Friday, March 11, 2011

Mythology in The Red Pyramid

Given that the working title of my novel is Olympus Gate, it should come as no surprise that I enjoy reading about Greek and Roman mythology. The Percy Jackson series came to my attention last year, and pretty quickly made its way onto my bookshelf. The books are a great read, so when I saw The Red Pyramid in the library I didn't hesitate to pick it up.

I haven't finished yet (blame the fact that I got my hands on Clockwork Angel and the temptation to start reading it was just too great), but so far it's a really fun story.

But reading The Red Pyramid is such a different experience for me than reading Percy Jackson. The Olympian pantheon is so familiar—from Latin class, from books, from my research—but the Egyptian gods are still very foreign. Yes, they were mentioned once or twice in school, and they've popped up a few times in books (Otherland comes to mind), but I don't have nearly the same instant recognition. Give me a brief description of an Olympian and I'll have a good guess as to which deity you're describing and what role he or she will have in the book. With the Egyptian gods I haven't a clue what to expect.

Which isn't altogether a bad thing. I'm really loving being surprised. I'm loving the discovery. In just about every chapter some new detail skips off the page singing, “Betcha wanna know more about me, don't ya? don't ya?” And I nod an enthusiastic yes! There's so much fascinating information to learn.

And Egyptian mythology is just one of many rich mythologies to delve into. When I was in Hawaii a few years ago I remember hearing about the volcanic goddess Pele. (And my cat is named after the Hawaiian moon goddess.) I've read my Edith Hamilton and know a smattering of Norse mythology from her.

And one of the great things about these mythologies is that they come from cultures that are so different from our own. They can give us exciting ideas for new stories because they are so diverse.

So I guess that's all to say I'm very glad I picked up The Red Pyramid. Thank you, Rick Riordan, for such a fun and informative book!

And what about all of you? Any particular mythology holding your interest right now?


  1. The most striking things for me about Egyptian mythology are how insightful a window it offers into the culture of those ancient kingdoms, and also how the pantheon was incredibly dynamic compared to the Greco-Roman one. Important domains were often shared or simply overlapped by a number of different god-aspects, and these aspects changed in importance or were absorbed into one another as dynasties evolved or were supplanted.

    Some examples:

    Bastet (the cat) was a protector of the pharaoh. Bat (the cow, later absorbed into Hathor) gave the pharaoh authority. Horus (the falcon) was the god -of- pharaohs. Hemen and Seker were also falcon god-aspects.

    Anuket (gazelle) and Sobek (crocodile) were both gods of the Nile. Hapi was the goddess of the -flooding- of the Nile. Chenti-cheti is another crocodile god-aspect. Hatmehit is a goddess of fish who was originally a deification of the Nile.

    Numerous gods and goddesses were associated with creator and/or fertility roles, too many to list with any sort of brevity. Same goes for aspects of the sun; Ra was only one of several.

    Isis (motherhood, fertility, magic) was the consort of Osiris, the judge of the dead in the underworld; an explicit tying together of the concepts of life, death, and the magic of childbirth.

    Egypt also experienced a (relatively) brief period of monotheistic worship where Aten (also the sun) was the sole god.

  2. Unsurprisingly, I also have a strong interest in Japanese mythology. They have an innumerable measure of gods, only a few of which are actually named. They, similar to Greco-Roman gods, display very human traits like petulance, jealousy, depression, pride, etc.

    Speaking of similarities to Greco-Roman mythology, there is a story about the two creator gods, Izanagi and Izanami, where Izanami becomes trapped in Yami, the underworld, because she ate some of the food there. That is fascinatingly coincidental, is it not? When Izanagi discovers that by eating the food of Yami, his wife (and sister) also became corpse-ified and gross, he quickly abandons his mission to rescue her and flees.

  3. Interesting. "Don't eat the food" seems to be such a prevalent theme from widely varying myths.

    Thanks for all the Egypt info! Fascinating stuff. As I said, I don't know a whole lot about it, so that was all news to me.

  4. Oh, I can't waaaait! I've just finished the Percy Jackson books, and I'm on The Lost Hero right now. Egyptian mythology? Bring it on!