Die Heuning Pot Literature Guide
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Perseus and Medusa
Perseus and Medusa

Theme of Cunning and Cleverness in Perseus and Medusa

Perseus may hack Medusa's head off with a sword, but in most cases his success comes from quick, clever thinking rather than through mad fighting skills. Just think about it: he blackmails the Graeae by threatening not to return their eye and tooth; he defeats the sleeping Medusa by looking at her only through a reflection; and he hides from the other two Gorgons with the helmet of invisibility. Perseus isn't the only clever guy in the story, though. King Polydectes is pretty cunning himself, setting Perseus up to go on Mission Impossible. His trickery is repaid in kind when Perseus surprises Polydectes and turns him into stone using his handy-dandy Gorgon head.

Questions About Cunning and Cleverness

  1. How is Perseus similar to or different from Odysseus, the hero famous for his wily ways?
  2. Do you think it's more admirable to defeat an opponent through strength or through cleverness? Which quality is more entertaining for a hero to have in a story?
  3. Is there a difference between Perseus' cleverness and Polydectes'?
  4. When Perseus defeats an enemy through cleverness, do you feel like he's won fair and square? Why or why not?

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