In honor of Percy Jackson’s birthday, I’m taking a closer look at Percy and the traits behind his characterization that make him the demigod we know and love.
With it being Percy Jackson’s birthday today, discussing what makes Percy, well, Percy seems like the best way to celebrate it.
I first picked up Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief at the behest of my little sister. It was 2009 and I had four whole books to catch up on before The Last Olympian came out. I hadn’t breezed through a series like that since I read Harry Potter, and the mythology harkened back to my middle school obsession of all things Greek and Roman.
Reading Percy Jackson was a breath of fresh air. Not only was there humor involved with Greek mythology retellings, but Percy himself had ADHD and dyslexia. The importance in reading a series with a main character who was imperfect yet heroic and selfless was representation that I had yet to see up until that point.
Throughout 10 books, Percy Jackson’s known fatal flaw is the fact that he can’t ignore someone who is in danger, especially in terms of his friends. There is no length that Percy won’t go to in order to save someone he cares about. Technically speaking, he’d let the world be destroyed before leaving his friends behind.
One of my favorite things about Percy is that although he is one of the nicest people in the series, if you get him mad he becomes quick-tempered and vengeful. The quickest way to get him mad is to threaten his friends or say they’ve betrayed him. It’s like he flips a switch in his mind and goes from amiable and joking to a cutthroat demigod with a point to make.
Percy is by no means a weak demigod. In fact, he’s one of the more powerful ones. Because of his sense of humor and shenanigans during fights, including but not limited to asking off the wall questions as a means of distraction, Percy tends to be underestimated as a fighter against most of his enemies.
Known to be rather impulsive, overall Percy deals with all of the otherworldly activities and monsters with a very laid-back attitude that negates the immense amount of pressure and responsibility that he has with all of the quests he is sent on, not to mention the amount of times he’s saved the world.
Aware of his powers, Percy is utterly unafraid to use them to save his friends and allies, such as unlocking the ability to create his own water and making a volcano erupt. Does he almost die? Yes, but I’m pretty sure that he’d do it again if it meant keeping his friends from dying.
Not only can he create his own water, but he’s so powerful that he can create small scale hurricanes, tsunamis, and tidal waves. One of the only times Percy is unable to go head-to-head against a monster is when he is in Tartarus with Annabeth and the only way they survive is with the help of a Titan and a giant.
Speaking of Tartarus and narrowly escaping from death, that brings me to Percy’s martyr streak. As in, he tends to be against any of his friends sacrificing themselves but has no problem throwing himself into peril without so much as blinking.
While in Tartarus, someone has to hold the elevator button for the Doors of Death and Bob (the giant) is incapacitated, Percy tells Annabeth to go on without him while he holds the button and stays with Bob. Eventually, Annabeth talks him into not sacrificing himself.
This particular trait is so prevalent that not only the gods, but his fellow demigods as well, feared that Percy wouldn’t let them sacrifice themselves even if it meant the quest would fail and the world would be destroyed because of it.
A word that doesn’t seem like it would fit Percy is humble. He’s confident in his powers, and he knows that he can use them to his advantage during a fight, but he repeatedly downplays his accomplishments throughout the series to the point of flat out turning down godhood in the final book.
He isn’t always all smiles and sarcasm, though. After being the go-to demigod time and time again, Percy exhibits signs of PTSD, and has a fear of failing as well as suffocating under his expectations. These solemn traits are accentuated more so in the second series than the first, once he’s saved the world two times in a row.
Confessing that he feels guilty for trying to drown a goddess who was trying to kill him, and for not checking to make sure that Calypso was freed despite being in a magically induced coma, adds another layer to Percy, letting the reader know that he has regrets, that he isn’t perfect.
Percy is genuine, and cares about his friends above all else, with his moral compass pointing ever North. He doesn’t care about money or power, isn’t tempted by Kronos or the fact that he had Zeus’ Master Bolt and Hades’ Helm of Darkness and didn’t even think about the power he could gain by keeping them.
Throughout the series, Percy isn’t even tempted to turn against the Olympians, despite the fact that he knew he was being used. The closest he ever gets is when he thinks about how releasing Hope from Pandora’s box could stop the war they were fighting against Kronos.
All in all, Percy is supportive, loyal, unambitious, and brave as brave could be. It’s easy to dismiss the main character of a YA series full of humor and Greek mythology retellings, but Percy is someone anyone can look up to. A modern day white knight character, I wish there were more characters like Percy to read about.
Happy Birthday, Percy, and I hope to see you pop up in Riordan’s other series again and again!