The Librarians and the Horns of the Dilemma

IMDB : aired December 14, 2014 : previous episode 
John Rogers (executive producer) answers questions for episodes 1-3
index and explanation of these posts


The Librarians in Training and their Guardian go to Boston to find out why interns are disappearing at a major corporation.

(I should add that I did the annotations for this, and then WordPress entirely ate the post, and I had to redo the whole thing. So if there is something I did not remember to explain this time, please nudge me in a comment. Also, there is some additional rambling about Knossos at the end of this one.)


The opening of this does make me think about how we often have images of ourselves (and what we can do) that may or may not actually be serving us (or the stuff we’re trying to do.)

The scene between Eve and Jenkins is even more interesting in light of the end of the series.

One of the things that fascinates me about setting this episode in Boston (and that I think might not have been intentional) is the parallels between Knossos and Boston.

Boston is a port city, but it’s also known for its twisty (and often complicated) streets, and it’s a place that has changed a lot geographically over the centuries. But both of them are also places with a lot of layered history, and places where the actual physical layout can be quite labyrinthine.

One of the interesting themes of the show that is clearly developing is that you have some really competent people here, but they all have some doubts (or obvious gaps – Jones doesn’t have doubts, because Jones) in their skill-sets, and about what that means about their ability to cope in the world. (I started thinking about this because of the Cassandra and Ezekiel conversation when they’re about to face the stairs.)

And because I spent a bit of time poking at this – I was trying to identify two of the marble bas reliefs you see in the room of Minoan artifacts, so let me talk about that for a moment.

One of the things that’s an art, in a search, rather than a skill you can teach people, is how to route around ‘I can’t find that thing’. I couldn’t identify the first bas relief you see clearly for ages (my brain was pretty sure it was part of the Parthenon originally, and I trusted that, because my brain is often right about that sort of thing, but none of the search terms I was trying was pulling up anything absolutely right.)

But then we get a look at the second one, the seated figures, and ‘marble bas relief seated men’ got me to being sure that one was the Parthenon, and then found my way to a site for the Ashmolean that had good diagrams of the entire set of friezes in one place, and then find the horse I was trying to identify in the first place (but where the images from that bit of the frieze hadn’t been showing up usefully in my searches for the horse. There’s a lot of marble horses.)

You will likely get somewhat different results from me, based on your search history, but the basic technique is sound. (Finishing Eli Pariser’s The Filter Bubble has been on my to-do list for a bit, but a summary is over here.)


The double axe or labrys has a long history of symbology, but it’s notably linked to Minoan Crete (and then to some modern day uses)

What Jenkins explains is often called sympathetic magic. (Also, clearly, in his world, the Philosopher’s Stone actually works.) Einstein-Rosen bridge.

Golden Axe foods: 

Apparently, the vast majority of the oldest companies in the world have something to do with food or drink or hospitality. (And 56% of them are in Japan, and apparently almost 90% are small companies, under 300 people.) If you want more background about a couple of the oldest companies, there’s an interesting Metafilter discussion with some links and video.

Floor 42. (42 is, of course, one answer to the question of the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. It is also the answer to 6×7 and 3×14.)

Snipe hunt. 

Items in the server room, part 1: Later dialogue implies they’re all Minoan, but they’re not. (Though most of them are). Bronze age helmet. What looks very much like a Tang dynasty horse. (Minoan horse sculptures, for comparison). Decidedly Roman sculpture. Statue of what is likely Aset (Isis). I can’t get a good enough look at the necklace. The thing you see on the back wall is the bull-leaping fresco, minus the leaping.

Dancing Lady fresco. Late Helladic (Helladic, Cycladic and Minoan are all basically the same time period, and the three terms refer to the locations of origin). Cup-bearer fresco.  The technical term for the room where they open the door is an ossuary (the catacombs of Paris are a particularly interesting one, historically).

Bull-leaping fresco. (How the bull-leaping actually worked, well, there’s art that exaggerates how it likely worked.) Theseus. Minotaur.

Rule of thumb. If you are caught in a non-magical maze, without a convenient Cassandra, follow either the left hand rule or the right hand rule (i.e. pick a hand. Keep that hand against a solid wall until you come to an exit.) You might or might not run into a minotaur in the process, but you will not get lost in an island in the interior of the maze, not connected to an exit. If there is an exit. (There are a variety of methods for solving mazes.)

