The Snake-Haired Monster

Most people stay as far away from Medusa as possible. Perseus isn’t most people.

Art by Allan Davey


S1: Our story takes place long ago in ancient Greece.  

S2: It is about a good woman named Danae—

Perseus: —and her very brave son, Perseus.

S3: They live a quiet life on the island of Seriphos.

S1: But all is not well. The evil king wishes to marry Danae.

Danae: And he will not take no for an answer!


S2: One day, the king finds Danae in her garden.

King: Danae, I could have any woman. But I choose you. 

Danae: Your people are suffering. You do not help them. Why would I want a husband like that? 

King: You dare to refuse me? 

S3: He starts to draw his sword. Perseus runs in. 

Perseus: Stop! Do not threaten my mother! 

S1: The king smirks.

King: Ah, Perseus. It is always a pleasure to see you. 

Perseus: Get out of here!

King: You will be sorry—both of you! 


S2: Back at the palace, the king sits on his throne. His advisers stand before him. 

King: I must get rid of Perseus. If he were gone, I’m sure Danae would marry me. 

Adviser 1: Give him a dangerous task. 

Adviser 2: Yes! A task he cannot say no to—or survive. 

S3: The king comes up with an evil plan.

S1: He announces that he is marrying a different woman. He hosts a party to celebrate.

S2: Guests have brought expensive presents. 

King: Perseus, are you so lazy that you have nothing to offer your king? 

Perseus (angry): I am not lazy. I will bring you whatever gift you wish for!  

King: The gift I want is . . . the head of Medusa! 

Crowd: Gasp!

Danae: No! Medusa is a deadly monster. Instead of hair, she has live snakes on her head. Anyone who looks at her turns to stone! 

S3: Perseus’s eyes slowly move back to the king.

Perseus: As you wish. 

Danae: Stop! It’s too dangerous. Everyone who challenges Medusa fails. 

Perseus: Then killing her means my name will be remembered forever.

King (to himself): No, fool. You will die and be forgotten.


S1: Medusa’s location is a mystery. For months, Perseus tries to find her. 

S2: One night, Athena appears. She is the goddess of wisdom. With her is Hermes, the messenger of the gods.

Athena (to Hermes): Perseus is a good man. It’s time for us to help him. 

Athena: Perseus, please take my metal shield. It will be the key to your success. 

Hermes: And take this magic sickle. Its diamond blade can cut through any surface. 

S3: Perseus bows to them. 

Perseus: Do you perhaps know where I can find Medusa?

Athena: Only the Gray Sisters can tell you. 

Hermes: They live on a cliff by the sea. Follow us. 

S1: Athena and Hermes lead Perseus to the Gray Sisters. 

Athena: You must go alone now. Good luck.

Art by Allan Davey

The Goddess Athena
In ancient Greece, people believed in many gods and goddesses. Stories about these gods and goddesses were called myths. These myths were used to explain the weather, wars, and all parts of human life.


S2: Perseus climbs into the Gray Sisters’ lair. He watches them from behind a rock. 

S3: The sisters are old, wrinkly, and blind—except for a single eye. 

S1: They pass it back and forth.  

Gray Sister 1: Give me the eye. I want to look around. 

Gray Sister 2: You just had it! But fine—take it.

S2: Sister 2 removes the eye and hands it to Sister 1.

S3: Perseus creeps closer.

Gray Sister 3: My turn!

Gray Sister 1: But I just got the eye! 

Gray Sister 3: Selfish, selfish. 

S1: Sister 1 reaches out to give the eye to Sister 3. But Perseus grabs it. 

Gray Sister 3: Where is it? My hand is empty.

Gray Sister 1: Then who has it? Who has our eye?

Perseus (stepping forward): I do. I will give it back if you tell me where to find Medusa!

Gray Sister 2: We will never tell. 

Perseus: Then I will throw your eye into the sea. 

All Gray Sisters: Nooooo!

Gray Sister 2: We’ll tell, we’ll tell!

Gray Sister 1: Only the Nymphs of the North know where Medusa is. 

Perseus: How can I find them? 

S2: The sisters whisper in his ear. He returns their eye. 


S3: Perseus finds the nymphs dancing at the edge of the water. 

Nymph 1: Greetings, Perseus. The winds told us you were coming. 

Nymph 2: Medusa is an evil creature. We would be honored to help you. 

Nymph 1: Take these winged sandals. Use them to soar through the air to Medusa’s cave. 

Nymph 2: Take this cloth sack. Even after Medusa’s head is cut off, it can still turn you to stone if you look at it. 

Nymph 1: Take this Helmet of Darkness. It will make you invisible to Medusa’s sisters as you escape. 

Nymph 2: Now go. Be quick. And be brave. 

Perseus: Thank you!


S1: Perseus sails on his winged sandals until he reaches the entrance to Medusa’s cave. 

S2: Everywhere he looks, he sees statues. 

S3: The statues used to be humans and animals. They all turned to stone when they looked at Medusa.

Perseus (to himself): How can I cut off Medusa’s head if I can’t even look at her? 

S1: Perseus sees his reflection in Athena’s shield. 

Perseus: That’s it!

S2: Perseus walks backward into the cave. 

S3: He uses the shield as a mirror to see behind him. 

S1: Medusa and her sisters are sleeping. 

S2: As Perseus nears, the snakes on Medusa’s head begin hissing and twisting.

S3: Medusa’s eyes fly open. She cries out with rage. 

Medusa: Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhh! How dare you enter this cave!

S1: Perseus uses the shield as a mirror to look at Medusa. He raises the sickle and swings it behind him. 

Medusa: Just wait until . . . Nooooooooo!

S2: Medusa’s head rolls away from her body. Perseus shoves the head into the sack without looking at it. 

S3: Medusa’s sisters awaken and see her headless body. 

S1: Perseus throws the Helmet of Darkness onto his head. He becomes invisible and quickly flies away.

Art by Allan Davey

Perseus The Hero
In Greek myths, heroes were strong people who performed brave acts. Just think about all the courage Perseus needed to enter Medusa’s cave!


S2: Perseus returns to Seriphos. He finds his mother scrubbing floors in the palace.

Danae: Son, you are alive! Our horrible king has made me a slave because I still won’t marry him. 

Perseus: I thought he chose another woman to be his wife!

Danae: It was all a lie to get rid of you.

S3: The king enters. He is amazed to see Perseus alive.

King: You? Here? How is that possible?

Perseus: I have returned with a gift for you.

S1: Perseus holds out the sack. 

King (laughing): You have Medusa’s head in that bag?

Perseus: I do. Would you care to see it?

King (not believing him): Of course I would. 

Perseus: Mother, please shield your eyes!

S2: Perseus lifts Medusa’s head out of the sack. 

S3: The king immediately turns to stone. His face will forever be frozen in a look of shock.

S1: Perseus puts the head back into the sack. Danae opens her eyes. 

Danae: My son, you have killed a monster with a monster! Your name will indeed be remembered forever. 

Making an Inference

You’ve just read “The Snake-Haired Monster” Now it’s time to try this activity.

Tip: An inference is something that isn’t stated but can be figured out from clues in the text.

What to do: Imagine that you are Perseus. You’ve been telling a friend about your adventure, and your friend has some questions. Make inferences to answer each question with at least one complete sentence.

How did your mother feel about the king? Did you agree with her?

Why did the king tell you he wanted Medusa’s head as a gift?

Why did you agree to bring Medusa’s head to the king?

What might have happened to you if you hadn’t had the Helmet of Darkness?

Why didn’t the king believe that you had Medusa’s head in the bag?

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