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<   No. 2608   2010-03-18   >

Comic #2608

1 {scene: the streets of Berlin}
1 Monty: According to myth, Athena lent her Aegis to Perseus, to protect him when he went to slay the Gorgon, Medusa.
2 Prof. Jones: But Medusa's sisters Euryale and Stheno were immortal. So they should still be alive! We go ask them! Brilliant!
3 Monty: There's just one problem, dad.
4 Prof. Jones: Oh yes. How silly of me. The turning to stone thing.
4 Monty: The bit about it being a myth.

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The most common description of the Gorgons is that they were a mythical trio of sisters with snakes instead of hair on their heads. Anyone meeting their horrifying gaze would be turned instantly to stone.

This depiction is the end result of centuries of widely varying stories. At different times in Greek myth, or according to different authors, the Gorgons were also variously described as having wings, claws, tusks, or fangs. In some stories there is only one Gorgon, described simply as a "monster". The origin of the Gorgon or Gorgons is variously ascribed to specific gods. In most stories, they were created as horrible monsters, but a later tradition has them looking fully human to begin with, and only Medusa being cursed to have snakes for hair.

And then there's Dungeons & Dragons, which has a race of bull-like monsters called Gorgons, and another entirely different race of snake-haired women called Medusas. The latter have male counterparts called maedars. These are stocky men with no hair at all and, conveniently, the power to turn stone to flesh. This is used as a way of justifying an entire race of such creatures and trying to turn them into a workable ecological species. The medusas hunt by turning animals into stone, then the males come along and turn them back into flesh that can be eaten.

And you thought Greek myth was wacky.

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