- Education and Science»
Greek Myths in Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief
If you think of the history of Earth as a lifetime, the earlier human citizens could be considered the "children" of the universe. Children are known to have wild imaginations and outrageous explanations for things they don't understand, for example- a loud thumping noise in the night issued from the washing machine is thought to be a vicious monster throwing a fit in the basement. Because the early citizens of the earth used their childlike imaginations to explain events that they didn't yet understand scientifically, the Greek myths they invented are bound to appeal to the children of all generations.
Just like the reader, Percy Jackson doesn't believe in Greek myths- at first. He has learned about them in school, but thinks of them as nothing more than hokey traditional stories invented by men who lived in the distant B.C. era. Even after arriving at the Half-Blood Camp and personally fighting a minotaur, he is skeptical that they are factual, as evidenced by this quote from page 67 of the book: "'But they're stories,' I said. 'They're- myths, to explain lightning and the seasons and stuff. They're what people believed before there was science.'" He continues to argue the illogicality of the Greek myths with Mr. D., or Dionysus, the god of wine, despite witnessing magical events unfolding before him, such as a goblet of wine appearing out of thin air. Thus, Percy and the reader are convinced, over time and simultaneously. The author, Rick Riordan, attempts to make everything fit in with reality as much as possible, explaining that no human witnesses the mythical phenomena because of a "mist" that is over their eyes. They only see what they can believe. Once the reader lets go of reality, or the "mist," and allows themselves go along with the magical story, they become like Percy and almost become like a half-blood themselves.
Percy may also interest modern children especially because of the ties to common issues the current younger generation faces; i.e. attention deficit disorder, dyslexia, step-parents, absence of a father, trying to fit in, bullying, etc. In the first chapter, Percy Jackson is established as a boy with only one good friend who hates his step-dad and has trouble in school. He is relatable to the readers, modern children, with the Greek Myths aside. The other kids in the book are relatable as well. The half-bloods in the story take on the characteristics of their god parent- Athena's children are intelligent, Aphrodite's children are preoccupied with appearance and gossip, the children of Hermes are thieves, the children of Ares- the god of war- are violent, and so on. Children of single parents who wonder what makes them the way they are will immerse themselves in the story, perhaps imagining they are the child of Zeus.
Once they are tied in, the myths don't seem to detract from the likability or relate-ability of Percy or the book itself. Riordan attempts realism within the unrealistic themes, giving an explanation as to why the gods are in America. This is where the Greek mythology strays from the traditional tellings. Although all the same names and most of the same storylines from the mythology remain intact, the gods are said to transplant Olympus to wherever the Seat of Western culture lies. Because of this, they wear very modern clothing- when Percy meets his father, Poseidon, he is wearing bermuda shorts and a Hawaiian t-shirt while sitting on his throne- and speak in modern slang. The minotaur who attacks Percy and his mother is wearing Fruit of the Loom-style underwear, and Ares rides a motorcycle, sports leather, and sneaks around with his girlfriend. The gods are all still there, with the same attitude and original personalities and powers, but their appearances have been changed by the author to suit modern times and a modern audience.
Riordan had the right idea when he included modern children and ancient myths. Children of all generations since the beginning of humankind have been fascinated with stories of adventure and imagination. The Greek myths, originally fashioned by the ancient Greek civilization, the youth of humanity, continue to captivate their imaginations in Riordan's modernized form.