Myth Monday: Monsters In The Mark of Athena

The Monsters

Eidolons: In Greek mythology, eidolons are spirits of the dead that possess people. From the stories told about them, it seems like they can be a specific dead person with a life history possessing a living person, OR it come across as a more generic possession (such as Christian stories of demons possessing people). In either case, the person being possessed isn’t aware of their situation. Fun. Sidebar: Walt Whitman wrote a poem.  In The Mark of Athena, there seem to be three specific eidolons tasked by Gaea to ruin our heroes’ lives. They possess various characters and eventually resort to possessing movable objects. Fun. 5/5 Monstrous Rating for being terrifying and really hard to defend against!

Phorcys and Keto: What I love about these two is that they’re not just any old god and goddess of the sea (there are a lot of sea-deities and nymphs! SO MANY), but specifically represent the dangers of the sea and the monsters inside it. In The Mark of Athena, they’re more like caretakers or circus masters, having a vast collection of monsters that they can send after their enemies at will. In themselves, they aren’t very scary or smart. 3/5 Monstrous Rating for not taking full advantage of these cool deities.

Icthyocentaurs: Specifically named Bythos and Aphros, these are essentially fish-centaurs: kinda like mermaids but with more horsey features. They’re related to Chiron, most famousest of centaurses. I had never heard of them before and I demand more icthycentaur-centered stories! Bythos and Aphros live in colony of mer-people in The Mark of Athena, and rescue some of our heroes when they almost get eaten by a seamonster (see below). They claim to be trainers of champions, just like Chiron, only we haven’t heard of them because they’re ocean heroes. I love that Aphros doesn’t train martial arts of any kind, mostly just home ec. What a hero. 4/5 Monstrous Rating even though they’re more like precious sea creatures.

Skolopendra: This is a very large sea monster that may or may not resemble a giant crayfish. Or a giant millipede. It’s gonna be a no from me. The demigods in The Mark of Athena have to fight one and resort to blowing it up with Greek fire. Typical. 4/5 Monstrous Rating.

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Skolopendra? 

Achelous: Achelous was a river-god who fought Hercules for the right to marry a beautiful maiden named Deianeira – so, yes, pretty typical myth story, especially when Hercules is involved. Achelous typically took the form of a snake or a bull but Hercules wrestles the bull-form and defeats Achelous, tearing off one of his horns in the process. This horn is turned into the Cornucopia, horn of plenty, by the river-nymphs (keep that in mind next time you watch The Hunger Games). Achelous holds a grudge, as you can imagine, and tells the whole story to Theseus later. My question is, what happened to Deianeira (answer: nothing good). In The Mark of Athena, Jason and Piper are sent on a quest by Hercules to get Achelous’ other horn because Hercules is a resentful dirt sack. In this story, Achelous is a bull with a man’s face. And yes, they get the horn. 3/5 Monstrous Rating.

Ephialtes & Otis: These two giants are the kind of rabble-rousing teenagers that you just have to shake your head at. They did stupid things like trapping Ares (the god of WAR, okay!) in a jar, and threatening to make a pile that would make it to heaven, and then they decided to kidnap Hera and Artemis to be their wives. Artemis ran from them in a form of a deer and tricked them into spearing each other. Because that’s what happens when you try to kidnap the maiden goddess of the hunt. I like them even less in The Mark of Athena, where they mostly fight with each other and try to one-up each other and/or their nemesis Dionysus. Being giants, however, they’re very difficult to defeat by mere demigods. Giants, man. 3/5 Monstrous Rating for the tutu.

Chrysaor: This guy has one hell of an origin. So Medusa and Poseidon hooked up that one time, right, and Athena was mad because it was in her temple, so Medusa became the Gorgon with snake-hair. When Perseus chops off Medusa’s head, two kids spring out of her head from the hook-up with Poseidon: Pegasus (yes, that Pegasus) and Chrysaor. Everyone has heard of Pegasus, almost no one has heard of Chrysaor. None of my sources can even agree on who this guy is! He might be a giant, OR he might be a winged boar. In The Mark of Athena, he is a guy with a golden mask who has turned into a pirate because he has nothing better to do and no one has heard of him. He’s REALLY good at swordplay and defeats Percy. His pirate-crew is made up of the sailors that Dionysus turned into dolphins that one time. 4/5 Monstrous Rating for being really obscure and tying in some Dionysus fun-times.

Arachne: Her backstory is well-told in The Mark of Athena, but in summary: Arachne was a beautiful young woman who was extremely skilled in weaving and had a great deal of hubris (FATAL FLAW). She claims to be as good as Athena (or Minerva). Athena goes to her and warns her not to be over-confident, but instead Arachne challenges her to a contest. They both make amazing tapestries; Athena weaves images of her rivalry with Poseidon (Neptune), whereas Arachne chooses images of embarrassing moments or failures of the gods. Athena is pissed off and turns Arachne into a spider; no one is surprised. In The Mark of Athena, Arachne is a giant monster-spider, and she has been taking out her revenge on Athena’s half-mortal children for centuries. Rude. But she makes a great Big Bad. 5/5 Monstrous Rating.

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Athena punishing Arachne Source

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 Mark of Athena. Disney Hyperion, 2012. Print.

See also the links above for more sources!

