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Medusa Lesson for Kids: Story & Facts

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  • 0:04 Scary Medusa
  • 0:27 What Was Medusa Like?
  • 1:18 Perseus and Medusa
  • 2:00 The Ancient Greeks' View
  • 2:21 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Elizabeth Diehl

Elizabeth studied to be a special education teacher at Regis University, and received her masters in 2014.

Just as in some of our favorite action stories, not all characters in Greek myths were good or nice. Let's learn about an important bad guy in Greek mythology, Medusa.

Scary Medusa

When you were little, did you have a nightlight to keep the monsters away? A lot of kids did. The ancient Greeks did not have nightlights, but they did use the image of a specific monster to help keep scary things away. This charm was based on Medusa, a character from several myths that the Greeks knew well. She was not the hero in the stories though. Medusa was the bad guy that everyone loved to hate.

What Was Medusa Like?

In many stories, Medusa had two sisters. Medusa and her sisters were called the Gorgons. They were monsters that were impossible to kill. Ancient Greeks imagined them with big wide eyes, tusks in their mouths, snakes instead of hair, and scales instead of skin. Her sisters were immortal, so they could not die. Medusa was the only Gorgon who would die. But killing Medusa would not be easy.

In some stories, Medusa once was very beautiful. She and Poseidon, the god of the ocean, fell in love at a temple of Athena. Athena was the goddess of wisdom and strategy. She did not appreciate that Medusa and Poseidon were at her temple, but not worshipping her, so Athena turned Medusa into a monster with snake-hair as punishment. Being turned into a monster made Medusa very angry. Medusa would kill whoever she looked at with her stare. If anyone looked at her, they would turn into stone.

Perseus and Medusa

The most famous story with Medusa is where she meets the hero son of Zeus, Perseus. Medusa made the gods and goddesses nervous because she could turn to stone anyone she looked at with her stare. They called upon a young man named Perseus to try to kill her. Perseus then wisely prayed to Athena to help him know what to do. Athena told him: sneak onto Medusa's island but do not look into her eyes. Athena instructed Perseus to use his shiny shield as a mirror. He could use the shield to see what was around him without looking at Medusa!

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