Perseus is a Greek Mythological tale that is still fairly known today. It has been made into a movie twice, once in 1981 and another time more recently in 2010, called Clash of the Titans. The movie is not an accurate representation of the story represented in Mythology by Edith Hamilton. The two versions do have some things in similar though. An exploration and comparison of the two versions will help better understand the story and why the directors changed some things in the story for the movie.
Zeus is the father of Perseus in both the movie Clash of the Titans and in the story of Perseus in Edith Hamilton’s book Mythology. How and why Zeus impregnates Danae in both versions of the story is different though. In the book Danae is locked up in a prison that her father, Acrisius, built for her. She was also the most beautiful lady in all of Greece. Zeus could not resist such a beauty, so he poured down in her prison as golden rain and was with her and impregnated her. It is believed that this is where the sexual act of a “Golden Shower” comes from. In the movie Acrisius was the husband of Danae. He waged war on Olympus and angered the gods. They wanted to destroy man, but Zeus still had love and compassion on them. So he decided to make an example out of Acrisius. Zeus disguised himself as Acrisius and visited the queen in her bed chamber impregnating her with his child. He revealed himself just as Acrisius walks in and angering Acrisius. The book shows the infidelity and lustfulness of Zeus, while the movie shows the cruelty that gods would show upon mortals that would cross them.
Danae and Perseus were thrown out to sea to die in a chest when Perseus was a young boy in both versions of the story, but why they were done so is different. In the book Danae was born to Acrisius. He was upset about not having a son, so he sought out the Oracle. The Oracle told him that he would not have a son but that he would have a grandson that would kill him. To prevent this from happening, he locked Danae away in a prison that he had made for her, but Zeus found a way into her cell and impregnated her with Perseus. When he found out about Perseus, he became afraid for his life. He would not dare kill Perseus and Danae by his hand because the gods did not take kindly to those who shed kindred blood. So he figured they would meet certain death at sea, but not by his hand, and he had them put in a chest and thrown out to sea. They both ended up surviving and were taken in by a fisherman named Dictys. In the movie Acrisius had grown with rage that Zeus defiled his wife and that a child was begotten because of it. He had their execution ordered to spite Zeus. Danae dies at sea, but Perseus survives and is taken in by a fisherman named Spyros. The book shows Acrisius’ selfishness and lack of love and care for his family. The movie shows his hate for the gods, which plays upon the plot that man is fed up with the gods and creates a war between the gods and man.
In both versions of the story about Perseus he is taken in by a fisherman, which helps set up a good background to show the heroicness of Perseus. In the book it helps to show the eagerness that Perseus has to do great things and to please Polydectes, and it leads to him going on the quest to retrieve Medusa’s head for him. In the movie it shows the simplicity of a man and why he fights for man instead of joining the gods. It also magnifies the fact that he was a demigod. He was able to accomplish the great feats because of the god in him and not because he was a great warrior. He had never wielded a sword, but he was able to knock Draco’s sword out of his hand during his first time sparring.
The reason for Perseus going on a quest is different in both versions, but some of the events of his quest are the same which will be addressed later in more detail. In the book Polydectes, the ruler of the island where Perseus grew up, fell in love with Danae and wanted to marry her. But he wanted nothing to do with Perseus, so he devised a plan to get rid of him. Polydectes told Perseus in private that he would desire nothing more than the head of a Gorgon. Then he announced that he was going to be having a banquet for he was going to be married. Everybody brought Polydectes gifts, but Perseus did not. In his embarrassment and pride, he stood up and declared that he would go retrieve the head of a Gorgon for Polydectes. This is what Polydectes secretly wished for, because no man has ever survived from an encounter with the Gorgons, and he wanted Perseus dead. But the gods were on Perseus’ side. In the movie man was rebelling against the gods and provoked them into war, and soldiers from Argos destroyed the statue of Zeus in their defiance. Perseus and his family happened to be around when they did so, and they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Hades appeared and killed the soldiers and Perseus’ family. Perseus survived and was taken back to the palace at Argos. The queen, Cassiopeia, had claimed that her daughter, Andromeda, was far more beautiful than Aphrodite herself. Hades told them that the Kraken would be released in ten days. The only thing that would satiate the beast is the sacrifice of Andromeda to it because of what Queen Cassiopeia had said, or the Kraken will destroy all of Argos. Hades said that this was “the will of Zeus, the will of your father,” while looking at Perseus revealing that he was the son of Zeus and a demigod. Io, who acted as a guide to Perseus, affirmed this to him. The king of Argos, Cepheus, went to Perseus pleading him to save Argos and especially his daughter. Perseus agreed to do so, because he wanted to get back at Hades. The reason as to why Perseus goes on his quest in the movie makes for a better story that promises action and emotions to satisfy the taste of viewers in 2010.
