Best-selling Percy Jackson author Rick Riordan studying at UCC

Rick Riordan: ‘Irish mythology one of my favourites and part of my ancestral heritage’
Best-selling Percy Jackson author Rick Riordan studying at UCC
Rick Riordan

Percy Jackson fanatics in Ireland, you might want to sit down to hear this news — this is an Olympus-sized big deal.

Rick Riordan, the author of the Percy Jackson series and others which have sold 175m books and spawned two blockbuster movies, is currently studying at UCC, and he’s looking for Irish inspiration for future works.

Mythological legends such as Fionn Mac Cumhaill, Cú Chulainn, and Lugh have captured the American’s heart, as he learns more about his ancestral land through the Online MA in Gaelic Literature offered by the Department of Modern Irish at UCC.

A sill from the first Percy Jackson film
A sill from the first Percy Jackson film

The Percy Jackson series of books tells the story of “a demigod son of Poseidon and his friends on a quest that will have them meeting gods, battling monsters, and taking on the Titans from Greek mythology”.

Percy Jackson the Olympians: The Lightning Thief was adapted into a 2010 film, directed by Home Alone and Mrs Doubtfire director, Chris Colombus. The movie and its sequel Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters grossed over $400m (approx €370m) at the box office.

The beloved Boston-based author said: “I’ve written children’s books about many world mythologies — Greek and Roman, Norse, Egyptian — but I’ve not yet tackled Irish mythology, which is ironic as it’s one of my favourites, and also part of my own ancestral heritage.

"My branch of the Riordan family was originally from Cork city, in fact, and their homestead was just a stone’s throw from the UCC campus.”

The New York Times No 1 bestseller was due to visit Cork last month for a conference on modern Irish literary figure Peadar Ua Laoghaire, before Covid-19 led to its postponement.

“Being a full-time writer and based in Boston, I wouldn’t have been able to study Irish mythology in Ireland for an extended period of time, but UCC’s online Gaelic literature MA provided me with everything I needed. It truly is a fantastic programme for anyone interested in Irish history, literature, language, or mythology. There is no other program like it in the world, to my knowledge,” he said.

What figures from Ireland’s ancient past could we see in Mr Riordan’s future works, or even on the big screen?

He cited Fionn Mac Cumhaill and Cú Chulainn as among his favourite Irish legends, But Tuatha Dé Danann warrior, Lugh, has captured his heart: “The Irish gods are delightful and elusive beings, but I’m especially drawn to Lugh, who is the focus of my master’s thesis for UCC. He is a jack-of-all-trades, a model hero, an ideal king, and a liberator of the oppressed, depending on which story he appears in. He is resourceful, innovative, creative, resilient — he’s a survivor.”

The Tower Of Nero, the highly anticipated fifth and final installment of his No 1 New York Times bestselling Trials of Apollo series, is schedule to go on sale in late September.

Mr Riordan’s other series include the Kane Chronicles, based on Ancient Egyptian mythology; and Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, based on Norse mythology.

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