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Todd Jensen writes...

I recently read not just "The King Must Die" (actually, the reading that I did for the upcoming GBC discussion was a rereading, since I'd originally read it some months before) but also "The Bull From the Sea" (I decided that I'd like to read the rest of Renault's take on Theseus). And I can certainly agree with you that both books are a very effective take on the Theseus story.

One bit that stood out to me was the impact that Hippolyta's death makes on Theseus. Renault, like you yourself, interpreted Theseus and Hippolyta's union as one of equals and one of the peaks in his life. So her death in battle is indeed devastating for him from just that alone. But the additional touch that Renault added on made the impact of Hippolyta's death all the more chilling, and fitted in all the better with Theseus's decline afterwards. For Renault makes it clear that Theseus is meant to make the "Kingly Sacrifice" (the leading thematic element of the two books) in the battle with the Amazons - but instead, he lives and Hippolyta is the "King" who dies willingly. The King has died, but the wrong king - and the impression that I received is that Theseus's not making the "Kingly Sacrifice" of himself in the battle is what sets his doom in motion thereafter, the fact that he has, in a sense, failed his duty.

The other element that particularly stood out to me - and again, struck me as having an effectively chilling touch to it - was the manner of Hippolytus's death, with Theseus for once abusing his gift from Poseidon to predict earthquakes and turning his prediction into a curse - leading to his permanent loss of the ability thereafter.

At any rate, I'm glad that you mentioned and recommended it to the folks here; I certainly was glad to read both books.

Greg responds...

Todd, as usual we are very in sync. I was also very effected by those moments.

(My one caveat is that I feel strongly that Hippolyta was the traditional name of the Amazonian "king". Almost more of a title than a name. And that her true name was Antiope.)

I'm glad you liked the books. (Is anyone else reading them?)

Response recorded on February 15, 2001