Halloween prep – Say it with a Slither

I got what I plan to use for my Halloween costume today. A bunch of plastic snakes.

…I’ve always had sympathy for Medusa. She got a seriously bad deal in ancient myth. Depending on the variant, either she was born a monster, or she was violated by Poseidon, then cursed on top of that by Athena ’cause she was attacked in Athena’s temple. And then after who knows how long cursed to turn anyone who looked at her to stone, some Hero who needs a superweapon sneaks up on her invisible and cuts her head off. And apparently all that time she was pregnant with the very odd twins of Pegasus and Chrysaor – so even if she hadn’t been horribly cursed, she had every reason to be grumpy.

Given Medusa was supposed to be one of the set of three Gorgons, and the other two were immortal, Perseus should have been looking over his shoulder the rest of his life.

We have plenty of sympathetic vampires out there in books, yet I hardly ever see a sympathetic medusa. At least not as a main character. I think it’s in part because the petrifying gaze is either completely lethal (as in most settings without stone to flesh spells) or just a temporary annoyance (as in a mid-level D&D campaign where you have those available). It’s a lot easier to scale a vampire’s powers up and down, whether you’re talking hypnotic gaze, blood-drinking, shape-shifting, or supernatural strength.

…And yes, I do have an idea for a story to write a medusa as one of the main characters. No details in case it tries to get away, outside of the fact that one of the main threats would be very hard to petrify….

Anyone else have a favorite Halloween idea they want to put into a story? πŸ™‚

 

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56 thoughts on “Halloween prep – Say it with a Slither

  1. Indeed I do have one! I won’t go into too many details, but it features an evil spirit that isn’t so evil, bureaucracy, and paperwork that even the dead can’t get away from. ;P

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  2. Seanan McGuire’s InCryptid series features gorgons as characters. In Half-Off Ragnarok, a gorgon is one of the main three characters.
    My favorite cryptid has to be the wadjet though. Who are also reptile based. So cool!
    My favorite line from that series is actually:
    β€œI have some pamphlets, if this is a bad time,” Helen continued. β€œI think you’ll find that when you’re looking for a patron goddess to consume your eternal soul and save you from the fires of your current religion’s afterlife, Wadjet is absolutely the best choice available.”

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    1. The InCryptid series is SO GOOD! I definitely second that recommendation. I think you would enjoy how the author does werewolves in the 4th book.

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  3. See the thing about Medusa is she was a /Greek/ myth. The Greeks? They had some really skewed views by today’s standards. One of them was that what we consider a Hero is very different from what they considered a Hero.

    To them a Hero was somebody that was larger than life yet still lesser than the gods. Didn’t matter if you were a good person or an absolute dick to everyone you met they still considered you a Hero if you did things that were larger than life or beyond the norm.

    I actually wrote an essay, more or less from scratch (so literally wrote with pencil and paper :P), for World Lit in College about how ancient Greek Heroes were all a bunch of colossal dicks. I got a B on it πŸ˜€

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  4. I have a multicross ‘gilding the goose’ setting mess with no plot, heavily inspired by the first three parts of Tom Simon’s ‘Exotic and Familiar’ essay series. (But not the useful parts!)

    I made it to see if I could, not to use it. Then I decided I wanted one of the cast to be a medusaoid with a third eye. Making her the main character seems a useful approach now that you mention it.

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  5. One of the better reinterpretations I’ve seen of the Medusa story is this one: http://archiveofourown.org/works/7806964. It gets kudos for not making Medusa sympathetic at the expense of demonizing Athena and Perseus.

    While a gorgon’s petrifacation is usually fatal, I have seen variations on exactly what triggers the petrifacation. In some versions its as simple as seeing the gorgon’s face, while in other versions it’s specifically eye contact that triggers it. This changes how easy it is for the gorgon to keep people from accidentally seeing their faces (heavy veil?) verses blocking their gaze unless they really need it (dark sunglasses?).

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  6. Modern setting – St. George and the Dragon + Perseus myth.

    Princess Andromeda is a gorgon atavism and fairly grumpy about it. She wears enchanted sunglasses and tells people she has acute light sensitivity (even has a doctor’s note).

    Still in the planning stage. No idea if it will go anywhere, but side projects/hobbies are like that. (Currently working on Sleeping Beauty.)

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  7. My main Holloween-esque idea is actually something I’ve talked about on this site before.

