Myth Monday: Monsters in The Lost Hero

We finished off the monster recaps for Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Today we’re going to look at The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan, the first book in his Heroes of Olympus series. Whereas the previous series is based off of Greek mythology, this series uses Roman mythology. In many ways, the Roman gods and characters match up with Greek counterparts. This is because the Romans tried to meld their mythology with that of the Greeks, because the Greeks were trending and the Romans wanted in on those pageviews.

The Monsters

Venti: The venti (Greek anemoi) are essentially wind-spirits, and range in authority and power. Fun fact: if you mate a nice venti to a nice harpy, you get a horse. I didn’t see that one coming. A single venti is a ventus. In The Lost Hero (TLH), the main characters (demigods Jason, Piper, and Leo) are attacked by venti while at Wilderness School (a fun place for juvenile delinquents). Throughout the book Jason and Co. come across many venti, some who are causing mischief, some working for the bad guys, and some working for the gods (the good guys?). See below for some named venti characters.

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Boreas Source

Boreas: He is the North Wind and in charge of all the cold, blustery winter venti. He’s typically shown as an old bearded dude with a bad temper. In TLH, the heroes go to him to discuss the whole venti-trying-to-kill-them issue. 3/5 Monstrous Rating for not telling them much but giving a thousand vague ominous hints. He also has a bad habit of icing demigods (literally).

Calais and Zethes: Otherwise known as the Boreads, these two are sons of Boreas. They also sailed with the original Jason (not the TLH protagonist) on the Argos during the quest for the Golden Fleece. Calais and Zethes are depicted in TLH as winged thugs who love winter sports. 3/5 Monstrous Rating for being pretty nice guys, just kind of dumb.

Khione: Khione is a snow nymph, or possibly a snow-goddess. She’s a daughter of Boreas, and not to be confused with ANOTHER Khione who is a consort of Boreas. In TLH she is ice-cold and terrifying, and will probably kiss you and then freeze you to death. Or both at once. 5/5 Monstrous Rating for being wicked awesome.

Cyclopes: We saw these guys in Sea of Monsters. Cyclopes are one-eyed giants, and while they seem to be herdsmen when in their own country, Zeus and Hephaestus use them as workmen at their forges. They supposedly forged Zeus’ famous thunderbolts, but they also seem to enjoy eating humans when the opportunity arises. I like how Riordan gives us the good and bad extremes of Cyclopes, since the myths seem undecided on them, but the cyclopes in TLH are pretty monstrous. The scene where they try to cook and eat Jason and his friends reminds me a lot of Bilbo and the trolls in The Hobbit. 3/5 Monstrous Rating for being pretty terrifying but also pretty dumb and over done.

Medea: Medea is one of my favorite mythological characters. I recommend reading (or watching) Medea by Euripides for the iconic version of her story. She is a powerful sorceress and priestess of Hecate. She helps Jason (of the Argonauts/Golden Fleece fame) escape from her own family, betraying them to do so, and marries him and has kids and EVERYTHING IS FINE except then Jason wants to marry someone else. Medea reacts as many jilted ladies do by assassinating her rival, her rival’s dad, and then murdering her own children and telling Jason all about it. Jason is like, “Babe, you overreacted,” and everything is terrible. In TLH  all of the baddies are escaping Tartarus because of Plot Reasons (see Gaea, below (PUN INTENDED)) including Medea. She remakes herself as the proprietor of a big department store specializing in used goods (taken from dead heroes and warriors, as far as we can tell). She uses her magic to brainwash Leo and Jason but she wasn’t expecting PIPER F. MCLEAN. 5/5 Monstrous Rating for being terrifying and also a little sympathetic.

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Medea flying the hell out of Corinth Source

Midas and Lityerses: These dudes are some of the worst. King Midas won a favor from Dionysus/Bacchus by being very hospitable to one of his satyrs. Midas asked that he could have the ability to turn anything to gold only by touching it. He did not think this one through. Dionysus granted his wish, and Midas couldn’t touch anything without it turning to gold, so he couldn’t eat or drink. Once Midas realized the gravity of the situation, he begged Dionysus to take the gift back. Midas had to bathe in a specific river, and then his gift was taken away. Lityerses was an illegitimate son of Midas, and was one of those losers that stands by the road and challenges passersby to….harvesting challenges? They would always lose, and Lityerses would always kill them, until this guy Hercules came along. Lityerses was finally beaten and killed.

