What does one do for entertainment at 5:00 a.m.? There are so many options! I decided to do a bit of light reading, so I brushed up on my classical mythology. Today’s lesson focused primarily on Medusa, the only one of the three Gorgon sisters who could be killed. Her sisters, Euryale and Stheno, were immortal.
These sisters were not like the women we encounter daily in our lives. No, these women were hideous in the extreme. They had serpents for hair. Their penetrating eyes turned anyone who looked upon them into stone. Their tongues were huge and forked like snakes and inside their mouths were long, sharp teeth like the tusks of a wild boar. Their bodies, covered with hard scales, were impenetrable to swords. And they had wings of gold and claws forged of brass.
Perseus had promised to bring King Polydectes the head of Medusa, in lieu of a horse (Polydectes had demanded each of his subjects bring a horse to a banquet as a present for Polydectes’ intended bride, but Perseus did not have a horse, nor did he have access to a horse). There’s another long back story there, as Polydectes really didn’t want to marry his intended, Hippodameia; he was hot for Danaë, Perseus’ mother, who had become pregnant with Perseus either by her uncle, Proetus, or by Zeus, while locked in an underground cell. I’ll leave that for another time.
Fortunately for Perseus, Athena hated the Gorgon sisters, so she led him to a cave on Seriphus where the nymphs of springs, brooks, and lakes (the Naiads) lived. They provided Perseus with most of what he would need: winged sandals which would allow him to enter and escape from the lair of the sisters with great speed; the cap of Hades which made its wearer invisible; and a pouch in which to carry Medusa’s severed head.
Hermes then appeared to Perseus, supplying him with a sickle made of a metallic stone so hard it was unbreakable.
When he finally found the Gorgons’ lair at the end of the earth, in a land where the sun and moon never shone, he passed many stone figures, creatures who had wandered into the lair and, upon seeing one of the Gorgons, had turned to stone.
But Perseus had a plan that would allow him to see the sisters without looking at them. He had meticulously polished his bronze shield so that he could use it as a mirror to view the Gorgons without looking directly at them.
Perseus used his shield to reflect Medusa’s image. He cut off her head with a single blow from his sickle, stuffed the head into his pouch, and flew away on his winged feet. The other Gorgons awoke and flew into the air shrieking for vengeance, but because Perseus was cloaked by the cap of Hades, they could not see him and gave up their efforts to slay Medusa’s attacker.
When Perseus chopped off Medusa’s head, her offspring (she was pregnant by Poseidon, by the way) sprang from her neck. They were Chrysaor, who would become renowned as a warrior, and Pegasus, the famous winged horse made immortal by Mobil Oil Company’s selection of his image for the company’s logo.
And there you have it.
If I could make up stuff like that, I could become the stuff of legends, or mythology. Well, at least I write some stuff that’s not half bad. Yesterday, I learned that my short story entry in the writers’ club contest won first place. I’m pleased, of course, but with only nine entrants, the odds of winning were pretty high to start.