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: 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: 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: 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: Jacksonian Monsters Ocean Edition!

Last week on Myth Monday: Anzu from Mesopotamia!

Last time we talked about Percy Jackson: Monsters and Mayhem in The Lightning Thief

28186Today I’ll be talking about The Sea of Monsters, (referred to as SOM after this), the second book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series (spoiler warning!). If you like mythology and haven’t tried out this series, you should. If you don’t care about mythology but you like salty narrators and lots of action, you should.

As is tradition, Rick Riordan smashes several packs-worth of characters, monsters, and name-drops into a single book. I’m going to focus on the monsters and creatures. For each one, I’ll talk about the “real life” mythological creature, the way Riordan reimagines it, and give it a 1-5 Monstrous Rating for how well Riordan brought it back.

The Monsters

Laestrygonians: You can experience these guys in all their violent glory in The Odyssey. Odysseus’ crew reaches a very promising-looking island, until they’re chased off by giants who throw rocks at them. In SOM, Percy and his prep school classmates have to survive being locked in a gym with Laestrygonians while they play dodgeball with fiery rocks. The Riordan scene is terrifying, and honestly a little too close to real-life school horrors for my taste, but we don’t see the Laestrygonians again – they’re just an opening-scene threat. 3/5 Monstrous Rating.

Cyclopes/Polyphemus: Cyclopes are another race featured in The Odyssey: Odysseus and Co. have to escape from one in particular, Polyphemus, when they stop at his island, and Aeneas and his crew also stop by in The Aeneid. 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. They seem to enjoy eating humans when the opportunity arises. One of the most endearing characters in Percy Jackson and The Olympians is Tyson, a Cyclops and Percy’s half-brother. Tyson is really good at building and fixing excellent magical items. Percy and Co. ALSO stop by Polyphemus’ island, because apparently it’s on the Hero Checklist for Important Stops.  I like how Riordan gives us the good and bad extremes of Cyclopes, since the myths seem undecided on them. 4/5 Monstrous Rating.

Stymphalian birds: One of Hercules’ twelve impossible labors was to drive the Stymphalian birds away from the country they’re infesting. In SOM, they swarm and attack the chariot race at Camp Halfblood, for reasons that are unclear but make the race much more exciting. I’m not even really sure what they look like but I’m guessing something like giant piranha birds. 2/5 Monstrous Rating.

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Source 

Hippocampus: Not the part of the brain, but a half horse, half fish creature. I can’t find a myth that these animals are actually in, but they’re awesome. They’re typically associated with Poseidon in Greek mythology, as he’s the god of sea and horses. In SOM, Percy is able to communicate with horses, and thus, hippocampi. They take Percy and his friends on a couple of sea-journeys. 3/5 Monstrous Rating for being adorable.

Oreius and Agrius: There was a lady named Polyphonte who joined the Hunters of Artemis, a group of maidens who swore to stay maidens forever so that they could serve Artemis. For some reason Aphrodite, goddess of love, took issue with Polyphonte’s choice and cursed her to fall in love with a bear. Gross. Bear. Polyphonte then gave birth to two half-bear, half-human sons: Oreius and Agrius. I mean, that’s not their fault. But then they became terrible and also cannibals. In SOM, one of the villains, Luke (a son of Hermes) recruits them, probably by promising they can eat lots of tasty demigods. Oreius and Agrius are the typical big dumb henchmen in this story. 3/5 Monstrous Rating for being kind of obscure and relating to bears.

Pegasus: Pegasus is confusing to me because most of the time you hear about a pegasus as a winged horse species. However, Pegasus in Greek mythology was a SINGLE winged horse, spawned from Medusa’s blood mixing with earth (just go with it). This winged horse was named Pegasus, adopted by the muses, and helped several heroes (including the original Perseus, who slew Medusa in the first place). In SOM, pegasi are a species of winged horse. Percy helps one escape from Luke and his bearish thugs – this pegasus individual turns up in later books and is super wonderful and great. 4/5 Monstrous Rating for being kind of inaccurate but producing one of the best non-human characters in the series.

