“Why would anyone love a monster?’ asked Perseus.
‘Who are you to decide who is worthy of love?’ said Hermes.
‘I mean, I wasn’t…’
‘And who are you to decide who is a monster?’ added the messenger god.”
― Natalie Haynes, Stone Blind: Medusa’s Story
Greek mythology has been a love of mine for decades. Medusa is one of my favorites, as she is misunderstood and usually only seen as a gruesome monster. My latest read is all about Medusa and other feared women. Stone Blind: Medusa’s Story by Natalie Haynes is full of snarky, sarcastic women and goddesses tired of putting up with anyone’s crap. This was a gorgeous retelling of a classic mythical tale.
Medusa is the youngest of the Gorgon sisters. She is also the only mortal in a family of gods. Unlike her two older Gorgon sisters, Medusa feels pain, grows older, and, confusingly for her family, needs to eat and sleep. Being a mortal, Medusa’s lifespan is also significantly shorter than her sisters. Medusa knows she will die, just not when.
Athene is angry. The sea god Poseidon, her uncle, has assaulted Medusa in Athene’s own temple. She is absolutely furious that her sacred space has been violated. Needing to take out revenge, Athene decides to punish Medusa. Waking from what she thinks is a dream, Medusa is forever transformed into the monstrous creature that is remembered by all throughout history. A writhing mass of snakes has replaced her hair. Medusa’s gaze also holds the power to turn any living creature to stone. Terrified of her new power and scared she will accidentally destroy her sisters with one look, Medusa binds her eyes, winds her way deep into the caves, and decides to spend the rest of her days in solitude with only her snakes for company.
The Gorgons’ lives are forever changed when Perseus agrees to fetch the head of a Gorgon to save his mother from forced marriage to a king. His decision to do so without understanding the consequences means that Perseus has to call upon the help of his father Zeus and other gods, goddesses, and creatures to complete his task. He bumbles his way to the Gorgons, wreaking havoc along the way and forever changing the lives of people he has never met.
Stone Blind: Medusa’s Story is the story of women tired of being used. It tells the story of Medusa, bringing emotion, nuance, sarcasm, wit, and empathy into the devastating life of a mortal woman turned into a monster by a god’s actions. Medusa is blamed, punished, and turned into a monster because of an act that was done to her by a powerful man. She was the victim, yet most retellings of her life only show the monster. I enjoyed Haynes’ retelling as it gives the story of Medusa a modern feminist twist.