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Medusa, @, is a unique monster that appears in NetHack. She is a dangerous being that is always found in the Dungeons of Doom on her special level, which is located between the level containing the magic portal to the Quest and the Castle.

The gaze of Medusa can turn people to stone as it does in her original Greek folklore, and she also has a weapon attack, a claw attack and a poisonous strength-draining bite. Medusa has poison resistance, as well as stoning resistance except against her own gaze, with a special case in the code designed to handle this - see the combat strategy section for details on taking advantage of this. She cannot be tamed or even pacified.

Medusa's corpse is poisonous to eat, and will also turn you to stone if you bite into it, though it will not do so on contact - eating her corpse while you have stoning resistance is guaranteed to confer poison resistance.


Main article: Medusa's Island

Medusa will always appear on her island, with the location depending on the map:

  • The first and second variants will place her on the downstair along with a statue of Perseus.
  • The third raven-populated variant has 3 eligible areas for Medusa and the downstairs to be generated.
  • The snake-infested fourth variant will place her on the leftmost and largest island, with four eligible squares for Medusa and the downstairs to be generated on.


The most difficult part of reaching Medusa is often crossing the sea monster-infested waters. Levitation or water walking boots are the most common ways to cross the water. Using a wand of cold, a frost horn or the cone of cold spell to freeze a path across the water is another option, as is filling the water with boulders and/or some means of jumping.

If you are trying to reach the island using boulders, the most efficient method is an uncursed scroll of earth. If need be, you can also push any boulder you find on the level above to the downstair and throw items to make them roll down. 8 boulders are needed for the first version, and 16 are needed for the second; this can be reduced to 7 and 14 respectively if you are willing to jump into water and crawl out. An amulet of magical breathing may also be used to traverse the level underwater, though you should waterproof your inventory beforehand to prevent as much of it getting wet as possible.

If crossing the water is not an option, you may also opt to dig a hole to the next level and then come back up by using the staircase - the stairs to the next level are always in the same room as Medusa, so be sure you are ready for her before going up. This also makes Medusa a nasty surprise for players deep-shafted below her domain from above via trap door: if you end up below dungeon level 20 or so (including the Castle), you should immediately be on the alert for the possibility of finding Medusa if you make your way back up. Maze levels are often a sign that you are between Medusa's island and the Castle, though you are not guaranteed to encounter one between those two floors.


The quickest way to deal with Medusa is to have reflection or apply a mirror towards her from any distance, which will reflect her gaze back upon her and turn her to stone; Medusa cannot be turned to stone by any other method. Neither method will work if you are invisible, as she must be able to see you for her gaze to be reflected. Blinding yourself or polymorphing into a stoning-resistant creature protects you from her gaze, allowing you to take her on like any other monster. Cancelling Medusa renders her gaze ineffective and generates YAFM: "Medusa doesn't look all that ugly."[1] Players lacking reflection might like to find and investigate the statue of Perseus if it is in a separate location: it may contain a shield of reflection that they can use against her once it is uncursed.

If you do not have any of the above means of neutralizing her gaze - e.g., very poor luck, an inventory-wrecking bag of holding accident, and/or speedrunning to the Castle - it is generally best to avoid Medusa until you can obtain one and then backtrack. The following risks are worth accounting for when fighting Medusa and/or trying to avoid being made into a statue:

  • Sleep can immobilize Medusa and neutralize her gaze - but only while she is asleep. Her monster magic resistance score of 50 makes this highly unreliable, and even then it is wisest to keep your source of blindness or reflection worn - a foolhardy player risks being petrified the moment she awakens.
  • If you can reach Medusa's room without awakening her, it may be possible to hit her with a spell or wand of death while she is still asleep - beware that a miss will cause her to awaken, leaving you completely at her mercy.
  • Hallucination can protect against all gaze attacks, but will only do so 34 of the time.[2]
  • It is a very bad idea to fight Medusa as a purple worm or mind flayer: eating her brain or engulfing her will cause the stoning properties of her flesh to trigger.[3][4]
  • Be mindful of the speed system and the bonus turns it grants: Medusa has 12 speed, and very fast speed makes it possible to enter her room and wake her up without her gaze either stoning you instantly (or else stoning herself instead if you have reflection). On paper, this can potentially be taken advantage of to kill her in one round through other means - in practice, a player will use the turn to blind themselves as above, with a risk of being stoned from reacting too quickly and moving again.

Once her gaze is accounted for, Medusa is not that difficult to defeat: her attacks are not very strong for the point she is encountered at, and her AC of 2 is fairly unimpressive. Even so, care should be taken when dealing with her, since Medusa can use the stairs to escape if scared - if you are blind and using telepathy and you lose track of her, but do not see her corpse or a death message, beware of her around her lair and on the levels immediately above and below. Medusa can also generate with a cursed scroll of teleportation, providing an even nastier surprise if you encounter her later halfway up the dungeon and did not blind yourself beforehand.

Pacifists will want to avoid reflecting Medusa's gaze to kill her, which breaks the conduct; they can instead blind her and leave her to their pets, or additionally blind themselves, prepare a source of reflection, and give Medusa some powerful attack wands so she can kill herself with the rebounds.


Medusa first appears in NetHack 2.2a, where she was generated within a room in an ordinary level, and many an adventurer likely met an untimely end from not knowing they would soon see Medusa. NetHack 3.0.0 adds a number of statues to her room, though this is an ambiguous clue; in any case, the use of telepathy or a potion of monster detection is advisable if playing any version from 2.2a to NetHack 3.0.10.

Medusa's Island first appears in NetHack 3.1.0, with two new possible layouts for the level added in Nethack 3.6.0.

