Rick Riordan and classical epic

I love the Percy Jackson series. I love what it did for introducing kids to classical mythology, I love Percy and Annabeth so much as characters, and I love the cabin system of sorting kids. However, I am really interested in how Riordan took the content of classical epic (gods, battles, mythical creatures, heroics), and infused them with what is, in essence a very modern story of a misfit kid struggling to fit in and find out what he’s good at. Does Riordan borrow from epics like the Odyssey or the Aeneid in terms of style or characterization, or only in providing the window-dressing for what is just any other YA tale? Specifically, I’d be interested in seeing a character comparison of Odysseus and Percy Jackson, and ways that they are similar or contrasted, whether directly or indirectly in the series.

  • Personally, since you brought it up, another angle would be asking whether Riordan borrowed from Greek Mythology. Having said that, I do not see any objection with examining Riordan's works with the Odyssey, or the Iliad (though probably less with the Aeneid, because it is Roman in origin). As such, I would consider expanding the topic to include the aforementioned Greek Mythology, but have no problem with the topic as is. – JDJankowski 8 years ago
  • I mean, obviously Riordan borrows information from Greek mythology in general, and given that his second series, Heroes of Olympus, tries to hybridize Greek and Roman mythologies, I'm sure there is some borrowing from the Aeneid in his distinction between a typical Greek and Roman hero, culture, and ideal mindset. What interests me is to what extent Percy's characterization as an impulsive, affectionate, dorky middle schooler is utterly alien to the tone and kinds of characters we find in traditional examples of Greek mythology, like the Odyssey. My gut response is no, the people in the Odyssey are larger-than-life heroes, which is an interesting analysis of how we just use flavoring from other cultures to tell the same kinds of stories that fit our culture. However, Odysseus isn't the paragon of heroism or virtue - he lies, gets lucky, conveniently forgets about his wife, accidentally makes way too many enemies, has a smart mouth etc. I think the two of them could be more similar than we give them credit for, which would also have interesting implications for the series. – thekellyfornian 8 years ago
  • I think you make a very good point about the story here and though it has been a while since I've read the Percy jackson series, I do remember it being a bit of a leap from the classical myths. In Greek Mythology there is a lot more adult themes that appear which is why I think Riordan has tones it down for his series. I do think it is a great idea for him to add in more illusions to different Greek myths, but as these stories are meant for young adults, he needs to be careful about how he goes about including them. – laurenintheclouds 8 years ago

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