Jonathan, Beechwood Park
M onstrous as a demon, malignant as darkest night, Medusa, vengeful as a striking vulture.
E nveloped by hair, once rippling like a golden river, now a malign, reptilian entanglement.
D eceitful as a writhing, hissing, glistening-eyed snake, she metamorphoses men into cases of eternal stone.
U ndeterred by the peril, Perseus heroically journeys to rid the world of this despicable evil.
S hield as powerful as Athena's protective aegis, the gorgon's stone-creating gaze is deflected. Death.
A thena, righteous in her anger, immortalises the triumph on her golden shield.
Perseus and Medusa
Hamzah, Manchester Grammar School
King Acrisius of Argos' striking blue eyes widened in disbelief and horror as an oracle warned him that his young daughter would bear a son that would kill him. The King's first instinct was to try to argue for his daughter. “My daughter is not married, how can she have a son”, the words tumbled out of his mouth in choked gasps. The oracle only smiled wisely and King Acrisius caught a glimpse of pale pink gums. Saying no more, the king left the Delphi oracle troubled and confused. Upon arriving in his magnificent palace, his daughter, Danae joyfully ran out with her arms spread wide. To her utmost surprise her dad roughly grabbed her arm and dragged her to a strange bronze room at the top of the palace. The room was not much to look at with only a rough bench and some faded cushions. With shaking hands he locked the door, trapping poor Danae inside. The door was only opened to a slave girl who bought a platter of food and a chipped pot of water. Confused at her father's actions, Danae prayed to the gods. Meanwhile, up on Mount Olympus, Zeus looked down and pitied the beautiful maiden. He visited her one night and after a few months Danae gave birth to Perseus, Zeus's child. The slave girl delivered the news Acrisius had been dreading, Danae had given birth to a boy. Fearing Zeus' wrath if he killed them, he sent Danae afloat with baby Perseus in a crammed box.
I vividly remember the day our box bumped on the sandy shores of Seriphos. I was still a baby then, and my mother was trying to comfort me. Suddenly my mother went tense and I immediately snuggled closer to her and nestled in her dress. The sound of crunching footsteps came nearer and nearer and eventually a voice called out “Well then, what have we hear.” Strong fingers grasped the lid of the box and my mother pressed herself even more towards the wall of it. The hand groped around a bit and pulled the lid up. Danae blinked as the light filled every nook and cranny of the sea worn box. The man Danae looked at was a well built, tall fellow. He had a weather beaten but kind face and his hair was like a mass of string. He wore a green tunic and at his waist were pointed fish hooks. A fishing net was hanging about his shoulders and he stared in surprise. Without a word he helped my mother out of the box and beckoned for us to follow him. He led us to a series of huts. Walking through them he eventually stopped and took out a heavy copper key. Fitting it into the lock, he twisted the key and opened the door. His hut was cosy and was obviously made for a single person to live in. My mother stepped inside, holding me in her arms and sat down on a wooden chair. Finally he spoke “My name is Dyctus, and I am brother to the king. I am a fisherman and you may live with me in my hut”. In the following years he became a father to me and I loved and respected him. During that time I turned into a handsome, strong young man…
Unfortunately, the tyrannical king, Polydectes came to notice my beautiful mother and summoned her to his court. I regret ever going along with my mother. I did the best I could to protect her from the king and he planned on how to get me out of the way. He called all the young men and women of the town to a feast and unsuspectingly I turned up. Upon arriving however, I found out all the young people had come with expensive gifts. A young man came with a wonderful bird cage of gold and silver and someone else came with some highly prized musk. I had nothing. Sneering, the king addressed me offensively “You dare come here without a gift? Why you probably take me for a simpleton who thinks coppers are everything.” Blushing, I tilted my head towards the ground and mumbled “I am sorry king, I didn't know I had to bring a gift. I will get you anything you want.” The king's angry face broke into a sly smile, like the sun as it cracks the dark of night. “Very well then, fetch me the head of the Gorgon Medusa.” He said, hardly suppressing the excitement that this would be the chance to get me out of the way once and for all. “Very well then, consider it done” I said half-heartedly. The guests were dumbstruck and their mouths opened and closed like silver carp. Then they