As a kid, I was always a voracious reader of mythology, particularly Greco-Roman, heavy emphasis on the Greek. The gods and goddesses and their tales were just so fascinating, so alluring and ethereal. They were engaging and entertaining and just really good, imaginative stories.
Little Sharmake, a huge book worm, devoured every Greek myth he could find.
When he couldn't find anymore, he went to the next best thing: Roman. They were similar enough, and a lot of Greek myths and culture were conflated with Roman ones and assimilated to their own pantheon of deities, hence why a lot of the gods have another name in Roman mythology, i.e. Zeus became Jupiter/Jove, Hera became Juno, Hades became Pluto, etc.
(Fun fact: the planets were named for the Roman gods. But you probably knew that already, you smart, attractive reader you. Meow.)
Then I went onto Norse Mythology and felt a particular kindred spiritship with Loki. I got the guy. I understood him. He reminded me a lot of me.
And then... I forgot all about mythology. I didn't read it anymore. School happened. Life happened. The internet happened. Instant gratification only resulted in the diminution of my attention span.
That is, until my friend's little brother told me about the Percy Jackson books.
He let me borrow them, and my heart suddenly belonged to something else. These books had taken my heart hostage and, to this day, refuse to let it go. But that's okay. Pain is fine. Not like I deserve happiness anyways. *SOBBING GROSSLY*
Anyway, since I am once again a connoisseur of mythology, I decided to write this article to compare the adapted myths in Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief to their original forms.
And so! Without further ado! SAB'S Top Three Picks for Best Adapted Myths!
Let's make it bold and pretentious and official, shall we?
SAB'S Top Three Picks for Best Adapted Myths!
1.) The Minotaur
This nasty piece of work, the son of Pasiphaë and a bull, was brought about as the result of a curse. In Percy Jackson, he is hunting down Percy and Grover and Sally as they try to get Percy across the safe line barrier past the tree and into Camp Half-Blood. When it appears Sally has been killed by him to a young Percy who doesn't know any better (and can you blame him? Poor guy doesn't have any idea what's going on), he charges the Minotaur and manages to slay him. Of course, this isn't the last time we see the Minotaur, but he was the first major monster Percy managed to defeat, if you don't count Alecto and the Furies.
In the original Greek mythology, the Minotaur's mother, Pasiphaë, was the wife of the King of Crete, Minos. To earn the throne, he had to compete with his brothers, and prayed to Poseidon for a sign to bless him, a bull as white as snow. Poseidon granted this, and Minos was able to ascend to the throne. To honour Poseidon as his patron god, Minos was to sacrifice the bull, but couldn't bring himself to do so due to its beauty. Instead, he sacrificed one of his own, hoping Poseidon wouldn't mind.
But Poseidon did mind. He minded very much.
If you know anything about the Olympian gods, I'm willing to bet that you know that they're all as petty and vengeful as Hera is purported to be.
To be fair, Minos reneged on a deal with a god, so he shouldn't have expected anything less. And, to quote Russell Peter's father, "You gon' learn today."
To punish him, as was so often the case in these misogynistic ancient stories, the woman in the story had to suffer. Pasiphaë, Minos' wife, was cursed with a cruel spell, that inspired a terrible lust in her. Some say Poseidon went to Aphrodite, Goddess of Love and Sexuality, to do the deed, and others say Poseidon himself did it.
Either way, the object of her desires was the bull, and by him, she birthed Asterion, a half-man, half-bull (a man's body with a bull's head) who became known as the "Minotaur" (Minos' Bull).
We hear a little more about the Minotaur in The Last Olympian, and a little more from his mother Pasiphaë's point of view in Book 4 of the sequel series Heroes Of Olympus, known as The House of Hades (which I only recently finished -- I'm trying to stall on reading The Blood of Olympus (even though it's upstairs on my desk) and ending this chapter of my childhood; perhaps I'll read the Kane Chronicles trilogy, also waiting on my desk?).
This was definitely one of the most interesting adapted myths, although there were two others I've narrowed down from Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. The second one might just be a case of different strokes for different folks. Try this one on for size:
Procrustes is another son of Poseidon, just like Percy. However, whereas Percy is emblematic of his father's (and, in turn, the sea's) kinder, gentler and benevolent side, Procrustes seems to be indicative of the darker, wilder, and crueler side of Poseidon and his aquatic domain.
