Demigods and Monsters
Table of Contents
Monster Recognition for Beginners - Lessons from Percy Jackson on Monsters and Heroes
Lesson One: Monsters and You
Lesson Two: Types of Monsters
Lesson Three: Spotting a Monster
Why Do So Many Monsters Go Into Retail? - And How Come They’re Never Selling ...
Stealing Fire From the Gods - The Appeal of Percy Jackson
Rags to Riches
The Five Stages of Growth
Stage 1: Initial wretchedness at home and the “Call”
Stage 2: Out into the world, initial success
Stage 3: The central crisis
Stage 4: Independence and the final ordeal
Stage 5: Final union, completion, and fulfillment
Rite of Passage
Would You Want to Be One of Artemis’s Hunters?
Dionysus: Who Let Him Run a Summer Camp?
What Dionysus Did Before He Ran Camp Half-Blood
When Dionysus Appears
Okay, So He Doesn’t Wear a Lanyard
Why Is Wine Such a Big Deal?
Great Books on Greek Myth
The Gods Among Us
What You Can’t See Might Harm You
Pulling the Mist Over Our Eyes
Why Some Days Just Feel Like They’re Going to Be Very Bad Days
New York, New York: Great Place to Visit, But Why Live Here?
Do We Really Want to Bring Them a Housewarming Present?
It All Boils Down to This Thing Called Free Will
No One’s Perfect, Especially Not the Greek Gods
Great Books on Greek Myth
Eeny Meeny Miney Mo(m) - Picking Your Very Own Godly Parent
“The Big Three”: Potential Dads
Other Potential Dads
Who’s Your Daddy? Or Rather, Mommy?
Percy, I Am Your Father
Worst Parent Award (Grade = Instant Expulsion)
Failures (Grade = F)
Unsatisfactory (Grade = D)
Satisfactory (Grade = C ... ish)
Most Improved (Grade = B)
Best Parent Award (Grade = A)
Parents: Can’t Live With ’Em, Can’t Live Without ’Em
Not Even the Gods Are Perfect - Disability as the Mark of a Hero
Can You Read Ancient Greek? Dyslexia as the Gift of the Gods
The Gods Are Impulsive: Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Lame and Slow: Other Disabilities in the Percy Jackson Series
“Troubled Kid” with a Learning Disability = Probably a Demigod. Make Sense?
Frozen Eyeballs - Oracles and Prophecies
The Language of the Heart
A Glossary of Ancient Greek Myth
THIS PUBLICATION HAS NOT BEEN PREPARED, APPROVED, OR LICENSED BY ANY ENTITY THAT CREATED OR PRODUCED THE WELL-KNOWN BOOK SERIES PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS.
“Monster Recognition for Beginners” Copyright © 2008 by Rosemary Clement-Moore
“Why Do So Many Monsters Go Into Retail?” Copyright © 2008 by Cameron Dokey
“Stealing Fire From the Gods” Copyright © 2008 by Paul Collins
“Would You Want to Be One of Artemis’s Hunters?” Copyright © 2008 by Carolyn MacCullough
“Dionysus: Who Let Him Run a Summer Camp?” Copyright © 2008 by Ellen Steiber
“The Gods Among Us” Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth Marraffino
“Eeny Meeny Miney Mo(m)” Copyright © 2008 by Jenny Han
“Percy, I Am Your Father” Copyright © 2008 by Sarah Beth Durst
“Not Even the Gods Are Perfect” Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth Gatland
“Frozen Eyeballs” Copyright © 2008 by Kathi Appelt
“The Language of the Heart” Copyright © 2008 by Sophie Masson
“A Glossary of Ancient Greek Myth” Copyright © 2008 by Nigel Rodgers Additional Materials Copyright © 2008 by Rick Riordan
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
PERSONS attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be
prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be ban-
ished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot—BY
ORDER OF THE AUTHOR.
—MARK TWAIN, front matter to Huckleberry Finn
X-Raying the Author’s Head
Many years ago, before Percy Jackson appeared in my life, I was known primarily as a writer of grown-up mystery novels. One night I was doing an event with two other authors, and one of them was explaining why he liked my book The Devil Went Down to Austin.
“The structure is amazing,” he told the audience. “It’s a book about scuba diving, and as the characters go deeper into the dark murky water, the plot also gets darker and murkier. The symbolism is really clever.”
The audience looked suitably impressed. I looked confused.
I use symbolism? Who would’ve guessed?
After the event, when I confessed to the other author that I hadn’t done the murky structure thing intentionally, that perhaps it was just the result of my faulty outlining, his jaw dropped. He’d studied my writing. He’d made brilliant insights. And I’d just been telling a story? Impossible!
