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.

Myth Monday: BULL by David Elliott (Review)

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If Lin Manuel Miranda,  Rick Riordan, and Ernest Cline had a baby together it would be Bull by David Elliott (and that combination is still not as weird as the Minotaur’s actual parentage. So.).

The original myth that includes the Minotaur is focused on Theseus, the hero from Athens and Ariadne, the princess of Crete, who falls in love with him. Theseus goes to Crete because he is determined to kill the monster of the labyrinth, the Minotaur that kills 14 Athenians every 7 years (or every year depending on the version). I discussed the Minotaur in one of the Percy Jackson monster recap posts.

I love mythological retellings, and I’ve read a lot of them, but Bull was a wild, imaginative, and very weird ride, even by my standards. It retold a very old story, but delivered a fresh tale via some really great twists.

First of all, it retells the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur from the perspective of the half-man, half-bull monster – named Asterion, “Ruler of the Stars,” by his mother, and called the Minotaur by his stepfather, who is revolted by the way Asterion was conceived. It was an excellent choice to explore this character in an empathetic way, turning him into a tragic character that loved and could love others. Through Asterion’s story, the book highlights how humans can be monsters and how monsters can be human.

Other characters get their speaking moments as well: King Minos and his daughter Ariadne, supporting characters from the myth, are here; there are point-of-view sections from Minos’ wife Pasiphae (the Minotaur’s mom), and god of the sea Poseidon. All of the characters take their turns narrating the story, but only Poseidon gets to see everything at once, and perhaps influence events as he sees fit.

Whaddup, bitches?

Am I right or am I right?

That bum Minos deserved what he got.

I mean, I may be a god, but I’m not

Unreasonable, and when I am, so

What?

 

-Poseidon’s opening lines in Bull

Second, it uses a variety of poetical styles to capture each of the characters. There’s a nice afterword where the author talks in detail about each poetical mode he chose for each character and why, but they also tend to use different language. Poseidon generally uses more slang and profanity, for example. Other characters sound more formal or more childlike. Pasiphae, the queen, who gets knocked up by the bull, has some really beautiful sections early on, but as the story goes on her lines show how the entire situation is affecting her mind.

I know what I

know I know what

I see none of you

is that different

from me.

-Pasiphae, in response to her critics

 

Pasiphae’s daughter, Ariadne, also gets some great sections in this book. Ariadne is one of my all-time favorite mythological characters, and she gets a good gig in Bull, although not a lot of closure (SEQUEL, DAVID ELLIOTT??? SEQUEL???).

Until then, I’ll be demure.

Charming! Sweeter than sugar!

The perfect little princess!

No more and no fucking less.

-Ariadne, discussing her plans for freedom for herself and her half-brother

I love her.

Thirdly, Bull includes more than just the basic Theseus-and-Minotaur story. Besides going into the reasons for why Poseidon takes a disliking to Minos and Pasiphae, and giving some insights into the Minotaur’s sad childhood, it also combines elements of Daedalus and Icarus into the story. Daedalus is a genius inventor in Greek myth, and is most famous for his labyrinth (created to hold the Minotaur) and his wings (made in order to help Daedalus and his son escape from King Minos, who is keeping them prisoner as his pet inventors). I really liked how Bull interwove a lot of Daedalus’ story with Asterion’s. It also looked at Theseus from a different angle, and personally I found it refreshing to have Theseus relegated to a second-tier status, existing only as a deluded bully and villain. I have never been a huge fan of Theseus, can you tell?

I do have some criticisms. The ending is very abrupt and doesn’t have much closure for pretty much anyone except Asterion. The female characters have an especially rough time: Pasiphae and Ariadne start out as really excellent characters, but the story can only end in tragedy if their agency is completely destroyed, and once it is, their personal tragedies fade into the background of the primary tragedy of Asterion. I mean, I understand, because the book is named after the Minotaur and it’s about him, but it left the book weaker and less-fleshed out than it could have been.

On the whole, Bull was entertaining and thoughtful. Even more important, Bull made a fantastic character out of one of the oldest villains. Asterion was likable, but flawed, and doomed.

One day my fate will change.

