Perseus, a retelling

King Acrisius of Argive, was terrified of a prophecy that his grandson would be the one to kill him, so he did the smart thing and locked his beautiful daughter, Danae, in a tower. But it isn’t easy to thwart fate.  The story is that the god Zeus was quite taken with Danae, and being a god, could take any form he wished, and in the guise of a golden shower impregnated Danae.  Possibly the father of Danae’s child was the guard who brought her food each day, but he was never named, and never came forward.

King Acrisius didn’t visit his daughter in the tower very often, so imagine his surprise when he discovered she had an infant son, Perseus.  Did a part of him still love his daughter?  Was he afraid of the mysterious father that could get to his daughter while locked in a tower?  Instead of killing daughter and grandson, King Acrisius placed them in a trunk and set them to sea, confident he would never see either of them again.  Only a god would be able to save them now.

As it turned out, it was an old fisherman, Dictys, who pulled Danae and Perseus from the sea.  Dictys served as their protector for as long as he lived.  King Polydeuces watched the beautiful Danae, and tried to win her favor.   King Polydeuces was a vain, pompous and cruel man.  King Polydeuces also knew of King Acrisius, Danae’s father, and thought an alliance by marriage would be beneficial.  He knew King Acricius had wished his daughter and grandson dead, but Danae was so beautiful.  King Polydeuces kept the secret that Danae and Perseus was alive from King Acrisius, and waited for his opportunity. When the fisherman Dictys died, he saw his chance to marry Danae, but her son, now a youth needed to be out-of-the-way before he became a man capable of protecting his mother.  King Polydeuces planned to kill Perseus, but Danae promised to marry the king if he spared the life of her beloved son.

King Polydeuces had an idea, to send the youth on an impossible quest.  King Polydeuces brought Perseus before him, and presented his request.  “Perseus, if you can bring me the head of Medusa, before I marry your mother in one year, I will release her from her promise to marry me.”  Perseus was sure he could fulfill this quest in a year.  What youth doesn’t believe he can accomplish the impossible!  Perseus loved his mother, and no challenge was to great to take on to save her from a loveless marriage.

Danae was frantic.  She saw the treachery behind King Polydeuces challenge.  Danae pleaded with Perseus, begging him not to try to do this foolish thing, saying,  “Surely you will die.  I would much rather be trapped in marriage with that devious and pompous ass, than lose my only son.”  With the confidence that only the youth have, the foolish youth assured his mother that he was entirely capable, and would be back as soon as he accomplished his quest, after all “I am the son of Zeus!”

Danae was filled with regret that she had ever suggested that Zeus could be Perseus’ father, but the damage was done.  All Danae could do now is pray for her son’s safety and hope the gods would heed her.

The Gray Sisters

The Graeae sisters,  Deino (the terrible), Enyo (the warlike) and Persis (the destroyer) are thought to be old crones from whom Perseus stole the eye they shared, forcing them to reveal the location of the winged sandals, the helmet of invisibility, and the magical sword, used to defeat Medusa.

The stories are so simple.  The stories have things wrong.  First of all the sisters were not crones, just fully mature women, although to the very young Perseus they may have seemed so.  To most 17-year-olds, women over the age of 40 seem ancient.  Of course the Gray sisters, as they now like to be called, do appear to be immortal.  Each generation of “sisters” follow in the tradition of those who went before them.

Is it true they had only one eye between them?  Not exactly.

Deino is blind, but eyes aren’t needed to see what is true.  Deino is only called “terrible” by those who are unable to accept the truth.  While not unkind, Deino would tell you what you needed to know.  Deino is direct and unapologetic about the truth.  If you pretend to be working hard, making a big show out of how much you sweat, but there is no progress nor product, Deino will tell you to get your lazy self moving and show some real sweat!  Nobody likes this, so they call Deino, the terrible.

Enyo is definitely warlike.  Enyo will not abide a bully, whether between children or between countries, and will fight for what is right, regardless of the cost. When Enyo lost an eye in battle, she wore it like it was a badge of honor.  Having one remaining eye, I guess you might think this is the eye the myths say the Gray sisters share.  No.  While Enyo is very ready for a fight for any cause, she doesn’t always have the clear vision to see the best way to deal with a conflict.  She is likely to go in throwing her thunder for even a minor conflict.  Enyo lacks the vision, in her eagerness to right wrongs, to show any restraint.  As you can see the name Enyo the warlike suits her.

Persis does have two normal eyes that see all the colors and shades of our normal world, but she has one thing more, insight  or wisdom.  Sometimes truth must be tempered with kindness and love.  Sometimes a gentle touch works better than a fight to resolve conflict.  Sometimes an encouraging word is all that is needed to get others to do the correct thing.  It is the insight of what is called the third eye that is the eye the sisters share.  Deino and Enyo seek Persis’ wisdom to help them find the correct way.  So you ask, why is she called the destroyer?  Persis destroys the status quo, and out of that she creates a new reality.

Hiding from the sisters, watching them around the fire, a confused Perseus wasn’t sure what to do next.  The sisters knew of his quest, the head of Medusa.  Deino understood the likely outcome of Perseus’ meeting with Medusa.  Enyo was ready to fight Perseus to protect her friend Medusa.  Persis, seeing the young man, called Perseus forward, silencing her sisters.

The Gray sisters listened to his need to bring the head of Medusa to the king in order to save his mother from an unwanted marriage.  Perseus was so happy to receive the knowledge Persis gave him about the sandels, helmet and sword, and directions on how to find Medusa, that he called Persis by a new name, Pemphredo “she who guides the way.”  Pemphredo is still the name she uses, usually shortened to Pem.



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