Hydra: The Hydra is another monster that started out as a single unique entity but is now known as a species (or a super-secret super-villain organization). Hercules had to destroy the Hydra as one of his twelve labors. You wanna go for a heart-shot, not a head-shot, in this case, as each time a head is killed or chopped off, two more replace it. Gross. In SOM, Hydras are monsters synonymous with ubiquitous chains, eg Starbucks, or Monster Donut in the series. Percy chops off a head and not only is that head quickly replaced, he spawns a Monster Donut chain store elsewhere in the world. So next time you see  five Starbucks in a single-block radius, blame impetuous heroes. 5/5 Monstrous Rating for pure hilarity.

Scylla: Scylla was a water-nymph, and her story is a very typical one. Glaucus, an ocean god, fell in love with her, and since he couldn’t accept a “no” he went to the witch Circe for help. Circe quickly fell in love with Glaucus, and instead of helping him win Scylla over, she poisoned her. Scylla became a horrible monster with lots of heads and tentacles and things, and wound up living in a sea-cave and eating any sailors who passed by. In SOM, Percy meets both Scylla and Circe, although at different points. Scylla eats some of the zombie soldiers crewing the Civil War ironhide Percy and his friends are using to cross the Sea of Monsters. 2/5 Monstrous Rating for being relegated to a convenient plot device.

Charybdis: Charybdis is either a whirlpool, or a monster inside of a whirlpool. It’s sort of unclear. In any case, famous heroes like Odysseus and Aeneas had to get past her/it, and she/it took up the same strait of water that Scylla lived in. As you might imagine, it was always a fun time visiting that watery neighborhood. In SOM, Percy and his friends almost get sucked up by Charybdis, but escape when Percy uses his bottled wind to shoot them away from it. 3/5 Monstrous Rating for being scary but also very momentary.

Sirens: These are sea monsters. We presume they are ladies, but honestly I couldn’t find any explicit reference to their gender. In any case, they sing to sailors, enchant them, and lure them to their deaths, either by drowning or dashing them on rocks. The mermaid comparison is easy. Odysseus wanted to hear the Sirens’ song, so his men tied him to the mast. He said it sounded like they would give him all the wisdom a man could ever need. Orpheus, a famous musician, saved Jason and his Argonauts from the Sirens by playing music the entire time they sailed past. Percy stopped up his ears with wax (like Odysseus’ men) but Annabeth wants to hear the Sirens’ famed wisdom, so she also ties herself to the mast. She sees a vision of everything she ever wanted, if only she could get to it. 4/5 Monstrous Rating for being more clear about why the Sirens are so hard to resist, and just as much so to women.

Centaurs: We talked about Chiron last month, but most centaurs are not like Chiron. They’re described as more beast than man, and usually drink a lot, misbehave, and carry off women. In SOM, Chiron’s centaur relatives are portrayed more as drunken frat-boy partiers, but they at least rescue Percy and his friends when the occasion calls for it. 3/5 Monstrous Rating for not being very scary or very helpful.

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 Sea of Monsters. Disney Hyperion, 2006. Print.

Myth Monday: Perseus Who?

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I’m rereading the Percy Jackson books by Rick Riordan this year because it’s been a while. These include the original series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, and the sequel series, The Heroes of Olympus. They’re aimed at middle grade and young adult readers and feature the half-god children of Greek and/or Roman gods, on quests to save the world or whatever.

 

Occasionally I will be posting on Myth Monday concerning related Percy Jackson shenanigans. My intention is to do a sort of “Who’s Who,” but Riordan packs SO many mythological characters and references into his books that I may have to pick and choose what to focus on. For book 1, The Lightning Thief, I’m going to focus on characters that show up on the page and are not just referenced, and especially the “monsters.” For this post I’ll give a brief overview of who the monster is in classical mythology, some observations on what Riordan does with them, and any additional jokes commentary I feel led to make.

Obviously, SPOILER WARNING for The Lightning Thief. Skip to the end of this post for references used (aside from any links).

