Athena & Medusa’s Backstory In Percy Jackson Explained: The Truth Behind Her Gorgon Transformation

Warning: SPOILERS ahead for Percy Jackson & the Olympians episode 3.


Summary

  • Medusa’s backstory in Percy Jackson & the Olympians highlights her tragic past involving Athena and Poseidon.
  • Medusa’s interest in Percy is due to his father’s role in the conflict between her and Athena.
  • The Olympian gods in the Percy Jackson universe only care about themselves, disregarding mortals and even their own children.

Percy Jackson & the Olympians has officially introduced Medusa, and the Disney+ series puts a tragic spin on the creature from Greek mythology, giving her a backstory that weaves Athena and Poseidon into the origin of her Gorgon transformation. Medusa is a well-known figure from Greek mythos, and it’s no surprise that she shows up in Percy Jackson episode 3. Percy and his friends encounter Medusa on their quest in Rick Riordan’s books, and the movie features the Gorgon as well. However, Disney’s Percy Jackson show makes changes to Medusa, pushing viewers to empathize with her even as she turns against Percy and his friends.

Although Annabeth doesn’t trust Medusa from the moment that she, Percy, and Grover cross paths with the Gorgon, Percy is tempted to give her the benefit of the doubt. In Percy Jackson episode 3, “We Visit the Garden Gnome Emporium,” the show’s main trio sits down with Medusa for a meal. She tells them her story, insisting she doesn’t hold a grudge against Annabeth or Percy because of their parents. According to her, both Athena and Poseidon are responsible for her dangerous ability to turn anyone she glimpses to stone.

Percy Jackson & the Olympians episodes 1-3 are streaming on Disney+.


Medusa Was A Mortal Priestess To Athena, Who She Became Devoted To Celibacy For

Medusa Tells Percy & His Friends That She Was Annabeth Once

When Percy and his friends enter Medusa’s home, Annabeth is vocal about her distrust of the Gorgon. Medusa claims that she doesn’t blame Annabeth for what her mother did to her, telling the young demigods that she was once in Annabeth’s shoes. If Medusa’s tale is to be believed, she worshiped Athena before becoming a Gorgon. Just as Annabeth is endlessly loyal to her mother, Medusa prayed to the goddess and devoted herself — even after she failed to answer. “Athena was everything to me,” Medusa tells Percy Jackson‘s main trio. And this is in line with Medusa’s origin story in certain Greek myths.

According to the Roman poet Ovid, Medusa was a priestess of Athena, just as she suggests in Percy Jackson & the Olympians (via The Metropolitan Museum of Art). Per Mythology History, she even turned down a romance with her beloved childhood friend, choosing a life of celibacy in honor of the goddess instead. Medusa eventually went back on this vow, which is why Athena cursed her. As Medusa tells Percy and the others, “She decided I would never be seen again by anyone who would live to tell the tale.” While Annabeth’s mother is the one who turned Medusa into a monster, Percy’s father was partly responsible for her fate.

Medusa Was Seduced By Poseidon In Athena’s Temple, Which The Goddess Took As Sacrilege

This Is Why Medusa Takes Such An Interest In Percy Jackson

Toby Stephens as Poseidon looking glum in the Percy Jackson TV show

Medusa takes a special interest in Percy because his father is Poseidon, the person responsible for the rift between Medusa and Athena in Greek mythology and Percy Jackson & the Olympians. In “We Visit the Garden Gnome Emporium,” Medusa explains that Poseidon seduced her while she was still devoted to Athena. Despite her vow of celibacy, he made her feel seen and loved — and she gave in to his advances, something Athena took major offense to. Because of this betrayal, Athena turned Medusa into a Gordon with snakes for hair and a deadly gaze.

This is also in line with certain myths, though some tellings of Medusa’s story suggest that Poseidon forced himself on her. Such versions make Athena’s actions even more ruthless, but Percy Jackson doesn’t dig too deeply into this take on the lore. Instead, it focuses on Medusa’s affair with Poseidon. Doing so allows the Gorgon to empathize with Percy’s mother, and it highlights the Disney show’s biggest criticism of the Oympian gods.

Medusa’s Backstory Highlights Percy Jackson Season 1’s Biggest Criticism Of The Olympian Gods

The Gods Don’t Take Anyone Else Into Consideration

Medusa turns against Percy and Annabeth by the end of Percy Jackson episode 3, but her story still highlights a major problem with the Olympian gods. In the Disney+ show’s version of Medusa’s tale, Athena punishes her for being with Poseidon — but she doesn’t hold this against Percy’s father at all. This unravels the same way in the myths where Medusa is raped by Poseidon, making Athena’s actions that much worse. Poseidon’s behavior and Athena’s punishment underscore the fact that the Greek gods don’t care about anyone but themselves in the Percy Jackson universe. They don’t take mortals’ lives into account, even those of their own kids.

This is something Percy and his friends come to realize on their journey, and it’s already been hinted at during the early episodes of Percy Jackson & the Olympians. The gods don’t bother claiming some of their children, and they don’t try particularly hard to protect their kids from the monsters that follow them. Luke’s bitterness towards Hermes and Thalia’s fate are just some examples. Zeus’ rage against a child is the driving force of Percy Jackson & the Olympians season 1, too, and Poseidon doesn’t help Percy on his quest to prevent a war. It’s a predicament the show will continue to grapple with as it goes on.

Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Mythology History