Why is it that Medusa is considered a frightening monster? Is it the snakes on her scalp or, is it because with a mere stare directed your way she can literally petrify you? There are numerous myths surrounding this supernatural being that have been recorded through time. I will use some literary works to help better understand the story of Medusa and how she came to be this monster everyone knows today.
Medusa is a woman who was very beautiful with healthy wonderful hair that was comparable to Athena, the goddess of wisdom. She was Athena’s priestess, someone with an importance in religious position. The goddess of wisdom had gotten in an argument with her love interest and also being another god, Poseidon the god of the sea. Poseidon then became furious with Athena and he later on spotted Medusa who he could not take his eyes off of. With the knowledge of knowing Medusa’s rank in Athens where Athena would associate frequently, Poseidon decided to sexually abuse her because he knew that she believed and worshipped Athena. Medusa then quickly reached out to Athena for aid on the previous traumatic experiences she has been through. Once Athena was aware of these events she was with enraged with Medusa and curses her by creating the famous monster who could turn any man into stone with direct contact. This was a punishment from the goddess because she was sexually abused by Poseidon and because her beauty was compared to her own and Athena was not pleased with that. Medusa was banished from Athens and her location was told to be unknown. She was the only mortal out of the two sisters she had, making her a target to many onlookers. Eventually, Medusa was killed by a man named Perseus who received aid from the gods including Athena to defeat her because of her vile actions after she was cursed.
One of the versions of Medusa is from the book “Medusa: Solving the Mystery of The Gorgon” where she is described as a deadly creature. Her appearance has varied from her having scaly skin with sharp teeth to being in human form with an unsightly face. “The Gorgons had scaly heads, boar’s tusks, brazen hands, and wings. They had protruding tongues, glaring eyes, and serpents wrapped around their waists as belts” (Wilk 21). Even though later in time Medusa’s appearance kept changing, her ability to turn any being into stone remained the same. Now, Medusa in “Clash of The Titans” appears as a half woman half snake creature.
In the film specifically her face only turns hideous at will when she makes direct contact with another person or living being. “The Ashgate Encyclopedia of Literary and Cinematic Monsters”characterizes Medusa as a vile and horrible monster. “In later narratives, which focus much more fully on Medusa than on her two sisters, Medusa is presented as an Underworld monster connected to death” (Kaleta). She is comprehended in these three sources as a woman with countless deaths in her hands due to the capability of converting humans into statues. Overall based on the illustrations of Medusa in these sources, she has not been changed a lot. Her look usually goes back and forth from her being in human form or part creature part human. Medusa’s story on the other hand typically stays the same. Medusa for me would easily get a rating of four out of five. She can straightforwardly be in the category of a monster. Not many monsters have snakes in replacement of hair, this is just part of Medusa’s unique appearance.
Cohen has seven total theses that hypothesizes what a monster is. His first thesis “The Monster’s Body Is a Cultural Body” explains that appearance as well as the rituals done by the monster is based of off culture. This applies to this creature because in certain stories it is told that Medusa’s lair is full of statues from countless people and animals. Most people will clearly understand who is responsible for all the human figured stones. Medusa’s work is widely known throughout time and the world. Even after Perseus slays Medusa and decapitates her head, her ability to turn people into stone is still intact.The meaning of Medusa in Greek means to protect or rule. Perseus used Medusa’s bodiless head to defeat his foes and protect his loved ones. Her body is a cultural body and more specifically her head. Also the description of her skin is covered in scales and her lower body is part snake. These are signifying that snakes are dangerous, when one is in front of a snake one of the first instincts is to slowly move away because quick movements tells the animal that they are in danger and snakes defend themselves by biting with thier poisonous fangs.
Thesis number two is all about how “The Monster Always Escapes”. This ties into medusa’s story and herself because in the article “The Ashgate Enc of Literary and Cinematic Monsters”, it reads that there have been a lot of fighters attempting to slay Medusa but all of them failed. The one to finally defeat her was Perseus but, he did not do it alone. Perseus got aid from Athena the goddess of wisdom who gave him a shield that could be used as a mirror to see Medusa’s reflection on the shield without staring at her directly. Hermes the messenger for the gods gave the young man a pair of shoes that had wings, that was used to travel to his destination. Perseus also got a sword from Zues the god of thunder. The last item was a cap of invisibility given to him by Hades the god of the Underworld. “After her death, Medusa becomes a guardian in Hades, the land of the dead. It is there that Hercules later meets her” (Kaleta). After death her soul still lives on and is introduced in other heros’ story meaning that she always escapes and reappears.
The next thesis is his third one, The Monster is The Harbinger of Category Crisis. The is basically meaning that the monster “Refuses easy categorization” (Cohen 6). Categories such as appearance, time period, or the setting. Medusa perfectly fits into this thesis because she is part animal and part human. She also has snakes on her head instead of hair, and “snake like fangs” (Kaleta). Many people feared Medusa in the past because she kills people instantly with just a simple look in the eyes. Fear consumed people because Medusa causes death.
“The monster is continually linked to forbidden practices, in order to normalize and to enforce. The monster also attracts.The same creatures who terrify and interdict can evoke potent escapist fantasies; the linking of monstrosity with forbidden makes the monster all the more appealing as a temporary egress from constraint” (Cohen 16). This is part of the passage from thesis number six, “Fear of The Monster Is Really a Kind of Desire”. Medusa is a creature that several fighters in the past that were eager to slay her. There was a type of thirst of being the one to defeat Medusa that many warriors urged to fulfil. This is a reason why there were a great amount of statues in Medusa’s lair. So many of the men failed up until Perseus won the battle against her.
The final thesis that will be discussed from Cohen’s article will be thesis number seven “ The Monster Stands at the Threshold… of Becoming.” To sum up, we ourselves are the ones responsible for how monsters came to be, the monsters are our offspring. We are the reason they were created, it could be based on how they were treated or how the world classified them. Being seen as a certain thing can convince people to believe that is what they are.
To summarize, Medusa is a great monster, throughout time she has been a woman of beauty who was cursed by the goddess Athena. Medusa’s physical form and appearance is then described as ugly and displeasing to the eye. Due to her change in appearance, she had the power to turn any man into stone with a simple glare. Cohen’s thesis apply to Medusa based on her story and physical features. She was not born a monster, but created and many feared her abilities. Because of her uniqueness and many desired to defeat her but only one succeeded, Perseus. After being defeated Medusa still managed to reappear in other heroes’ tale. Medusa is a monster that continuously comes to surface in literary work. Through time Medusa is somehow always reintroduced, a monster written throughout our time.
Work Cited Page
“Clash of The Titans (2010)- Medusa’s Lair Scene (6/10).” Youtube, uploaded by Movieclips, 22 December 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FY00zwMZsqM.
Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. “Monster Culture: Seven Theses.” From Monster Theory: Reading Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996. 3-25.
Kaleta, Marcin Konrad. “Medusa.” The Ashgate Encyclopedia of Literary and Cinematic Monsters, Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock, Ashgate Publishing, 1st edition, 2014. Credo Reference, https://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/ashgtmonster/medusa/0?institutionId=5312.
Kayden, Spencer. “The Hunt for Medusa’s Head. (Cover Story).” Scholastic Scope, vol. 60, no. 2, Sept. 2011, p. 14. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=f6h&AN=70047471&site=ehost-live.
Leterrier, Louis, director. Clash of The Titans. Warner Brothers, 2010.
Wilk, Stephen R. Medusa : Solving the Mystery of the Gorgon. Oxford University Press, 1999. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=e000xna&AN=41702&site=ehost-live.