A labyrinth is an intricate enclosure or structure containing a series of winding passages that is hard to follow without losing one's way. While labyrinth sometimes appears as a synonym for maze, the two are distinct: it is possible for a maze to have more than one entrance or exit, whereas a labyrinth has only one opening that is simultaneously entrance and exit. In traversing a labyrinth, the process of exploration leads into the center and then back out to where one started. .
Jorge Luis Borges, author of Labyrinths, attempts to skew the fundamental principles by which most people govern their lives. He constructs allegorical worlds that reflect reality in their complexity. By pulling the reader deeper into these labyrinths, Borges" stories subtly and without mal-intent, demand a reexamination of the way we collectively relate to the world. Specifically, Borges questions the reliability of the past, something by which individuals, ethnicities and nations define themselves. Borges comments on the uselessness of attempting to determine that something is either true of false, when confronting it through writing. Therefore, the moment an act is recorded, it becomes an entity of its own: neither fact nor fiction. In "Theme of the Traitor and the Hero" and "Three Versions of Judas," Borges presents two individuals struggling with the realization that our present-day conceptions of the past may be inconsistent with the actual truth. By subverting the traditional concepts of hero and traitor, as they are presented in historical and religious narratives, Borges calls into question the absolute faith with which people place their trust in what may amount to just another story.
In "Theme of the Traitor and the Hero," Borges assembles a collection of storytellers, whose variations on the theme of betrayal cast doubt on the reliability of both literal and literary accounts of history. The narrator first explains that "though the narrator is contemporary, his story occurred towards the middle or the beginning of the nineteenth century" (72).