So yeah, nice guys. In TLH, Jason and Co. accidentally wander/break into their house, and are almost turned into gold by Midas, who is working for the bad guys (of course). He’s apparently unlearned all of the valuable lessons Dionysus taught him. 3/5 Monstrous Rating for mostly being REALLY ANNOYING.

Lycaon: Lycaon was a king of Arcadia. There are bunch of different myths about him. Most of the stories (and certainly the most popular ones) entail Lycaon serving entrails of a child (his own??) into a meal for Zeus, in order to prove that Zeus doesn’t know everything. Zeus does not approve of this kind of shenanigans (eating kids OR trying to fool him), and turns Lycaon and his 50 sons into wolves. I love werewolves but this guy is pretty icky. In TLH, Lycaon and his fellow werewolves are contrasted with Lupa and her wolves, the patron spirits of Rome; Lycaon serves the bad guys and wants to kill Jason and Co, whereas Lupa and her tough-love scheme tries to help them. 4/5 Monstrous Rating for being pretty darn monstrous.

Enceladus and Porphyrion: Enceladus and Porphyrion are two of the giants who fought for the Titans, and sons of Gaea (Titan of the earth). Enceladus is traditionally a big enemy of the goddess Athena. They’re the big bads of TLH; Enceladus is defeated by Jason and Zeus working together, as giants can only be killed from a god and a demigod teaming up. Porphyrion is raised from Tartarus by all the baddies working together, and is still out there somewhere being giant and overpowered. 3/5 Monstrous Rating because we’ve seen giants before and they weren’t particularly interesting.

Gaea: Gaea is the Titan of earth and the real villain of the Heroes of Olympus. She was married to Uranus (the sky) until she convinced her kids to chop him up in pieces. She was defeated by the gods in the Titan war. In TLH, she’s asleep, but slowly waking, in part because her son Kronos was killed in the last series and she’s PISSED. To Be Continued, probably. 5/5 Monstrous Rating because a face/lady made of dirt showing up persistently in your nightmares sounds extremely Unsettling.

The Sources

Bulfinch, Thomas. Bulfinch’s Greek and Roman Mythology: The Age of Fable. Dover Thrift, 2000. Print.

Hamilton, Edith. Mythology. New American Library, 1969. Print.

Riordan, Rick. The Lost Hero. Disney Hyperion, 2010. Print.

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Myth Monday: The Last Monster (For Now)

Previously on Myth Mondays feat. Percy Jackson monsters:

The Lightning Thief

The Sea of Monsters

The Titan’s Curse

The Battle of the Labyrinth

 

So, in The Last Olympian, the last book of the series, many of the monsters from previous books come back to make another attempt on our heroes’ health and happiness. The most prominent of these is probably the Minotaur, since it almost killed Percy’s mom in the first book, but we also see plenty of Lastreagonian giants, empousae, dracenae, and hellhounds, so I hope you enjoy those. There’s only a handful of “new” monsters. I’m going to take a look at those first, and then address some of the other villains of the book who don’t quite qualify as “monsters.”

The Monsters

Typhon the giant: Back in the olden days, the gods had a lot of big scary enemies to defeat. After they took care of the Titans (mentioned last time), the earth Titan Gaea sent a few giants, relatives of the Titans, in a last effort to destroy the gods. Typhon was one of the strongest and the scariest, and it took all of the gods to defeat him. In the Percy Jackson universe, Zeus had to drop a mountain on top of Typhon to bury and defeat him, which turns into Mt. St. Helens. Typhon awakens in The Last Olympian, causing the mountain to erupt, and then has a great time traveling across the continental United States to attack the stronghold of the gods in New York City. The gods have to unite and fight him together; the demigods like Percy don’t stand a chance and have to fight other villains. Basically Typhon is a good narrative obstacle to keep the gods from helping our heroes. 5/5 Monstrous Rating because he is apocalyptically scary.

