The/The Bull from the Sea King Must Die Characters

Mary Renault

The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

In accordance with mythological tradition, Mary Renault depicts Theseus as growing up with the conviction that Poseidon is his father. Her view of Theseus is, however, unique in two major ways. First, she endows Theseus with an “earthquake-aura” that enables him to sense in advance whenever an earthquake is imminent. This proof of Poseidon’s partiality toward him manifested itself unequivocally in his final year of service at a temple dedicated to the sea god, where he was obliged to reside one out of every four months from age eight to age ten. Second, Renault rejects the view that Theseus was a man of gigantic size. In an author’s note appended to The King Must Die, she argues to the contrary by stating that “a youth accepted for the bull-dance can only have had the slight, wiry build which its daring acrobatics demanded” and that Theseus’ heroic feats may, in part, represent “the overcompensation of a small, assertive man.” Within the novel itself, she describes how, while still a boy, Theseus found it difficult to reconcile his divine lineage with his smaller-than-average stature and how, on many occasions, he felt the need to reassure himself of his descent from Poseidon by performing deeds of great valor.

Theseus, at age six, is indoctrinated into the concept of kingship by his grandfather after witnessing the sacrifice of a noble white stallion in honor of Poseidon. Pittheus explains that the office of king is a sacred...

(The entire section is 529 words.)