Ariadne in Greek Mythology: Background information when reading Ariadne

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Discuss |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Ariadne

by Jennifer Saint

Ariadne by Jennifer  Saint X
Ariadne by Jennifer  Saint
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Published:
    May 2021, 320 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers
Buy This Book

Ariadne in Greek Mythology

This article relates to Ariadne

Print Review

Ariadne Asleep on the Island of Naxos In her novel Ariadne, Jennifer Saint retells events from the life of the mythological title figure. In Greek mythology, Ariadne is known for helping the hero Theseus slay the Minotaur — a beast who was the offspring of Ariadne's mother and a bull — and find his way out of the Labyrinth, the maze beneath her father's palace. In some versions of this story, she is said to have later caught the attention of Dionysus, the god of wine, who fell in love with her and married her.

Ariadne was the daughter of Pasiphae — herself daughter of the sun god Helios — and Minos, king of Crete. After the king's son, Androgeus, was killed during some games that took place in Athens, Minos took revenge by conquering the city. He then created a requirement that every year seven young men and seven young women be sent from Athens to Crete to be sacrificed to the Minotaur in the Labyrinth, an elaborate structure designed by the architect Daedalus to contain the beast. One year, Theseus, son of the Athenian king Aegeus, volunteered to be among the 14 young people sent to Athens, with the intention of killing the Minotaur.

This is the point at which Ariadne enters the story: Having fallen in love with Theseus, she decided to assist him in his mission. She equipped him with a sword for slaying the Minotaur as well as a ball of thread to tether him to the entrance of the Labyrinth so he could find his way back out. With her help, he was successful in killing the Minotaur and escaping the Labyrinth.

Ariadne accompanied Theseus on his return to Athens. According to some versions of the story, he abandoned her on the island of Naxos, where she was rescued by Dionysus. In others, she was left by Theseus and hanged herself. Several other variations of events exist as well. In versions of the myth where Ariadne and Dionysus married, they had many children, including Oenopion, whose name means "wine drinker," and Staphylus, whose name means "grape cluster."

Many artists — from ancient Greece and beyond — have portrayed Ariadne alongside Dionysus, or on Naxos as the god discovered her, and her story has served as inspiration for literature, such as poems by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (Browning's poems refer to Bacchus, another name for Dionysus).

References to Ariadne can also be found in modern pop culture. She has appeared as a character in television shows based on Greek myths, including Atlantis and Olympus. The last episode of the first season of the series Russian Doll is titled "Ariadne"; the episode features two characters' attempts to help one another out of a time loop, which can be seen to parallel Ariadne's attempts to help Theseus through the Labyrinth.

In addition to appearing in a retelling of her own story in Ariadne, the character plays a minor role in Madeline Miller's Circe.

by Elisabeth Cook

Ariadne Asleep on the Island of Naxos (1809-1814) by John Vanderlyn, from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

Filed under Places, Cultures & Identities

This article relates to Ariadne. It first ran in the May 19, 2021 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more


Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Girl in His Shadow
    The Girl in His Shadow
    by Audrey Blake
    The Girl in His Shadow by Audrey Blake is a fast-paced historical novel set in Victorian-era England...
  • Book Jacket: Whereabouts
    Whereabouts
    by Jhumpa Lahiri
    Jhumpa Lahiri's Whereabouts has seen numerous comparisons to Second Place by Rachel Cusk. These two ...
  • Book Jacket: Swimming Back to Trout River
    Swimming Back to Trout River
    by Linda Rui Feng
    Linda Rui Feng's first novel, Swimming Back to Trout River, is a powerful meditation on the ties ...
  • Book Jacket: The Unfit Heiress
    The Unfit Heiress
    by Audrey Farley
    During the American eugenics movement (see Beyond the Book), involuntary sterilization was used to ...

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
Ariadne
by Jennifer Saint
A mesmerizing debut novel about Ariadne, Princess of Crete for fans of Madeline Miller's Circe.

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Morningside Heights
    by Joshua Henkin

    A tender and big-hearted novel about love in the face of loss, from the award-winning author of The World Without You.

Who Said...

Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

H I T Best P

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.