Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief Summary

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In 'Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief' by Rick Riordan, a trouble-making twelve-year-old boy discovers that he is the son of the Greek god, Poseidon. It is up to him to save the world from an impending war between the gods.

An Unusual Field Trip

Have you ever wondered if you were destined to do something great? Percy Jackson, the protagonist in Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief is a troubled twelve-year old kid attending Yancy Academy, a boarding school for troubled kids, with his best friend, Grover, when he first realizes that there is something different about himself.

While on a field trip with Percy's sixth grade class, Mrs. Dodds the math teacher suddenly changes. Percy narrates, 'Her eyes began to glow like barbecue coals. Her fingers stretched, turning into talons. Her jacket melted into large, leathery wings. She wasn't human. She was a shriveled hag with bat wings and claws and a mouth full of yellow fangs, and she was about to slice me to ribbons.'

Thankfully, Mr. Brunner, the Latin teacher, throws a pen to Percy, which turns into a sword in his hand, enabling him to defend himself from Mrs. Dodds. As soon as the sword touches her, she turns into a pile of yellow powder. Not your typical field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is it? Strangely, after it's all over, everyone including Grover and Mr. Brunner act as if Mrs. Dodds never existed. But this is only the beginning of Percy Jackson's adventure.

Percy's Summer Vacation

By the time school is out for the summer, Percy's friend Grover is insistent about accompanying Percy to his mom's house. Percy and his mother, Sally Jackson, care about each other very much. Yet she sends him away to a different boarding school every year and allows her abusive husband, Smelly Gabe, to treat him badly.

Percy and his mother take a trip to Montauk. While there, a storm rages outside the beach house. Grover shows up, revealing that he is a satyr, a creature from Greek mythology that is half man and half goat. Grover rushes Percy to Camp Half Blood, a summer camp for demigods, or people who are half human and half god, while a Minotaur (half man, half bull) chases them. While the group flees in Gabe's Camaro, the car is struck by lightning, knocking Grover unconscious. The Minotaur catches up with them. 'Then, with an angry roar, the monster closed his fists around my mother's neck, and she dissolved before my eyes, melting into light, a shimmering golden form, as if she were a holographic projection. A blinding flash, and she was simply ... gone,' narrates Percy. Percy is able to pull Grover over the property line of Camp Half Blood in time to save them both.

Percy Learns the Identity of His Father

Once they arrive at Camp Half Blood, Percy sees Mr. Brunner in the form of Chiron, the head centaur (half man, half horse). While at camp, Percy meets Annabeth, the daughter of Athena; Luke, the son of Hermes; and the enemy Clarisse, the daughter of Ares. Percy also discovers that his father is Poseidon, god of the sea.

Percy learns that at Olympus, the gods are having some problems. Zeus has lost his lightning bolt and believes that Poseidon got Percy to steal it to help him overthrow Zeus. Zeus has given Poseidon ten days, to return the lightning bolt or he will declare war. Poseidon has demanded an apology on the same date for being falsely accused.

Chiron explains the consequences if someone doesn't intervene, 'Imagine the world in chaos. Nature at war with itself. Olympians forced to choose sides between Zeus and Poseidon. Destruction. Carnage. Millions dead.' Chiron thinks that Hades stole the lightning bolt and the only way to avoid a war is for Percy to go to the underworld to retrieve the lightning bolt and return it to Zeus before the deadline.

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