Till then, I’ll cope

with whatever plans Minos has for me.

So bring it on, O king!

I’ll play my part!

It’s theater!

A work of genius!

Classic tragedy.

A masterpiece of Melpomene’s art.

Or is it Thalia’s play? A slapstick comedy.

Whichever, catastrophe or farce,

The script, I think, needs to be improved:

I wear a mask that cannot be removed.

 

Myth Monday: Norse Mythology (Review)

I read Norse Mythology and I liked it, somewhat to my surprise.

30831912.jpgDon’t get me wrong. I’m a casual Neil Gaiman fan, and some of his books I love very much (if you’ve read The Graveyard Book, let’s hold each other).  The nice thing about Neil Gaiman is that he has written a lot of books, for all ages and in many different mediums, so if you don’t care for the content level or subject of one book, you might love another, as he is a very skilled writer no matter the genre.

I really love Norse mythology (big surprise), and while I know Neil Gaiman can use mythological influences to devastating effect in his work, I wasn’t sure about how well he could retell the original stories – playing the “straight man,” as it were, rather than re-imagining or spinning or twisting the myths into his own stories.

I really appreciated Gaiman’s introduction to this book: he makes it clear that he is not writing a comprehensive work on these myths, but instead “picking and choosing what tales I wanted to tell and how I wanted to tell them, blending versions of myths from the prose and from the poems.” He also acknowledges the difficulties; for example, how many Norse myths we’ve lost, so that some gods we know the names of but little else.

The stories themselves are told with characteristic Gaiman skill and beauty; some of them are very poetic, not in a confusing way, but in a satisfying, let-me-sit-here-and-savor-that-sentence way. The stories are well-paced and entertaining, with occasional sly humor, as well as a good sense of dramatic tension, in spite of the stories’ age. for All of them are told with directness and clarity, wasting no words and lavishing no sentimentality.

Gaiman doesn’t sugar-coat the myths by any means, either! Norse myths can be gross, violent, disturbing, or all three at once. The gods have a tendency to resort to murder or cruel punishments when they’re pissed off or feel wronged – they’re not in charge because they’re virtuous. Gaiman doesn’t shy away from showing this, and achieves a nice balance of humor and gravitas when dealing with some of the more shocking or disgusting stories.

On the other hand (and oh my gosh I can’t believe I’m saying this), Gaiman is a little hard on Loki. Yes, he does some despicable things (which don’t necessarily stand out against the despicable things some of the other gods do at times – I’m especially looking at you, Thor and Odin), but he is a Trickster archetype, and his main goals in life generally have to do with causing mischief and throwing the natural order into chaos. In Gaiman’s stories, Loki is very intentionally a malicious, villainous creep. It’s Gaiman’s right to tell the story that way and it’s my right to completely disagree with it.

Gaiman’s narration, as I touched on above, is really good for the most part. However, he is inconsistent with the way he uses the narrator to occasionally break into the story. I couldn’t figure out what rhythm or reason he was using. Most of the stories didn’t have narrator interjections at all; some had a little, and some suffer from multiple paragraphs of the narrator introducing the story. “The Mead of Poets,” for example opens with “Do you wonder where poetry comes from? Where we get the songs we sing and the tales we tell?” and goes on at length from there before finally starting the darn story.

My other quibble is the near-erasure of Sif, Sigyn, and Frigg (all goddesses). The stories he chose mostly focus on Thor, Loki, and Odin. We only get one Frey story (he’s a fertility god and one of the most well-loved by the original audiences of these myths), and Freya (another goddess and Frey’s sister) shows up in only a handful.  I expected better from Gaiman on this point.

Overall, I liked this collection enough to read it again and recommend it. If you like Neil Gaimain or mythology, I recommend it. If you’re looking for more on Norse mythology, there’s a nice list here, including my personal favorite, The Norse Myths by Kevin Crossley-Holland.

 

Myth Monday: Percy In The Labyrinth

Previously on our Myth Mondays with Percy Jackson monsters:

The Lightning Thief

The Sea of Monsters

The Titan’s Curse

 

Today we’re hitting up one of my favorites, The Battle of the Labyrinth. I have a thing for Labyrinths. And Ariadne. And such.