That doesn’t mean his insights weren’t valuable, or that the symbolism wasn’t there. But this does raise an important point about the difference between writing a story and analyzing it.
Any book, for children or adults, can be read on many levels. We can simply enjoy it. Or we can look for hidden meanings and nuances. We can even write essays about the book, exploring it from different angles.
The writer’s job is to write the book. The careful reader’s job is to find meaning in the book. Both jobs are important. The meanings you find can enlighten, fascinate, and surprise. They can even surprise the author. The author, at least this author, uses symbols and themes subconsciously. I don’t think about it, any more than a native speaker of English consciously thinks about subject-verb agreement as he speaks.
The front matter to Huckleberry Finn has always been one of my favorite Mark Twain quotes. Twain was adamant that readers simply read his book, not scrutinize it for morals or messages, much less a plot structure. Of course, this has not stopped generations of English majors from writing their graduate theses on the novel.
When I was first approached about editing this anthology, I wasn’t sure what to think. Why would so many talented writers want to write about my children’s books? And yet, when I read their essays, I was amazed. Each had a different angle on Percy Jackson—all of them fascinating and thought-provoking. Many of them made me think, “Is that what I was doing in the series?” It was like having someone take an x-ray of my head. Suddenly, I saw all this stuff going on inside that I was never aware of.
Maybe that’s why Mark Twain tried to warn off critics who wanted to interpret his work. It’s not that the interpretations are wrong. It’s that they tend to be a little too close to home!
The Accidental Demigod
I never intended to write the Percy Jackson series.
When my oldest son was in second grade, he began having problems in school. He couldn’t focus. He didn’t want to sit down and read. Writing was a painful challenge.
Being a novelist and a middle school teacher, I had a hard time accepting that my son hated school. Then came the fateful parent co
These were not new concepts to me. I had taught many students with learning differences. I had made modifications. I’d filled out evaluation forms.
But when the child in question is your own son, it’s different.
How could I help him make sense of what was going on with him? How could I frame the problem in a positive way?
In the end, I fell back on what I knew best—storytelling.
My son’s saving grace in second grade was Greek mythology. This was the only part of the curriculum he enjoyed. Every night, he would ask me to tell him bedtime stories from the myths, and when I ran out of them, he asked me to make up a new one.
And so it sprang from my mind unbidden—like Athena from Zeus’ forehead—the myth of how ADHD and dyslexia came to be. I created Percy Jackson, a Greek demigod in the tradition of Hercules and Theseus and Perseus, except Percy is a modern kid. He has ADHD and dyslexia, and he learns that taken together, those two conditions indicate without a doubt that he has Olympian blood.
In The Lightning Thief, ADHD means you have finely tuned senses. You see too much, not too little. These reflexes don’t serve you well in a boring classroom, but they would keep you alive on the battlefield. Dyslexia indicates that your brain is hard-wired for Ancient Greek, so of course reading English is a struggle.
My son had no trouble buying this theory at all.
In the story, Percy Jackson discovers that being different can be a source of strength—and a mark of greatness. Being academically hopeless does not mean you are a hopeless person. Percy was my way of honoring all the children I’ve taught who have ADHD and dyslexia, but more importantly he was a myth for my son to make sense of who he is.
When I was done telling the story, my son told me to write it down. I was dubious. I didn’t think anyone would like it, and I didn’t exactly have a lot of spare time. I was already teaching full-time and writing a mystery novel a year. But I made the time and wrote The Lightning Thief.
My son loved the final version. Apprehensively, I gave the manuscript to some of my students. They loved it too. I sent it off to the publishers under a pseudonym so I wouldn’t be embarrassed by the flood of rejection notes. Within weeks, the book went to auction and was snapped up by the Disney Book Group.
At the end of that school year I became a full-time children’s writer. The Percy Jackson series was soon published around the world.
If you’d told me five years ago that someone would want to create an anthology of essays based on a bedtime story I made up for my son, I would’ve called you crazy.
The Power of Myth
So why does the series resonate with young readers? Why do people still want to read Greek myths? These are stories from a long time ago about a very different society. What possible relevance could they have in the twenty-first century?
Certainly, you can get through life knowing no mythology, but it would be a pretty poor existence. Mythology is the symbolism of civilization. It contains our most deeply embedded archetypes. Once you know mythology, you see it everywhere—from the names of our days of the week to our art and architecture. You would be hard-pressed to find any work of English literature that does not draw to some extent on classical mythology, whether it’s the hero’s quest or allusions to the Olympians.
So knowing mythology makes one a more informed member of society, but its importance goes beyond that. Mythology is a way of understanding the human condition. Myths have always been man’s attempt to explain phenomena—and not just why the sun travels across the sky. Myths also explain love, fear, hate, revenge, and the whole range of human feelings.
