The Storyteller: Greek Myths (1990) s01e02 Episode Script

Perseus & the Gorgon

What is that? A thing of darkness.
A night fear.
Don't even look at it.
The face.
It's horrible.
Where does it come from? A long way away, on a rock at the edge of the world lived a woman with terrible claws, wings of bronze and breath as foul as corpses.
Her hair was a nest of poisonous snakes hissing, alive.
Catch her stare, and she could turn you to stone.
Her name was Medusa, the gorgon.
Imagine her looking away.
And then starting to turn towards you.
Slowly, slowly.
Shall we turn and look at them, sisters? And the boy sent to kill her came out of the same shadows that spawned her.
And his birth was first foretold in a cave as dark as this place.
His name was Perseus.
Acrisius, king of Argos, had a daughter, Danae.
Now he longed for a son.
What if his wife should give him another daughter? What if he gave rise to a line of daughters stretching out forever? Women who would carry off his name and lineage to strangers.
This ache for a boy child, an heir, gripped his heart and he made sacrifice after sacrifice to the gods creators of earth and sky and moon, until finally desperate, he sought out the oracle.
-Who's there? -Acrisius.
King of Argos.
What does the king wish to know? There's a shame in asking what's to come.
And the King of Argos knelt in the darkness with a dry mouth his heart tapping like the wind at the temple door.
I want a son.
A son? There will be a boy.
The king's heart lurched in the darkness.
A son! But not your son, Acrisius, King of Argos.
Your daughter's son.
Danae will have a boy, and you shall hear his laughter.
And this boy, one day, he'll kill you.
He'll kill you.
What? He'll kill you.
Lights! Do you hear me? Lights! Father? Father? Nothing now for both of us.
No sons, no laughter, no joy.
Nothing but silences and funerals and things that might have been.
Father? Poor girl.
Yes.
Terrible.
Shut forever in a chamber of solid bronze from which there could be no escape.
Nothing now but the dark and silence and the trickle of sunlight in a corner of the cell.
Danae found all her hope in that finger of light looked at it, week after week month after month, ear after ear.
Until one day as she gave herself up to the light it turned to gold.
Real gold! Streaming into her lap as she la there.
What was it? It was Zeus, lord of all gods.
What was he doing? Fulfilling the oracle.
So that's how it's done.
No! A baby! How awful! Was it a boy? Did it kill its grandfather? Did it have a poisoned rattle or something? It was a boy.
Perseus.
Born in darkness and secret.
A bo whose fate awaited him at the end of the world on a sea-lashed rock.
I smell a man, born of a god.
Sisters, smell the air.
Stare him out, sisters.
Give him the sad eye.
Years passed and all Perseus knew was the room the sweet touch of his mother, and her stories.
And the quiet unraveling of day after day.
What's the world like? Not like this.
What's this then? A prison.
I thought it was the world.
When Perseus was six years old Danae made for him a sword from wood pulled from her bed and smoothed on the stone floor.
When she placed it in his hands, the little boy just stood there his pale eyes troubled.
You fight with it.
You fight monsters with it.
A long way away, on a rock at the edge of the world lives a woman with terrible claws wings of bronze, and breath as foul as corpses.
Her hair is a nest of poisonous snakes alive and hissing! Catch her eyes and she'll turn you to stone.
And this pale, bloodless noise caught in the still passages echoed, crept into the ear of the sad king chilled him, pulled him from his chamber pulled him down corridors where laughter had long died where joy had perished, pulled him down and down into the bowels of his palace.
Don't kill him! Please! Please don't kill my boy! Take this chest and shut in it my daughter and her son.
Cast it from the highest cliff into the ocean and let the seas mash them, and the rocks grind them.
Perseus could feel the chest lifted, hear the clash of heel on stone and then the drag, the lurch, as the chest was carried off where they knew not and then cold, sharp salt air seeping into the wood.
He clung in silence to his silent mother.
He must have been frightened.
Imagine! Suddenly a heave and then the world dropping from the pit of your stomach the fall, the forever fall, the plunge, turning over and over clinging together.
And then the smash of wood on water and the wetness forcing in.
That's terrible! They just drowned? They should have drowned.
They dreamed they drowned.
But then they woke and they were still there, still locked in the dark but now the dark moved them from side to side.
-Rocked them.
-They floated! They floated.
Pulled by currents, tugged by tides.
How long this lasted, who knows? There were no das or nights, only drifting drifting in and out of sleep, on and on.
Until, from nowhere out of nothing, suddenly there was light! Light! More light than Perseus had ever known.
And into the light, a face.
And it was smiling.
Look what the sea brought us! Look! What are you thinking, son? When I was small, we lived in a prison.
I remember the prison.
There was a narrow window.
It was always quiet.
Sometimes I miss the darkness.
I miss the shadows and the silence.
My house is full of shadows.
Come and live with me.
Is this your son? He is my son.
His name is Perseus.
And where's his father? Diktys? Is this your son? He has no father.
A boy needs a father.
How would you like me to be your father? How would you like to live in a palace full of shadows? It could be easily done.
All I would have to do is take your mother for my wife.
Leave my mother alone! Who are you? His name is Polydektes.
King of all of this island stealer of farms, liar.
Gatherer in of beautiful things.
And if I choose, I will take your mother for my wife.
I will marry her in six days.
Come to the wedding if you can afford a bride-gift.
Is that a treasure chest, Perseus? Bring your weight in gold coins, Perseus.
Bring your oak chest full of gold pieces.
I have no gold.
The chest is empty.
Dear.
What is to be done? A long way away on a rock at the edge of the world lives a woman whose hair is a nest of poisonous snakes.
Catch her eye and she'll turn you to stone.
I'll bring you something better than gold.
I'll bring you the head of the gorgon.
Really? The head of the gorgon? Marvellous.
What a marvellous wedding gift.
I shall.
I shall bring you Medusa and there will be no wedding.
Somebody called my name! Sisters, we must keep watch.
Look to the east! And so it was that Perseus, half-child, half-god found himself with five days and five nights to bring back the severed head of the gorgon fringed with snakes, the gaze that froze to prevent the marriage of his mother to the tyrant, Polydektes, Lord of Seriphos.
I don't know who I hate more, this Polydektes, or the gorgon.
Poor Danae, did she have to marry him? Poor Perseus.
Poor Perseus.
How could he bring back the head of the gorgon to Polydektes' table? Did such a monster really exist? Where was this island at the edge of the world beyond ocean, beyond nights, beyond the north wind? He wasted one whole day by the seashore stared into the red night.
So what happened? The gods helped him.
Remember, he was Zeus' son.
Athene the daughter of Zeus, Hermes the messenger they found him.
They gave him this sword a real sword, and a bright bronze shield.
-And Athene-- -She was his sister, then? She was his half-sister.
Warned him never to look directly at the gorgon but to catch her stare in the reflection of the shield.
Go to the Graeae, she told him, sisters of the gorgon.
The will know where to find her.
And at length, Perseus found the Graeae three hags who had but one tooth and one eye between them.
The gorgon's sisters.
Zeus, father of the gods, lord of the storm cloud gatherer, give me a six! Give her a two! Give her nothing, Zeus! Who's there? A traveller.
And I hold the eye! Give it to me! Not until you tell me where I may find the gorgon.
Give me the eye! I'll tell you.
Me! The Graeae screeched and spat and clawed to betray their sister.
But Perseus would not give up the eye until he knew everything.
I'll tell you everything.
Give it to me.
I'll tell you everything.
Anything! Go to the nymphs of the Styx.
They have the cap of invisibility, the winged sandals to carry you.
I know where they are! Here's your eye! Betrayers.
I have it! I have it! Go, stranger, go to the nymphs take every weapon, make yourself invisible.
It will not help you.
My sister will freeze the breath in your throat! He's coming, sister! He's coming! He is coming, my sisters.
I smell him on the breeze.
He is coming to me! Is this it? The cap of invisibility.
Nice.
It's dog skin.
I don't believe you! That cap is dog skin? That's disgusting.
-It is.
-Yuck! Three things he had from the Stygian Nymphs as beautiful in their black lake as the Graeae were foul the kunee, cap of invisibility the kibisis, a leather pouch in which to carry the gorgon's head and winged sandals so that he might fly.
They say he flew out so far he came to the place where the great Titan, Atlas, stood whose punishment it was to hold up the heavens.
And he called out to the sad giant.
But his voice was tin.
Medusa! Medusa the gorgon! How can I find her? Is it a man? All sounds are small.
You make such a noise about your destiny.
I am tired of bearing the weight of heavens.
But if I let go, the sky will fall on your heads.
I seek Medusa, the gorgon whose look turns to stone.
The gorgon? The gorgon is on a rock at the edge of the world.
I dream she passes and her stare turns me to stone.
No more weight.
Come closer.
Come closer! Come closer! Was she waiting? She was waiting for him, wasn't she? -Yes, she was waiting.
-Stop it! He lands on the island.
Imagine! Moving through statues, through people the gorgon has frozen to stone.
And he's wearing his cap, and he's clutching his sword but none of those things seem to help him.
He's invisible but he's sure she can see him.
She can smell him! He's frightened, so frightened.
He's here, sisters.
He's come.
The man who seeks us is here.
Wake, sisters, wake.
Why won't you show yourself, stranger? Are you frightened? Where are you? I can't see you.
He wants to look at her, wants to turn.
The voice tempting him to turn.
She can't see him, but her voice can charm him.
He's invisible, but if he looks at her, he's finished.
I like to be looked at.
And I like to look, too.
Where are you? Look into my eyes.
There's a world in my eyes.
Where are you, stranger? Why don't you look at me? I like to be looked at.
Can you see me? Medusa! Sister! Where is he? Kill him! He did it! He did it! Who are these other gorgons? You never mentioned three gorgons.
If I told the whole story, your head would burst.
There is no one story.
There are branches, rooms, like this place rooms, corridors, dead ends.
What about the minutes his mother spent waiting the minutes running away, what happened to them? Or Diktys, his family broken on a whim? Or Acrisius the king, haunted, whose sleep is always fitful who cannot forget the oracle? Yes, the gorgon had sisters.
Yes, Perseus turned the sad giant Atlas to stone.
-I can't tell you-- -Hang on, hang on.
He turned Atlas to stone? He flew past Atlas and took pity on the poor giant showed him the sad eye let him sleep the long sleep of a mountain.
Atlas! Atlas! I did not forget.
And then home, with the gorgon's head in his hands his sword pointing the way in front of him.
Perhaps he's too late.
Perhaps his mother has been taken to the palace.
Perhaps Polydektes has already married her.
Who's this? Don't you know me, Polydektes? Perseus! Let her go.
I have brought you a gift for your wedding.
Would you look on it? You've brought me the gorgon's head, have you? I have.
My friends the boy has been to the end of the world and come back with the Medusa's head.
I advise you to remove yourselves.
One look.
Is this right, boy? One look and we shall all be petrified! That's right.
Dear, I think we'll show our true colours.
Is anyone else frightened of a story? Of a child's nightmare? The gorgon? So weak! Will no one stay with me? He's lying! It's a dream.
Come, boy.
Sit.
Eat with me.
I dreamed of dark.
I dreamed of light.
I dreamed I was a king.
I dreamed I was a god's son.
I dreamed your limbs grew heavy and your blood turned to sand.
And I dreamed you cried out.
He turned him to stone.
Good! So the oracle was wrong? What? Acrisius.
The oracle said Perseus would kill his grandfather and he didn't.
I went to the oracle once.
Never ask.
You never hear what you hope for.
When Danae told Perseus about his birth, about the oracle Perseus felt compassion for Acrisius.
He decided to return to Argos and promise his grandfather he would do him no harm.
Good.
But what does it take for an accident to happen? Imagine, after standing for 1,000 winters this roof should suddenly give up its spirit, fall on our head.
What? What is that? Chance? Fate? The god's sport? So it was with Perseus and Acrisius.
The old king heard of Perseus' deeds fled from Argos, hid from him in the narrow lanes of Larissa.
Perseus travelled slowly to Argos, stopping off on the way.
There was a contest at Larissa.
He stopped for it.
Hurled the discus.
Wild.
Past all the others.
Hurled it into the sky.
Watch out! Acrisius, haunted, stood in the crowd.
The discus sought him out with the strength of an oracle found him, killed him.
So the oracle was true.
That's terrible.
Yes, oracles are true.
Stories are true.
There are monsters at the end of the world.
There are looks that can kill, and who has not been petrified with fear? Ask Athene, warrior daughter of Zeus weaver, maker of spiders.
She will tell you the things I cannot.
She will sing the praises of Perseus the hero father of the Argives, the gorgon slayer.