More frescoes: Ladies in blue. Blue monkey with rocks and flowers (4th image down). Here, have some more frescoes, because they’re fun.

I cannot id the marble bas relief that has the horse with its head up, and three men. (And it is driving me up a wall.) Hah! Based on something later, this was part of the west frieze of the Parthenon.

Nicholas Flamel. The Wandering Jew. The Black Mask (which I think is a comics reference?)Other people who’ve claimed (or been claimed to be) immortal.

Eitheos and parthenos. (If you don’t already know about it, the Perseus Project is a great repository of material, particularly Greek and Roman classical texts but also other things.) Interestingly enough, while the former is usually translated as ‘unmarried man’ and the latter as ‘unmarried woman’, there are places where they’re used for ‘unmarried woman’ and ‘unmarried man’ respectively.

Symbology of seven. 7-polytopes.

Escher stairs. Another bit of the Parthenon, this one Athena talking to Hephaistos. Octopus jar. Three thousand years is a little off, though close enough for a casual monologue – the major destruction of the palace was somewhere between 1360 and 1100 BCE. There’s some debate, here, have a handy chart.  Minoan pottery (you see one of the pithoi in some shots.)

On story versus history:

This episode is one I particularly liked because of a personal memory. My father was a specialist in Ancient Greek theatre, and so periodic trips to Greece were part of his professional life. The year I was 8, my parents took me for the first time.

(Another part of my childhood is the fact I grew up on the Greek myths: my father would tell them to me over time – it took about six months – starting with Rhea and Chronos, and ending with Odysseus and Telemachus and the dog and Penelope at the end of the Odyssey, and then start over again at the beginning, bit by bit when he walked me to school or we went off to walk the dog.)

One of my earliest and strongest place memories is standing with my father near a corner of the Central Court in Knossos, and him talking about what it would be like, if you were a young man or a young woman brought as a slave from somewhere else, and you came through the winding halls of the palace (and that plan isn’t all of the spaces and buildings), into the central court.

And what it would be like to step into that space, disoriented, and see people doing the bull leaping, and the flicker of movement from torch light, and colours and styles and clothing and symbols that were quite likely unfamiliar to you. And how – being human – you’d try and make up stories of what that meant, why it mattered, because that’s what humans do.

I remember that moment, very distinctly, about how facts matter, but story does too, and understanding the emotional response to what you see and experience (and what other people see and experience) and how that changes things matters a great deal.

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7 comments to The Librarians and the Horns of the Dilemma

  • mary e brewer

    Love The Librarians with Christian Kane. Fun and Smart.. Witty and Zany.. Hoping for many seasons of this show!

  • Louise Shive

    Thank you for your comments and historical insights. I loved this episode with both versions of the Minotaur, and particularly enjoyed Christian Kane’s character, Stone, inciting the tattooed version with a whistle as if calling a dog. The Librarians provided excitement week after week, showing unique twists of classic tales, myths and legends. Let’s hope for more seasons.

  • Heidi Dobson

    I love the show. This show is the only one that I would make plans to watch and also I have watched many of the episodes On Demand since the finale. The Librarians is a fantastic show that is funny, thoughtful and there is always a twist to the story to make it so you don’t know how it will end. I am hoping for many more seasons for this great show.

  • Barb

    The Librarians is a welcome TV series. It has fantasy, magic, suspense and humor all wrapped into one hour every week. It’s appropriate for the entire family and has the entertainment value for all ages. I sincerely hope that it has many seasons in its future.

  • SANDY M.

    Love love LOVE The Librarians .. just a shame it ended way too soon. The stories are great! The cast is great, especially Christian Kane and having Noah Wyle pop in and out is a lot of fun! Can’t wait for Season 2 so I can get more … in the meantime, Cable On-Demand works for me since I don’t have a DVR.

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Hi, I’m Jen

Librarian, infovore, and general geek, likely to write comments about books, link collections, and other thoughts related to how we find, use, and take joy in information.

I'm the Research Librarian at the Perkins School for the Blind

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