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Beauty and Jealousy in the Story of Medusa and the Greek Goddess Athena

  • Updated July 27, 2023
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An island sits at the ends of the earth that is home to a monster named Medusa. Although she is one of three sisters, she lives a lonely life. Medusa stands out as a misfit among her sisters because she is mortal and her sisters, Euryale and Stheno, are immortal and do not age. Nobody ever bothers the dangerous monster Medusa. Medusa’s flawless skin is as smooth as baby. Her soft lips combined with her light blue eyes reflect her beauty. She has the perfect smile that many women envy. The Goddess of wisdom, Athena, is jealous of Medusa’s beauty, Because of this, she summons Perseus, the son of the god Zeus and the mortal Danae, for a mission. The mission seems simple enough: to behead the monster that is Medusa. Athena grants Perseus help by providing him a sword for decapitating and a shield for protection.

She provides useful information that looking into the eyes of Medusa will turn a person into stone. Perseus is determined to help Athena because he hopes that he will be rewarded after and considered a hero. Medusa’s island is located thousands of miles away from any form of human life. The distance doesn’t discourage Perseus as he makes his way to the island. He searches around the island in hopes to stumble upon Medusa. He makes his way past both sisters across the island and continues his journey. Finally he reaches a small, dark cave and a faint noise of hissing enters his ears, He assumes this could be a way to Medusa, but he has no idea what is in store for him. He walks to the entrance of the cave and spots a dark figure with a moving shadow on its head.

Using his shield as coverage, he moves closer and closer until he can decipher what he is seeing. He cannot believe his eyes when he spots a beautiful women with snakes for hair. He knows that this must be Medusa and quickly focuses his eyes away from her head. The snakes are an interesting device that makes Perseus want to look towards her head, but he knows he must not or else he will turn to stone and fails. He creepily sneaks up behind the oblivious monster and slices her neck with his sword. The snakes quickly die off and Perseus believes that it is safe to pick up the head of Medusa which is located next to a pile of blood, He swiftly snagged the head without touching the blood and ran off to return the head to Athena. The head made Athena happy because she now knows that the beautiful Medusa is no more and she has Medusa’s head to prove it.

My story focused primarily on Athena’s jealously towards Medusa’s beauty. This jealousy is what caused Perseus’ journey to decapitate Medusa. Like many Medusa myths, Athena wanted Medusa’s head and my goal was to make Medusa’s head a prize for Athena. In my retelling of the Medusa myth, I kept many of the same elements from other stories. I started my story oft talking a little bit about Medusa and her life. I mentioned multiple times in my story that Medusa lived on an island that was located far from civilization and at the ends of the earth. In “Medusa and Perseus” by Hesoid, he states that the Gorgons “live in the utmost place towards night, by the singing Hesperidesr”. I also kept some of the other elements of Medusa stories that are very common.

I talked about how Medusa has two sisters, Euryale and Stheno, and how she is the only mortal of the two Hesoid also says “they are Stheno, Euryale, and Medusa, whose fate was a sad one, for she was mortal and the other two immortal and ageless.“ This was also discussed In the story “The Beauty of Medusa” by Apollodorus because he says “They were Stheno, Euryale, and Medusa Now Medusa alone was mortal.” I kept all these elements the same because I believe that these elements are what makes a Medusa story recognizable and are the bases of many Medusa storiesr One thing that I changed from the other myths is that when I introduced the Gorgons, I put more focus on Medusa and emphasized her more by talking about her first, In the myths by Hesoid and Apollodorus, they mention the two sisters first and Medusa last, I kept these elements the same as the old stories of Medusa because they are very familiar and easily recognizable to describe Medusa‘s life.

The fact that she is one of three sisters and the only one who is mortal explains why her life is so lonely, She does not fit in with her two other sisters. One element that I used that is common in many stories is Medusa’s beautyr In my retelling of the story, I said that Athena was jealous of Medusa because she was so beautiful, In the story “Medusa and Music“ by Pindar, there is a very descriptive paragraph about how beautiful Medusa is. He states “of the fair-cheeked Medusa; He who, men tell, was from a flowing stream.” In “The Beauty of Medusa” by Apollodorus, the story ends with the line “But it is alleged by some that Medusa was beheaded for Athena‘s sake; and they say that the Gorgon was fain to match herself with the goddess even in beauty.” This was the common theme in my story because in my retelling, Athena had Perseus decapitate Medusa because she was jealous of Medusa‘s beauty.

Many of the stories in the Medusa Reader talk about how people were turned to stone by Medusa because she was so beautiful. In my retelling, I gave a descriptive picture of how beautiful Medusa is, I copied the idea of her beauty from other myths but I changed up the description of Medusa and what makes her beautiful. Medusa’s beauty is the basis of my story and the main reason why Perseus goes on his journey to decapitate hen Many other myths use Medusa’s beauty as a main background of the plot. Also in my story, I said how Athena granted Perseus the gifts of a sword for decapitating and a shield for protection. I changed up how Athena helps Perseus because I wanted to really emphasize the jealousy of Athena and how much she Is willing to have Medusa decapitated by helping Perseus. In “The Beauty of Medusa”, Perseus’ hand is guided by Athena and he cuts off Medusa’s head.

One of the most important elements of a Medusa story that makes it recognizable is the fact that she has snakes in place of her hair. In nearly every retelling of Medusa, snakes for hair are mentioned somewhere This is the trait that makes Medusa who she is. In “The Story of Perseus”, Ovid says “Of the snake haired monster, through thin air was cleaving his way on whirring wings. As he flew over the Libyan sands, drops from the Gorgon‘s head fell bloody on the ground, and the earth received them into vipers. This explains that the snakes from the Gorgon’s heads are responsible for the deadly snakes in Libya. In “Medusa and the Snakes of Libya”, Lucan describes the protective nature of the snakes on Medusa’s head. He says “but some of the serpents on her head kept watch and darted out to protect her, while the rest lay draped like a curtain over her face and closed eyes.” In my story I described the dark figure with moving shadows in the cave.

This was in reference to the snakes on her head. I made her home a small dark cave to enhance the fact that she lives a lonely life. Another reference to snakes is made in “Virgil, Dante, and Medusa” by Dante Alighieri, In this story Alighieri states “snakes of deepest greens; small serpents and horned vipers formed their hairst”. These snakes are mentioned in many stories which shows their importance to the Medusa myth, In my retelling I did not go into too much detail about the snakes, but I did mention them, I did this because the snakes are not really a sign of beauty and my story primarily focuses on Medusa’s beautyt Another element that is just as important as the snakes for hair is the fact that Medusa can turn anybody who looks at her into stones.

This was a major part of my retelling because when Perseus got to the small cave, he had be careful not to stare down Medusa or else he would be turned to stone and fail his mission. The older versions of Medusa say that she just turns people into stone, but the newer versions are much more precise. They can range from a variety of things such as flint and marble, which reflects the fact that Medusa is beautiful and can turn people into a beautiful stone such as marble. I copied the older versions of the Medusa myth by just turning people into stone and not a specific type, My story is very similar to many of the other old retellings of the myth as I keep the same elements and don’t change them too much, I think that my retelling is more like the older Medusa myths that are told earlier on in the Medusa Readert.

References

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Beauty and Jealousy in the Story of Medusa and the Greek Goddess Athena. (2023, Jun 26). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/beauty-and-jealousy-in-the-story-of-medusa-and-the-greek-goddess-athena/

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