Study Guide

Medusa

  • Profile

    Medusa definitely isn't going to win any beauty pageants. She and her Gorgon sisters, Euryale and Stheno, are totally revolting. They have snakes for hair, for Pete's sake, and anyone who looks them in the eyes instantly turns into stone. (Yeah, that’s about as ugly as it gets.) Medusa became famous when the hero Perseus chopped off her head (with a little help from the goddess Athena).

    Basic Information

    Name

    Medusa

    Nickname

    Medousa, Gorgon Medusa, Dussy, Medussssssa

    Sex

    Female

    Current city

    I refuse to release my current location. Some stupid hero might try to behead me (again).

    Work & Education

    Occupation

    Being a hideous monster (but seeking new employment)

    Family & Friends (& Enemies)

    Parents

    Phorkys and Keto, or maybe Gorgo and Keto

    Siblings

    The Gorgons
    The Graeae

    Children

    Pegasus
    Chrysaor

    Friends

    My sister Gorgons, Euryale and Stheno
    Anyone who hates Athena, including Arachne and the Crow

    Enemies

    Athena, who turned me into a monster
    Poseidon, who got me into this monster mess to begin with
    Perseus, who beheaded me

    Relationships

    Relationship status

    Single. I once had a fling with Poseidon, but then Athena turned my hair into snakes. It kind of put a bad taste in my mouth for romance.

    Interested in

    Men to add to my growing sculpture collection

    Favorites

    Quotations

    "In this business, until you're known as a monster you're not a star." 
    – Bette Davis

    "All changed, changed utterly:
    a terrible beauty is born."
    – William Butler Yeats

    "Whether life's disabilities
    Left you outcast, bullied, or teased
    Rejoice and love yourself today"
    – Lady Gaga, Born this Way

    "A lot of life is dealing with your curse, dealing with the cards you were given that aren't so nice. Does it make you into a monster, or can you temper it in some way, or accept it and go in some other direction?"
    – Wes Craven

    "Every woman is supposed to have the same set of motives, or else to be a monster." 
    – George Eliot

    "I think you have to know who you are. Get to know the monster that lives in your soul, dive deep into your soul and explore it." 
    –Tori Amos

    "The strictest law sometimes becomes the severest injustice." 
    – Benjamin Franklin

    Books

    Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
    Confessions of an Ugly Step-Sister
    Grendel
    Kafka's Metamorphosis
    Frankenstein
    Wide Sargasso Sea
    Sleeping Ugly
    Howl's Moving Castle

    Music

    Anything by Lady Gaga, but especially Born This Way
    The Les Miserables soundtrack, especially I Dreamed a Dream and At the End of the Day
    The Phantom of the Opera soundtrack, especially Learn to Be Lonely and No One Would Listen
    The soundtrack to Wicked, the musical
    The Funny Girl soundtrack

    Movies

    Shrek
    Monsters, Inc.
    Beauty and the Beast
    X-Men: First Class (I like Mystique)
    Beastly

    Activities & Interests

    Likes

    The Cookie Monster
    Versace (they use my face as their symbol!!!)
    My snakes (they're actually pretty friendly)
    Pretty flowers (Really. I like them, but nobody ever brings me any. It’s depressing.)
    Ugly dolls

    Dislikes

    Mirrors and other reflective surfaces
    Heroes
    Meddling, self-righteous goddesses
    Swords
    Athena's aegis
    Pumpernickel bread
    The Percy Jackson series (okay, mainly just The Lightning Thief)
    The 1981 Clash of the Titans movie
    The 2010 Clash of the Titans movie

    Interests

    Feminist studies
    Herpetology
    Revisionist fairy tales and myths

    Groups

    Deadly Greek Monsters
    Card-carrying member of he AAV (Athena's Angry Victims)
    Poseidon's Ex-Lovers
    Snakes are so misunderstood
    "Hero" Haters
    Decapitation Survivors

  • Spotter's Guide

    You want to find Medusa? Wow, that’s a seriously bad idea. She’s a Gorgon, a horrible monster with the snakes for hair. If you look her in the eyes, you’re immediately turned to stone. If you really want to find her, look for a crowd of suspiciously realistic statues, surrounding a particularly slimy sea cave. Of course, legend says that she was beheaded by the hero Perseus a long time ago, so you might not be able to find her at all.

