Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

by Rick Riordan
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How do Percy Jackson's experiences in chapter eight of The Lightning Thief align with hero's journey archetype?

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In chapter 8 of The Lighting Thief , Percy experiences one particular stage of the Hero's Journey. While none of the things he faces in this chapter are as great as the challenges he will face later, the trials nonetheless do represent minor variations on stage 6: tests, allies, and...

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In chapter 8 of The Lighting Thief, Percy experiences one particular stage of the Hero's Journey. While none of the things he faces in this chapter are as great as the challenges he will face later, the trials nonetheless do represent minor variations on stage 6: tests, allies, and enemies.

In stage 6, the hero encounters new allies and obstacles that they must align with and overcome, respectively. This is also the stage where the hero learns the rules of the special world that he has entered. For Percy, this consists of his daily training at Camp Half-Blood, in which he finds tests (trying to keep up with wood nymphs in racing), allies (Annabeth teaches him Ancient Greek, Chiron attempts to teach him archery) and enemies (Clarisse destroys him in wrestling). He also expresses his frustration with the other challenges that he encounters:

I knew the senior campers and counselors were watching me, trying to decide who my dad was, but they weren't having an easy time of it. I wasn't as strong as the Ares kids, or as good at archery as the Apollo kids. I didn't have Hephaestus's skill with metalwork or— gods forbid—Dionysus's way with vine plants. Luke told me I might be a child of Hermes, a kind of jack-of-all-trades, master of none. But I got the feeling he was just trying to make me feel better. He really didn't know what to make of me either.

Luke ends up serving a dual purpose, as in this moment he appears to be an ally. He teaches Percy how to sword fight and appears to be one of Percy's biggest cheerleaders. However, he eventually reveals his true self, and becomes Percy's greatest enemy.

During the game of capture the flag, another trial in which Percy is out of his element, he begins to move further through the journey in the special world, and he finds out more information about the hero within. When he finds himself alone against Clarisse and her cabin mates, he is initially overcome by their numbers. However, when he falls into a stream, things begin to change:

He pushed me into the creek and I landed with a splash. They all laughed. I figured as soon as they were through being amused, I would die. But then something happened. The water seemed to wake up my senses, as if I'd just had a bag of my mom's double-espresso jelly beans.

Clarisse and her cabinmates came into the creek to get me, but I stood to meet them. I knew what to do. I swung the flat of my sword against the first guy's head and knocked his helmet clean off. I hit him so hard I could see his eyes vibrating as he crumpled into the water.

Ugly Number Two and Ugly Number Three came at me. I slammed one in the face with my shield and used my sword to shear off the other guy's horsehair plume. Both of them backed up quick. Ugly Number Four didn't look really anxious to attack, but Clarisse kept coming, the point of her spear crackling with energy. As soon as she thrust, I caught the shaft between the edge of my shield and my sword, and I snapped it like a twig.

Through this outcome of this test, Percy gains more insight into who he is and where he comes from. The water revitalizes him, but his true understanding doesn't occur until the very end of the chapter, after he is nearly killed by the hellhound. Percy is badly wounded, and comes close to dying, until Annabeth, having seen how water helped him recover from Clarisse's attack, orders him to get back in the stream:

I stepped back into the creek, the whole camp gathering around me. Instantly, I felt better. I could feel the cuts on my chest closing up. Some of the campers gasped. "Look, I—I don't know why," I said, trying to apologize. "I'm sorry. . . ." But they weren't watching my wounds heal. They were staring at something above my head. "Percy," Annabeth said, pointing. "Turn . . ."

By the time I looked up, the sign was already fading, but I could still make out the hologram of green light, spinning and gleaming. A three-tipped spear: a trident.

. . .

"Poseidon," said Chiron. "Earthshaker, Stormbringer, Father of Horses. Hail, Perseus Jackson, Son of the Sea God."

In a way, this final scene also works as an incomplete example of stage 8: ordeal, as Percy comes close to dying and realizes something about his heritage in the process. It does not function as a true example of ordeal because Percy's salvation comes about by accident. He does not use any knowledge gained to save himself. If anything, it was Annabeth's observations and knowledge that save him. Overall, the trials of the chapter all fall into the confines of stage 6, as Percy's more realized shift to hero is yet to come.

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