Perseus seeks out the aid of the Grey Women in both versions, but the timing and reason is different in both of the versions. In the book Perseus goes to the Grey Women after he has gone to the Oracle, who tells him to go to the Selli, who do not tell him anything he needs to know, but they do tell him that the gods are watching over him. Perseus was at a loss, but then Hermes appeared to him. Hermes tells him that he needs to go to the Grey Women to find out how to find the nymphs of the North, because they have equipment that he needs to face the Gorgons. Hermes guides Perseus to the Grey Women, and once there Perseus hid until he saw the opportune time to jump out and grab the eye from the sisters. He refused to return it until they gave him directions to the nymphs of the North. Seeking the Grey Women for answers is Perseus’ first goal in the movie. He goes to them to find out how to defeat the Kraken. They say knowledge requires a sacrifice and try taking one of the soldiers that was with Perseus and a fight breaks out. During the fight, Perseus is able to grab the eye. He refuses to return it until they release the soldier and give him an answer on how to kill the Kraken. They tell him the only way to kill the Kraken is with Medusa’s gaze that turns everything of flesh into stone. As Perseus returns their eye and leaves, they tell him that he will die. Again, the events in the movie make for it to be a better story for today’s viewers. It shows an action packed and heroic tale. The events of the book make it a good clever hero tale for Ancient Greece.
How Perseus takes the head of Medusa is different in each story. In the book Perseus had the winged sandals, cap of invisibility, and the silver wallet from the nymphs, the polished shield from Athena, and the sword that will be able to cut through the Gorgon’s scales, while in the movie Perseus did not have gifts from the gods while fighting Medusa other than his sword from Zeus. In the book Perseus was invisible, and the Gorgons were asleep. Athena told him which one was Medusa, because she was the only one of the Gorgons that could be killed. Taking the head of Medusa was an easy task for Perseus with her asleep and him invisible. In the movie it was a full fledged battle scene with everybody dying except for Perseus. He did look at Medusa through a reflection in a shield waiting for an opportune time to strike and to gain her head. Again, this shows that the events of the book make for a good clever hero tale of Ancient Greece, and the events of the movie make for a modern action hero movie.
The element of a person cannot run from their fate is present in both versions of the story. In the book Acrisius did everything in his power to prevent him from being killed by his grandson, only to be killed by accident in an athletic game. If he would have faced his fate, he could have enjoyed a life and relationships with his daughter and grandson. In the movie Perseus was told by the Grey Women that if he continued on his journey that he would die. But instead of running from his fate, he put others above himself and continued his journey. He succeeded in his quest, saved many lives, and he did not die in the process. The prophecy will come true because he refuses to become immortal and join Zeus on Olympus. This means he will eventually die as a mortal and the prophecy will be fulfilled.
It cannot, nor should it be, said that one version is better than the other. Both versions were directed towards an audience of its time. The Ancient Greeks were more interested in the cleverness of the gods and their heroes. Viewers today look for action. Both of these versions reflect the best ideal for entertainment of their times.
Clash of the Titans. Dir. Louis Leterrier. Perf. Sam Worthingston, Liam Neeson, and Ralph Fiennes. Legendary Pictures, 2010. DVD.
Hamilton, Edith. Mythology: Edith Hamilton. New York: Spark Pub., 2002. Print.