Theseus: Of Myth and Name

Thanks to a recent interview with Colin Farrell, we now know that Newt has a powerful Auror brother named Theseus. Now, the names of J. K. Rowling’s characters often have some sort of meaning attached to them. See Remus Lupin, for example. As such, I have chosen to turn to mythology to try to speculate about just what sort of person Theseus Scamander might be.

It does make sense for a man named Theseus to be an Auror. One of the Greek Theseus’s exploits was to clear the road to Athens of bandits. He defeated a number of clever and well-known criminals who were killing travelers in a variety of ways, including using trees and catapults, kicking them off cliffs, and forcing them to fit beds exactly, by either stretching them or cutting off their feet. I think it would be quite interesting to see if Rowling’s Theseus has faced any criminal reminiscent of these ancient bandits.

In addition to this, the most famous story of the mythological Theseus is his defeat of the Minotaur, a creature that was half-man and half-bull. So it might be reasonable to assume that Theseus Scamander has fought and killed magical creatures, which could create contrast to his brother, who is more interested in studying them. However, the myth of Theseus also reveals other information about the hero that could potentially appear in J K. Rowling’s character.

Within mythology, Theseus proves to be impulsive, which sometimes leads to heroism, and sometimes to tragedy. Theseus was never required to face the Minotaur. He could have stayed safe, but at that time, Athens was paying tribute to Crete in the form of young men and women, who were then sacrificed to the Minotaur. Unwilling to see this continue, Theseus volunteers to go in the place of one of the men so that he could kill the Minotaur and free Athens of its burden. Clearly a heroic man, and if this new Theseus is the same, we might be looking at a Gryffindor Scamander. However, that same impulsiveness can cause trouble.

Unfortunately, the story of the Minotaur does not have a happy ending for two reasons. The first reason is that, despite Theseus agreeing to marry Ariadne, the princess of Crete, in exchange for her help, he abandons her on an island on the way home, having  seemingly regretted his impulsive agreement. Hopefully, this part of the story will not be mirrored in Theseus Scamander, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up having a tumultuous romantic history. The other reason for tragedy is that had Theseus successfully survived the Minotaur, the sails on the ship going back to Athens were to be white, to let his father know of his survival. Sadly, Theseus, in his rush to get home, forgot to change the sails from black to white, which meant that his father saw black sails, assumed Theseus was dead, and threw himself off a cliff. Again hopefully, the Scamander brothers didn’t lose their father so tragically, but it’s possible that their father is dead, and his death may be related to action or inaction by Theseus.

So overall, if the two character are anything alike, we will likely see a strong heroic man, who sometimes acts impulsively in his journey to do the right thing. One who is beloved for his ability to defeat powerful foes, but may struggle more in his personal life. As such, I think his relationship with Newt would be fascinating. However, all of this is only speculation. J.K Rowling could have something entirely different in mind for Theseus Scamander, and I can’t wait to find out.

Mikaela Renshaw

I picked up a Harry Potter book for the first time when I was six years old and promptly fell in love. However, it didn’t take long for my love of literature to go beyond just Harry Potter and I am now working towards my PhD in English. Outside literature, I love Irish-dancing, D and D, going to the beach, attending Comic-Con, and playing with my dog.