In the book, Procrustes, nicknamed "Crusty," is the owner of a mattress store in Los Angeles. He tricks Annabeth and Grover into lying down and they are ensnared on the beds. However, because Percy was cautious, he managed to avoid falling into the trap and instead guiled him into trying out his own bed. After trapping Crusty, Percy freed his friends before cutting Crusty down to size.
In the original canon, Procrustes held a strategic point between Athens and Eleusis, known as the Sacred Way. Because of the location, it was prone to have many passers-by and travelers. Procrustes would insist the people stay the night, and then if they couldn't fit into the bed, they would be either stretched or have limbs chopped off to make them accommodate the bed's size.
The plot twist? Good ol' Crusty Face had two beds, one that was small and one that was big. It was a rigged game. The people were screwed from the start.
...Until Theseus came along.
And what a hero Theseus was! Oh the adventures he had! Oh the monsters he slayed! Oh the details I can't quite remember right now! They were all fantastic. Truly amazing. Iconic.
Procrustes tried his trick on Theseus, who wasn't having it, and used Procrustes' own bed against him.
To be fair, though, Procrustes was kind of a jerk. A stone-cold meanie. Speaking of stone, what a convenient line to segue into the next and final topic...
There are many versions of the tales of Greek Mythology, with many differing accounts and details. Most agree that Medusa was once a priestess of Athena in her temple. Poseidon was smitten with her, and some recollections state she was raped, while others say she was a willing participant; knowing how horrible and problematic the Greek gods and characters in the mythology could be, it's all the more likely that Poseidon took her against her will. Which makes what happens next all the more tragic.
Perhaps because Poseidon was one of the "Big Three" gods who inherited domains relative to the Earth (i.e. Zeus becoming God of the Sky/Heavens, Poseidon the God of the Seas, and Hades the God of the Dead/Underworld), and perhaps because he was her uncle, instead of punishing him, Athena took out her frustrations at the desecration of her holy temple on Medusa. She transformed the once beautiful Medusa into a a hideous creature with her prized hair becoming snakes making her so repulsively ugly that anyone who gazed upon her and made eye contact would be turned to stone.
And, because the Olympians are... dysfunctional, to put it lightly, she did the same to Medusa's sisters, because they had the audacity to be related to her. Their fault for choosing to be born to the same parents, right? How dare they. Absolutely audacious.
In the books, she owns a Statue Emporium, which I found ridiculously genius. I never suspected it was Medusa even with a colossal clue like "Aunty Em" (the phonetic spelling of 'M' threw me off) and the statues and even knowing Medusa is an iconic figure of Classical mythology, and that this entire book was about it. The wool was pulled over my eyes and I didn't know until it was too late.
I feel bad for poor old Medusa. Just like Pasiphaë (and her sisters, at that), she was most likely an innocent bystander, a victim or survivor, who was punished for the actions of another. In that way, that myth can also speak to the current problems in society regarding sexual assault and the double victimization complex that many sexual assault survivors are subject to in this ridiculously problematic society.
...But that's neither here nor there, is it? This is about The Lightning Thief and its myths, though I must give a shout-out to Rick Riordan and the lessons and representation of minorities of all categories he's created in this fantastic world. Also, kudos to his son, for inspiring it and asking his dad for more stories. You're the real MVP.
Medusa's clever incorporation in the series was definitely my favourite instance of mythical adaptation in Percy Jackson and the Olympian's debut book, The Lightning Thief.
Which myth did you like the best?
Happy 10th Anniversary, Percy Jackson! Here's to many more, and here's to Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard! Can't wait for October 2015!
***As participants of the Percy Pack Anniversary Campaign, PopWrapped will receive books, merchandise and prizing from Disney-Hyperion.***
DON'T MISS OUT!
Catch a sneak peek of Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book One: The Sword of Summer available online at ReadRiordan.com!
SUMMER SPECIAL DEAL: JUNE 15 – JUNE 22: The perfect moment to get your friends hooked on the series you love! On June 15th, The Lightning Thief will be discounted to $.99 across all eBook accounts for one full week (6/15-6/22). It also includes a sneak peek chapter excerpt from Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book One: The Sword of Summer.
BARNES & NOBLE COLLECTOR’S EDITION:
The perfect gift for new and faithful Percy fans: Barnes & Noble offers customers an exclusive Collector's Edition of The Lightning Thief to celebrate the 10th anniversary. This version includes extra content from both author and illustrator as well as a specially designed jacket and endpapers. Purchase here.
10TH ANNIVERSARY ACTIVITY KIT: Available starting June 12th, visit ReadRiordan.com to download a special 10th anniversary Percy Pack Activity Kit.