Study Guide

The Birth of Perseus Summary

How It (Supposedly) Went Down

The Short Story

The Oracle of Delphi tells King Acrisius that his daughter, Danae, will give birth to a son who'll kill him one day. Totally freaked out, Acrisius locks Danae in a bronze chamber that's open to the sky. Zeus sees Danae locked in the chamber and falls for her. The King of the Gods streams into the chamber as a shower of gold and impregnates Danae with little baby Perseus. Acrisius doesn't buy the whole Zeus-as-a-shower-of-gold story, so he locks his daughter and grandson in a chest and throws them into the sea. Luckily, it's a sea-worthy chest and the two float to the island of Serifos, where they're taken in by a friendly fisherman named Dictys.

The Less Short Story

  • Acrisius, King of Argos, has a problem. A big one.
  • No matter what he and his wife, Aganippe, try they can't have any sons.
  • His daughter, Danae, is really beautiful, but a daughter just isn't going to cut it for the King.
  • To try and get a little advice on the situation, Acrisius goes to the Oracle of Delphi.
  • What the Oracle tells him definitely doesn't make him feel better.
  • Not only is he not going a have a son, his daughter is going to have a son who will kill him.
  • (Bummer.)
  • To try and stave off his fate, the King locks Danae in a bronze chamber that's open to the sky.
  • Unluckily for Acrisius, Zeus peeks down from the sky and sees the lovely young princess in the chamber.
  • Never one to pass an innocent young maiden by, Zeus streams through the sky-hole as a shower of gold.
  • A few months after her golden moment with Zeus, Danae gives birth to a bouncing baby boy, named Perseus.
  • Acrisius is more than a little cheesed off.
  • Not buying her story that Perseus is immaculately conceived, Acrisius accuses his daughter of sneaking a lover into the chamber.
  • As punishment, he locks her and the baby in a chest (sometimes called an ark) and throws them in the sea.
  • Things really suck inside the chest.
  • There's not enough wiggle room for Danae alone, much less with a squealing baby squeezed in there with her.
  • We' re also guessing there are no clean diapers to be found.
  • Just when all seems lost, Danae feels the chest being dragged.
  • The lid flips open, and she sees Dictys, the fisherman, above her.
  • Dictys is definitely not that disappointed to have hauled a beautiful woman in with his nets.
  • He's down with little baby Perseus, too, and raises the boy like he was his own.
  • Everything is going great for Danae and Perseus on Serifos, until...
  • Whoops, look like you'll have to check out "Perseus and Medusa" and "Perseus and Andromeda" to find out what happens next in the adventures of the hero Perseus.
  • Okay, we' ll give you a little sneak preview: After all of Perseus' big-time adventures are complete, he does one day kill Acrisius. It happens when he throws a discus during some games and accidentally cracks his Granddad smack dab in the head.
  • Looks like the King had good reason to be afraid.

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