• smcmanus

Alyssa, Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

People often see history as only dealing with the past and not having an impact on the present. This idea is wrong, and people need to learn that history is not just dead white guys and dates. History buffs sometimes forget that the whole world does not love history as much as them which can be an issue in sharing ideas with the public. Lots of new novels are thought to help the gap between history buffs and the majority of people who find history boring (how you would boggles my mind). Historical fiction can be a massive issue for accuracy among historians. Many authors do not care as much about showing historical events accurately which drives historians batty because we are so fact driven, the goals of history and creative writing can conflict violently with one another. Authors would rather use historical events and mold them to fit their plots which leaves accuracy as an afterthought. Historians want the historical facts to be portrayed accurately so that the public can learn the truth. Historical novels can be good for gaining public interest but should not be left as a stand alone for learning history.

Have you ever wondered what would happen if the Greek gods had not died with the ancient Greek civilization? If you have or you just like Greek Mythology you should read Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.I have no shame in saying that this is still my favorite book and I’m twenty. The book follows Perseus Jackson who is a son of Poseidon and his adventures involving Greek Mythology. Percy is sent head first into a world he could never have dreamed of when a trip to Montauk ends with his mom (Sally) being kidnapped by Hades. Percy goes to Camp Half-Blood, the only safe haven for children of the gods, there he learns about the Greek Pantheon and his true parentage. Soon after arriving Percy is sent on a quest to find Zeus’ lightning bolt which he is the main culprit in stealing. Percy teams up with a satyr (Grover) and a daughter of Athena (Annabeth) to go to the Underworld to retrieve the lightning bolt for Zeus. They adventure through much of the modern United States and battle many of the ancient monsters, some include, the Chimera, Minotaur and Medusa. The book ends with Percy bringing the lightning bolt to Zeus at Olympus and returning to Camp Half-Blood for the remainder of the summer.

Rick merges modern American society with Ancient Greece effortlessly. The Empire State Building is the new home of Mount Olympus and the entrance to the Underworld is in Hollywood. Riordan relates Greece and America by drawing attention to the symbol of the United States (the eagle) and the architecture of a lot of American government buildings because they reflect the modern world. Rick choses to portray mythology in a modern light to help people gain an interest in history. Modernizing history could help audiences relate to history and make them want to learn more.

This version of the novel was published by Scholastic so it can automatically be assumed that this novel is not scholarly at all and is aimed towards a younger audience, later editions were published by Disney Publishing World Wide. The title page is proof enough of the targeted audience because it shows a boy holding a lightning bolt facing New York. This book is geared towards kids and is not entirely concerned with accuracy, its main goal is to entertain. Accuracy is not always put aside for entertainment, sometimes the authors education is more of an indicator for accuracy.

Rick’s historical education for an author is really good. He graduated university at University of Texas in Austin with a double major in English and history. He became a teacher and taught mythology classes at his middle school. Unlike a lot of authors, Rick probably has a good base knowledge on the topic because of his higher historical training and years teaching mythology. Rick’s training allows him to meld history into his world while understanding the importance of accuracy, the goals of history and the struggle historians have because of pop culture.

When I initially read the book, I didn’t know anything beyond the very basics of mythology. In other words, I knew that Zeus was the top guy and that Hercules was a Greek hero but that’s it. This book really opened my eyes to mythology and taught me most of what I knew prior to university. In junior high, I was actually the go to girl for our assignment on mythology because no one else was as obsessed with mythology, and ultimately this series as I was. I’ll admit this probably wasn’t the best place for me to learn mythology but I did anyway. The novel references many different Greek myths and creatures, the only accuracy that the book follows are the names of creatures and how monsters initially got killed. Everything else is fiction because well, how do you have a son of Poseidon kill every creature in the exact same way as in mythology. Perseus’ name alone is an issue for accuracy because the original Perseus was a son of Zeus, not Poseidon. When looking deeper into some of the mythical claims the book makes I searched the myth of the Minotaur. Sally calls the Minotaur, Pasiphae’s son and according to mythology books this is correct. Many of the depictions of the gods are accurate to how they appeared in antiquity they are just modernized, for example, Ares rides a motorcycle and wears leather to keep his bad ass persona that he had in antiquity. The modernization needs to be looked at with caution because Rick works to make the gods appear similar to how they were portrayed, this is a series for middle school aged kids so for obvious reasons some characteristics are better left unsaid. Even the styles that they fight in are like how they would have been in antiquity. While they do not use the phalanx in this novel they do show that the Greeks are not organized fighters as can be seen by Percy throwing himself into battle without any plan. The references to the Trojan War could be hard for audiences to understand without knowledge of Greece’s mythical history. I never fully understood the references until I reread the novel after taking a university mythology class. However, enough information is not presented in the novel to determine accuracy which could be an issue if readers do not understand the intent of the references.

The book is easy to read, not only because it is written for middle schoolers but because of how it is written. It flows effortlessly and the mythical facts are well placed. The first-person perspective used helps create a connection to the story which brings the mythology to life. The book appeals to kids and adults while providing a fairly accurate account of mythology as long as you understand that the accounts told by mostly Annabeth and Chiron are the historical kernels of truth. I would recommend this book to anyone that has even the slightest interest in Greek mythology.

I loved this book the first time I read it and probably still love it more than most people would guess. This novel is an excellent way to get more people interested in history because it is not boring like history stereotypically is. The fiction in it is what drew me into history and helped solidify my love for the craft. I have shared this book with other people who also enjoyed it but have not taken the step towards a history degree yet because of age. For people that decided to pursue different majors this book allowed them to see that history is not dry but holds a story that we still need to discover. The whole series makes history interesting to a bigger audience and could be a reason why more people want a career based around history. Novels like this help engage people in history.

Bibliography

Morford, Mark P.O., Robert J. Lenardon and Michael Sham. Classical Mythology. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.

Rawlings, Louis. The Ancient Greeks at War. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007.

Riordan, Rick. Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. New York: Scholastic INC., 2006.

Riordan, Rick. “About Rick Riordan.” Accessed April 9, 2018. http://rickriordan.com/about/.

46 views

Recent Posts

See All

Tom, Call of Duty

Media critic Dawn Spring describes that, “The video game offers far greater potential for the creation and presentation of history than any other entertainment or interactive media.” Spring and myself

Taylor, 300

Today, people have a complicated relationship with history. While there are many like myself who have no problem dubbing themselves as “history nerds” and expressing their love of learning about the p

Kiera, The Crown

“To do nothing is often the best course of action, but I know from personal experience how frustrating it can be. History was not made by those who did nothing.” [1]This quote was taken from the best

Contact me for more information:

Sheila McManus

Professor, Department of History

University of Lethbridge

(403) 329-2540