Ask the Trope Fairy: Take Back the Sacrifice
Ask the Trope Fairy is an advice column for characters navigating science fiction and fantasy realms. In this dimension, advice is published on alternate Fridays.
Dear Trope Fairy,
My parents have offended a goddess (you’ll forgive me if I don’t name her), and she has decided that I should pay the price for their hubris. Specifically, she wants my parents to chain me to the rocks by shore and let a sea monster devour me. Otherwise my entire land will suffer.
I understand my duty as a princess isn’t just to marry a hero king who might be a terrible brute but to brave being a human sacrifice to save my people if necessary…I just…it’s a rather steep price to pay for slightly better chitons, you know?
And my parents’ plan has led to even more misgivings. They’ve convinced a handsome hero, son of a god and everything, to go on a quest on my behalf. I should be so lucky, right? He’s not meant to fight the sea monster, though. He’s going to find and kill Medusa, then cut off her head and use it to turn the monster into stone. Apparently this is the plan the gods have blessed.
I don’t like it. Medusa hasn’t left her own cave in ten years. The days of her roaming the kingdoms causing death-by-stonification are long past. If this boy hero fails, he could provoke her return to anger and then where would my kingdom be? Plus, I’ve heard the things no one wants me to know about Medusa. How she came to be cursed by another goddess. How she was attacked by a god. I know who the real monster is in her story.
I can’t help seeing in her a fellow trapped soul, caught between duty and safety, a goddess’s anger and a man’s pride.
I want to tell him not to hurt her…but the cost is so steep for that choice. Do I have the right to (let some man) kill another survivor to save myself? Do I have a right to let my kingdom suffer by escaping to freedom and saving us both? Do I have any more right to ask others to die than they have to ask me?
Chained To Rocks and Self Sacrifices
NO TIMES 1,000.
NO NO NO!
No, you do not need to sacrifice yourself for the kingdom. I realize that in utilitarian ethics, this math might make sense: one daughter of a king risked to protect hundreds (perhaps thousands). But that kind of thinking only leads to more slaughter of the innocent, and that is a dark road to an even darker dead end.
Like you, I find it incredibly suspicious that the only way this handsome boy hero could possibly save you is to attack a woman who embarrasses both gods and men with her very existence. How convenient, that the only way to save a young, beautiful girl is to get rid of proof of the gods’ malicious punishments and take out a “monster” who is mostly not hurting anyone these days.
I don’t like this story they are forcing you into one teeny tiny bit.
And since neither do you, I have an alternative suggestion.
Take your story back.
I have had (admittedly limited) dealings with Medusa in the past, and I think that there IS another option here that is at least worth trying. It will require you to show bravery of a very different kind than your people have asked of you. But since you don’t like your current options, it is worth a try.
Beat that silly hero boy to the home of Medusa. Tell her your plight. She will listen to you, if you say fast enough the part about goddesses sacrificing you for something not your fault. Ask her to travel with you (veiled, she should be perfectly safe) and either take your place on the rocks or stand nearby as your protector against the monster.
Medusa, like you, has a deep urge to change her story. Let this not be the tale of her death but the tale of how she took back the role of hero so brutally denied to her. And the fact that she would destroy one of Poseidon’s nastier creatures into the bargain is too sweet of poetic justice for an artistic soul like her to resist.
Be brave, ask the “monster” for help instead of killing her, and you can both be the heroes of your story rather than sacrifices to the gods’ whim, your people’s selfishness, and a boy’s vainglory.
Take back the tale. Because you and all of us deserve a better one.
Transcribed and annotated by Katy Mulvaney with permission from the League of Fairy Surrogates and the Interdimensional Meta — Fantasy Council. The Trope Fairy can be reached by putting on your favorite pair of shoes, clicking your heels three times, and then tossing your letter into the rush of swirling wind that results (if your heart is full and pure). Do not worry if your letter does not sail away immediately. Leave it where it lands for the night, and in the morning, you should return to see it long gone. We apologize for the potential delay, but our night messengers are also top notch and will see your letter delivered just as surely as the day team would if they had been assigned to your dimension.