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Immerman, J. (1997). Figures of Entrapment: The Labyrinth and the Web. Psychoanal. Rev., 84(4):573-591.

(1997). Psychoanalytic Review, 84(4):573-591

Figures of Entrapment: The Labyrinth and the Web

Jill Immerman, M.F.A.

This paper will explore the related symbols of the labyrinth and the web. I will begin by briefly retelling the legend of the hero Theseus' defeat of the Minotaur. Greek legend has it that 14 youths were sacrificed each year to the Minotaur, a creature that was half human, half bull. The creature was confined in a labyrinth built by Daedalus at King Minos' behest. From this labyrinth

there was no possible way to escape. In whatever direction they [the young Athenians] ran they might be running straight to the monster; if they stood still he might at any moment emerge from the maze. (Hamilton, 1940, p. 151)

With a ball of thread given him by Ariadne, Theseus found his way out of the labyrinth after killing the Minotaur. This success has a precedent in his first heroic feat: as a boy, he pushed away a heavy stone covering a hollow in which his father had left for him a pair of sandals and a sword. The sword can be likened to the preoedipal mother, who must move — or be pushed — aside, allowing her child to grow and begin to explore the world; the shoes and sword represent tools to help the child develop. The sandals symbolize, as well as facilitate, locomotion; the sword offers protection, and symbolizes sexual and aggressive actions. Theseus then went on to perform feats to save the weak and helpless — notably, his killing of the Minotaur.

Like the Sphinx, with which it shares many similarities, the Minotaur is a man-eating monster.

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