Ariadne’s Thread

I’m a sucker for mythological stories. Be it tales from Mahabharata and Ramayana, be it fables from the Bible or stories of valor and wit from my Grandma – I love ’em all. No surprises then, that a reference to Ariadne and Theseus in a book by Robert Ludlum sent me running to Google to google up (yes, that’s a valid verb these days) the story.

And once you’ve found what you were looking for, what do you do? You tell the world you found it. Even if the world didn’t exactly ask for it.

Google, being Google, gave me more than what I asked for. A search on ‘Ariadne’s Thread’ brings up, not just the mythology associated with it, but also conceptual derivatives of that story that’s used in today’s world, more specifically as an algorithm for problem solving.

The Mythology: Verbatim from here, ‘coz I don’t see why I should put it in my own words when the existing ones are good enough. Also because I’m plain lazy –

In Greek mythology Theseus was the son of the Greek king Aegeus. King Minos of Crete defeated Aegeus and threatened to destroy his country. Only if Aegeus sacrificed seven young Athenian men and women every nine years to the Minotaur would his kingdom be spared.

Theseus felt it was time to put an end to the sacrifice. When the moment came for another 14 people to enter the Labyrinth in which the Minotaur lived, Theseus offered to go as one of the sacrifices. During the journey Theseus met King Minos’s daughter Ariadne, who promptly fell in love with him.

Ariadne was willing to help Theseus find his way out of the Labyrinth. In exchange Theseus promised to marry her and take her back to Athens. Ariadne gave him a ball of thread and told him to secure one end at the entrance to the Labyrinth. He could then unravel the ball as he made his way. By following the thread Theseus would be able to find the way back to the entrance.

Theseus slowly made his way through the Labyrinth, unravelling the ball as he went. He encountered the Minotaur, and after a struggle slew the beast. Together with the others he followed the thread back to the entrance and out of the Labyrinth.

Now, that is the story. But what Ariadne’s Thread signifies in the real world (as opposed to the mythological world, that is) is a means to make sure you don’t get lost. Be it as a mechanism for tracking your transactions (in a software-centric enterprise) or as a generic means of problem solving involving application of logic to all available paths of probable solutions. To quote from a wiki reference

It is the particular method used that is able to follow completely through to trace steps or take point by point a series of found truths in a contingent, ordered search that reaches a desired end position. This process can take the form of a mental record, a physical marking, or even a philosophical debate; it is the process itself that assumes the name.

What I understand from the implementation details provided at the above url, this is another algorithm that’s used right from sudoku solutions to applications in philosophy and ethics. Sounds interesting enough to me, which just means I might spend more time going through the maze of material available on the world wide web – maybe I’ll come out of the maze using Ariadne’s thread! Or maybe I’ll just get lost, lose my mind and never blog again. You’ll know in a day or two, ‘coz from when did losing my mind stop me from blogging?!


7 thoughts on “Ariadne’s Thread

  1. hey ! I remember having read this fable sometime during my 8th std (I think so…Poor memory me hath neways :D)…Reading such fables and mythological stories for the second time never hurts, does it ?
    Talkin abt mythology, I love reading stories containing minotaurs and cyclops and centaurs …Excessive watching of Scooby Doo cartoon series enriched me with some info on these half human-half animal creatures


  2. Nice Info. Never knew abt this one.Heard abt it when i did my master thesis. My prof keep referring to it. never had the mind to google it up.

    Thanks to u.

    Same ANON


  3. Hi Priya!

    This is Priya here. I accidentally came across your blog a few days ago while searching for something else and got hooked. You are doing great! Keep up the good work!


  4. 8th std…i thot i had this in 4/5th std…

    there was an apartment complex next to mine which had complex walkways that we used to call labyrinth…the scary part was not getting out.. but getting out without alerting the monster/beast or in simple terms the neighbor while fetching the cricket ball that landed on their property…


  5. yea history /mythology sure does rock..i once read a book called top ten mythical stories or something….that was awesome!!! it was depicted with comic llustrations too :P….

    anyway u seen 300 yet??


  6. Nithya – hey, Scooby Doo rocks! πŸ™‚ and yes, cartoons are an infinite source of enlightenment for intellectually-challenged people like me πŸ˜‰

    Same Anon – Masters, eh? niiice πŸ™‚ cycle gap le showing off educational qualifications πŸ˜‰


  7. Priya – Hi Priya! this is Priya here too, always glad to meet a fellow Priya! πŸ™‚ Welcome and please do visit often!

    Me – Ah, those cricket balls always schemed with the bat and fell into places where the old uncle was always yelling how pesky we were πŸ™‚ andha naal..nyabagam!

    Sharan – 😦 Me no see any movie of late. Horrible, no? I have like 5 or 6 on my must-watch-immediately-list


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