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From Myths and Legends of all nations
Start of Story
by Logan Marshall.
Age suitability 8 Plus
Finally, our brave Perseus arrived at the island where he expected to
see his dear mother. But during his absence, the wicked king had
treated DanaŽ so very ill that she was compelled to make her escape,
and had taken refuge in a temple, where some good old priests were
extremely kind to her. These praiseworthy priests and the kind-hearted
fisherman, who had first shown hospitality to DanaŽ and little Perseus
when he found them afloat in the chest, seem to have been the only
persons on the island who cared about doing right. All the rest of the
people, as well as King Polydectes himself, were remarkably ill
behaved and deserved no better destiny than that which was now to
Not finding his mother at home, Perseus went straight to the palace
and was immediately ushered into the presence of the king. Polydectes
was by no means rejoiced to see him, for he had felt almost certain,
in his own evil mind, that the Gorgons would have torn the poor young
man to pieces and have eaten him up out of the way. However, seeing
him safely returned, he put the best face he could upon the matter and
asked Perseus how he had succeeded.
"Have you performed your promise?" inquired he. "Have you brought me
the head of Medusa with the snaky locks? If not, young man, it will
cost you dear; for I must have a bridal present for the beautiful
Princess Hippodamia and there is nothing else that she would admire so
"Yes, please your Majesty," answered Perseus, in a quiet way, as if it
were no very wonderful deed for such a young man as he to perform. "I
have brought you the Gorgon's head, snaky locks and all!"
"Indeed! Pray, let me see it," quoth King Polydectes. "It must be a
very curious spectacle if all that travelers tell it be true!"
"Your Majesty is in the right," replied Perseus. "It is really an
object that will be pretty certain to fix the regards of all who look
at it. And if your Majesty think fit, I would suggest that a holiday
be proclaimed and that all your Majesty's subjects be summoned to
behold this wonderful curiosity. Few of them, I imagine, have seen a
Gorgon's head before and perhaps never may again!"
The king well knew that his subjects were an idle set of reprobates
and very fond of sight-seeing, as idle persons usually are. So he took
the young man's advice and sent out heralds and messengers in all
directions to blow the trumpet at the street corners and in the market
places and wherever two roads met, and summon everybody to court.
Thither, accordingly, came a great multitude of good-for-nothing
vagabonds, all of whom, out of pure love of mischief, would have been
glad if Perseus had met with some ill-hap in his encounter with the
Gorgons. If there were any better people in the island (as I really
hope there may have been, although the story tells nothing about any
such), they stayed quietly at home, minding their business and taking
care of their little children. Most of the inhabitants, at all events,
ran as fast as they could to the palace and shoved and pushed and
elbowed one another in their eagerness to get near a balcony on which
Perseus showed himself, holding the embroidered wallet in his hand.
On a platform within full view of the balcony sat the mighty King
Polydectes, amid his evil counselors, and with his flattering
courtiers in a semi-circle round about him. Monarch, counselors,
courtiers and subjects all gazed eagerly toward Perseus.
"Show us the head! Show us the head!" shouted the people; and there
was a fierceness in their cry as if they would tear Perseus to pieces
unless he should satisfy them with what he had to show. "Show us the
head of Medusa with the snaky locks!"
A feeling of sorrow and pity came over the youthful Perseus.
"O King Polydectes," cried he, "and ye many people, I am very loath to
show you the Gorgon's head!"
"Ah, the villain and coward!" yelled the people more fiercely than
before. "He is making game of us! He has no Gorgon's head! Show us the
head if you have it, or we will take your own head for a football!"
The evil counselors whispered bad advice in the king's ear; the
courtiers murmured, with one consent, that Perseus had shown
disrespect to their royal lord and master; and the great King
Polydectes himself waved his hand and ordered him, with the stern,
deep voice of authority, on his peril, to produce the head.
"Show me the Gorgon's head or I will cut off your own!"
And Perseus sighed.
"This instant," repeated Polydectes, "or you die!"
"Behold it then!" cried Perseus in a voice like the blast of a
And suddenly holding up the head, not an eyelid had time to wink
before the wicked King Polydectes, his evil counselors and all his
fierce subjects were no longer anything but the mere images of a
monarch and his people. They were all fixed forever in the look and
attitude of that moment! At the first glimpse of the terrible head of
Medusa, they whitened into marble! And Perseus thrust the head back
into his wallet and went to tell his dear mother that she need no
longer be afraid of the wicked King Polydectes.