De-myth-ify: Perseus and Medusa(Part One)

Let’s talk about some classic Greek mythology, the myth of the demigod Perseus and the gorgon Medusa, today. This is part one of a three-part series on Perseus and Medusa.

For the previous series of posts on Oedipus in the De-myth-ify series, click here.

This story, just like Oedipus’, is very typically Greek and begins with a prophecy. Acrisius, the king of Argos, was told by the Oracle of Delphi that his own grandson would kill him one day. (So, as you see, only a slight change in “grandness” from Laius’ predicament) Acrisius had only one daughter, Danae. Now, Acrisius was a reasonable guy and reacted reasonably, and decided to lock Danae up in a tall tower, away from the world, to ensure that there was no meeting or mating with people and consequently no childbearing in Danae’s future. (Laius understands. Family is hard, y’all. Especially in ancient Greece.)

However, it is common knowledge that Zeus has no chill. So, the king of the gods came to our damsel in distress in the most extra form of a golden shower through a crack in her roof and yet again, had a dalliance with a mortal which resulted in the hero of our story, the half-mortal half-god Perseus. Eventually, Acrisius caught on and realised that his plan of locking away his daughter forever did not work and he now had a demigod grandson to contend with. (Now now, at least Oedipus was fully mortal) He then proceeded to in the best dad move order both mother and child to be placed in a chest and thrown into the sea to die. (Seriously, this guy and Laius could have been best buds.)

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Danae,by Giovanni Battista.

Zeus, however, had no plans of letting them die and allowed the chest to reach safely to the island of Seriphus. Here, the chest was discovered by Dictys, the brother of the king Polydectes, and its occupants brought forth to him. Polydectes was not a great guy and he immediately wanted Danae to marry him and could not handle rejection. Dictys however, managed to conceal Danae and Perseus from him and allow them to stay on the island where Perseus received a hero’s education from Chiron the Centaur, teacher to heroes like Hercules, Achilles and Jason. (We like Dictys.What a great guy.)

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Eventually, Polydectes realised that Danae and Perseus had been saying in Seriphus all this time and realised that the only obstacle standing between him marrying Danae was her son Perseus, now a grown man who was very protective of her and would not allow her to be married to a god awful man like Polydectes against her will. (Seems reasonable, but we are talking about a man who refuses to see reason) Polydectes then had a genius idea that would allow him to deal with his problems once and for all, a la every teenager in a teen movie, by throwing a party.

Now, this party was not just some ordinary rager. It was a large banquet where it was customary for each guest to bring the host a gift. Perseus was unaware of this custom and asked Polydectes to name his gift and promised that he could not refuse. Polydectes finally had him in his trap and asked Perseus to bring him the head of the only mortal gorgon, Medusa. (Gasp!) And thus, Perseus set off on his dangerous quest, one which all heroes before him had been unsuccessful on and our story gets juicier.

But, wait. This is not just a one-character story, unlike Oedipus. It is now time for me to introduce the other character of our story, our “villain”, the monster Medusa. Medusa was one of the three Gorgons and the only mortal one among them. She was a beautiful woman with long flowing hair and a gorgeous face, unlike her siblings who were monsters by birth. This is the irony of the story of Medusa, for she eventually turned into the most feared and most awful monster of them all.

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Medusa was so beautiful that even the mighty sea god Poseidon could not resist her charms and impregnated her in the goddess of wisdom Athena’s temple. (Yikes.) Athena was livid and in her fury transformed Medusa into a hideous monster with bronze hands and wings of gold, like her sisters. Writhing snakes were entwining her head in place of hair. Her face was so hideous and her gaze so piercing that the mere sight of her was sufficient to turn a man to stone. (Damn Athena. You could have chilled a little.)And what of Poseidon, you ask? Nothing, he got off scot-free because he is immortal and couldn’t care less. So much for a mighty sea god, huh? Oh and also, she was confined to live in a cave with her sisters called the Gorgon’s Lair whose location was known to no mortal. (Remember this, this becomes relevant later.)

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The three gorgons at the Secession building in Vienna, Austria

And now, both our character’s timelines are caught up and here they are, Perseus on a reckless quest, Medusa with her stony gaze(Hehe) in her cave while their destinies are about to get a whole lot tangled. Get settled, the fun is just about to begin.

To be continued.

THIS POST’S QUESTION: What do you think of the characters so far? Are there any favorites or least favorite ones? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

3 thoughts on “De-myth-ify: Perseus and Medusa(Part One)

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