When I speak to school groups, I often ask children what Greek god they would like for a parent. My favorite answer was from a schoolgirl in Texas who said, “Batman!” Actually, the girl’s suggestion of Batman as a Greek god is not too far off, because it’s the same idea at work: creating a superhuman version of humanity so that we can explore our problems, strengths, and weaknesses writ large. If the novel puts life under the microscope, mythology blows it up to billboard size.
Myths aren’t something that happened in the past, either. We didn’t leave them behind with the Bronze Age. We are still creating myths all the time. My books, among other things, explore the myth of America as the beacon of civilization, the myth of New York, and the myth of the American teenager.
When we understand classical mythology, we understand something of our own nature, and how we attempt to explain things we don’t comprehend. And as long as we’re human, there will be things we don’t comprehend.
On a more basic level, Greek mythology is simply fun! The stories have adventure, magic, romance, monsters, brave heroes, horrible villains, fantastic quests. What’s not to love?
Mythology especially appeals to middle grade readers because they can relate to the idea of demigods. Like Hercules, Jason, and Theseus, Percy Jackson is half-man, half-god. He is constantly struggling to understand his identity, because he straddles two worlds, but belongs in neither. Middle schoolers understand being in between. They are between adulthood and childhood. They feel stuck in the middle all the time, trapped in an awkward state. Everything is changing for them—physically, socially, emotionally. The demigod is a perfect metaphor for their situation, which is why the hero’s quest resonates for them.
When I do school events, I usually play a trivia game on Greek mythology with the kids. It doesn’t matter what school I visit, or how little mythology the students have done in the classroom. The students always know the answers, and the adults are always amazed. I can almost guarantee some teacher will come up afterward, wide-eyed, and say, “I didn’t know our students knew so much mythology!”
It’s not a surprise to me. Young readers own mythology. They see themselves as the hero. They gain hope in their own struggles by following the quests. And yes, sometimes they even see their teachers as the monsters!
About This Anthology
Within these pages, you will find out what really makes Dionysus tick. You’ll learn how to assign a letter grade to your parents. You’ll explore the coolest monsters and most horrible villains of the Percy Jackson series. You’ll decide whether becoming a Hunter of Artemis is a good deal or a disastrous mistake. You’ll even learn how to unfreeze your eyeballs and recognize your own prophecy. Which essay comes closest to the truth? It’s not for me to say.
About a year ago at a signing for The Lightning Thief, a boy raised his hand in the audience and asked, “What is the theme of your book?”
I stared at him blankly. “I don’t know.”
“Darn it!” he said. “I need that for my report!”
The lesson here: If you want to know the theme of a book, the last person to ask is the author. This anthology, however, offers fresh perspectives and amazing insights. If you’re looking for something to lift the Mist from your eyes and make you say, “Aha! There are monsters!”, then you’ve come to the right place.
Monster Recognition for Beginners
Lessons from Percy Jackson on Monsters and Heroes
What would you do if you woke up one morning and found a satyr on your front porch, and he explained that he was going to take you to a special camp for people like you: half-god, half-human?
You might be tempted to laugh, thinking it’s a practical joke. Or maybe you’d think it was great. But if you’ve read the Percy Jackson books, you would also be seriously worried. Being a demigod may sound glamorous, but in Percy’s world, the child of a god can look forward to a life full of hardships and danger. Heroes, whether they are on a quest or just trying to live through the school year, must always stay on their toes and on the lookout for monsters.
Imagine you’re living in Percy’s world: Does that donut store on the corner make a shiver run down your spine? Does the popularity of a certain coffee
Or maybe you live in the country, and suddenly a lot of cattle are mysteriously disappearing. Is it a coyote problem, or a wandering monster snacking on your uncle Walt’s best milk cows? What really started those California wildfires: a careless camper or a fire-breathing chimera?
To Percy and his classmates, asking these kinds of questions could mean the difference between life and death. Not to mention the success of a quest. Ignoring their instincts could lead to death . . . or worse, humiliating defeat.
If you suddenly discover you are a demigod like the ones in Percy Jackson’s world, don’t be lured into spending all your time on rock climbing and archery practice. These things are important, but if you really want to survive a monster attack, you need to learn how to recognize them. That way you can make a plan for fighting, or fleeing, whichever seems more prudent. Percy Jackson has had to learn these lessons the hard way. While some of his classmates might consider the constant threats to life and limb opportunities for personal growth, the wise hero should take a page from the children of Athena and fight smarter, not harder.
Fortunately, we have Percy’s triumphs—and mistakes—to learn from. So just in case you do open your door to a satyr one morning, here’s some of what I’ve learned from reading the Percy Jackson books: how to survive in a world full of monsters who want to kill you in three easy lessons.