    Physical Description

    Sex: Female
    Age: Young-ish
    Build: Fit
    Complexion: Generally a bit pale to grayish due to blood loss (her head is severed)
    Hair color: Green (snakes)
    Facial hair: Occasionally a beard and tusks
    Scars/marks/tattoos: Headless (or, more often, bodiless)
    Jewelry and accessories: Do snakes for hair count?
    Clothing: None
    Armor: She is a bit scaly
    Type of weapon: Her transfixing stare, which turns living things to stone

    Typical Companions

    • Perseus, the hero who decapitated her
    • Athena, the goddess who possesses Medusa's head

    Other Notes

    Known hangouts: These days, you're most likely to find Medusa's head stuck on Athena's battle gear. The goddess of war uses it to terrify, even petrify, her enemies. Previously, Medusa lived in a cave with her sister Gorgons.

  • Sightings

    Dec 20, 2019

    The Libation Bearers

    While Medusa isn't necessarily a character in Aeschylus' Libation Bearers, she gets a ton of shout outs. Characters refer to Clytemnestra as a Gorgon. Also, at lines 831-832, the Chorus tells Orestes that "[You must be brave], and in your heart / keep up the courage of Perseus." What these references are getting at is clear: Clytemnestra is one mean lady.

    Dec 20, 2019

    The Metamorphoses

    Relive all of the gory details of Medusa's death as Perseus gives a blow-by-blow account in Ovid's Metamorphoses. We also watch as Perseus turns Atlas to stone using his trusty Gorgon head. And did you know that coral comes from Medusa? When Perseus wanted to take a break and get his party on, he placed Medusa's head in the sand and rested it on a bed of plants that he had picked. The plants sucked up Medusa's poison. When Perseus threw them into the sea later on, they became coral. Read all about it here.

    Jan 1, 1970

    "Medusa" by Louise Bogan

    In this poem by famous American poet Louise Bogan, the speaker describes an encounter with Medusa. If reading this doesn't give you goosebumps, we don't know what will.

    Jan 1, 1970

    All the King's Men

    In Robert Penn Warren's famous 1946 novel All the King's Men, we follow one of the most fascinating politicians you'll ever meet – Willie Stark. At one point Willie Stark describes his "secretary" and lover, Sadie Burke as a "plaster-of Paris mask of Medusa which some kid has been using as a target for a BB gun" (3.320). We soon learn that her face is pockmarked because she and her brother had small-pox as children. Her brother died, but Sadie lived; her scarred face documents forever her battle. Sadie later makes Willie Stark aware that she is only a Medusa on the surface. She can't turn men into stone, and her powers are purely political.

    Jan 1, 1970

    Marvel Comics

    Medusa made her first appearance in the Marvel universe in the Fantastic Four comics. Her superhero outfit includes a pretty scandalous jumpsuit and knee-high boots.

    Jan 1, 1970

    The Lightning Thief

    Medusa's alive and well in The Lightning Thief, only this time, she's disguised herself as Aunty Em – owner of a roadside curio-shop full of statues. Just like his namesake Perseus, Percy Jackson must battle Medusa and decapitate her once more. Apparently, Medusa is really hard to kill. She always finds a way to come back.

    Jan 1, 1970

    God of War

    The Greek gods make it onto the PlayStation in the God of War video game trilogy. The mortal hero of the games, Kratos, dukes it out with Medusa.

    Jan 1, 1970

    Clash of the Titans

    Clash of the Titans is a 1981 film about the adventures of Perseus. Check out a clip of the famous Medusa sequence here.

    Jan 1, 1970

    Clash of the Titans (Remake)

    In this 2010 remake of the classic Clash of the Titans, Perseus once again battles it out with Medusa.  This time, though, there is some super sweet CGI involved.