Hi friends! Welcome back to Favorites February, where I am re-reading the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series and discussing it along the way. Up this week, The Sea of Monsters, #2 in the series. Honestly, I completely forgot how much I enjoyed this book, and had a great time re-discovering it’s awesomeness. Please feel free to join in the discussion in the comments! ❤
Camp Half-Blood is in trouble. The magical tree that protects the borders from monsters has been poisoned, and the demigods are barely managing to stay alive. But Percy and Annabeth think they might just have a solution: the legendary Golden Fleece. Their journey to find it will take them through the perilous Sea of Monsters, on a route that very closely mirrors that of Odysseus in Homer’s The Odyssey. Yet all the while a bigger trouble is brewing…
Why I Love This Book
- Still laugh-out-loud funny
- I love all of the references to The Odyssey, which was one of my favorite stories growing up.
- Discrimination is handled so sensitively. By making the discriminated group monsters, Riordan avoids potentially triggering young children, but is still able to explore a difficult subject.
- Annabeth and Percy aren’t afraid to show their flaws, yet are still good people. Great (and complex!) role models for kids.
- The friendship themes
- Lesson: We can do more together than by ourselves. Put aside rivalries to get awesome things done!
- Introduction of lesser-known mythological creatures, like hippocampi.
- Just plain fun.
“Europa fell off and died along the way, but that’s not important.”
“It was probably important to her.”
Monster Profile: Polyphemus
Giant Cyclops, son of Poisidon
Original Myth: The Odyssey
Description: Large, ugly cyclops with a hideous milky-white eye that’s mostly blind. He wears a loincloth, except for on special occasions when he wears a baby-blue-tux-kilt. Ew.
Comparison to Traditional Myth:
Okay, so I am SO MUCH better qualified to talk about this one. This was always my favorite story in The Odyssey, and I’ve read several versions multiple times.
Polyphemus is remarkably similar in personality to his ancient counterpart. He’s stupid, arrogant, and loves his sheep. Aside from the baby-blue tux, his description more or less matches as well, except for the milky eye. That milky eye, however, is in homage to his defeat by Odysseus in The Odyssey, so even though it’s a variation, it’s a consistent one.
I loved the way Riordan, throughout this book, used scenes from the Odyssey. Percy gets into Polyphemus’s cave exactly the same way Odysseus got his men out: by riding on the underside of his sheep. Annabeth helps her friends escape by resurrecting “Nobody”, the person Odysseus confused the cyclops with in the original adventure. All these little details might feel redundant to a Homer-lover, but are perfect for introducing kids who probably haven’t read the Odyssey to the ancient tale. I think it’s brilliant, and hilarious.
The biggest deviation for Polyphemus is the fact that he owns the Golden Fleece. I guess we are meant to understand that he found it sometime after his run-in with Odysseus, but how he would find it completely blind is a mystery to me. Whatever, it’s a plot point. He also has new giant killer-sheep. Think the killer bunny in Monty Python’s Holy Grail. Again, where or how he got these is a mystery. They are evidently a creation designed to make Percy’s quest harder.
So, all in all, pretty close to the original myth, but with a couple of serious deviations created to make this book work.
Feel free to answer the questions in the comments! I would love to hear what you think!
Warning, spoilery content below.
1. Late in the book, Chiron tells Percy, Tyson, and Annabeth that they are “all true heroes.” Choose one moment from the quest when you think Percy, Tyson, or Annabeth acts heroically and explain why you think the character is heroic at this moment.
Toward the end of the book Luke kidnaps Percy, Tyson, Annabeth, and Grover. Once he realizes they don’t have the Golden Fleece he gets ready to fly off and intercept Clarisse. Percy challenges Luke to a duel, knowing he is outnumbered, outmatched, and that he can’t win, just to give Clarisse a chance to get in the air. He has no hope of survival, yet he chooses to do the heroic thing anyway. To me, true heroism is about doing the right thing in spite of difficulties and obstacles. I was so impressed by Percy’s growth in this book.
2. How do Percy’s feelings about Tyson at the end of the story differ from his feelings about Tyson at the beginning of the story? What do you think is the reason for this change?
At the beginning of the book Percy feels like he needs to take care of Tyson, and even resents Tyson a little bit because of it. I think he likes helping Tyson, but wishes he didn’t have to do it ALL of the time. By the end of the book I think that he sees Tyson as an equal, maybe even someone who takes care of HIM. I think this is a big part of what allows Percy to stopped feeling ashamed of him and to accept him as a brother. But I also think it’s because Percy grows up so much on his adventure. He is less worried about what people think about him, and more worried about the people he cares about. And that shows real maturity.
3. After Circe turns Percy into a guinea pig, she tells him he has unlocked his true self. Do you agree with Circe? If so, explain why. If not, when in the book—if ever—do you think Percy does unlock his true self?
I don’t think Circe is WRONG. Everyone has a little bit of a guinea pig inside. That’s why we feel sad. But that’s definitely not Percy’s “true self”. Percy proves that he is willing to stand and fight DESPITE his fears. As Mufasa famously says, even kings gets scared. It’s fighting anyway that really makes them brave.
I think Percy does unlock his true self in this book. In the moment that he tells Clarisse to take the fleece, even after all of the (many) mistakes she made on the quest, he trusts her to fulfill the quest. Percy proves himself a real team player and the kind of person who puts others before himself.
4. . On page 167, Annabeth tells Percy about Chiron’s prophecy and warns, “Knowledge isn’t always good for you.” Do you agree with Annabeth? If there was a prophecy about something that might happen to you in the future, would you want to know about it?
Rick Rioran is definitely a little bit of a genius. This entire book is building up to Annabeth telling Percy that knowledge of the prophecy isn’t always good. Clarisse discovers the hard way that knowing a prophecy is hard. She wants to defy the prophecy, and is constantly making mistakes in her attempts to thwart fate. She is terrible to Percy and Annabeth, sure that if she scares them away she can do it on her own, despite a prophecy that says otherwise. And then, in the end, we learn that she didn’t even understand the prophecy! All of that anger and mistakes, and all the while she didn’t even understand what she was trying to undo.
Percy runs the risk of making the same mistakes. Annabeth tells him a prophecy that she doesn’t even know the exact words to, and neither of them completely understands it. Percy risks becoming obsessed with his fate, feeling stuck and unable to make any decisions. But he also risks the opposite, trying to undo the inevitable. Both could end up in disaster.
Would I want to know the future? My husband and I were recently talking about this, because we watched the movie Arrival. It’s kind of the whole point of the movie. And I stated that, hands down, I wouldn’t want to know. If it was something bad, I’m afraid that I would be so consumed dreading it that I wouldn’t enjoy the good times. And if it was something good, I’m afraid that I would so over-anticipate that I would be let down, and again forget to enjoy good times along the way. Or what if, in my attempts to stop something, I actually CAUSED it? The Doctor knows all about that. No, I don’t want to know.
What about YOU? Would you want to know what was going to happen in your future?