The House of Asterion by Jorge Luis Borges
In The House of Asterion by Jorge Luis Borges we have the theme of isolation, loneliness, connection, fear, escape, mortality and freedom. Taken from his Labyrinths collection the reader realises after reading the story that Borges is using the myth of the Minator as a template. Though rather than others being the primary narrator Asterion, who is a minatour, is the first person narrator. Everything is from his point of view except for the last paragraph of the story when Theseus is introduced by way of a third person narrator. What is also interesting about the story is that though Asterion through other people’s fear is isolated from the world. He does not appear to consider himself to be lonely. Yet he is and longs for company or a connection with the outside world. It is for this reason that Asterion is happy that every nine years, nine people are sent to him. People who Asterion does not admit to killing. The reason that nine people are sent to Asterion every nine years may also be important. The townspeople are afraid that if they do not satisfy Asterion (or the Gods) he will attack those living in the town. Though again Asterion does not show this side of himself to others throughout the story.
If anything Borges humanizes Asterion throughout the story. Which may be the point that Borges is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that Asterion is not the same animal that others consider him to be. His reasoning for not mixing with others is because they are afraid of him. Though Asterion does nothing in the story which might frighten the reader. He may be misunderstood or at least that is the interpretation that some readers may have. He is unique in such a matter that he has only every once come across someone like himself. Another Asterion who possibly might have been his father. The fact that Asterion’s home is infinite could also be significant. It is possible that Asterion is so unique that he has his own world. Though it might also be important to remember that Asterion might consider the world outside where he lives to be infinite too. Which may leave readers to consider that Asterion’s view on life may not necessarily be complete or at least the viewpoint associated with minatours might not be complete. In many ways mirroring the view of humans.
What is also interesting is the fact that Asterion does not allow for himself (by others) to be defined by how he looks. At no stage of the story till the last paragraph does the reader suspect that Asterion is a minatour. That he is not like humans. This too may be significant as it suggests that Asterion though he suggests he is happy is not necessarily content. His one incursion into the world has resulted in him retreating to the labyrinth that is his home because of the reaction of others in the town. It might also be important that Asterion has not met anyone like himself apart from the other Asterion who has not advised Asterion about who he may be or what the world may think of him. Borges use of Asterion’s imagination is also important. It shows that Asterion longs to meet others and to really escape from the world that he knows in his labyrinth.
The end of the story, particularly the shift from first person narrator, leaves the reader somewhat confused. On first reading many readers might feel sorry that Asterion has been killed and did not deserve to be killed. However Borges may be using a postmodern twist to suggest that Asterion was a willing participant at the time of his death at the hands of Theseus. For he may not be dead at all and may have found solace that was sorely lacking in his life. If anything Asterion may have found contentment at Theseus’ hands. He may live on just as his myth has lived on from classical and ancient times. Even in death Asterion has found not only contentment but satisfaction too. He has been misunderstood by others and in death he is freed. No longer does he have to live in his labyrinth knowing that people were afraid of him. He is free to live his life as he sees fit. Albeit in a world that not many people will have an understanding of. Just as they did not understand Asterion.