Monsters:

  • The Furies: are really, really scary ladies that punish guilty people that have avoided justice. Often the victims curse the guilty party, thus summoning the Furies. Other times, Hades would send the Furies himself. Besides tearing the guilty parties apart, the Furies enjoy using panic and overwhelming remorse. In The Lightning Thief, the Furies show up several times and appear to be grouchy, stern old ladies at first until they let their monstrous, birds-from-hell forms show. Hades uses them to chase after Percy, because Hades suspects Percy of committing a crime.
  • The Fates: are not to be confused with the Greek Grey Sisters or the Norse Norns, which are other threesome teams of terrifying ladies with scary amounts of power. The Fates are also called the Moirai, and are responsible for essentially weaving history and destiny together as it happens. They’re often portrayed as very ugly old knitters. When a person’s life is over, they snip the thread representing the person’ life right out of their tapestry. In The Lightning Thief, they appear only briefly as old ladies knitting socks (rather than the traditional tapestry). Riordan employs the “less is more” technique by not having the characters even speak to the Fates, but their presence still terrifies them.

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  • The Minotaur: is the stepson of King Minos of Crete. It’s this whole awkward story where Minos’ wife gets cursed by a god because of reasons so she falls in love with a bull and SOMEHOW gets pregnant by it, thus producing the Minotaur. Don’t ask too many questions. Minos then uses the Minotaur to eat up all of his enemies. Riordan is sort of lazy with the Minotaur in The Lightning Thief: it’s just another mindless monster he throws at Percy and Co. to slow them down from reaching safety.
  • Hellhounds: See Cerberus, also, below. Hellhounds are, if you can believe it, really scary dogs from the underworld.. Cerberus is the most famous one. In The Lightning Thief, we see a hellhound that is summoned to Camp Halfblood (although not one of Hades’, as it turns out), as well as Cerberus later in the underworld.
  • Medusa: is a really scary lady with snakes instead of hair. She was a priestess of Athena, but then she either canoodled with Poseidon in Athena’s temple (which is a no-no) or she got too proud of her own beauty and tried to compete with Athena (also a no-no). In any case, Athena turned her into a monster and cursed her so that anyone who looked at her would turn to stone. She wears a burka in The Lightning Thief, which is a really problematic authorial choice but at least it covers her until she chooses to petrify someone (it’s like…a metaphor). I like her vocal powers of persuasion and the way she tries to turn Percy (son of Poseidon) against Annabeth (daughter of Athena).
  • Echidna: is the mother of a bunch of monsters in Greek mythology, including the Sphinx, the Nemean Lion, and possibly the chimera, a goat/dragon/lion hybrid (because that sounded like a good idea). In The Lightning Thief, Echidna is disguised as a random lady so that she can corner Percy in the Gateway Arch, along with her “Chihuahua” son, which turns into the chimera. Don’t trust tiny dogs.
  • The Lotus-Eaters: are some island inhabitants that Odysseus and his men come across in The Odyssey (and also feature in a weird Tennyson poem). Odysseus’ men are really happy to find a hospitable island with plenty of food to eat and booze to drink, but soon they are enchanted to forget where they came from and where they’re going. Odysseus has a hard time dragging them away. Rick Riordan turns the island into the Lotus Casino which is filled with games, sports, and food to entertain Percy and his friends, along with an endless supply of “LotusCash” to help them enjoy themselves. Percy and his friends are be-spelled for a while just like Odysseus’ men, before they are able to wake themselves up long enough to get away.
  • Procrustes the Stretcher: I don’t think there is ever a time when you would want to be friends with a guy called “The Stretcher.” Theseus ran into this guy, who captured and/or lured travelers into his house and then strapped them to a bed and if they were too short to fit it, stretched them, and if they were too tall, chopped off any extra bits. Percy and his friends in The Lightning Thief come across “Crusty’s Waterbed Palace” where Procrustes tries to do the same thing with them. In both stories, the hero manages to turn the tables (or beds) on Crusty. Gross.
  • Cerberus: is a  three-headed hellhound who guards the Underworld. He is usually terrifying in the myths, and one of Hercules’ 12 Crazy Labors is to steal Cerberus and bring him out of the Underworld. In The Lightning Thief, Cerberus is reveleaed to be a big old softie who just needs some playtime. Percy’s friend Annabeth bonds with him, setting him up to return in future books if needed. PS this company exists.

