The Lightning Thief

The Lightning Thief The Myth of Perseus

Percy Jackson’s real name is Perseus, and he was named for a prominent hero in Greek mythology. Perseus is best known for killing Medusa, just as Percy himself did in this book. Following is an abridged version of the myth of Perseus.

Just like Percy, Perseus was a demigod, the son of Zeus and Danae. Danae was the daughter of a king named Acrisius, who locked her up in a tower after receiving a prophecy from the Oracle that said that one day Danae’s son would kill him. Zeus appeared to Danae in the tower, told her he wanted to make her his wife, and impregnated her. Acrisius was furious when he came into the tower one day and found her with a baby on her lap, so he locked both Danae and baby Perseus in a large chest and cast them out to sea.

The chest washed up on the island of Seriphos, ruled by Polydectes. There, Perseus grew up to be a strong man. Polydectes wanted to marry Danae, but she refused. He could not marry her by force because of Perseus, so he hatched a plot to get rid of him.

Polydectes pretended to marry the daughter of his friend, and demanded that everyone bring a wedding present. Perseus had nothing to bring, so Polydectes demanded he bring him the head of Medusa, a fearsome gorgon with snakes for hair who could turn a man to stone if he met her eyes.

Perseus wandered for days in search of the Gorgon’s Lair, growing more desperate as time passed. Athena and Hermes appeared to him, offering to help him on his quest; Hermes gave him winged sandals and a sickle, and Athena gave him her shield. They told him where to find Medusa.

Perseus went to the lair of the Graeae, three women who shared one eye between them, and took their eye as blackmail to get them to help him. They told him to go find the Nymphs of the North to get two essential items: the Cap of Darkness that would make him invisible, and a magic bag.

Once he had these items, he went to the lair of Medusa and killed her unseen wearing the Cap of Darkness. He put her head in the magic bag, so it could not turn anyone to stone. When Medusa’s sisters woke up and tried to attack him, he flew away using the winged sandals. On his way back home, he had many adventures, encountering Atlas, a Titan condemned to carry the weight of the heavens on his shoulders. He turned Atlas to stone to keep him from feeling the weight of his burden. He freed Andromeda from a sea monster, and asked her father for her hand in marriage, taking her with him when her father agreed.

Back in Seriphus, Polydectes had forced Danae to be his handmaiden. Furious, Perseus stormed the palace and said, “Let all who are my friends shield their eyes!” Then he turned Polydectes and his courtiers to stone with Medusa’s head. Perseus and Andromeda then lived happily for many years, and when Perseus was eventually killed by Dionysus, he and Andromeda were turned into stars to live together in the sky.