Why do schools paint Medusa as a monster?
Medusa is one of Greek mythology’s most famous characters. For years throughout school, my classmates and I were taught that Perseus was a hero who killed the monstrous Medusa. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I leaned the truth of the story and Medusa quickly became my favourite mythology character. She also became a symbol of strength for women all over the world who’ve been abused. Want to know the truth? Keep reading.
First, were you told the same lies as I was? At school, the story we were told goes something like this:
Medusa was a monster who could turn people to stone just by looking at them. She was always shown in an aggressive way – frowning, teeth bared, the snakes in her hair were wild and snapping, her eyes empty. She was a threat to the people around her, who were all scared of her turning them into stone. Perseus was the brave hero who stepped up to the epic task of killing Medusa to save Greece. There was a battle between Perseus and Medusa, in which Perseus cut off her head with his sword.
How does this compare to what you were taught?
So what is the other story?
To begin with, Medusa wasn’t a monster; she was lovely and beautiful. That was until Poseidon forcefully engaged in an intimate relationship with her, which Athena found out. Athena cursed Medusa out of anger and took away her beauty so that no man would want her. Her skin cracked, her hair turned to snakes and she now had the ability to turn someone to stone if they looked into her eyes. One night, Perseus beheaded Medusa while she slept then used her head as a weapon, turning men to stone by holding out her head and making them look into her eyes. This is how he killed Polydectes and his supporters. He later gave Medusa’s head to Anthea, who put it on her shield.
There are different versions of most mythological stories and we’ll never know 100% what happened, if it happened. But isn’t it strange that we were always taught that Medusa was a monster, and no one ever mentioned that she was a victim who was murdered? Throughout school, the narrative was one not just of victim blaming but total erasure of the events which could have elicited empathy in a young audience. Why was I told she died in a battle with Perseus, when she was killed in her sleep?
Learning this other story made me think differently about a few things. How about you? It’s currently 2022 and abuse victims still face injustice. How do you teach history to your home educated youngsters?
The Home Ed Institute is a community project providing vocational learning opportunities for young people and striving to create, a fairer, more inclusive education system through accurate knowledge sharing and encouragement of diversity. Our online courses offer an insight into the world of folklore, herbs and funghi and are open for enrolment now. Click here.