started tittering and laughing. Grumbling to myself about what a fool I was, I went home, dressed in my sleeveless red tunic, and placed a cloak about my shoulders and packed a bag of provisions. Not knowing what to do, and where to start, I trundled off towards the crossroads. Upon arriving, I desperately scanned the signs to see if any showed the way to the cave of Medusa… nothing. Then, as if from nowhere, a handsome youth and a young woman flashed into view and in a haze of searing light were in front of me. The unmistakable, winged sandals gave the game away, I was in the presence of the gods, in this case Athene and Hermes. I remember that moment when I was passed the winged sandals of the god Hermes himself and he also gave me a scythe of the finest gold and silver. Athene handed me her shield and explained with an intense look in her eye, “Only look at the dreaded face through the shield.” She also told me to seek out the old grey sisters and make them tell me where the nymphs that tended the garden of Hera were. Carrying on, she said they had been entrusted with items that would help me defeat the Gorgon. I was glad of their help and bid my farewells to the people who would save my life…
So I began my quest and made good progress. I travelled northwards in search of the Old Grey Sisters. I approached wild sea where The Old Grey Sisters' cave was situated and scrambled over the slippery rocks and bits of rotting ship timbers. I saw a glow round some particularly treacherous boulders and I headed in that direction. As I scrambled and slid over the boulders I finally caught a glimpse of The Old Grey Sisters. They were as grey as the stones that surrounded them and were hunched around an oil lamp and also drenched by mist and spray. Waves countlessly battered the caves entrance. The three hags where passing around a spherical object, which I later learnt was an eye. Never had I seen a more revolting sight. Knowing I could use the eyeball to my advantage I put the winged sandals on and swooped towards the cave. The hags were always arguing about the eye in raspy voices, such was their age. Flying low and silently I suddenly plucked the squidgy eyeball from a hags grasp and they immediately began nattering and hissing. Addressing them I said in a fierce voice “I am Perseus and I seek the Daughters of Hespharus, if you don't tell me an answer I will squish your eye into a pulp.” The sisters continued cackling and hissing about their lost eye. Eventually, one reluctant sister spat out the vital information. Tossing the eye back I took to the air and was gone from sight…
Following their directions I found myself in a lush, blooming garden, bursting with tulips, magnolias and roses. Olive trees and grape vines lined the walls of the garden, I had never seen anything like it. A voice as sweet as honey made me jump. Looking behind me I saw three nymphs, more beautiful than the garden they tended. Their dresses were made of the softest white silk and a plaited garland of flowers lined the crown of their soft blonde hair. Stunned, I spluttered “Athene told me to come to you for items that would help me cut off the head of Medusa.” They disappeared around a bending corner of a path. Minutes later they were back holding two things, one of the items was a black helmet with a red crest which they explained to me would make the wearer invisible. The other item was a leather knapsack. That was to hold the head of Medusa. Wishing me luck and telling me the directions to the dreaded cave I set off…
Having been physically and mentally supported, my spirits were high. I was going over a land with lush green fields and tumbling rivers. The beautiful sight was soon replaced by craggy mountain peaks and terrifying gorges. Looking down I tried to spot a cave that might house Medusa and her sisters. Seeing some statues I swooped down low. Upon arriving I wandered around the magnificent statues and wondered why every inch was perfect. I also pondered on the thought of such a horrible location, outside a cave. The truth hit me like a thunderbolt fired from my father. I was outside the cave of Medusa. Gripping my scythe and my shield and donning my helmet I wandered tentatively into the cave. The sight made my stomach lurch. Slime oozed out from cracks and stalagmites stuck out from the ground like deadly javelins. Pools of water lined the ditches and the ground was extremely slippery. Suddenly, I started to hear a gentle hissing. I veered off from the main cavern to a narrow tunnel where water came ankle high. Wading through, the sound got louder and louder. It seemed to come from behind the rock. Feeling around with my hands I found a wide crack and scrambled through the rocky entrance. There was a hole in the top of the cavern, light streamed out onto three sleeping figures. I caught a