Gorgon, Danae, Polydectes, head
He grabbed her head, put it in his bag,
and quickly flew off before the others could catch
Perseus and the Gorgon's
the son of Danae, the daughter of King Acrisius, and Zeus. King
Acrisius had been told by a prophet that his grandson would kill
him, so he locked his daughter in a brass tower so she could not
have children. Despite this, she secretly married Zeus and
Acrisius found out about the baby, he was frightened. Not
wanting to kill them, he put Danae and Perseus into a chest and
cast them into the sea. The chest washed up onto an island in
the Aegean Sea called Seriphos, where a fisherman called Dictys
let them out and looked after them while Perseus grew up.
The King of
Seriphos, Polydectes, was a cruel man, and when he met Danae he
was enchanted with her beauty. He did everything he could to
persuade her to marry him. Scared, Danae refused, but Polydectes
would not leave her alone. He was trying to force her to marry
him, by pretending to marry another woman. When Perseus turned
up at the wedding without a wedding present, Polydectes scorned
him for being a lazy good-for-nothing. Perseus reacted
furiously, boasting that he could get anything in the world that
the king wanted; the king demanded the head of a Gorgon. Perseus
recoiled in horror, but accepted the challenge, impossible
though it seemed. The king had succeeded in getting rid of
Perseus. He thought Perseus would never return.
three Gorgons: Medusa, Stheno and Euryate. All were once very
beautiful women. So beautiful that Poseidon seduced Medusa in
one of Athena's temples. As Athena was already jealous of
Medusa's looks, she turned Medusa and her sisters into hideous
monsters. They had bronze wings, claw-like hands, tusks for
teeth, and live snakes for hair. Anyone who looked into their
eyes would be turned to stone forever.
that he would probably die trying to get the Gorgon's head, but
he had to try for his mother's sake. As he left the king, he was
surprised by two figures suddenly appearing before him. It was
Athena, goddess of Wisdom, and Hermes, messenger of the gods.
They brought Perseus five gifts from his father, Zeus, and
advised him to travel north until he came to the sea, and then
to seek help from the Graeae. They disappeared again, and he
looked at the gifts: a sharp sickle, a bright polished shield, a
cap, a bag to hang from his shoulder, and winged sandals.
Perseus was much happier now, especially when he found that the
cap made him invisible and the sandals made him fly. With such
help from the gods he could not fail in his task.
north toward the sea. When he came to the shore of a dark, misty
sea he did not know where he was nor where to find the Gorgons.
He saw the Graeae on the beach below and stopped to talk to
them. They were old, very ugly, and just one tooth and one eye
to share between them. They were the only people who knew where
to find the Gorgons, but they would not tell Perseus. He flew
away, put on his cap, then hovered above them until they were
passing the tooth and the eye between each other. He flew down,
snatched the tooth and eye, and threatened to throw them into
the sea unless the Graeae gave him the information. They finally
gave in and, after he had dropped the tooth and eye next to them
on the beach, he flew on toward the Gorgons.
entered the lair, he saw all around him figures of stone men and
animals, all killed by one look into the Gorgon's eyes. He
approached quietly and found the sisters asleep. He was able to
look on them safely. The snakes were awake and were writhing and
hissing at him. Fearing that they would wake and open their
eyes, he used the bronze shield as a mirror and cut off the head
of the nearest sister, Medusa. He grabbed her head, put it in
his bag, and quickly flew off before the others could catch him.
Behind him, from Medusa's blood sprang the winged horse,
Pegasus, the symbol of grace and beauty.
On the way
back to Seriphos, he flew past Atlas. Feeling sorry for him for
having to hold up the heavens, Perseus turned him to stone so he
would no longer feel the weight.
He stopped at
Larisa so that he could join in some games, but when he threw a
discus, it hit and killed an old man. That man was King Acrisius
- the prophecy had come true. Saddened, Perseus flew on.
As he flew
past an island on the way back to Seriphos, Perseus saw a girl,
Andromeda, chained to a rock. He stopped to help her and found
out that Poseidon had sent a sea monster, Cetus, to terrorise
the islands as a punishment for Andromeda's mother boasting that
her daughter was more beautiful than the sea nymphs. The only
way to stop the monster was Andromeda's sacrifice. As Perseus
prepared to rescue her, the monster appeared. He took the
Gorgon's head out of the bag and held it behind him, facing the
monster. It was immediately turned to stone. He took Andromeda
back to Seriphos to be his wife.
arrived back at Seriphos, Perseus went straight to the palace.
Polydectes was in the middle of a feast and obviously had not
expected to see Perseus again. The king did not believe that he
had managed to bring back the head of a Gorgon. Perseus took the
head out of the bag and showed them. They all turned to stone.
Danae was left in peace, as the king had not been able to force
her to marry him. Perseus gave back the gifts of the gods and
made Athena a present of the Gorgon's head, as thanks for her
Andromeda had many children and became the great-grandparents of
1. Why did Polydectes
demanded the head of a Gorgon?
2. What would happen if
you looked into the Gorgons' eyes?
3. How did Perseus know
where to find the Gorgons?
4. Did Perseus kill all
the three the Gorgons?
5. How did Andromeda
become Perseus' wife?
Gorgon's head by great American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne)