The Original Damsel in Distress: Andromeda

Andromeda - Edward Poynter

We’re all familiar with the hero myth that persists in our movies to this day. Central to it is a damsel in distress that the hero must rescue. A spotless white horse, a flying red cape, a dazzling sword, and shining armour are bare necessities. Today we will look at perhaps the story that gave rise to this myth: the tale of Andromeda and her eventual rescue by Perseus.

Like many tales in mythology, this one too begins with a human challenging the dominion of the Gods – whether in beauty or power. Andromeda’s mother, Cassiopeia, proclaims that her daughter is more beautiful than the Nereids. This enrages Posiedon, the God of the Seas, so much that he sends a monster called Cetus to ravage the coast of Aethiopia.

Cepheus, Andromeda’s father and king, goes to an Oracle. And just like all kings with young virgin daughters are advised by their priests and astrologers, he gets told that the only way the kingdom of Aethiopia can survive is if Andromeda is sacrificed – chained and naked, no less – to Cetus.

The ending of the story is a happy one, of course, with Perseus arriving just in time on the Pegasus (white horse, check, with wings to boot) to slay Cetus with the use of Hades’s helmet. But that moment in which Andromeda waits on a rock lashed by salty waves, the breeze in her hair and her wrists bruised with chains – that has inspired many a painter.

I am leaving two of my favourites here for you to look at and admire. One includes the head of Cetus in the frame. The other does not. The one below is by Gustave Dore. The one at the top of the post – perhaps the more popular of the two – is by Edward Poynter.

Andromeda - Gustave Dore

Images Courtesy: Wikipedia

Comments

  1. Quite an interesting story, and guess what, your posts which touch upon Greek mythology have piqued an interest in me as well. I might just end up reading up about more such stories from the internet sometime soon when time permits.

    Like

    • You should. If you’re interested in Indian mythology, you will likely take to Classical/Greek mythology as well. Not to mention Egyptian and Norse myths, which have very similar motifs.

      Like

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