The first corn maze didn’t come along until the late twentieth century, but it was inspired by European hedge mazes, which date back centuries. The Labyrinth of Versailles was one of the more famous and elaborate of these hedge mazes, featuring elaborate sculptures and fountains modeled after selections from Aesop’s Fables. Charles Perrault’s Labyrinte de Versailles described the labyrinth in detail. It was first printed in 1675 and was eventually translated into English about a century later. In 1778, Louis XVI replaced the garden with a arboretum.
Of particular interest, in reference to our most recent chapter of Fretter’s Creek, is the description of the entrance. The thread in the maze trick is never straightforward, is it? Poor Henry.
On each side of the entrance into this Labyrinth, which is a very grand and magnificent portal, there stand two brazen Statues, painted in the most elegant manner, after the life, each on a pedestal of rock work: One is the grotesque figure of old Æsop, and the other the soft image of the young Son of Venus [cupid]: The former holds a scroll of paper in his hand; the latter, on the other side, stands in a most agreeable attitude, with his arm extended, and a large ball of of silk between his fingers.
Inscribed at the entrance was a dialog between “old Æsop” and cupid.
Cupid, with the ball of thread in hand: “Yes, I can now close my eyes and laugh: with this thread I’ll find my way.”
Aesop: “Love, that slender thread might get you lost: the slightest shock could break it.”
Perrault summarizes the moral for us:
The lesson of instruction to be drawn from this fiction is this: That tho’ the God of Love is too apt to involve mankind into a thousand petty broils and perplexities, yet he has the secret art of extricating them out of the maze they are thus led into, when he is accompanied by Prudence, to the practice whereof he is here directed by the sage Fables of Æsop.