 

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Myth Monday: Rick Riordan Presents

If you, like me, love mythology retellings, you may or may not be thrilled about a new imprint starting soon: Rick Riordan Presents.

Rick Riordan, of course, has written several different series and spin-offs of mythology retellings for middle grade/young adult; these are mostly centered around Greek mythology but also feature Roman, Norse, and Egyptian myths.

If you read my blog and Myth Monday posts, you’ve probably guessed I’m a huge fan of his work.

However, Riordan can only write so many books, and he doesn’t feel comfortable writing a lot of world mythology that he isn’t as familiar with or that he may be accused of appropriating. SO! As a result, we get Rick Riordan Presents. This imprint (i.e. tiny publisher sub-division) will publish books for fans of Rick Riordan’s work. The books will be stories about other mythologies that Riordan hasn’t explored, and will be chosen by Riordan and his editor, Steph* Lurie. Their intention is to choose books that, while not the same as Riordan’s work, or featuring the same legends, will have the same appeal and accessibility.

If you aren’t excited yet, wait until you hear the titles and authors for RRP’s first three books, coming out in 2018:

  • Aru Shah and the End of Time: This is written by Roshani Chokshi. Aru Shah is aimed at middle grade readers and is based on Hindu mythology. It has been described as “Percy Jackson meets Sailor Moon” which fills me with giddy joy.I’m already a big fan of hers, having read The Star-Touched Queen (which I reviewed here and is also a reimagining of Hindu mythology).
  • Storm Runner: This is written by Jennifer Cervantes and will be based on Mayan mythology. I haven’t read any of Cervantes’ work but I also know almost nothing about Mayan mythology and I’m ready to expand my myth repertoire.
  • Dragon Pearl: This is written by Yoon Ha Lee. He wrote a book called Ninefox Gambit which I’ve heard really good things about (it’s on my giant tbr, shhhhh). Dragon Pearl will be based on Korean mythology but apparently it will also have science fiction elements, which, just, AHHHHH? I am so excited for space myth crazytimes.

 

You can read Rick Riordan’s FAQ on RRP here.

MORE ON THIS STORY AS IT DEVELOPS.

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*Steph! What a great name. There are some really great Stephs out there. I mean what**.
** (my name is Stephanie. That’s it, that’s the joke.)

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: 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.

Children’s books are cool (mini-reviews)

I’ve read a handful of children’s books this year already, and they’re all good ones, so have some mini-reviews!

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Earwig and The Witch by Diana Wynne Jones:

Diana Wynne Jones is one of those authors who makes me flail and go ASDFGHJKL; no matter what she does, so it’s hard for me to review her books. I am striving to remain objective about this book because I loved it to pieces, but I know it has some flaws. So, flaws first: There are several characters and a couple of plot threads that are introduced in this book which then disappear or taper off by the end of the book. This was her last book so I am guessing that if she had lived (RIP forever) to finish it, she would have fleshed out those better. In any case, there is still a complete story here, but it feels like there should be a sequel or more chapters for sub-plot/characters.

Besides that, though, this book is flawless. Earwig is hilarious, bossy, and clever, and sets herself to taking control of her household in a forthright manner that you can’t help but root for. It reminded me of a kids’ version of Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (another EXCELLENT book, by the way). The illustrations were really fun, too, and matched the feel of the story. The characters are all shown as varying degrees of “ugly,” but they’re so unique and expressive that it’s fabulous.

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien:

This was a reread, and was so much better than I remembered! I mostly remembered lots of tramping through the wilderness and Bilbo derping all over everywhere, but Bilbo is seriously epic. The dwarves are still really difficult to keep track of.

One thing that I appreciated more this time around was how the seeds for the final confrontation (I don’t mean the dragon) are sewn much earlier in the book than I remembered, and the entire story is very cohesive within itself. It can seem like an episodic travelogue, but there are a lot of themes and threats that interweave through the whole story and make it very complete. It’s awesome.

I may or may not have cried at the end.

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne Valente:

Fairyland, the series that this book belongs to, is a really great romp of a story. It’s a brilliant postmodern take on the older child-in-Faerie/Alice-in-Wonderland stories, so if you’re familiar with those, there are constant hilarious subtle (or not so subtle) references to those. Valente likes turning all expectations on their head and twisting tropes into pretzels. But even if you don’t “get” that layer, like I said, there’s still a fun, hilarious, dark, awesome story in the forefront.

I didn’t like this one as much as the first (The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making) but it was still fabulous. The Mad Scientist and her inventions was probably my favorite bit, but the Duke of Tea is not to be missed!

The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan:

After the perfection of Son of Neptune, the sequel had a hard time standing up to it. The plot was a lot smaller scale(even though there were plenty of bad guys and angry Romans for our heroes to deal with), which made me just want the book to be over so they could get back to dealing with The Big Bads of the series. It was good to have Annabeth back in the forefront, smarter and more badass than ever, and I was happy to have a Leo POV again, too.

My favorite part of this new series is how Riordan brings in the Roman gods—they are still the older Greek gods, but with different personalities and/or powers. In this book, Athena/Minerva and Dionysus/Bacchus stand out as really clever reimaginings of the characters we’re already familiar with.

PS: Nico is very special to me and I demand more page time for that boy.