    In your thread on random plot bunnies, I mention a mega-crossover that did and does have /pages/ of notes all about ‘how many fandoms that I enjoy can I crossover via the Chronicles of Darkness setting of World of Darkness?’ The New World/Chronicles of Darkness setting felt better for it than the normal/Old World of Darkness setting – less on the immanent apocalypses and more on the unending secret wars between the monsters that occasionally prey on humanity and the /even worse/ Things the various stripes of monsters /try/ to keep in check.

    The main idea was to get a healthy collection of fandoms I enjoy, translate them into the shared setting – some are /very easy/, Danny Phantom to Geist: the Sin-Eaters, season 1 Supernatural to Hunter: the Vigil – write out a piecemeal 2-3 chapters at the absolute most fic for each illustrating what’s the same in setting and what’s different, and then… Well.

    One of the last products released before World of Darkness switched to their new God-Machine rules update was a series of modules all based around ‘humanity is looking into the darkness and realising the monsters are real, and this isn’t stopping, and it’s not going away. What do your characters do?’

    Between those modules as a base story and other related resources I wanted to write out the various heroes-as-monsters stepping forward and doing in the harsh and unforgiving light of day what my most favorite characters always do: keep trying to save the world and be the best people they can along the way.

    As for other things – on Medusa the more I know about the myth the more I agree she gets an unfair deal. Of course, the main version where her immortal sisters are mentioned all three are explicitly monsters from the start.

    For heroic Medusa… the first that comes to mind is one that I am… hesitant to recommend. But *SPOILERS* in Fate/Stay Night’ first rough draft the ancient Heroic Spirit that was going to be summoned to the heroic archetype of ‘Rider’ was going to be the famous slayer of Medusa and rider of Pegasus Perseus himself. That detail – along with /many/ others – was eventually changed. Instead of Perseus (who would’ve been using his invisibility to prey upon people as a serial killer and steal their magic/life-force to maintain his summoning) they went to Medusa herself.

    This version has an intensely complicated and confusing backstory involving the Gorgon sisters being a trio of ancient nature goddesses who were forced into exile after Medusa killed in self-defense when they were supposed to represent purity and not kill. Rumour spread that there were two beautiful sisters guarded by a horrible monster, and Medusa eventually became physically corrupted into an /actual/ hideous beast by all the killing she was forced to do protecting her sisters from would-be rescuers. This was when Athena granted Perseus his gifts to put Medusa down.

    Medusa in Fate/Stay Night is summoned into the present for the ‘Grail War’ at the center of the series plot(s), but in two out of three routes from the game her role is minor. The third route where she’s a major character is also the only route yet to get an anime… And while the original Visual Novel was popular enough to basically spawn it’s own franchise and get a movie and 3 anime so far (the most recent finished last year)… Well. It was originally apparently a harem H-game. And there are /problems/ with some of the common tropes seen in those genres.

    Still, if one can look past the flaws the setting itself is interesting and it’s definitely a different take on Medusa. *END SPOILERS*

    My other two examples are ones that are both less spoiler and I feel better about recommending.

    The first is a very minor Marvel Comics character. I can’t even remember her name right now, but while she has Medusa scales + snake hair she’s descended from a Priestess of the same order of priestesses of Athena Medusa /led/ in this setting. Here they were all cursed to be monsters by Athena because not only were they all supposed to be celibate like their goddess, but Medusa broke that vow willingly when Poseidon seduced Medusa /on Athena’s altar/. The minor character is first encountered amongst the Amazons in a Hercules issue post-World War Hulk – pre-Secret Invasion. She starts as an enemy but becomes a sometimes ally after she and Herc’s then sidekick Amadeus Cho fall in love. Of course, given the Medusa character swore vengeance on Athena (and Poseidon) while Amadeus is the /Champion of Athena/ things get a bit… complicated.

    The last rec actually technically isn’t for Medusa. The point of view is actually Arachne, though she mentions Medusa and her sisters. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen any story as beautifully illustrate the earlier point several people have made on the cruelty and unfairness of the Greek Gods/Heroes. It’s /very/ short, complete, and if you know Arachne’s original myth it’s a safe bet that what happens next isn’t pretty… but man, the writing is still /incredibly/ powerful:
    http://archiveofourown.org/works/393831

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      1. You are /not wrong/. Civil War was at least an interesting concept, if horrifically executed, and I will Fight anyone who says there’s nothing good about the original run of the Runaways.

