shore People also called Minyans or Earthlings , who are devoted to the Mother, to the cycles of the seasons and the harvest. Among the Shore People, veneration of the Mother expresses itself in matriarchal societies and sovereign priestess-queens. Moreover, their devotion to the annual cycles of the year puts a very different slant on the question of king-sacrifice.

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His youthful essence bleeds into the soil to placate the Mother and keep the harvests good. The queen then takes another king, and the cycle begins anew. This tradition of ritual death is the driving force of the book, and in each of its four sections we witness the implicitly willing sacrifice of a king.

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That question of willingness was one that absorbed both of us, and we wondered how these societies understood consent. Did consent have to be explicitly expressed to be valid? Could you argue that, by accepting the year of celebration and plenty, the Minyan year-kings implicitly accept the associated death that comes at the end of the year?

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They may not wish to die, but their consent is implicit in their acceptance of the whole package. A Hellene interloper among the Shore People, he refuses to consider himself bound by their traditions. Using his wits and creativity, he is determined to find a way to break the cycle without as he sees it offending the gods.

A similar challenge waits for him in Crete, where he is faced with an ancient but decadent civilisation which is ripe for the picking… but how?

The King Must Die - Wikipedia

In both cases, his individual triumph represents in microcosm the triumph of the young, aggressive and energetic Hellene culture over the Shore People. Theseus, like his fellow Hellenes, is simply biding his time. Height 8. Width 5.

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Read Synopsis More Info In this ambitious, ingenious narrative, celebrated historical novelist Mary Renault take legendary hero Theseus and spins his myth into a fast-paced and exciting story. Editorial Reviews — — —. No Downloads. Views Total views. Actions Shares.

Embeds 0 No embeds. No notes for slide. The story of the mythical hero Theseus, slayer of monsters, abductor ofprincesses and king of Athens.


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He emerges from these pages as a clearlydefined personality; brave, aggressive and quick. The core of the story isTheseus Cretan adventure. In this intelligent, fascinating, andentertaining retelling of the myth of the ancient Greek hero Theseus, Ms. Renault has taken a mythological figure and transformed him into an all-too-human youth, complete with the flaws, foibles, and passions ofadolescence and young adulthood.


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The narrative, which is delivered in the first person, begins with Theseuschildhood; as a fatherless boy, even though a member of a royal family, he 2. Slight and relatively small in stature, he longs for thelarge, robust physique of a true "hero," and learns to compensate f or hislack of size by the use of his keen intelligence and wit. As a young man,clever, aggressive, lusty, and quick-minded if slightly temperamental, helearns the identity of his father--the king of Athens--and travels to Athens tomeet him, encountering numerous adventures along the way.

The storylineof the traditional Theseus myth is followed, at least in principle: after beingrecognized by his father as his son and a prince of Athens, Theseus ischosen to accompany the group of boys and maidens demanded as tributeby the powerful ruler of Crete, King Minos. Once in Crete, the little band ofAthenian captives is taken to the royal palace--the Labyrinth--where theyare trained to become a team of bull-leapers, destined to perform thedangerous and popular sport before the royalty of Crete.

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