Multi-Medusa bug

Medusa will never directly appear in a bones file.[5] However, her statue can appear in bones files in NetHack 3.4.3 and previous versions; this was bug C342-54 (now fixed). As this does not prevent generation of an ordinary Medusa in the game loading the bones until the statue is unstoned, this could be used to have two or more Medusas in a single game; corpses of any unique monster could also be left in bones, allowing you to revive multiple Medusa corpses as well.


In classical folklore, Medusa was one of the three monstrous Gorgons, generally described as winged human women with living venomous snakes in place of hair. Medusa was the only mortal among the trio—a later version of her origin written in Ovid's Metamorphoses asserted that she was originally a mortal human maiden, transformed into her current state by Athena as a punishment. While the Bulfinch variant of the tale asserts that this was a result of Medusa's own hubris regarding her beauty (as quoted by the encyclopedia entry), other versions have this occur after Poseidon and Medusa lay together in one of Athena's temples, desecrating it—the original Latin Metamorphoses and other interpretations indicate Medusa did so against her will.

In the tale of Perseus, he is sent to fetch Medusa's head by King Polydectes of Seriphus, who wanted to marry Perseus's mother Danaë and get rid of Perseus under the guise of having him fetch a gift. The gods were well aware of this, and gave Perseus divine assistance in the form of a mirrored shield (from Athena), gold winged sandals (from Hermes), a sword forged by Hephaestus, and Hades's helm of darkness (both given by Zeus). These items were entrusted to the Hesperides, who also gave him a knapsack to safely contain Medusa's head.

Perseus viewed Medusa safely using her reflection on the mirrored shield, then used it to guide his sword and behead her; as she was pregnant by Poseidon at the time, Pegasus the winged horse and the golden sword-wielding giant Chrysaor sprang from the neck of her headless body. Perseus then bagged Medusa's head and used the helm to escape the other two Gorgons; upon returning to Seriphus and discovering that his mother was taking refuge from Polydectes's violent advances, Perseus saved her by revealing the head, which turned Polydectes and his attendant nobles to stone. In popular culture, Medusa's "weakness" to reflection is often made more direct, with games such as NetHack making her vulnerable to her own reflected gaze.

The fourth variant of Medusa's Island serves as a sort of "palace" for her, with an abundance of snakes and black nagas as well as a yellow dragon—after her decapitation in some tales, her spilled blood was said to have given birth to several creatures, including the Sahara's poisonous vipers and the venomous, twin-headed dragon-like serpent known as Amphisbaena (represented by the yellow dragon). Black nagas, yellow dragons, and their offspring are also acidic and thus resistant to stoning. The crystal ball may also be an allusion to the Graeae, daughters of the sea-deities Phorcys and Ceto and sisters to the Gorgons (who were sometimes called "Graeae")—Perseus stole their sole shared eye in order to ransom it for information on the location of either Medusa herself or the three objects needed to slay her, depending on the telling.



In UnNetHack, hallucination can protect you from Medusa's stoning gaze.


In dNetHack and notdNetHack, Medusa can be tamed and has an additional pair of grabbing hug attacks; the first does 1d4 damage, while the second is far stronger at 4d8, making it more dangerous to approach her in melee. Her hair also makes 1-3 bite attacks against all adjacent hostile monsters once per global turn; these bites deal 1d6 damage and have a strength-draining poison. All monsters peaceful and hostiles can be affected by her stoning gaze if they can perceive her.

As a pet, she is dangerous to have unless you and all of your other pets are petrification resistant or reflective, as she cannot control her widegaze. She should be given a source of petrification resistance or reflection to avoid petrifying herself with her reflected image.

Being turned to stone by Medusa is reported in the livelog and high score list as "petrified by Poseidon's curse".


In EvilHack, Medusa is a far more formidable opponent - she has an AC of -8, and is always generated with an orcish bow and 25-40 orcish arrows.

Medusa retains her passively stoning gaze; her weapon attack is improved to 4d4, and her claw attack is replaced with two attacks tied to her snake-filled hair: a 2d6 "tentacle" attack that can poison and drain strength, and a 4d4 bite attack that can induce gradual stoning. In addition, Medusa can only be affected by her reflected gaze from a relatively closer distance, and will avert her eyes to avoid being turned to stone most of the time.

While it is still possible to reflect Medusa's gaze and instantly turn her to stone, doing so is more difficult - there is a 112 chance each turn that she will not avert her eyes in time if you reflect her gaze using the reflection property, and a 125 chance if you apply a mirror. Medusa can use her bow and arrows to damage players trying to stay out of melee range, and the stoning bite ensures that becoming a statue remains a danger for a player with reflection.

Monster stats by variant

Encyclopedia entry

Medusa, one of the three Gorgons or Graeae, is the only one of her sisters to have assumed mortal form and inhabited the dungeon world.
When Perseus was grown up Polydectes sent him to attempt the conquest of Medusa, a terrible monster who had laid waste the country. She was once a beautiful maiden whose hair was her chief glory, but as she dared to vie in beauty with Minerva, the goddess deprived her of her charms and changed her beautiful ringlets into hissing serpents. She became a cruel monster of so frightful an aspect that no living thing could behold her without being turned into stone. All around the cavern where she dwelt might be seen the stony figures of men and animals which had chanced to catch a glimpse of her and had been petrified with the sight. Perseus, favoured by Minerva and Mercury, the former of whom lent him her shield and the latter his winged shoes, approached Medusa while she slept and taking care not to look directly at her, but guided by her image reflected in the bright shield which he bore, he cut off her head and gave it to Minerva, who fixed it in the middle of her Aegis.

[ Bulfinch's Mythology, by Thomas Bulfinch ]