glimpse of Medusa through my shield. Instead of legs she had a serpent's tail. Her head was a light green and a long scar pulled a corner of her lip up. Her hair was an unforgettable sight. Snakes writhed and squirmed, spitting venom through their deadly fangs. Gulping and checking my knapsack was ready for the head, I nervously tiptoed towards Medusa. When I was a few steps away from medusa I lifted my scythe and bought it crashing down on Medusa's neck. Her eyes snapped open as the silver sliced into her. A beautiful winged horse flew out of her blooded neck. Quickly stuffing the head into my knapsack I flew off. The vengeful cries of her sisters and the slithering and hissing made me fly even faster. Bursting out into the light, I dodged the heads of the stone figures and was away…
On the way to the palace I saw a sight that made me swoop down to check what was going on. Upon arriving, I found a young girl chained to the rock. “Who are you?” I asked. Cupid must have done his bit because I was in love with the maiden at first sight. “My name is Andromeda, my mother boasted I was more beautiful than the sea nymphs and they let loose a terrible monster. Only my death will appease it” she wailed. “There it is, watch out!” she exclaimed. And sure enough the sea waters started to bubble and great waves splashed the rock on which she was held. Suddenly a daunting scaly head poked out of the froth and roared manically. This was shortly followed by a barbarous clawed hand. Thrashing the water with its serrated fin it drew closer and closer. Thinking quickly, I ordered Andromeda to close her eyes. I did the same but pulled out the head of Medusa. The monster's advancement slowed. Three quarters of its body was stone but it still came closer. Just when it was right above us it came to a jarring halt. With a grinding noise it fell into the ocean and cracked. It was only now I noticed that Andromeda's father was watching with a small party from the shore. Using the scythe I cut her bonds and flew with her to the shore. After much rejoicing and celebrating Andromeda and I were wed. Andromeda's father, who was the king, asked me to stay and live with him and his daughter. Saying I would come back again with my mother, I flew back to Seriphos. When I arrived in the grand hall everyone was silent. The king went red and forced a smile. “I see you have come back. Your return has brought me joy.” Saying no more I pulled out the head of Medusa, shut my eyes and held it to the king. His surprised and horrified expression was set in stone for evermore. After a while Dyctus came to the throne and my mother and I departed for Andromeda's dad's kingdom. After my terrifying ordeal with the Gorgon I have learnt much. I always take extra honey to the temple and extra wine. Farewell, and may Zeus be with you for evermore.
Perseus and Medusa, the snake haired gorgon
Sarah, St Catherine’s School, Sydney, Australia
Long, long ago deep beneath the sea lived there lived a petrifying monster. It was larger than any whale, had sharper teeth than any spear and its mouth was the size of the biggest cave on earth. For years, the monster prowled the deep sea near Ancient Greece, feeding on sharks, squid and whales. It was kept firmly under control by Poseidon. But lately the monster had started to eat men. Bursting from the seemingly calm waters it crushed the biggest ships in one snap of its mighty jaws. Men flew from their boats, landing in the icy cold water below. The monster would open its cavernous mouth and devour any man it found.
Villagers who lived near the sea were terrified of the terrible monster, which they had named Cetus (meaning monster of Poseidon). Families and fishermen marched up to the royal palace demanding that the king send his guards to kill Cetus. One day, King Cepheus gazed down at the angry villagers with a troubled frown. He had no idea where to start to save his people and his kingdom. He returned to his throne, deep in thought. Cetus was destroying his kingdom and it was all his wife’s fault. She had boasted that their daughter Andromeda was more beautiful that the mermaids who served Poseidon. This had been a terrible insult to Poseidon and the god was outraged. Poseidon had unleashed his grip on the monster and let it go wild. In desperation, King Cepheus consulted a priest.
Mia, Yateley School
Grier, Chicago Grammar, USA
Grace, Yarlet School
Meera, St Michael's, Hobart, Australia
Sophia, St Michael's, Hobart, Australia
Lilly, Lyceum Prep, Wheeling, USA
Geza, Manchester Grammar School
Thomas, Manchester Grammar School
“I’ll sacrifice a thousand horses, one hundred sheep, Oh, will that be enough to ensure the safety of my kingdom?” King Cepheus pleaded.
“Oh, no, Poseidon does not want that”, the priest answered mysteriously. “He demands only one sacrifice; your daughter”.