Hyperborean giants: I’m very confused by these because in the Percy Jackson series, they are big dumb ice-giants who are recruited by the Big Bad Kronos. In mythology, the land of the Hyperboreans was far to the north and inaccessible to normal humans, but it was apparently a super great, heavenly place that was always springtime. I mean, I guess the Greeks didn’t know about the North Pole, but yeah. 2/5 Monstrous Rating because what.

The Clazmonian Sow/The Crommyonian Sow: I had to resort to Wikipedia for this one, because, wow, Rick, PRETTY OBSCURE. TCS was a giant pig that was killed by Theseus and may or may not be a metaphor for a terrible woman. I haven’t come across this reference in retellings of Theseus’ adventures, but Wikipedia’s sources are legit, so. Sows, man! In The Last Olympian, Kronos lets the TCS loose on NYC and it’s a whole thing. Giant pigs are surprisingly terrifying. 3/5 Monstrous Rating.

Drakon: The Last Olympian features a “drakon,” which Riordan differentiates from other dragons we see in the series, claiming it is bigger, nastier, “a two-hundred-foot-long serpent as thick as a school bus.” Mythology tends to play fast and loose with its monster descriptions, especially with dragons/drakons/draconian varieties, so I think making it a distinct breed is artistic license. Also, The Last Olympian has these weird parallels with The Iliad, where a couple of demigods have a similar arc to Achilles and Patroclus, which makes the drakon = Hector. Hector deserves better tbh.   3/5 Monstrous Rating.

Other Jerks of Note

The Titans: They’re the big bads of this series and we see more of them than ever in this book. They’re the ancient enemies of the gods, who replaced them, and the Titans are still pretty pissed off about it. Kronos is The Big Bad, of course, and can control Time. But we also see a lot of Krios (or Crius) and Hyperion (originally a sun god, replaced by Apollo). We saw Atlas in The Titan’s Curse, and we will see more of them in the next series.

Morpheus: Kronos recruits a lot of minor deities who feel unappreciated by the major gods to his cause. Morpheus is one of these. He is the god of dreams and the son of the God of Sleep (Somnus). In The Last Olympian, he puts NYC to sleep so that the baddies can attack Olympus without a lot of mortals getting in the way and screaming. I guess.

Nemesis: She’s the goddess of revenge (although her name is translated as Righteous Anger) and signs up for Kronos’ side. We don’t actually see her in The Last Olympian, but I’m mentioning her because she’s cool and her son, the demigod Ethan Nakamura, is a supporting character and super great and deserves better okay bye.

Hecate: She’s the goddess of the night and she is very terrifying and has many scary magical powers. She’s working for Kronos in the series and does lots of black magic for him and his dastardly plans.

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Source

Prometheus: This guy is a Titan and there are so many stories about him that it’s very confusing. Sometimes he’s the guy who created mankind, sometimes he didn’t create them but he helps them, sometimes he helps them but only to piss off the gods. Prometheus as benefactor of humanity is the most long-lasting story, including that time that Zeus punished him for giving mankind knowledge of fire by chaining him to a rock and letting an eagle peck out his liver every day. In The Last Olympian, Prometheus signs up with Kronos and is more of a Chaotic Neutral character – he seems to think that working for Kronos will ultimately help humans because the gods don’t care about them. He comes across as much more of a Trickster-archetype than he is usually portrayed which I thought was interesting.

Sources

Bulfinch, Thomas. Bulfinch’s Greek and Roman Mythology: The Age of Fable. Dover Thrift, 2000. Print.

Hamilton, Edith. Mythology. New American Library, 1969. Print.

Riordan, Rick. The Last Olympian. Disney Hyperion, 2009. Print.

 

Next month we will be starting the Heroes of Olympus series!

Myth Monday: Cursed With Monsters

Previously on Myth Monday!

Last month we went through the monsters and creatures mentioned in Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters. Today we will do the same thing with the next book, The Titan’s Curse. This is one of my favorite Percy Jackson books, because of the introduction of the di Angelo kids (children of Hades), the hilarious Apollo cameo, the Dionysus scenes (he’s craaaaaaaaazy but also really unimpressed with shenanigans) and all of the involvement with Artemis and her immortal lady Hunters.

But besides all of that, The Titan’s Curse continues in the fun tradition of lobbing monster after monster at our heroes.

