what if medusa was a real woman. i mean: what if the woman with snakes in her hair was once a tiny girl with beautiful braids in her black hair.
what if the stories came from her smooth hands. when she was six she could make pottery that looked like flowers blooming in your palms. could carefully create replicas of any plant she saw.
and medusa was smart. ran from home, tucked up her hair so it looked short, made herself into a little boy. besides, they liked pretty boys. medusa at school with top grades, sending her unknowable stares at the other men. because the whole time she’s learning the planes of their faces, the way they look while they’re thinking, the slight twist of their hand that meant they were lying.
medusa going home to sketch every little figure. comes to school in the morning with her hands caked in pottery clay. medusa learns. scrubs dirt on her face to mimic their planes. tilts her head the right way when she’s thinking. doesn’t twist her hand when she’s lying.
in her back yard, a little garden grows. statues of ceramic boys only three feet tall. at first, she can’t quite get the faces right. men are not the same as plants. there is something weird about the proportions she uses. medusa frowns.
she starts making animals instead for a bit, annoyed and disheartened. she’d always just been naturally good at it, and the fact she couldn’t just make something felt as if she’d lost her gift.
she makes cats and dogs and her neighbor’s birds and keeps going.
the snake wasn’t her favorite. he just wouldn’t leave her alone, so she gave up and let him sleep on her in the cold nights. besides, he was a small garden snake, couldn’t even bite her hard, just wanted a place of warmth. she let him rest on the angles of her shoulders, right near her neck, even if he sometimes forgot and held her too hard. that was okay. when she was little, she forgot too, sometimes, and shattered the slim walls of her pottery. the snake had a lot of growing up to do.
she loved no one. not because she was cold-hearted. just because it wasn’t something she wanted. she was busy with her artwork.
she chose an apprenticeship under a master craftsman. his sculptures made her breath stop. she was careful in the workshop, kept her things simple, kept her mouth shut. he called her stupid often. she would duck her head. sometimes she would make mistakes on purpose. all the while he only made sculptures of men. said there was no beauty in women. often made savage remarks about those they saw in the market.
and all the while, she watched him. she watched him and she went home and sketched. this is how his hands were when he made a vine. this is how they were when shaping a nose.
and her back yard garden would grow. little boys became her master, over and over and over, until she could get his jaw right. ceramic became sculpture.
he was who took her to athena’s temple. who shouted at her about how beautiful the statues were against her own. every week he’d come back and shame her. asked how the women there were smarter than the man she was supposed to be. medusa ducked her head and grit her teeth.
in her back yard, she made them. she made every god and goddess she’d seen in the city. her favorite was athena. she ached over her features. had spent so long in the world of men, was blinded by the beauty of women.
it was a black night. and medusa thought her master had left the temple before her. she loosened all the bindings that kept her from breathing. took her hair out. worshiped in peace. placed on athena’s alter a small and beautiful thing. the goddess, head tilted, thinking.
when he found medusa, what made him angry was not her small frame. it was the statute. a delicate thing. much better than the ones he had ever made.
he took it and snapped it in half. threw it deep in the temple’s well to rot. pulled her by her hair. demanded to know where it had come from.
medusa, angry, tired of hiding, tired of late nights and being a boy and pretending: medusa, athena-mad, spat on him. “I did it,” her voice is strong and full of hatred, “A woman made something better than a man could.”
He meant to kill her. To bash her head into the temple steps, claim it was an accident - or better yet, the spite of a god made flesh.
when he grabs her hair, the goddess bites back. athena, patron of creators, patron of the arts, patron of girls and those who are smart - she turns medusa’s hair into snakes.
it is a quick little thing, darts out and draws blood, almost falls from her hair as a result. she catches the creature and runs, runs until she feels numb.
and what if - while her master is making up a story about poseidon and athena’s rage, explaining medusa’s back yard full of frozen men as being evidence of her evilness - what if medusa finds friends in blind women. and they teach her how to feel what she is seeing. how to use her hands with her eyes closed to make maps of whatever she holds. she starts with plants again. her snake is big now, and has babies. she moves on to their little wiggling forms, amused when they make tiny rings around her fingers. she does not live in a cave. she dresses as a man again, goes to market, sells her roses and vines and beautiful (simple) things. buys herself and the women a nice house out beyond all the noise of it. fills their garden with frozen men.
