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.