The Monsters

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Very normal-looking animal called a manticore. Source

Manticores: I can’t even blame this one on  the Greeks, even though the ancient Greeks really liked to put all of creation in a blender and see what crazy combinations they could come up with. These bad boys from Persia have the face of a human, the body of a lion, and the tail of a scorpion. In The Titan’s Curse, a terrifying teacher named Dr. Thorn turns out to be a manticore in disguise. I’d like Rick Riordan to explain why a Persian monster is serving a Greek Titan; Dr. Thorn is pretty invested in Atlas’ future success. 4/5 Monstrous Rating.

Atlas, aka “The General”: Atlas is one of the Titans, predecessors of the gods. There was a big war between Kronos/Cronus, king of the Titans, and his son Zeus, who led the gods against their evil parental overlords. When Zeus and Co. won, many of the Titans were destroyed or punished in a variety of horrifying ways. Atlas got the necessary but uncomfortable job of holding up the sky (because as everyone knows, the Sky wants to reunite with his lady-love the Earth). Talk about a third wheel. Atlas is the primary villain of The Titan’s Curse and spends most of his time recruiting monsters and tricking gods/demigods into dealing with his curse for him. As a Big Bad, he does very well. 4/5 Monstrous Rating.

The Ophiotaurus: This half-cow, half-serpent monster is mentioned once by Ovid – apparently if you slaughter it and burn the entrails, you’ll win. At life? At war? IDK but you’re a winner. In The Titan’s Curse, the Ophiotaurus is an adorable baby cow-serpent that everyone either loves or wants to murder for their own gain. Classic. 2/5 Monstrous Rating because it’s not even scary and sounds kinda fake. BUT IT’S SO CUTE. [PS what if the expression was Deus ex ophiotauro instead? That would be hilarious, we should make this so.]

Scythian dracaenae: These are dragon-ladies: human up top, serpent down low. Echidna was a famous one, who bribed Hercules into sleeping with her. They had kids. Don’t think about it too much. The dracaenae show up in The Titan’s Curse as servants and soldiers of Atlas. 3/5 Monstrous Rating.

Dragon-teeth spawn: Sometimes known as the Sparti/Spartoi, the hero Jason had to face them during the Argonauts’ quest for the Golden Fleece. When the Argonauts reach the land of King Aetes and ask him for the Golden Fleece, the king can’t turn them down outright because they’ve become his guests. So he tells Jason that he has to perform a task for him: yoke some fire-breathing bronze oxen, sow a field with dragon-teeth, and kill the crop of armed men that spring up. Jason is a little taken aback by this very specific and lethal request, but he’s the one who signed up for the quest, after all. In The Titan’s Curse, Atlas makes soldiers of his own by planting dragon-teeth, and Percy and his friends have the undead, implacable stalkers on their tail for quite a while. 5/5 Monstrous Rating.

Nemean Lion:

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Source

The hero Hercules had to perform twelve impossible tasks, known as the Twelve Labors, to make up for the fact that he went crazy and murdered his wife and children. I don’t make the rules. The first impossible task was to kill the lion of Nemea, which was bullet-proof, sword-proof, etc etc etc. So, after wasting a lot of time experimenting with different weapons, Hercules finally just strangled the lion. Percy Jackson has to fight the (reborn) Nemean Lion in The Titan’s Curse, but he’s not super-powerful like Hercules, so instead he gag-chokes it by stuffing astronaut food down its throat until dead. Don’t tell PETA. 5/5 Monstrous Rating because its skin turns into a very fashionable weapon-proof coat.

 

Ladon and the Hesperides: The eleventh (I skipped a few because they aren’t relevant) impossible task that Hercules had to complete was to steal the golden apples of the garden of the Hesperides. The Hesperides were nymphs, and daughters of Atlas (you know, that Big Bad we mentioned above). Ladon was a great dragon that guarded the tree. So between the dragon and the nymphs, Hercules had a bunch of problems to overcome (including the fact that he didn’t know where the garden was – see Nereus below for the explanation of how Hercules gets his information). There are different versions of this story – in some, Hercules goes to the garden himself and fights Ladon in order to get to the apples. In others, Hercules goes to Atlas and persuades Atlas to go get the apples from his daughters, in exchange for Hercules holding the sky for him for a while. Of course, Atlas has to be tricked into taking the sky back again (honestly I’m surprised Hercules managed to trick anyone but I’m showing my bias). In The Titan’s Curse, Percy is guided to the garden by Zoe, an ex-Hesperide and current Hunter of Artemis, in order to find Atlas and rescue their friends. I love how the PJ books combine bits and pieces from different myths to make a great story! Fortunately, Percy doesn’t have to fight the dragon (although someone else does). 4/5  Monstrous Rating because dragons.

