I was a melodramatic little kid. I’m sure you’re all shocked. I begged my mother to tell me the story of Romeo and Juliet, double suicide, duels, and banishment included, ad nauseum. I imagine she found it quite disturbing. But the only thing better than star-crossed, blood-laced teenage love was the tragic tale of Theseus: son of Aegeus, prince of Athens, and not a fan of the bargain his city-state had worked out with the kingdom of Crete.
In a particularly gruesome type of war tax, every nine years Athens sent seven lads and seven maidens to Crete, where they were summarily devoured by the minotaur, a half-man, half-bull monster that lived in the Laybrinth. (Created by Daedalus, who crafted the feather-and-wax wings that, at the very end of another story altogether, sent the high-flying Icarus to his watery death. ANYWAY.) Theseus resolved to kill the Minotaur, end the Athenian servitude, and generally return as BMOC. Theseus and the rest set off under black sails, promising King Aegeus that, if Theseus returned alive, they would replace the sails with white ones. If he were dead, the sails would stay black.
Because of the whole HANDSOME and PRINCE thing (which always went together back then), Theseus quickly won the heart of the princess of Crete, Ariadne. When she heard of his plan to slay the minotaur, she was immediately moved to help him. The first gift was a spool of thread, which Theseus would unwind as he walked, allowing him to ultimately retrace his steps out of the Labyrinth. (Since its inventor also MADE WINGS, this was a fairly clever move. Theseus, you seriously didn’t think of this?) The other was a sword. I think. Whether this was Ariadne’s idea or his, it was a good one, because Theseus overpowered the minotaur and stabbed it in the heart.
Triumphant, Theseus raced from the castle, Ariadne at his side, and set sail for home. On the way, they broke their journey on one of the zillions of islands in the Mediterranean. Bad news for Theseus, though: Dionysus, god of wine, told him that he had already picked Ariadne for his bride. So, um, Theseus left her there — and in his continued haste home, forgot to change the sail. When his father, King Aegeus, saw the black flags approaching Athens, he threw himself into the sea. We have known it, ever since, as the Aegean Sea.
I have my black and white sails, too. Only I call it dessert. If there’s frosting or chocolate chips, it’s good news; empty hands are bad. If there’s no reason to celebrate, then there’s no treat to go along with the no-celebration. So yesterday, after a year (A! Year!) of boring you with my GRE woes and wails, I finally took it. Now granted, I have not yet received my writing scores. They could be bad. They threaten to make all this buttercream a frankly embarrassing display of don’t count your chickens in action. But I got the Math and Verbal score right away. They called for cupcakes. Goodbye, books!