“Nić Ariadny: Mity i labirynty” (“Ariadne’s Thread: Myths and Labyrinths”) by Jan Bajtlik is a Polish children’s book published by Wydawnictwo Dwie Siostry (specialising in artistic projects) in October 2018.
“Nić Ariadny” is a big format book, similar to the “Mapy” (“Maps”, 2012) by Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielińscy or “Pszczoły” (“The Book of Bees”, 2014) and “Drzewa” (“The Book of Trees”, 2018) by Piotr Socha and Wojciech Grajkowski (also published by Wydawnictwo Dwie Siostry). In “Nić Ariadny” two great ideas meet: one is a presentation of the classical world, both mythical and historical, in an attractive graphic form. The other is a popular form of activity (not only in children’s books) in which one must draw the way through a maze.
Each two-page spread in the first part of the book is dedicated to another topic from ancient Greek mythology or history: the Twelve Labours of Heracles, the Labyrinth of Crete, the Palace of Knossos, ancient beasts, Argonauts’ quest for the Golden Fleece, Trojan War, Odysseus’ journeys, the Acropolis of Athens, and Greek theatre, among others. The latter part includes some brief encyclopaedia-like entries explaining the most important characters, terms, and events.
Also Wydawnictwo Dwie Siostry published – as a gadget – a newspaper-like promotional publication, entitled “Greckie Fakty” (“Greek Facts”). The name and graphic form is a clear reference to the Polish tabloid “Fakt” (similar to British “The Sun” and German “Bild”); the “articles” are short versions of “Nić Ariadny” – they invite us in an attractive and funny way to read the book: the headlines of the “news” are, for example, the following: “Is Tartarus Appropriate for Children? Uranus Doesn’t Comment”; “No Progress in Sisyphus’ Work”; “Thrilling News from Crete: He Entered the Labyrinth – and Survived!”.
“Nić Ariadny” is not only an activity-book, but it also contains many facts about ancient Greece usually absent in children’s literature, such as information about the dance (γερανός, geranos) linked with Theseus or the image of Medusa as a flying creature with monstrous face (as she was presented on some Greek vases). It is worth mentioning that Jan Bajtlik used the help of a historian of Antiquity Prof. Marek Węcowski from the Department of Ancient History of the Institute of History, University of Warsaw.
Prepared by Krzysztof Rybak