Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 14, 1903.djvu/240

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A Solution of the Gorgon Myth.

waters of the Mediterranean adventures with it must have been frightfully familiar.

Those beholders who might be out of reach of the clutches of the sea-monster would see in the deep clear water only the horrible coiling, writhing, and outstretching suckers of the creature, and upon them these latter would naturally make the most vivid impression. Hence we can easily understand how a drawing or carving of the tentacles only, without the face, as in Fig. 3, would become, as an alternative with the grinning mask, a representation of the dreaded monster.

I am fully conscious of the great difficulty of conclusively proving this contention. The evidence I have been able to collect is disjointed and needs the support of chronological sequence. The fictile and pictorial representations of various ages have reflected the growth of the romance in popular fancy. Whereas in the earliest known forms the baleful visage was the very type of hideousness, and was held to work its maleficent effect upon the beholder by the fearfulness of its aspect, the original belief quickly became enlarged, and rapidly developed from time to time; so that even in early historic ages the idea had taken shape entirely in the opposite direction, and the effect of the fatal glance was thought by many to have been produced, not by fright, but by the loveliness, or, as we now express it, by the "fascination" of the facial expression. This later phase of the myth has been perpetuated and strongly emphasised in many of the later works of art; such as the famous Strozzi Medusa, the Romanini Medusa at Munich, or that in the Villa Ludovisi:[1] and yet the old belief in hideousness did not die out, but maintained itself alongside of the newer ideal beauty. In fact, the development of the representation of the Gorgon in art had to be accompanied by an enlargement of the story, so as to make it consistent. Hence arose the version that she was origin-

  1. See Dillhey, Ann. Inst. (1S71), pp. 212, 238; Dennis, Etruria, ii., 439.