Select the desired text size
From Myths and Legends of all nations
Start of Story
by Logan Marshall.
Age suitability 8 Plus
Thus, as you will easily perceive, it was a very dangerous adventure
that the wicked King Polydectes had contrived for this innocent young
man. Perseus himself, when he had thought over the matter, could not
help seeing that he had very little chance of coming safely through
it, and that he was far more likely to become a stone image than to
bring back the head of Medusa with the snaky locks. For, not to speak
of other difficulties, there was one which it would have puzzled an
older man than Perseus to get over. Not only must he fight with and
slay this golden-winged, iron-scaled, long-tusked, brazen-clawed,
snaky-haired monster, but he must do it with his eyes shut, or, at
least, without so much as a glance at the enemy with whom he was
contending. Else, while his arm was lifted to strike, he would stiffen
into stone and stand with that uplifted arm for centuries, until time
and the wind and weather should crumble him quite away. This would be
a very sad thing to befall a young man who wanted to perform a great
many brave deeds and to enjoy a great deal of happiness in this bright
and beautiful world.
So disconsolate did these thoughts make him that Perseus could not
bear to tell his mother what he had undertaken to do. He therefore
took his shield, girded on his sword and crossed over from the island
to the mainland, where he sat down in a solitary place and hardly
refrained from shedding tears.
But while he was in this sorrowful mood, he heard a voice close beside
"Perseus," said the voice, "why are you sad?"
He lifted his head from his hands, in which he had hidden it, and
behold! all alone as Perseus had supposed himself to be, there was a
stranger in the solitary place. It was a brisk, intelligent and
remarkably shrewd-looking young man, with a cloak over his shoulders,
an odd sort of cap on his head, a strangely twisted staff in his hand
and a short and very crooked sword hanging by his side. He was
exceedingly light and active in his figure, like a person much
accustomed to gymnastic exercises and well able to leap or run. Above
all, the stranger had such a cheerful, knowing and helpful aspect
(though it was certainly a little mischievous, into the bargain) that
Perseus could not help feeling his spirits grow livelier as he gazed
at him. Besides, being really a courageous youth, he felt greatly
ashamed that anybody should have found him with tears in his eyes like
a timid little schoolboy, when, after all, there might be no occasion
for despair. So Perseus wiped his eyes and answered the stranger
pretty briskly, putting on as brave a look as he could.
"I am not so very sad," said he, "only thoughtful about an adventure
that I have undertaken."
"Oho!" answered the stranger. "Well, tell me all about it and
possibly I may be of service to you. I have helped a good many young
men through adventures that looked difficult enough beforehand.
Perhaps you may have heard of me. I have more names than one, but the
name of Quicksilver suits me as well as any other. Tell me what the
trouble is and we will talk the matter over and see what can be done."
The stranger's words and manner put Perseus into quite a different
mood from his former one. He resolved to tell Quicksilver all his
difficulties, since he could not easily be worse off than he already
was, and, very possibly, his new friend might give him some advice
that would turn out well in the end. So he let the stranger know in
few words precisely what was the case--how the King Polydectes wanted
the head of Medusa with the snaky locks as a bridal gift for the
beautiful Princess Hippodamia and how that he had undertaken to get it
for him, but was afraid of being turned into stone.
"And that would be a great pity," said Quicksilver, with his
mischievous smile. "You would make a very handsome marble statue, it
is true, and it would be a considerable number of centuries before you
crumbled away; but, on the whole, one would rather be a young man for
a few years than a stone image for a great many."
"Oh, far rather!" exclaimed Perseus, with the tears again standing in
his eyes. "And, besides, what would my dear mother do if her beloved
son were turned into a stone?"
"Well, well, let us hope that the affair will not turn out so very
badly," replied Quicksilver in an encouraging tone. "I am the very
person to help you, if anybody can. My sister and myself will do our
utmost to bring you safe through the adventure, ugly as it now looks."
"Your sister?" repeated Perseus.
"Yes, my sister," said the stranger. "She is very wise, I promise
you; and as for myself, I generally have all my wits about me, such as
they are. If you show yourself bold and cautious, and follow our
advice, you need not fear being a stone image yet awhile. But, first
of all, you must polish your shield till you can see your face in it
as distinctly as in a mirror."
This seemed to Perseus rather an odd beginning of the adventure, for
he thought it of far more consequence that the shield should be strong
enough to defend him from the Gorgon's brazen claws than that it
should be bright enough to show him the reflection of his face.
However, concluding that Quicksilver knew better than himself, he
immediately set to work and scrubbed the shield with so much diligence
and good will that it very quickly shone like the moon at harvest
time. Quicksilver looked at it with a smile and nodded his
approbation. Then taking off his own short and crooked sword, he
girded it about Perseus, instead of the one which he had before worn.
"No sword but mine will answer your purpose," observed he; "the blade
has a most excellent temper and will cut through iron and brass as
easily as through the slenderest twig. And now we will set out. The
next thing is to find the Three Gray Women, who will tell us where to
find the Nymphs."
"The Three Gray Women!" cried Perseus, to whom this seemed only a new
difficulty in the path of his adventure. "Pray, who may the Three Gray
Women be? I never heard of them before."
"They are three very strange old ladies," said Quicksilver, laughing.
"They have but one eye among them, and only one tooth. Moreover, you
must find them out by starlight or in the dusk of the evening, for
they never show themselves by the light either of the sun or moon."
"But," said Perseus, "why should I waste my time with these Three
Gray Women? Would it not be better to set out at once in search of the
"No, no," answered his friend. "There are other things to be done
before you can find your way to the Gorgons. There is nothing for it
but to hunt up these old ladies; and when we meet with them, you may
be sure that the Gorgons are not a great way off. Come, let us be