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    1. actually, the FSN: heaven’s feel route is getting an anime… they’re doing a trilogy starting broadcast in 2017. Given that it’s at least 70% nightmare fuel, I have to wonder how they’ll modify it for broadcast without slicing it to pieces…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. … Yeah… I mean… Sakura’s backstory /alone/…

        Though I’m curious how they visually represent Shirou’s ‘Body made out of Swords’…

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  8. I am also going as Medusa on Halloween. Funny thing that.

    When I was a kid, Greek and Roman mythology was the only stuff easily available. I read a lot of it. It took me a while, but I also did the “huh?” thing with a lot of the Greek myths. Arachne, Medea, and Cassandra were the women whose stories originally brought me up short. Mainly because their stories are so damn brutal. The guys don’t get off much easier tho. I’m trying to think of (individual) mortals that actually benefited from contact with the Greek gods, but without pulling down books, I can’t think of any at all. Even half-gods. I wonder what those stories said about the Greek concept of divinity. An unbridgeable and (probably fatal) gap? I don’t buy the explanation that the rape of Europa et.al. is an allegory of some Aryan conquest of matriarchal indigenous people. It’s too facile and too forgiving.

    Slightly off tangent, Dave Freer in in Pyramid Scheme does a good job of rehabilitating Medea and Arachne (go Dave!)

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    1. To be fair, one of the (few) things I remember from my freshman college course about the Trojan War was that a major theme in Classical mythology was tragedy and suffering. There’s this whole bit about how Zeus creates all lives by drawing from two urns. The first contains only small tragedies, while the second contains great tragedies. In the same bit where this is talked about the writer immediately follows by explaining that the best someone can hope for is that Zues drew more from the jar of minor tragedy then the jar of major tragedy when creating their life.

      My professor explained this as being a representation of how the Classical world viewed life as a whole. How no matter what, the world was inherently tragic.

      So it’s /really/ not surprising that crops up with their gods interactions with mortals, that’s how /everything/ is.

      Doesn’t make the gods actions any better though.

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    2. If the matriarchal indigenous people is based on Meade’s work, there is some reason to think that Meade’s work is false.

      What’s the profile of the ancient intellectuals whose records would have heavily influenced our understanding of what the myths were? Very often there were in a little city state, and of the class that served in its military. Very often they were veterans. The ancient battlefield was not the safest of places. The governments of those city states were not the safest of governments. Then there is the question of how significant the negative effects of the childhood sexual abuse were.

      What kind of stories might resonate with such people?

      The Latin word vir literally means man, but it also has a sense of noble man, one of that class of abnormal quality, that shows by example what a man should be. The Greek word that gives us hero might be a cognate, I pretty much don’t know any Greek.

      The city states had a reputation for having different values, the Ionians and Doric apparently had distinctions, and they were certainly not the same as the Romans. Our ideas of what a man should be are different. In fact, we have one than one faction competing over ideas of manhood and heroism, none of which are really all that close to ancient Greek or Roman or Norse or Aztec or Chinese ideas. (Okay, maybe there is more continuity of ideals in Chinese or Hindu heroic tales. I don’t know enough to say there, and my default we is the United States of America.)

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      1. Hard to say about continuity in any culture. There are some good arguments that the original stories about Rama – incarnated as one of the warrior class – were rewritten to say the priestly class ought to be in charge.

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      2. That’s more my ignorance than making any sort of argument. My knowledge of Hindu stuff is pretty much osmosis through Kipling, and the theory that the religion was set up by a group that split off the early Iranians.

        I have just enough knowledge on the Chinese end to say ‘I dunno, maybe’. With all the history editing, it’d be a surprise if everything were exactly the same, but I really do not know.

        Japan we can see some pretty big changes with.

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      1. Another thing to look out for in the greek tales. You do not want to be anything other than the main character. Odds are you will end up dead. Unless you are the main character’s love interest. Then you have probably a 50-50 chance. With a wild card option of being….his mom too. Yeah. Greeks.

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  9. Pyramid Scheme and Power are 2 of my fav books.Still wishing for a decathology! My only no-gos would be the Judeism/Christianity themed books. Hoping for China/Japan.(Okami)

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  10. Medusae and Sharks don’t have too many heroes. Looking for Dragons as well.Trying to make a modern dragon urban fantasy. Stuck at dialog.(Chronic Infodumpitus)

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  11. I wrote a narrative poetry piece in my superhero setting Capes and Masks that featured two ladies whose superpowers included paralyzing glaze (it was temporary) and had snakes for hair. One of them’s cape name was Medusa. She wasn’t a hero but in my notes was stealing more because her scary appearance so far has rendered it impossible for her to get a job than anything else.

