• Better Know a Fiend- The Myth of Medusa

    With her serpentine hair and her deadly gaze, the Medusa has become a legend and a symbol for many generations. Born from Ancient Greek Mythology, the Medusa has been represented in art, literature, on stage and screen. She has made notable appearances in many of the most popular video game series, including Final Fantasy, Castlevania and as a hero in DotA2. Her story is both tragic and empowering.


    Medusa was one of the three Gorgons, three of the daughters of the primordial sea god Phorcys and his sister/wife Ceto (oh, those ancients and their incest!). The early Greeks portrayed her and her sisters Stheno and Euryale of being monsters born with snakes for hair, grotesque features and wings of gold. To look upon them would turn one into stone. Of the three, only Medusa was mortal.


    The classical Roman poet Ovid was portrayed her as an astounding beauty in Temple of Athena. She attracted the attention of the sea god Poseidon, who taking after the tradition began by he and his brother Zeus, raped Medusa. Athena, beginning the tradition of blaming the victim, transformed Medusa into a hideous monster, with snakes for hair, bronze claws and enraged eyes that could turn man into stone.


    Medusa and her sisters fled Greece, as they were not only shunned for their unsightly appearance, but because their petrifying gaze left a trail of victims wherever they went. The legend has it they escapped to Africa, where as the count of deaths began to rise, the disdain for the Gorgons multipled. This lead to a turn in their personalities, a reflected hatred fitting their outward appearance.


    She was then murdered by Perseus, who on the orders of King Polydectes, was to retrieve her severed head. Using a mirrored shield given to him by none other than Athena, Hermes' winged sandles and Hades' Helm of Invisibility. He watched Medusa in the shield's reflection and lobbed off her noggin with Hephaestus' sword. From her neck were born her children, the winged horse Pegasus and the giant Chrysaor.


    Perseus escaped the enraged Stheno and Euryale on the back of Pegasus. The blood that dripped from her severed head onto the sands of the Sahara gave birth to the snakes that crawl the African soil. Perseus used her powers to stop the Titan Atlas while delivering his trophy back to Polydectes.


    He then discovered Polydectes ruse. As Perseus' mother hid from the lecherous King, he used the power of the Gorgon to petrify Polydectes and his cohorts, saving his mother. Perseus then delivered the head to Athena as a token of thanks, who for protection placed it upon her shield, the Aegis (this itself seems very Final Fantasy-esque).


    Over time artists would soften their representation of the Medusa. She would be seen as more of a sypathetic figure than a monster. Her transformation into monsterhood can be seen as a renewal of strength after her victimizations. Her image became a symbol of Feminism, representing the rage within a woman.


    The Aegis gave birth to the Gorgoneion, an apotropaic symbol that warded off evil. Buildings would be adorned with motifs of her visage. The flag of Sicily bears a Triskelion, the Medusa's head surrounded by three legs shaped like the triangular island.


    Unfortunately, depth isn't a strong suit in the Final Fantasy series, especially for a random fiend. Final Fantasy would borrow from the early concepts of the hideous monster, sans the wings of gold. As in the legend, they are most known for turning the heroes into stone. In Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, where Stheno makes her lone appearance, they also have the ability to poison with their horrific claws.


    Final Fantasy takes the base notion of the Gorgons as frightening beasts. Unlike Sirens who lure their prey with beauty and charm, the Medusa are more direct, attacking in hordes. Here, they literally represent an instant death.


    Even the Aegis serves as a protectorate in the Final Fantasy universe. Most often shield (but as in Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy X, armor), the Aegis has strong magic resistence and usually defends against Petrification. In Final Fantasy XII, the Aegis Shield is one of the few times it's portrayed as the legend states, with the visage of the Gorgon on the front.


    However, Final Fantasy never touches on the depth of the myth, beyond a few cosmetic references. To be honest, her story has so many interpretations, it would be quite the feat to do it justice. That in it of itself is another tragedy. Hopefully, the mere existence of Medusa in this series will enlighten the players into learning more about this magnificent tale and all the theories that surround that surround the story.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Better Know a Fiend- The Myth of Medusa started by Colonel Angus View original post
    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Shauna's Avatar
      Shauna -
      I love a bit of Greek mythology. :3 I never knew the full tale of Medusa though, which makes me a bad Greek mythology fan.
    1. Colonel Angus's Avatar
      Colonel Angus -
      There's so much & so many versions of the stories it's hard to keep track.

      Pop culture doesn't help tell the whole story either. It'd probably make a kick butt movie.
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