Bonus Round!

Nereus the sea-god: This guy was infamously smelly – I guess he liked hanging out around rotting fish or something. If you grab him and wrestle him and hang onto him while he shape-shifts, he will answer whatever question you ask him. Hercules used this Wrestle-Nereus technique to find out where the Garden of the Hesperides was (see above). Percy Jackson uses this technique to find out information of his own. Nereus probably should hang out in the ocean more so demigod heroes can’t find him? 3/5 Monstrous Rating.

Sources

Bulfinch, Thomas. Bulfinch’s Greek and Roman Mythology: The Age of Fable. Dover Thrift, 2000. Print.

Hamilton, Edith. Mythology. New American Library, 1969. Print.

Riordan, Rick. The Titan’s Curse. Disney Hyperion, 2007. Print.

Top 10 Tuesday: Halloween

Top 10 Tuesday is hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. This week’s theme is “Halloween freebie” so I decided to talk about my top 10 “monster” books.

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  1. Dracula by Bram Stoker: our Dracula readalong is finishing up at the end of this month, and I am having a great time rereading this book. It’s a frustrating story at times but it holds up astonishingly well 120 years after publication. If you want a scary, suspenseful, sexy vampire read, this is where it’s at.
  2. Newsflesh trilogy by Mira Grant: Feed, Deadline, and Blackout make up this zombie trilogy in a world where bloggers are the elite journalists in a world trying to survive the zombie apocalypse. Georgia and Shaun Mason are a sister/brother blogging duo that are covering a presidential candidate campaign while also finding time to investigate zombie outbreaks. THESE BOOKS ARE AMAZING AND TERRIFYING and I love George and Shaun so much.
  3. Coraline by Neil Gaiman: A little girl is really angry with her parents and ends up in a mirrored version of her world where everyone has button eyes. At first she loves it and then everything goes downhill really fast. This book is incredibly creepy and atmospheric, with really fantastic characters. Buttons, man.
  4. Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake: Cas hunts down homicidal ghosts and, well, kills them. But when he is spared by homicidal ghost Anna, he is determined to figure out why and ends up investigating Anna’s murder. This book is very unconventional for a YA paranormal and Anna is one of my favorite scary girls.
  5. World War Z by Max Brooks: FYI this is completely unlike the movie and does not star Brad Pitt. It’s sort of a short story collection, as it features “survivor stories” from all over the world from the beginning of the zombie outbreak to the end of it. It’s really fantastic, shows how various countries react to the outbreak and shows all the different varieties of being killed by or escaping from a zombie.
  6. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman: This is a Halloween-ish retelling of the Jungle Book, set in a graveyard and centered on a boy that has been raised by ghosts. It’s beautiful.
  7. Reboot by Amy Tintera: Whoops, another zombie book. This one is more of a dystopia, where the “zombies” are less human the more time that passed from their death to their “reboot.” The protagonist is a girl who stayed dead much longer than any other Reboot, and so is considered more monstrous than others, but also faster and stronger. Zombie girl meets zombie boy love-story-thriller.
  8. Monstrous Affections ed. by Kelly Link and Gavin Grant: This is a short story collection full of absolutely amazing authors. It makes this list because of Sarah Rees Brennan’s incredible story about a half-harpy boy, but there are plenty of other great ones, eg Holly Black’s, Patrick Ness’, etc.
  9. Beowulf by Anonymous: Features two monsters, a dragon, a scary dark pool, and lots of limb loss and death.
  10. The Turn of the Screw by Henry JamesThis is my favorite “is she crazy or is there an actual ghost????!!!11” story by one of my favorite authors. It’s short and creepy and perfect.