The Monsters

Empousa: These terrifying lady-vampires are either the servants or daughters of Hecate, depending on the story. Basically they seduce dudes and then drink all their blood. They are called “one-footed,” which led to them having one leg (that of a donkey) and one prosthetic leg made of brass.  In The Battle of the Labyrinth, they serve the Big Bad and sometimes take the form of cheerleaders to lure Percy into a false sense of security (or something). Sadly we don’t see them drink blood, probably because this series is Middle Grade. 4/5 Monstrous Rating.

Hellhounds: Hellhounds are, if you can believe it, really scary dogs from the underworld…Cerberus is the most famous one. Mrs. O’Leary is a lesser-known hellhound, but she shows up The Battle of the Labyrinth and subsequent Percy Jackson books. She attaches herself to Percy and is brave and drooly and adorable. 5/5 Monster Rating!

The Minotaur: The Minotaur is only mentioned in this book, but Percy&Co. are exploring the labyrinth which was originally designed to keep the monster half-bull half-man securee. See The Lightning Thief post for more on him.

 

Kampe: Kampe. How do I describe Kampe? She’s basically a big combination of monsters and animals – like a dragon lady with a body made out of beast heads and legs made out of vipers. In The Battle of the Labyrinth, she is working for Kronos and keeping her own little prison in the labyrinth. I wouldn’t want to face her in a fight. 5/5 Monstrous Rating.

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The visual representations are insane. This one is by Ralph Horsley.

Briares: Briares is one of the Hundred-Handed Ones, giants from very early on in Greek mythology; they fight with Zeus and the gods against the Titans in the big War of the Titans. In The Battle of the Labyrinth, he’s being kept prisoner by Kampe. I really love the sub-plot with him and Tyson in this book – Tyson has always considered the Hundred-Handed Ones his heroes, but the reality is disappointing at first because Briares has been terrified into submission by Kampe (who is, admittedly, mind-meltingly scary). 3/5 Monstrous Rating because he’s secretly a Nice Guy.

Geryon: Geryon is the monstrous rancher that dreams are made of. Wait what. He has multiple heads and multiple bodies and really sounds goopy. He has a bunch of sacred red cattle that Hercules has to retrieve for his Tenth Labor. In TBoftL, Geryon also has flesh-eating horses (see below) and tells Percy he will have to clean out the stables in order to get any help from him. However, Percy winds up having to kill him anyway because Geryon is a terrible back-stabbing person. The trouble is, Percy has to kill all of his bodies at once to do so. Gross. 3/5 Monstrous Rating.

Eurytion: There’s a centaur in Greek mythology by this name, too, but the one in TBotL is a herdsman of Geryon. I really like that Eurytion, a sort of monstrous cowboy, is given his own hopes and dreams in the book, and is happy to help Percy once it looks like Percy might win. 3/5 Monstrous Rating.

Flesh-eating horses: In Greek mythology, Diomedes (one of the heroes of the Iliad) has a bunch of flesh-eating horses that he’s very proud of. Diomedes is very strong but sort of a terrible guy. Terrible guys are very common in Greek mythology. Anyway, Percy manages to befriend these horses to a point once he cleans their stable and drenches them all with water. He should have kept one as a steed, probably. 2/5 Monstrous Rating because I didn’t see them eat any flesh.

The Sphinx: Everyone knows the Sphinx, right? In mythology, the Sphinx posed a riddle to travelers and when they couldn’t answer it, murdered them. A very fun-loving guy. In TBotL, the Sphinx is guarding part of the Labyrinth, but instead of riddles it is giving travelers multiple-choice questions. I LOVE the implication that no one is being taught to think critically anymore and so the Sphinx doesn’t even bother with riddles. Annabeth, Percy’s smart friend, is very understandably upset by this change. 4/5 Monstrous Rating.

Telekhines/Telchines: I’m unclear on what these are, exactly, but they’re some sort of seacreature/dog/demon hybrid. They eventually piss off the gods so much that they all get murdered (possibly for practicing black magic). In TBotL, Percy comes across them a couple of times, as they’ve been recruited by Kronos. One of the most disturbing bits of this series is when Percy attacks a bunch of baby-Telekhines while they’re at school. Like…slow your monster-murdering roll, boy. 4/5 Monstrous Rating for being so persistent.

