I was playing an old video game today, and I had to kill an minotaur armed with a battle axe. Afterward, I thought to myself, Minotaurs in fantasy imagery tend to carry axes a lot. I wonder where that originated?
A few examples immediately leapt to mind:
the AD&D Monster Manual,
Capcom's "King of the Dragons"
& a Raging Minotaur from Magic: the Gathering.
There are, of course, many more examples to be found.
However, by the time I had thought of a few examples, an answer, of sorts, had come to me. The association of the minotaur and the axe is very old: both are emblems of Minoan Crete. The myth of Theseus slaying the Minotaur takes place in the labyrinth of King Minos. And, thanks to the excavation of the Minoan palace of Knossos by Arthur Evans, we know that the double-bladed axe (or labrys; whether the word is related to "labyrinth" is unknown) was an important symbol in Minoan civilization. (Agnes Carr Vaughn called her monograph on the Minoans The House of the Double Axe, which was Evans's nickname for the palace site.) Images of such axes were painted on the walls, miniature decorative ones were fashioned out of precious metals.
So there is possibly a very ancient association of minotaurs and axes, specifically double-bladed axes. (Note that the first two minotaurs pictures above are indeed wielded double-bladed weapons.)
However, while the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur has been told since the Bronze Age, the importance of axe imagery in Minoan culture was not known before Evans's excavations, which ran from 1900 to 1905. Of course, this is still much older than all the examples that leapt to mind of fantasy minotaurs wielding huge axes, but it returned me to wondering how the association of that particular monster with that particular weapon came about.
I can think of several possibilities. The association may predate the excavation of Knossos. in that case, there might be a specific identifiable source where it originated, but quite possibly not. Alternatively, the association might be more recent, first appearing in a twentieth-century source. (I suspect that prior to the twentieth century, there were probably not a lot of fantasy works that dealt with generic minotaurs, as opposed to the unique Minotaur of Crete.) In that case, the association with the axe may have been intentionally based on the connection to Minoan Crete; or it might simply have been a coincidence. So, what is known about the history of this monster/weapon association?