Greek Myths: Perseus

By Nicholas Ventimiglia

Narrative First Retold By Edith Hamilton

King Acrisius of Argos had one child and her name was Danae, and she was the most beautiful woman in all the land. Acrisius was still upset because he had no son, so he went to the oracle Apollo. He was told that the son of his daughter would kill him. This made him very worried, so he locked Danae up in a copper room and buried it with only one window on the top. Time passed and nothing happened until one night clouds came overhead but the rain was not water but gold. The gold filled the chamber -but it was Zeus- he impregnated raped Danae with a boy. It kept getting harder and harder to keep baby Perseus hidden from Acrisius. When he finally found out about him Acrisius put Danae and Perseus in a larger chest and threw them into the sea.
They drifted for days until the chest washed up on an island, but they still had no way of getting out. A fisherman named Dictys found the chest and broke it open. Dictys and his wife had no children so they took care of Danae and Perseus as if they were theirs. Many years passed and Perseus became a fisherman. Trouble came when the ruler of the island polydectes, who happened to be Dictys’ brother, took an interest in Danae. Polydectes wanted Danae but not Perseus so he came up with a plan to get rid of him. So he invited the whole island to a wedding and it was customary to bring a gift. Perseus did not have one but he was told that Polydectes wanted the head of Medusa more than anything. At the wedding when everyone was giving their gifts Perseus stood up and said that he would go kill the gorgon Medusa and bring back her head as a gift.
He wandered around for days and just before he gave up the gods Hermes and Athena appeared to him. Hermes gave him his winged sandals and a sword forged on mount Olympus, Athena gave him a shield made from polished copper that worked as a merrier so Medusa’s gaze would not turn him to stone. They also told him that he needed to go find the gray women for they knew were the nymphs of the north were. When he arrive at the lair of the grey women he noticed that they only had one eye to share, so while they were passing back and forth Perseus stole it and demanded the information he needed. When they told him he returned the eye and flew off with his winged sandals. He arrived in hyperborean and found the nymphs they happily gave him a magic wallet that resized to the size of its contents and a cap that made the wearer invisible. After Perseus had all the items he needed Hermes appeared to him and showed him were the gorgons lair was. When they arrived the three gorgons were sleeping so looking into his shield Perseus cut off Medusa’s head but he woke up her sisters, and they started attacking him. He managed to fly out uninjured. On his way back Perseus stopped in Ethiopia because he saw a beautiful woman chained to a rock waiting to be devoured by a sea monster.perseus_&_sea_monster.jpgHer name was Andromeda. But just as Perseus landed the sea monster appeared so Perseus turned it to stone with Medusa’s head. Perseus took Andromeda to her parents and asked for her hand in marriage, and they gladly accepted. When Perseus returned to the island he was raised on he found out that Polydectes was furious after Danae refused to marry him, so her and Dictys were taking refuge in a temple. Perseus found out that Polydectes was having a banquet so Perseus left Andromeda in the care of Dictys and went. Upon arrival Perseus pulled out Medusa’s head and turned Polydectes and all his royal subjects to stone. Perseus then appointed Dictys to the throne.
Then Danae decided that she wanted to go back to Argos to reconcile with Acrisius, but when they got there they found out that he was run out of the city. Soon after they arrived Perseus found out that the King of Larissa was holding a great athletic contest, so he journeyed there to compete. When it was Perseus’ turn to throw the discus I went flying into the stands hitting and killing an old man. Upon further inspection the old man was Acrisius making the prophecy come true. Perseus’ decedents became great kings one of them being Hercules.
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Interpretation By Nicholas Ventimiglia
In Greek mythology there are my heroes but among the most prominent is Perseus who slew the gorgon Medusa. The myth of Perseus exemplifies the heroic archetype that resonates throughout the narrative. When the essence of a love story is revealed, the result depicts that the relationship of Perseus and Andromeda have higher meaning, and the essence of the myth creates a bloodline from Zeus to the kings and queens of Persia. The values of the quest showcased a heroic myth but because Perseus is helped by two magical beings it gives the myth a fairytale attribute. The myth of Perseus displays many god-like actions, so his descendants can be as glorious as him.
In this myth the essence of love hits hard. Many people just see an action story, but some people who look close enough see something else “… a story about the sacrifice of innocence, with a hero who is less prepared for a rescue” (Scott Greene par. 4). Some people need to learn to look past the action and see the true meaning of most myths. If you look close enough in most Greek myths most should have a storyline like this.
Edith Hamilton has written a very good version of the story of Perseus and with her story she has given a very good interpretation. She brings up the question of how fairytale could be related "This story is on the level of the fairy story. Hermes and Athena act like the fairy godmother in Cinderella. The magical wallet and cap belong to the properties fairy tales abound in everywhere. It is the myth in which magic plays a decisive part, and it seems to have been a great favorite in Greece" (Edith Hamilton 197). Edith Hamilton uses many sources when she writes her versions of myths, so she always has an interpretation that hits an angle that is hard to see. In most stories it is easy to look at part but when the big picture has a message it gets overlooked all the time.Perseus was, like a lot of the Greek myths, the son of Zeus. All the Greek myths that the hero or heroine is the child of a god the story was most likely created to give a king or queen the divine blood thus adding to their power. Perseus being the son of Zeus and the quest he went on gives him glory that can be passed down through generations. Perseus’s descendants are the Persians, so this story most likely was created to give the late rulers of Persia more popularity and power. This is probably why most of the Greek hero myths were created.
This narrative really exemplifies the heroic archetype. Even when love is revealed Perseus’s heroic stands still have a strong hold on the myth. This myth would have ended very differently if Perseus did not have Hermes and Athena acting like the fairy godmother in Cinderella. The myth of Perseus has all the traits needed to become the greatest of all Greek myths


Works CitedHamilton, Edith. Mythology. paperback ed. N.p.: Little, Brown and Company, 1942. 198.