Antaeus: This guy is a giant wrestler, and a son of Gaea, the Earth goddess. He’s sort of the worst. He can’t be defeated as long as he’s touching the earth, so Hercules has to lift him up into the air in order to kill him. Percy employs a similar technique when he has to fight him in a cage-match in TBotL. 2/5 Monstrous Rating for the giant Greek diaper.

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 Battle of the Labyrinth. Disney Hyperion, 2008. Print.

 

We will finish up the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series next month with the final book, The Last Olympian!

Myth Monday: Dionysus Gets Some Followers

A few weeks ago I began a series of posts on Dionysus, one of the twelve Olympians in Greek mythology. Today we’re going to be picking up where my last post left off. See that post also for sources and recs on this crazy guy.

So last time we saw Dionysus, his grandmother Rhea had cured him of his madness and taught him the classic arts of gardening and fermentation. Like any enterprising young man, he has no interest in living and gardening with his grandma for the rest of his life, so he sets off to make his fortune. Now, along with his impressive baggage which includes both mommy AND daddy issues, Dionysus has a few different things that make him very popular throughout the known world. If I were to pick his top three weapons for making friends and enemies, they would be: booze,  madness, and dramatic flair. When push came to shove, he could always resort to shape-shifting or strangulation.

But I’m getting distracted from the story.

According to the stories, Dionysus went as far as India, teaching humankind about how to grow plants (especially the grapevine) and how to make wine. As he went, he gathered many followers and created a few enemies. Usually he would come along to some town or other, make everyone completely crazy, and then lead them into the wilderness where they would have wild parties and chase down animals (or occasionally people) and tear them to pieces.

Sounds fun, right?

Additionally, most of his followers (who were called the Maenads or the Bacchae) were women. There was nothing Dionysus liked more than finding meek, obedient women working quietly in their homes and lead them out into the streets into drunken revelry or violent hunts. There’s a lot of talk about Dionysus wanting to compensate for his dead mother by surrounding himself with nursemaids at all times. There are a lot of weird dualities in Dionysus’ story; one of which is that the Maenads sometimes appear as nurturing and loving, for example when the nymphs find baby Dionysus and care for him; but other times, when they’re in Crazy Mode they tear apart their own children. There is also a contrast between the Maenads’ freedom/ecstasy and their brutality. Basically, if you’re going to go to one of Dionysus’ parties, maybe keep your kids and your wife and your husbands locked up in a cellar somewhere, for their own protection. Because of their tendency to go on rampages, the Maenads didn’t make temples for Dionysus – all of their worship was outside, in the wilderness or among the plants Dionysus made grow.

Of course, not everyone liked the guy – for obvious reasons. And it took a while for Dionysus to become well-known and established as a worthy god to be worshiped. It’s hard to say whether opposition or indifference angered him more.

At some point early on in his career of lunacy, Dionysus wound up captured by pirates.  It’s hard to say whether he goaded them into this or not. I mean, he was just walking along like the beach like a young rich helpless person, sooo…. The pirates capture him and of course there’s That One Guy who is like, Guys? Guys? “Why did you kidnap this random beautiful man stuck in the middle of nowhere? Have you ever read a myth? Or heard a myth? THIS WILL NOT END WELL.” And of course, no one listens to That One Guy because they’re all going to get rich by ransoming this kid.  The kid, Dionysus, doesn’t do anything at first but then weird things start happening to the boat. Vines start creeping over it. Wine starts running over the deck. At some point the pirates lose their minds and try to escape vine-strangulation by jumping into the sea. Dionysus turns them into dolphins.

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Source  (The pirates turning into dolphins)

I mean, people often accuse Dionysus of over-reacting, but at least the pirates were living dolphins and not dead from being struck by lightning.

