Demigod, god or monster? Rick Riordan’s Hercules
Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books incorporate an ever-increasing breadth of mythical characters, figures and places. Hercules appears only twice: indirectly in a dream in The Titan’s Curse, and directly in the later book The Mark of Athena. However, he is mentioned on several other occasions, particularly as the modern demigods follow quests and kill monsters, some of which resemble tasks which Hercules undertook, especially his twelve labours.
In keeping with his somewhat irreverent portrayal of the Olympian gods, Riordan’s Hercules is caricatured for his violent behaviour, which also functions as entertainment for the other immortals. Hercules had his own television series, ‘Hercules Busts Heads’ (Sea of Monsters), and he ‘had a good publicist’ (Demigod Diaries). Riordan’s characters largely fall into fixed categories of gods, demigod heroes and monsters. When the modern demigods encounter Hercules (either in dream or in person), he is revealed as monstrous rather than heroic: he lies, cheats and harbours grudges.
This chapter will examine how Riordan develops the figure of Hercules for a young audience of the twenty-first century, and how he uses Hercules to question the distinctions between gods, heroes and demigods in the various narratives.
Provisional content for The Modern Hercules (Volume 1)