If you came of age in the 1980s, today’s choice might make you think of Harry Hamlin in sandals. And, possibly, a mechanical owl.
As suggested by Sadie, our Baby Name of the Day is Perseus.
The myth of Perseus is a biggie, chock-full of monster-vanquishing, maiden-rescuing, and dynasty-founding. The grandson of a king, and son of Zeus himself, Perseus grew up the foster son of a fisherman. Through a series of only-in-myth twists, he ends up being sent to claim the head of Medusa. A heck of a task, what with her be-snaked hairdo and gaze that turns men to stone. But Perseus pulls it off, pleasing Athena, and rescuing Andromeda on the way home.
Perseus is also free of some of the baggage other mythological names carry. While he does fulfill the prophecy that his grandfather worked so hard to avoid, it isn’t the gory story of Oedipus. Instead, Perseus kills his grandfather by a freak accident in nearly every account. And while he does become king, it is less a matter of cruel fate and more of succession.
He’s an enduring subject for painters and sculptors, composers and writers.
Beyond the art and the opera, this generation knows Perseus from the silver screen. 1981’s Clash of the Titans cast former Bond Girl Ursula Andress as Aphrodite, and a pre-LA Law Harry Hamlin as the hero. Titans was faithful to the stories and characters, with just a few exceptions – like Bubo, the mechanical owl.
In any case, the most recent generation of parents grew up with Perseus, and the next one will, too. Rick Riordan’s series about a tweenaged demi-god and his struggles to solve various dilemmas that could only befall a part-supernatural kid. Riordan’s hero is Perseus “Percy” Jackson, and his story was adapted for the big screen in 2010 as Percy Jackson & the Lightning Thief. There’s no definite word on a sequel, but rumors abound, and Riordan’s books provide plenty of material.
Riordan’s Perseus’ isn’t really the Perseus of myth. His dad is Poseidon, for one, and the kids are truly having new adventures. But 2010 was a big year for Perseus in Hollywood – Clash of the Titans was also remade, with Liam Neeson as Zeus, memorably ordering “Release the Kraken!” Sam Worthington stepped into Harry Hamlin’s sandals. A 2012 sequel is planned, so like Percy Jackson, the Titans franchise could keep Perseus in parents’ minds for years.
Percy isn’t related to Perseus, of course. There’s some debate, but Perseus is likely derived from the Greek perthein – to destroy, making him a cousin to Persephone.
Other historical figures wore the name in ancient times, but he’s been largely extinct since. Perseus has never appeared in the US Top 1000. Even in an era when Sebastian and Tristan inhabit the Top 100, Perseus feels like an extreme choice. Maybe it is because of that mix of masculine warrior and vaguely prissy pers sound – despite the young Mr. Jackson, there’s something about Percy that still feels lace-collared.
And yet, Atticus and Augustus are succeeding for boys, with the ancients truly having their day in the 21st century. Perseus might surprise some, but he’d be right on trend.