Besides the pirates, there are a couple of kings who are particularly famous for trying to keep Dionysus out of their countries and failing spectacularly. King Lycurgus makes a good effort – at one point, Dionysus and his forces are repelled so thoroughly that Dionysus himself leaps into the sea to hide. However, in the end Lycurgus is captured by Dionysus and thrown into a cave to think about what he’s done. I’m not sure how long he has to think about it before admitting that fighting against a guy who can make everyone around you powerful enough to tear boars and stags into pieces is probably not a great career move.

Pentheus, king of Thebes, is the other king. He refuses to allow Dionysus’ worshippers to establish themselves in Thebes. Pentheus captures one of Dionysus’ followers and interrogates him. In one version, this is Dionysus in disguise. In another, this is That One Guy from the pirate story. In both versions, Pentheus interrogates and threatens the man, the man makes some extremely unsettling and confident threats, and then proceeds to escape from his bonds and disappear.

Meanwhile, guess who has converted to Dionysus’ cult? Pentheus’ mother and sisters. Dionysus stirs up his followers and sends them on a hunt after a “wild beast.” The women, not realizing that the beast is in fact Pentheus, tear him to pieces. They only realize what they’ve done afterwards, when the madness has faded.

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The Maenads tearing Pentheus up. Source

What a fun guy. There’s plenty more where this came from! To be continued on a future Myth Monday!

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.

Myth Monday: The Bacchae

Last week on Myth Mondays: meet Dionysus, god of wine and madness! See other Myth Monday posts here.

I ran out of time for a proper post today, so I will leave you with a quote, or rather a monologue. This is from The Bacchae, an ancient Greek play by Euripides. As we will see later on, theater is a huge part of the worship of Dionysus. In this monologue, Dionysus goes over his backstory (which we talked about last week) and announces his modest goals of world domination. Translated by Gilbert Murray. I put some words in bold – they’re important names or motifs in Dionysus’ myths.

Behold, God’s Son is come unto this land
Of Thebes, even I, Dionysus, whom the brand
Of heaven’s hot splendour lit to life, when she
Who bore me, Cadmus’ daughter Semelê,
Died here. So, changed in shape from God to man,
I walk again by Dirce’s streams and scan
Ismenus’ shore. There by the castle side
I see her place, the Tomb of the Lightning’s Bride,
The wreck of smouldering chambers, and the great
Faint wreaths of fire undying—as the hate
Dies not, that Hera held for Semelê.
Aye, Cadmus hath done well; in purity
He keeps this place apart, inviolate,
His daughter’s sanctuary; and I have set
My green and clustered vines to robe it round.
Far now behind me lies the golden ground
Of Lydian and of Phrygian; far away
The wide hot plains where Persian sunbeams play,
The Bactrian war-holds, and the storm-oppressed
Clime of the Mede, and Araby the Blest,
And Asia all, that by the salt sea lies
In proud embattled cities, motley-wise
Of Hellene and Barbarian interwrought;
And now I come to Hellas—having taught
All the world else my dances and my rite
Of mysteries, to show me in men’s sight
Manifest God.
And first of Hellene lands
I cry thus Thebes to waken; set her hands
To clasp my wand, mine ivied javelin,
And round her shoulders hang my wild fawn-skin.
For they have scorned me whom it least beseemed,
Semelê’s sisters; mocked my birth, nor deemed
That Dionysus sprang from Dian seed.
My mother sinned, said they; and in her need,
With Cadmus plotting, cloaked her human shame
With the dread name of Zeus; for that the flame
From heaven consumed her, seeing she lied to God.
Thus must they vaunt; and therefore hath my rod
On them first fallen, and stung them forth wild-eyed
From empty chambers; the bare mountain side
Is made their home, and all their hearts are flame.
Yea, I have bound upon the necks of them
The harness of my rites. And with them all
The seed of womankind from hut and hall
Of Thebes, hath this my magic goaded out.
And there, with the old King’s daughters, in a rout
Confused, they make their dwelling-place between
The roofless rocks and shadowy pine trees green.
Thus shall this Thebes, how sore soe’er it smart,
Learn and forget not, till she crave her part
In mine adoring; thus must I speak clear
To save my mother’s fame, and crown me here
As true God, born by Semelê to Zeus.

Coming up on Myth Monday: more Dionysus, Percy Jackson, and reviews!