    Because I have a thing for complex characters including supervillains. In Capes and Masks, there are crazies who can and will do anything but most supervillains still have rules (they just don’t have as many or the same rules as the heroes) and/or things they will not do or allow anyone else to do without trying to stop it.

    And yeah Medusa of myth got totally screwed. Most mortals were in Greek myths. Part of it was, as mentioned above, was the Greek’s definition of a hero as well as their obsession with tragedy (to the point even the comedy is more like I must laugh or else I will cry rather ha-ha-ha). But sometimes I cannot help but see their rampant misogyny as one of the sources for how poorly women are usually treated in myth. And even the goddesses can get shafted on that front.

    Through to be fair to the Greeks, theirs is not the only mythology where people got screwed by the gods.

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  12. One set of fics I’d really like to see is of the gods/goddesses dealing with all the trauma/tragedy they’ve gone though. ‘Cause they’ve got to have it just as bad as the morals do if not worse (growing up in Chronos’ stomach, growing up in hiding, knowing all prophesy, everybody challenging your power/authority left and right, etc.)

    I’ve never found people who challenge the gods so much sympathetic as stupid. Particularly if the god they’re challenging hadn’t had anything to do with them before. I really end up wondering what could be worth it for a mortal to claim that they’re better then the personification of whatever thing they’re claiming mastery over when time and time again the mortal never is. It’s kinda like reading Darwin Awards, watching car accidents, etc. This is pretty much my default reaction to any world with god who actually do have power over aspects of the world…

    If there’s one thing the modern world does to the supernatural, it’s that it wants to give it weaknesses that humans can take advantage of and be able to overcome it though. In older stories that rarely happens, especially when the supernatural involved is the supernatural big hitters and in Greek Mythology there’s hardly anyone else bigger then the gods. So there aren’t a lot of good reasons mortals should triumph over them and to the modern world that stinks of unfairness. Then again, if you’re trying to explain why life is unfair and believe that the normal state of life is tragedy, that’s not so surprising.

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    1. Consider also that there are stronger and weaker humans. It wouldn’t be unusual for a ‘big fish in a small pond’ to become arrogant, then run into trouble because of that in the wider world. It wouldn’t be unusual for a cosmopolitan culture to enjoy stories poking fun at those rubes from some nowhere hole, who don’t know the true scale of the world.

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      1. Oh I know it is common. I just doesn’t make that much sense to me unless the person tends to have a bit of a death wish, honor before reason tendencies or something like that going on. Or they’ve got the backing of another supernatural power, those stories tend to go better.

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  13. There is Azami from Kagerou Project. She’s called a medusa even though she more resembles a really weird gorgon. Kagerou Project is one of those vocaloid song series that just ends up in lots of different mediums. Azami is one of the more minor characters but is very plot important.

    Also, do you mind if I draw some fanart? I reread the Tatterdemalion series and got excited. I want to draw the hollows and Shunsui and the ‘Shirou’s wearing ridiculous clothes.

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    1. Fanart is always awesome! I suck at drawing. I can pretty much sketch out a crude mockup of “this is how I designed the earring”, but anything more than that? Eh.

      So I always like seeing what other people can do with the images I tried to get onto paper. πŸ™‚

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  14. Hrm, my halloween costume is more inspired by the History of Dragons books(Yes, so I’m the only one who knows it, I still love the main character.), but for monsters that get an unfair rap, I’ve got one modern(serpent people) and one ancient(Fenris, actually!).

    Fenris was basically bound, mocked and had to watch his family tortured(Seriously, the tales of Loki’s kids never end up well. The best might be the Midgard Serpent, who actually got to at least get out into the world) by a bunch of gods for a self fulfilling prophecy and being born into a different shape. I always had a soft spot for him after reading a book with a modern day setting where the main character actually was nice to him, and that freed him to help.

    The serpent people are an odd choice, I know, but it comes from actually looking at “Wait a minute, they’re a dying race who are long lived, have a history stretching back at least millennia(I think Marvel comics is the ridiculous “the height of their civilization was 80 million years ago”), and 90% of the time they’re basically just hiding from humanity by shapeshifting because humanity will automatically kill them. And when they’re actually in charge of a realm when we first meet them, they’ve managed to make Atlantis the most civilized and advanced nation in the world. I think it could be interesting to play with, in the sense of a character that has to face the fact that her/his race is basically dead, what do you do?

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