Percy Jackson's Greek Gods releases next week (8/19) and this Best Book of August is a look at Greek mythology as only the demigod Percy Jackson can do. We already know author Rick Riordan is an avid mythology reader but wondered what myth he's run across that was more bizarre than all the rest (because, let's be honest, a lot of mythology is really strange). Here's Riordan's take on the weirdest myth:
The Weirdest Myth
While writing Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods, I came across a lot of weird myths. Even after all these years as a mythology buff, I’m still coming across stories I didn’t know.
Possibly the weirdest? The story of Erichthonious, the only son of Athena.
The thing is, Athena was a maiden goddess. She couldn’t have children. Yet the people of Athens wanted to find some way to claim that their king was descended from Athena, who after all was their patron goddess. They also thought it would be cool if their king was related to Hephaestus, since he was the god of useful crafts and the natural counterpart to Athena.
So the Athenians fashioned this rather weird story: The crippled blacksmith god Hephaestus fell in love with Athena, but of course Athena wanted nothing to do with him. Hephaestus tried to chase her down, but since he was crippled, Athena was faster. Hephaestus only managed to grab the hem of her skirt, and in the struggle . . . Hmm, how to put this delicately? Some of the god’s bodily fluid ended up on Athena’s leg.
Yuck. Athena got the nearest wad of wool and wiped off the aforementioned bodily fluid. She flung it down to the earth in disgust.
Sadly, divine fluid is powerful stuff. The essence of Hephaestus and Athena mixed together in that wool cloth, and a new life was created: a demigod baby, Erichthonius.
Athena heard the baby crying and took pity on him. She raised him in secret until he grew up, at which point he became the king of Athens.
And that’s how the Athenians got their ancestry straightened out. Their kings were literally the children of Athena and Hephaestus . . . though why they wanted to be descended from a discarded wool rag, I’m not sure.
Goes to show you: there’s a myth for everything. And just when you think mythology can’t get any stranger, it does. You can read the full story of Erichthonios, and so many more bizarre stories of the gods, in Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods. Hope you enjoy! -- Rick Riordan