when the men come to kill her - because now her name is known, it is whispered, sticks in the throat - they don’t find her. they find a tall man who tells them: look in the mountains. when they don’t come back, it’s no fault of medusa’s. frankly, she thinks they should have brought more supplies than their swords into the deep woods. she’s not cruel. when they leave, she makes a statue of them, as her version of a memorial.
but one man is not like the others. he finds her with her hair down, humming, dancing around a marble stone. her snakes are warming in the sun.
medusa? he asks her. it’s a name she hasn’t heard in a long while.
she is tired of being hunted. she just wants to make art. she waits for the sword point. but he hesitates. looks at her full in her face.
strikes a bargain. if she makes him a head for his shield, he will tell the others that she is good and dead. and he will sell her art to better patrons when he could - although he suggests at least hiding the signature she has with maybe a little less snake-like scrawl - he would make her name known.
but medusa knows men. knows they will chomp down on a horror story faster than that of the artist. she is already permanent. she says: no, here’s what happens.
after many months, he has his shield. she wouldn’t let him leave with the first nine hundred versions, always found something wrong with them. he grows fond of her in this time, agrees to her terms. even he can’t really look at the shield head-on. she has captured a scream, a rage, too much. it is so utterly human and at once not that it makes his skin crawl.
where medusa’s blood drops, serpents sprawl. or at least, that’s the code she uses. when he finds little girls who can make art, he sends them to her.
medusa does not expect to be known for the school that she starts. she is a women artist in a time of men, and her name is already dead to them. but i know medusa. i know her. she is known for her work.
after all, who can speak about medusa without mentioning how she froze the world?
Maleficent is a dragon who cursed an infant because she wasn’t invited to a christening, this woman CANNOT raise a child.
Queen Griemhilde is a conceited, vain witch who killed a 14 year old because she was prettier than her, this woman CANNOT raise a child.
Jafar hypnotised the sultan, got himself turned into a magician, a genie, just for power and forced a 15 year old to be his slave girl, this man CANNOT raise a child.
Cruella DeVil is a mentally ill woman whose affection consists of derogatory comments, blowing smoke in your face and never taking no for an answer, this woman CANNOT raise a child.
So, let’s say Evie, Carlos, Mal and Jay grow up on an island without magic, surrounded by murderers, thieves, people who did bad things, people who are proud of these things. Let’s say, they don’t teach them to be evil. Let’s say, they teach them ‘don’t let anyone keep you from what you want, you are a queen, a dragon, a genie, you are magic’. Ben has dreams about a girl with green eyes and lilac hair, of a girl who is different, something fae, and he remembers the fairy who cursed his father because he wasn’t kind, so he asks his parents to let some of the villain’s kids stay in Auradon. Show them goodness.
When they arrive, they don’t arrive in a tumbling mess. They don’t even get out of the car, and when the chauffeur opens the door, there’s a stick thin girl with long blue hair staring at her hands, a muscled boy who almost isn’t a boy anymore, rubbing the bands on his arms, the girl from his dreams, eyes glowing, a little boy dressed in fur curled up in their laps.
They aren’t used to magic, even though it is in their very cores. So they take time to get used to it, to learn to live with death and power under their skin.
They weren’t sent to get a wand for world domination. They were sent to get a wand for freedom. So it takes them longer to realise just what their parents did. It takes talks and family day and Queen Leiah screaming at the top of her lungs (‘Get away from here, do not touch my grandchild, my daughter will never be mine because of you, how dare you, how dare you?’) for Mal to realise that this isn’t about invitations and pettiness. It’s about a woman with hair as yellow as gold and lips that shame the red red rose, growing up poor, in a cottage, falling to her death at the touch of a spindle, this is about her mother talking about the raven with more fondness than her, this is about all the things her mother did, no matter the reason.
Evie still studies with Doug, and she hasn’t been taught to score a prince, she’s been taught to use her beauty, it is all men want, get rid of them before they get rid of you, do NOT die. So she meets with Doug at his house and Dopey stares at her and then he gets Snow White, who breaks down crying at the sight of this thin, beautiful girl with hair in a colour that has haunted her sleep ('what did she do to you, was it not enough for her to kill me, what has she done to you’) and Evie realises that her mother’s stories are not about men, they are about this woman, about her sister, who was 14 and beautiful and dead. And this is about her and all the bones she can count when she looks in the mirror.