“My daughter, but I cannot sacrifice my daughter, not Andromeda”, King Cepheus exclaimed.
“You have a choice”, the priest explained, “You may sacrifice your daughter or continue to bear the wrath of the Earth Shaker, Poseidon”.
When the king told his wife she was grief stricken and Andromeda, his daughter, was petrified. But none of them knew that help was on the way, from a surprising young man.
Chapter I - Perseus
My name is Perseus. I clearly remember hiding from Polydectes’ royal guards who had come to take my mother. Polydectes wanted to marry my mother but she didn’t want to marry the king. When I heard the guards approaching our front door, we cowered behind the back wall. As soon as we had realised that the guards were on the way, mum and I had hurried away, but we hadn’t got very far. The guards started banging on the door and shouting.
“Come out! In the name of King Polydectes come out, we know you’re in there!” echoed a loud voice from the front of the house.
Moments later came a smash as the guards broke down the front door.
“Run when I say”, I whispered to my mother.
I waited until the guards were inside and then whispered, “Now, follow me!”
We ran around the corner of our house only to find more guards standing there. I turned around and pulled my mother back the other way. There were guards everywhere! Had King Polydectes sent his whole army after us? Tugging at my hand to keep up my mother ran beside me. We raced down the street. Behind us the village priest cried out,
“Come here, I’ll hide you!”
I did not hear him and kept running. I ran straight ahead without realising my mistake. I ran straight into a dead end! As the guards closed in around us I leapt out in front of my mother. Desperately trying to shield her from the approaching guards.
“Don’t come any nearer”, I warned the guards, but they kept coming.
“It’s only your mother we want”, they growled menacingly. “Step away and we will spare you!”
“Never!” I bravely replied.
I hurled myself at them, hoping to bowl them over, so my mother could escape but the guards were too quick. A fist crashed against my face and the next thing I knew I was lying on the ground, watching my mother being led away by the guards.
“Wait, Stop!”, I called after them. The guards turned around. “Tell the King I’ll do anything, I’ll even bring him the head of Medusa herself!”
The guards laughed in disbelief. “Ha! We’ll tell him!”, laughed the guards as they dragged my mother away.
“Perseus…”, my mother gasped as she was dragged away.
“I’ll fetch Medusa’s head”, I promised “and I’ll use it to turn King Polydectes and his soldiers to stone!”
Little did I know how much I was promising.
Chapter II - A Kindly Priest
I woke to find myself laying on a bed in a dark, gloomy house. Daylight shone through cracks in the walls, dazzling my eyes.
“Ah good, you’re awake”, said an old, kind voice behind me.
“Huh?” I mumbled, straining my eyes.
The village priest was watching me. I started to sit and but pain shot through my head like an arrow. “Where am I? What happened?” I asked.
“I saw you trying to save your mother from the King’s guards. I heard what you said about Medusa”, the priest explained. “I went out once the guards had gone. You were in no state to fight anything so I brought you in here so you could recover”.
Suddenly I remembered everything that had happened. Another wave of pain crushed my head but I ignored it and kept listening.
“Now”, the priest went on, “there are things you need to know. First, your father…”
“Oh, I don’t know who he is”, I interrupted, “I’ve never met him”.
“I’m not surprised”, the priest chuckled “Your father is Zeus, King of the Gods”.
“What?” I exclaimed. “My father is Zeus?” I repeated. “That means I am half god! I should just march right up to King Polydectes and demand he returns my mother!” I announced triumphantly.
“No, no, no!” the priest spoke softly but firmly. “King Polydectes has a whole army, you would have no chance, even though you are half god!”
I thought for a moment, considering what the priest had said before deciding he was right.
“Remember your promise to your mother”, the priest reminded me. “You must go and kill the gorgon Medusa. I can no longer help you, you must go and complete your destiny yourself, but know this; the Gods will guide you to Medusa but they may not help you fight her. With your own strength and mind you must defeat her. I wish you luck Perseus, may the Gods be with you”. With that the priest left, leaving the doors wide open behind him.
Maya, Yateley School
Dominic, Yateley School
Toby, Manchester Grammar School
Jacob, Manchester Grammar School