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    I just wanted to include a William Blake pic in this post tbh.

 

Miscellaneous:

  • Chiron: is a centaur who taught pretty much every dude-hero in Greek mythology, including Hercules, Perseus, Jason, and every other fighter in the Trojan War. Ridiculous. In The Lightning Thief, he’s the main teacher at Camp Halfblood and is responsible for training the Greek demigods on how to stay alive. Here is a realistic portrait of him passed down through the ages.
  • Charon: is the ferryman of the Underworld. You have to pay this guy to get across the Styx and Acheron rivers and into the Underworld proper, so hopefully you got buried with some money. I like the “waiting room” in The Lightning Thief where those without ferry fare have to wait. Because I’m terrible and it makes more sense than just hanging out on a riverbank. Also I like how Riordan decided to put both Charon and Chiron in his first Percy Jackson book. THANKS, NOT CONFUSING AT ALL.
  • The Nereid: is one of the fifty Nereids or sea nymphs, who are daughters of Nereus and Doris. They are the nice happy beautiful side of the multi-faceted ocean personality. In The Lightning Thief, Percy’s dad Poseidon, god of the sea, sends a Nereid to help Percy at times, since he can’t help his son personally. It’s kinda weird how Percy keeps thinking the Nereid is his mom, though.
  • Satyrs: are nature-spirits that look sorta human but have horns and goat-feet. They can get pretty drunk and sketchy. Percy’s best friend Grover turns out to be a satyr, and he often gets very upset by humanity’s mistreatment of nature and pollution of the Earth.

Thanks for reading! I’ll cover the gods and goddesses in a future post.

Sources:

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

Riordan, Rick. The Lightning Thief. Disney Hyperion, 2005. Print.

Myth Monday: Introduction

Myth Mondays is a new series of weekly posts, beginning in 2017, ending whenever I want.  Every week I will post something that falls into the vast topic of mythology. It might be a summary or retelling of a myth I read recently, a comparison of variations on a myth or hero, a review of a myth-related book, or something else entirely.

In addition, I’m rereading the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan this year, so once a month I’ll do a mythological “Who’s Who” in whichever PJ books I read. There are many mythological cameos and references in the series, and I’d like to keep track of them as I read. Some are obvious or headline characters, others are more obscure. I think it will be fun. 

So, that’s the plan. Why am I doing this? Why should you care? I am interested in myths for many reasons, and I enjoy them for many other reasons.  Here are my primary interests in reading myths:

  • I love to see similarities between stories (especially from different regions)
  • It’s fascinating to see what different people think a hero should be, i.e., heroic characteristics, or the definition of what makes a person a hero
  • I like reading creation stories because they’re wild
  • I like finding archetypes across many very different stories (e.g. the Trickster, who is everywhere)
  • I’m always here to see goddesses and terrifying heroines kicking faces and taking names, and they show up everywhere in myths
  • Myths can tell us so many things about the people who invented them
  • Myths show us how we have always used stories to explain the world
  • Myths show us how stories shape us
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Here are some of the books I plan to use for Myth Mondays.

I studied English in college and my background in mythology is mostly Greek and Roman, but I’d like to expand my repertoire to other areas and cultures. I’ve read a smattering of African, Indian, and Native American myths. The first book I’m going through for this series is a collection of Mesopotamian myths, which I know nothing about except the Epic of Gilgamesh.  I’ve somehow never read Edith Hamilton’s Mythology in its entirety, so I’ll be going through that at some point. I also have this weird Dionysus book I’d like to get to, because Dionysus is my favorite booze-obsessed madman.

If you have book recommendations, let me know! I’ll be trolling  around my library sources for myths I haven’t read before.