Images via Amazon
Images via Amazon

Here are two different toy figures of minotaurs. Which one is correct? Wikipedia tells us that Ovid does not tell us anything at all about the configuration of the original Minotaur, beyond that he was part human and part bull. So any combination of bull parts and human parts should theoretically work.

But that Minotaur was also a single, proper-named entity from classical mythology. The question here is about the generic minotaur, as it appears in popular fiction and/or role-playing games. Here, the constraints are more narrow. C.S. Lewis, in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, specifically named “a bull with the head of a man” as a good creature, in Aslan’s retinue, in contrast with the “Minotaurs” (capital M, but plural) in the evil army of the White Witch.


Canonically, everyone seems to agree that this sort of minotaur should be an upright biped with human arms and torso, with the head of a bull. When it gets down to the feet, though, the consensus falls apart. Is the minotaur walking around on normal ten-toed human feet, or is it clomping around on hooves?

I hadn’t even realized this was a question. My mental image of the minotaur definitely walks around on human feet, like the minotaur toy on the left above (but it has good human posture and a human neck, like the minotaur toy on the right).

Where did I get this certainty? Not from Narnia: Pauline Baynes’ original illustration of the killing of Aslan shows a minotaur wearing shoes—buckled shoes at that. The text only mentions the “galloping feet of the Minotaurs,” which could be read either way.

Nor does the first edition of Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual help: The illustration for the minotaur only shows it from the waist up. When I searched up that image, I also found a picture from the fifth edition Monster Manual showing a full-body minotaur, with hooves. This just confirmed that hoofed minotaurs look dumb.


Back to the original Minotaur, D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths, which surely influenced my minotaur-concept, features a dozing Minotaur, about to be killed by Theseus, flopping back with its ten toes pointing up in the air.

That has to be correct. It’s OK for satyrs to run around upright on little goat feet because satyrs are skittering and dancing around anyway. Minotaurs are big and heavy. They need human feet so they don’t tip over.

Deputy executive editor, Special Projects Desk

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