by Madeline Miller

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Chapters 10–12 Summary

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Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1068

Chapter 10 

Circe and the sailors reach Crete, and Circe is taken to the room where Pasiphaë is in labor. The two sisters have a pointed exchange. Pasiphaë, in pain, demands that Daedalus cut the baby out of her womb, implying he is partly responsible for its existence. Circe is to tend to the child after the cutting is done. 

Daedalus steadily accomplishes this, and Circe retrieves the child, handling it with utmost care just before its jaws clamp down on her hand. Circe screams in pain, and blood spurts across the room: Circe has lost a number of her fingers. The child writhes on the floor, swallows the bitten-off flesh, and hungers for more. Before Circe lies no ordinary child. It is a creature with two horns, sharp teeth, a hairy face, extraordinary strength, and an insatiable hunger. As Daedalus fetches a cage to store the creature in, Pasiphaë warns them not to harm it.

Circe turns to her sister to demand an explanation. Pasiphaë blames Daedalus, who then explains how the child came to be: The gods sent a pure white bull to bless the kingdom of Minos, but the sacred bull disliked anyone coming near it. Pasiphaë was enamored with the bull, and so Daedalus built an artificial cow, which the queen could hide inside to approach the creature. The bull eventually had intercourse with the artificial cow (with Pasiphaë inside), which impregnated Pasiphaë with the sacred bull’s child. 

Daedalus asks Circe if the creature can be killed. Circe investigates the possibility and begins by exploring Pasiphaë’s workroom. She discovers all of her sister’s rudimentary herbs, haphazardly prepared, and realizes that though her sister may be a greater goddess than she is, she is not a greater witch. Circe determines that none of the herbs will be of any help, as the monster is bound to Crete. Circe turns outside to the fields. In the distance, she catches sight of the legendary Mount Dicte. It is said to contain the rarest herbs and the cave where “Zeus himself was born and hidden from his devouring father.” It is also where Artemis roams to hunt.

Circe heads to Mount Dicte. There, she touches a pool to find answers and learns that the creature can die—however, not in its infancy, and not by Circe’s or Daedalus’s hand. It must live out its destiny, and “until then, it could only be contained.” Circe proceeds to procure herbs to assist in its containment. 

Circe returns the next day and meets the gentle Ariadne, Pasiphaë’s daughter. When Circe explains to Daedalus the spell she has come up with, which will make the creature docile for three seasons until harvest time—when it must feed—Ariadne reminds them that the creature is still her brother. Circe explains her spell to the king and queen. It is clear that their marriage is bitter, and Circe discovers that her sister desires the creature to live not for love, but for glory.

Chapter 11

The queen and king name the creature the Minotaur. As they transfer the Minotaur to a stronger cage built by Daedalus, Circe casts her spell on the creature and tames it. 

Come evening, Circe forgoes the feast and accepts Daedalus’s offer to dine with him in his room. She meets his young son, Icarus, and witnesses their loving relationship. Circe and Daedalus forge a bond of mutual respect, and Daedalus discloses his plan to trap the Minotaur in a maze-like area beneath the palace. After dinner, Circe slips into her sister’s bedroom to confront her about her presence: why must it have been Circe,...

(This entire section contains 1068 words.)

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and not one of their other siblings? They have a heated exchange, during which Pasiphaë reveals a deep-seated hatred for their family. Pasiphaë says that it never truly mattered to Circe’s family whether she obeyed or was good. Circe’s good behavior did not encourage any of them to do the right thing by her; if anything, it only encouraged them to take advantage of her more.

It is late when Circe returns to her room. She finds Daedalus waiting for her, and they have sex. Later, in the dead of night, they share how they are both weighed down by the guilt of the monsters they have created. They continue to secretly see each other until the day of Circe’s departure. 

Circe returns to her island. In time, the maze-like trap—the Labyrinth—is completed. Daedalus, wishing to escape the palace, creates two sets of wings for his and Icarus’s to fly away on. As they soar across the sky, Icarus rises dangerously close to the sun, melting the wax that holds his wings in place and causing him to plummet to his death. Not long after, Daedelus himself passes away. When Hermes conveys all of this, Circe is distraught, though she knows full well this is what inevitably comes from caring for mortals.

Chapter 12 

Back in Aiaia, Circe cultivates the herbs she gathered from Mount Dicte. Her exile becomes more real to her when she realizes that everything she has surrounded herself with is all that she will ever have. She keeps busy at the loom, which Daedalus gave her as a parting gift.

Hermes flies in, bearing news of Crete: Androgeos, the eldest child of Minos and Pasiphaë, has been slain near Athens. Meanwhile, Crete is reeling from losing so many of their people to the Minotaur each harvest. As recompense for his son’s life, Minos demands that Athens send fourteen of their youth to feed the beast. Failure to do so will compel Crete to launch an attack on Athens. Theseus, son of the Athenian king himself, unluckily becomes part of this sacrificial group. Ariadne, who is smitten with Theseus, smuggles him a weapon and shows him how to make this way through the Labyrinth. Her intervention saves his life and allows him to kill the Minotaur. 

Ariadne and Theseus flee Crete together; however, Dionysus (Hermes’s brother) takes an interest in Ariadne and demands that she be left on an island for him. She falls asleep waiting for Dionysus to arrive but is then killed by Artemis for “some incomprehensible slight.” Meanwhile, Pasiphaë, enraged by the Minotaur’s death, is rumored to have taken her anger out on Theseus and Minos, “digging up the whole mountain searching out new poisons.” 


Chapters 7–9 Summary


Chapters 13–15 Summary