Title of the work
Country of the First Edition
Country/countries of popularity
First Edition Date
First Edition Details
Liz Porter, The Muddle-Headed Minotaur. Calwell, ACT: Gnu Publishing, 2003, 24 pp.
Instructional and educational work
Children (Aged 5 to 13)
We are still trying to obtain permission for posting the original cover.
Author of the Entry:
Margaret Bromley, University of New England, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Peer-reviewer of the Entry:
Elizabeth Hale, University of New England, firstname.lastname@example.org
Elżbieta Olechowska, University of Warsaw, email@example.com
, b. 1951
Liz Porter was born in 1951 in Temora, New South Wales. After attending school in Armidale, NSW, she studied at the University of New South Wales, Sydney. She became a teacher of English, History and special education in secondary schools in NSW and Canberra, the Australian Capital Territory. She travelled extensively in Israel, and Europe, subsequently teaching in Las Palmas, in the Canary Islands for several years.
Returning to Australia in 1989, Liz Porter worked as a relief teacher in Canberra and set up her own small publishing company, Gnu Publishing, under which The Muddle-Headed Minotaur is published. Porter has written, illustrated and published two other children’s books, The Knock-kneed Gnu from Dubbo Zoo and The Brave Aadvark from Taronga Park. She has also published cartoons, poems and illustrations in bridge magazines.
Porter, Liz, The Muddle-Headed Minotaur, Preface.
Bio prepared by Margaret Bromley, University of New England, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
A humorous, rhyming picture book with black and white cartoon illustrations, set in Greek village, is an entertaining introduction to Greek mythology for children. The story tells of “A muddle headed-minotaur who lived somewhere in Crete,/ decided to leave home…in search of something sweet” (Porter, 2003, p.1).
Having spent too long in his dark lair, the Minotaur has become confused, but manages to find his way out of his cold, dark labyrinth. While everyone is at the local fair, he breaks into the baker’s shop and devours a chocolate cake, strawberry tart and twenty apple pies. Instead of devouring stray cats, along with maidens and youths, the Minotaur begins to develop a preference for sweet food. Consequently, he loses his power to scare people.
Venturing into the local village, he steals from the village baker, who firmly asks him to cease his roaring. When the baker denies his demand for apple pies and orders him away, the Minotaur threatens to go back to eating meat and grabs the baker’s boy, threatening to eat him. Unafraid, the townspeople call his bluff, and the Minotaur becomes depressed at the thought of being unable to scare anyone.
A deal is reached when the Minotaur is offered a place at the local zoo. In return for a supply of apple pies he is kept in a labyrinth, and asked to roar just “to scare the folks from out of town”, to make the village famous.
The jaunty rhyme suggests that “The Minotaur is safely caged in Crete,/ they’ve weaned him right off meat”
The Minotaur thus becomes vegetarian, but “every year, some naughty kids disappear”.
The book is intended as an educational text, with a target age group of 5 to 13 years. The story is followed by an investigation on the last page of the book into what is a Minotaur and an explanation of the Minotaur legend. Porter tells how Crete was ruled by King Minos, who had defeated King Aegeus of Athens. In revenge for the Athenians’ killing of his son, King Minos threatens to destroy Athens. Consequently, King Aegeus “sadly agreed to the sacrifices [of seven young men and seven young women, to be eaten by the Minotaur] and a ship with black sails would be sent to Athens to collect the prisoners” (p.20).
Set in a contemporary Grecian village, The Muddle-Headed Minotaur is a humorous entree into Greek mythology for children. The human characters, the baker and his wife, and the baker’s boy are dressed in contemporary clothing, while the Minotaur is depicted with a powerful torso, wearing a short Greek tunic, as befits its status of mythical creature.
Whilst children can identify with the notion of muddle-headedness, there is a humorous ambiguity in the last words of the story, “every year some naughty kids disappear”. The ironic tone of “Theseus was determined to be a hero” (p. 20) suggests reading against the grain and unpacking the concept of the hero as well as the polarisation of winners and losers in classical mythology.
The Muddle-Headed Minotaur could be used as a class reader, as the book sets out clues and questions regarding the Minotaur of Crete, Theseus, Araidne and the ball of string, the god Dionysus, the island of Naxos, and changing the black sails of Theseus’s ship to white sails. The writer explains how she used her own poetic licence to write her own different version of the story of the Minotaur, hers being a story with a happy ending. Using her own story as a model, she encourages child readers to create their own version in verse, a nursery rhyme, a traditional story or a legend.
The title, The Muddle-Headed Minotaur resonates with the Australian children’s classic series of radio plays (1941-1970) and stories, (1962-1971) of The Muddle-Headed Wombat, by Australian author, Ruth Park. Park’s collected stories of The Muddle-Headed Wombat continue to be read by successive generations of child readers. Porter’s The Muddle-Headed Minotaur shows an intention to integrate Australian references into classical mythology.