Mythic Heroes—Common Traits Perseus: Miraculous birth, early threats Disinheritance and/or powerful enemy Quest(s) – impossible tasks requiring strength and courage, really a search for their identity Helpers – often divine Warrior mentality Inability to manage women Difficulty controlling passions Egocentricity
The Heroic Journey:
Why did King Acrisius of Argos want to get rid of his daughter Danae? Priestess at Delphi told the King that Danae’s son (later known as Perseus) would kill him. Acrisius built an underground chamber and imprisoned Danae in it to avoid his fate. While in the chamber, Zeus visits and fathers Perseus. He is a demi-God. When discovered—sets Danae and Perseus off in a wooden chest into the sea.
Who Rescues Danae and Perseus? Dictys (fisherman) and his wife rescue Perseus and Danae and care for them for many years—raising Perseus as his own child Polydectes (Dictys’ evil King brother) sets his eye on marrying Danae. Wants to get rid of Perseus first.
The impossible task… King Polydectes gives Perseus an “impossible task” of bring a gift for the wedding celebration to get rid of him. Perseus was poor, and could not afford a gift. King Polydectes asks for Gorgon’s head as a wedding gift. Not an easy task— Gorgons are winged, dragon-like women with snakes for hair whose gaze turns mortals to stone.
The Impossible Task… Perseus’ promise to obtain the Gorgon’s head delights King Polydectes because he was certain that Perseus would not be able to return from this quest. The god Hermes and goddess Athena helped Perseus every step of the way.
Hermes’ and Athena’s gifts: Heroes never achieve things alone… Hermes gave Perseus a sword—strong enough to pierce the scales of a Gorgon Athena gave Perseus her own shield. The shild could be used as a mirror and enable Perseus to see the Gorgon without actually looking at it and avoid being turned to stone
Other “helpers”-- Gray Women and Nymphs of the North Perseus went to the three Gray women and took the one eye they shared and would not give it back until they told him how to find the nymphs of the North. Perseus found the nymphs and from them he obtained winged sandals to help him fly and a magic wallet that would shrink or expand to hold whatever was placed in it. Also an invisibility cap to make him invisible.
The Quest—accomplished— ”The Underworld”: Persus went to the Gorgon’s home. With Hermes and Athena’s help, he slays Medusa by beheading her. Then he uses the magical cap given to him by the dieties—becomes invisible and Escapes with Medusa’s head
The Return Home: On the way back to Greece w/Medusa’s head, Persus lands in Ethiopia (Africa) and finds Princess Andromeda chained near the sea waiting to be devoured by the sea serpent. The serpent had been eating Ethiopians to punish Andromeda’s mom (Queen Cassiopeia) for saying Andromeda was more beautiful than certain goddesses
Perseus saves the day—he rescues Andromeda and cuts off the serpent’s head with Hermes’ sword. Takes Andromeda’s hand—to marry her. Returns to Seriphos
Perseus saves Andromeda
The Return Home Perseus returns home changed. He discovers that Danae and Dictys were hiding from King Polydectes who was angry because Danae refused to marry him. Perseus kills Polydectes and his men at a banquet with the head of Medusa. He turns them to stone. Perseus frees his friends—makes Dictys king of Seriphos.
A Prophesy fulfilled: Persus went to Larissa in N. Greece—in some stories city of Argos. Enters a discus-throwing contest Unknown to him, King Acrisius—his Grandfather, was there watching the event. Entirely by “accident”, Perseus kills Acrisius with a discus that he threw off course. LESSON:You can never escape your fate!
The new movie: Clash of the Titans vs. the “real story” of Perseus: What are the key differences? Perseus Clash of the Titans