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Medusa was a woman in Greek mythology who was extremely beautiful. One of her suitors was Poseidon, the god of the sea, and one day he realized that, since he was a god, he didn't have to ask for her permission before having his way with her. So he did, right in the middle of the temple to Athena where she worked. Athena was furious -- not with Poseidon for raping Medusa, but with Medusa for being raped in her temple -- and turned Medusa into a Gorgon, a monster with snakes for hair and a face so hideous that anyone who looked at it turned into stone. Greek gods are dicks. (Some alternative lore suggests that she actually changed her to protect her from future rapes, that Medusa and her fellow gorgons were either from the underworld or the daughters of sea gods, or that they were just holdovers from even older religions, but Greek canon is a clusterfuck and Greek rape cases (and justice in general) were excuses for orators to verbally jerk off, so most people stick to the Athenian write-up.)
Some myths said that her face was so ugly it turned people to stone, but most artistic depictions (and almost all modern re-tellings) have her looking rather beautiful, making her one of the first monstergirls. Also: while Medusa was turned into Gorgon like her sisters only she has the stone face power which is something often conflated. That, or they all had that ability, but Medusa was the only one who could be killed. Like we said, it's a clusterfuck.
Dungeons & Dragons
Medusa was a person, not a species (she is a Gorgon), but that didn't stop the writers of Dungeons & Dragons from naming a whole race after her. "Medusae" vary a fair amount depending on which edition you look at.
2e: Medusae look like elven women with snakes for hair and white eyes. They tend to rely on mating with human men to have more medusa daughters, since actual men of their race (called "maedar") are rare as fuck and the bizarre-ass nature of their reproduction keeps them that way... what? You want to know the details? Alright, it works like this: human man plus medusa equals 2-6 eggs, all of which hatch into medusa daughters. Maedar + medusa, on the other hand, equals 2-6 eggs, of which 25% will hatch into boys. Of those boys, ONE PERCENT are maedar in turn; the other boys, and all the girls, are humans. Medusa and maedar are extremely sexually dimorphic; medusae have snake hair and petrifying gazes, maedar are bald and can turn stone to flesh with a touch. There's also greater medusae, who have snake-bodies instead of legs (like a Lamia) and super-poisonous blood, and glyptars, which are undead maedar whose souls possess crystals, which can be attached to statues (to make golems) or swords (to make intelligent magical weapons).
3e: Medusae are covered in scales and, in most official artwork, tend to look rather ugly. There's no mention of maedar existing.
4e: As in 3e, medusaea are all scaly, though not actually that ugly. Male medusae have returned, but don't have their own name, are just as scaly and don't turn stone to flesh anymore; instead, they can poison anyone they look at. In the "Monster Vault", the Essentials rewrite of the first 4e Monster Manual with expanded fluff, it was stated that although there are roughly equal numbers of males and females, they're still a matriarchal species, and this is because only a minority of males are actually immune to the petrifying gaze of the females. They're also reputed to be tied to either Zehir or to the Yuan-ti, with one story claiming they were created by yuan-ti crossbreeding with basilisks.
5e: Medusae can be male or female now. New origins as humans who made pact with demonlords or archdevils for eternal beauty, which they got, for a time, before they were turned into snake-haired monsters. Petrifying gaze is the norm for both sexes, but they gotta avoid polished surfaces and bright light, as their own reflections can petrify them as well. In melee, they can bite with their snakes or use weapons, typically shortswords and longbows.
Warhammer 40,000 has no monsters specifically named "Medusa," but the name is still applied to lots of places and items:
- The Tyranid Hive Fleet Medusa
- The planet Medusa, a Death World and the homeworld of the Iron Hands First Founding Chapter of Space Marines (incidentally, their Primarch, Ferrus Manus, was playfully nicknamed "the Gorgon" by Fulgrim for his lack of aestheticism). Medusa is a tectonically unstable planet with constant volcanic eruptions and so many earthquakes the Iron Hands can't build a single fortress-monastery, rather having each Clan-Company using mobile fortresses known as "Land-Behemoths" (think the size of an Adeptus Mechanicus Ordinatus Engine).
- Medusa V (no relation to the above planet Medusa), the site of Games Workshop's 2006 global campaign, which was conveniently destroyed after the campaign ended, so no matter who won, it would not upset the status quo.
- The Medusa Siege Gun, one of several artillery pieces used by the Imperial Guard, and its main weapon, the Medusa Siege Cannon.
- The Sons of Medusa chapter is named after the planet of Medusa (as they are Iron Hands descendants), though they now live among the asteroids of the Taelus system.
|The Planets, Systems, Regions and Sectors of the Galaxy|
|Imperial Homeworlds:||Holy Terra - Mars|
|Primarch Homeworlds:|| Baal - Barbarus - Caliban - Chemos - Chogoris - Colchis |
Cthonia - Deliverance - Fenris - Inwit - Medusa - Nostramo
Nocturne - Nuceria - Olympia - Prospero - Ultramar
|Planets:|| Armageddon - Cadia - Catachan - Krieg - Kronus |
Sacris - Scelus - Taelus - Vraks - Zayth
|Daemon Worlds:||Plague Planet - Sortiarius|
|Systems and Regions:||Jericho Reach - Kaurava System|
|Types of Worlds:||Agri-World - Death World - Forge World - Hive World|
In the Monster Girl Encyclopedia, the medusa is a snake-haired lamia variant with the ability to petrify and/or paralyze (it's not really clear which) with her gaze. They are classified as extremely tsundere, refusing to verbally admit their deep love for their chosen spouses even as their body language betrays just how much they adore him. They also possess the trademark lamia jealousy and possessiveness.