In the Grip of the Minotaur

Written by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur Farnham Bishop
Review by Bruce Macbain

The story is set in the Bronze Age Mediterranean, where King Minos rules the sea with his fleet and terrorizes his enemies with the threat of feeding them to the Minotaur. Troy, ruled by the pusillanimous King Dardanus, is a tributary state on the edge of the Cretan empire. Into this world sails Ragnarr, prince of the Swedish Goths on a trading mission to Troy. Ragnarr is big, blond, handsome, chivalrous, and fearless in battle—a precursor to Conan the Barbarian with a dash of Sir Galahad. As the story progresses, he is loved by two beautiful princesses—the winsome Ilia of Troy and the proud, headstrong Ariadne of Knossos. Entanglements ensue, with Ragnarr always struggling to do the right thing by both ladies. The story culminates with the Goths burning Knossos to the ground (while being careful not to “dishonor” the women).

The book is a charming antique. Written by two young Americans who were Harvard roommates, and first serialized in 1916 in the pulp magazine Adventure, it belongs to the same era of perfervid prose as the Mars books of Edgar Rice Burroughs and the African adventures of H. Rider Haggard. A quote will give the flavor (Valgerd, Ragnarr’s second in command speaks): “I will endure it no more!” he cried fiercely. “For two days our lord has not been with us, and here we bide shut in like salmon in a weir, unknowing what they do to him. Mayhap these dogs have slain him and even now shout in triumph over his corpse! Force the door! Snatch up whatso ye find! We will avenge our master or die, taking some of these devils with us!”

They don’t write them like that anymore. I smiled all the way through.