Jay befriends the only other Arabian speaking children he can find, plays gurney, ruthless and self centered and for him, and one day Aladdin picks his children up and Jay does one of those backflips where he stays in the air for too long and it knocks the wind out of him. Jay doesn’t understand because of Aladdin, he sees a thief, who is like him, but it isn’t what makes him think, tourney does the trick because they are a team and the world does not revolve around him, he is not the center of the universe.
Carlos knows that his mother is wrong from the moment he is old enough to master critical thinking. She shrieks and hits and worships fur and he spends his days begging for scraps. There’s no magic in him, no rush he gets from crossing the barrier, so he helps his friends. They have always been his lifeline, so maybe now he can be theirs.
My Lysandra fancast because i’m tired of people whitewashing her.
Let’s take a look at SJM’s other POC characters and how they are described. One ongoing physical trait for her characters of seemingly Asian descent ( South for Nesryn, Southeast Thesan and Amren)
-Lysandra: “Large, slightly uptilted green eyes, sensuous lips, sharp cheekbones, and a pert nose combined to create a rare, staggering beauty that caused men to lose all common sense. Aelin stepped under the narrow awning and drawled, “As far as memory serves me, Lysandra, I warned you that if I ever saw you again, I’d kill you.”
“Faliq,” Chaol growled, and the woman slid her midnight eyes toward him. If Nesryn’s family name didn’t give away her heritage, it was those eyes, slightly uptilted at the corners and lightly lined with kohl, that revealed at least one of her parents was from the Southern Continent.
-”I guessed who she was before she rose. Her right hand was solid gold—mechanical. The way Lucien’s was. It clicked and whirred quietly, drawing the eye of every immortal in the room as she faced her High Lord. Thesan smiled in warm welcome. But her face … I wondered if Amren had modeled her own features after a similar bloodline when she’d bound herself into her Fae body: the sharp chin, round cheeks, and stunning uptilted eyes. But where Amren’s were that unholy silver, this female’s were dark as onyx.”
-So reaching back to Lysandra and her slightly uptilted eyes, nesryns slightly uptilted eyes, Amren and Thesans upswept eyes. They’re all ethnic canonically. Also just because Lysandras eyes are green doesn’t mean green is exclusive to white people. Freckles as well. I have an amazing fancast for her that shows what she could look like if everyone stopped whitewashing her.
My other fancast links for ACOTAR and TOG are below!
A real force of nature. Steals a room when she walks into it, but has gone through an intense period of transformation. Has a natural sense of humour and almost always has a smile on her face, even if forced.
Knows how to be in charge, but only when she feels like it. Likes nice things but likes food even more. Is torn between travelling the world and staying in her bed forever.
Can float through a room talking to everyone she meets, but goes through periods of intense hibernation in order to recharge. Has an odd sense of humour but ALWAYS gets what she wants.
Knows that she needs to put herself first more, but is still not sure how to do it. Has been trampled on a million times but still manages to radiate love from her fingertips. Extremely strong maternal instinct.
Desperately wants attention but doesn't know what to do with it. Will give up everything for the people she loves, but may easily forget about those close to her when she gets distracted by something new.
Likes to stay active and in control of her life. Never really lets loose like she should, but supports everyone around her having a good time.
Takes care of everyone around her, even if she doesn't want to. Knows the solution to every problem, loves beautiful things, wants to see people smile, has so much compassion that it overflows out of her.
Powerful enough to be a witch or rule a kingdom, beautiful enough to make men beg. Into all sorts of magic, but unaware of the magic that flows from her mouth.
Is always laughing and never backs down from a challenge. Likes to hang out with the guys and always needs something new to do. Thinks she wants to be free, but really just wants someone to go home to.
Very strong and independent, but very guarded. Has lots of ambition but not always sure how to go for her goals. Filled with joy but needs to let it out more often.
Secretly cares about everyone around her, but her stone cold persona refuses to let it show. Often tries to give up on everything when she feels out of control, but is a lot wiser than she seems.
Embraces every new person she meets with love, but this causes her to get hurt because she doesn't bother with walls. Will bring dessert and salad to a dinner, even if you told her she didn't have to bring anything.