This one’s for you, Percy Jackson fans–the first of two exclusive extracts from the new book, Percy Jackson and the Greek Gods…
Why is Zeus always first?
Seriously, every book about the Greek gods has to start with this guy. Are we doing reverse alphabetical order? I know he’s the king of Olympus and all – but, trust me, this dude’s ego does not need to get any bigger.
You know what? Forget him.
We’re going to talk about the gods in the order they were born, women first. Take a backseat, Zeus. We’re starting with Hestia.
HESTIA CHOOSES BACHELOR NUMBER ZERO
She had an honest smile, warm brown eyes and black hair that framed her face in ringlets. She was gentle and good-natured. She never said a bad word about anybody. If you walked into a party on Mount Olympus, Hestia wouldn’t be the first girl who caught your eye. She wasn’t flashy or loud or crazy. She was more like the goddess next door – sweet and pretty in an unpretentious way. Usually she kept her hair tucked under a linen shawl. She wore plain, modest dresses and never used make-up.
I said earlier that nobody took her seriously, and it’s true the other gods weren’t good about taking her advice. Kronos had swallowed Hestia first, so she’d been barfed up last. Because of that, her siblings tended to think of her as the youngest rather than the oldest – the last one to emerge. She was quieter and more peaceful than her siblings, but that didn’t mean they didn’t love her. Like Rhea, Hestia was a hard person not to love.
In one important way, though, Hestia was not like Rhea. Her mom was known for being . . . well, a mom. The Great Mother. The Ultimate Mama. La Madre Grande.
Hestia wanted nothing to do with being a mom.
She didn’t have a problem with other people’s families. She loved her siblings, and once they started having kids she loved them, too. Her fondest wish was for the whole Olympian family to get along and spend quality time together around the hearth, chatting or having dinner or playing Twister – really any wholesome activity.
Hestia just didn’t want to get married herself.
If you think about it, you can see why. Hestia had spent years inside Kronos’s gut. She had a very good memory, and could even recall Kronos gulping her down when she was a newborn. She remembered the sound of her mother wailing in despair. Hestia had nightmares that the same thing might happen to her. She didn’t want to get married only to find out her husband was actually a baby-swallowing cannibal.
She wasn’t being paranoid, either. She had proof that Zeus could be as bad as Kronos.
See, after the war with Kronos, Zeus decided it would be a good idea for him to marry a Titan, sort of to show there were no hard feelings. He married one of Oceanus’s daughters, a girl named Metis, who was the Titan of good advice and planning – kind of like the Titans’ life coach.
Metis was smart about advising others, but apparently she wasn’t so bright when it came to her own life. When she was pregnant with her first kid, she told Zeus, ‘My husband, I have good news! I foresee that this child will be a girl. But if we have another child together it will be a boy. And – you’re going to love this – he will be destined to rule the universe some day! Isn’t that awesome?’
Zeus panicked. He thought he was going to end up like Ouranos and Kronos – chopped into little pieces – so he took a page out of Kronos’s playbook. He opened his mouth super-wide and created a tornado that sucked Metis right down his throat, compressing her so small that he could swallow her whole.
That kind of freaked out the other Olympians, especially Hestia.
What happened to Metis and her unborn child down there in Zeus’s gut? We’ll get to that later. But Hestia saw the whole thing, and she said to herself, Getting married is DANGEROUS!
Zeus apologized to the Titans and the gods for swallowing Metis. He promised never to do it again. He decided to marry another Titan, but, as you can guess, there weren’t a lot of volunteers. Only one agreed: Themis, the Titan of divine law, who happened to be Hestia’s favourite aunt.
Themis had sided with the gods in the war. She understood right and wrong, and she knew that the gods would be better rulers than Kronos. (Notice I said better, not good.)
She didn’t want to get married only to find out her husband was actually a baby-swallowing cannibal.
Like Hestia, Themis was modest and veiled and wasn’t interested in marriage, especially after what happened to Metis; but, in the name of peace, she agreed to marry Zeus.
(And, yeah, Themis was technically Zeus’s aunt, so feel free to get sick about them getting married. But let’s move past that.)
The marriage didn’t last long. Themis had two sets of triplets. The first set wasn’t so bad – three sisters called the Horai, who ended up being in charge of the changing seasons.
(You’re thinking, Wait, only three seasons? But remember this was Greece. I guess they’ve never had much of a winter.)
The second set of triplets, though – they gave everyone the creeps. They were called the Morai, the Three Fates, and they were born old. Right out of the cradle, they grew from three shrivelled babies into three shrivelled old grannies. They liked to sit in the corner and make thread on a magic spinning wheel. Each time they snipped a piece of the line, some mortal down in the world died.
The Olympians quickly realized that the three Fates could not only see the future, they could control it. They could bind anyone’s life to their magical yarn – literally making a lifeline – and when they snipped off that piece? Sayonara! Nobody was sure if they could do the same thing with immortals. But even Zeus was afraid of those girls.
After fathering the Fates, Zeus pulled Themis aside and said, ‘You know what? I’m not sure this marriage is going to work out. If we keep having more kids like those Fates, we’re all going to be in trouble. What’s next – the Three Doomsday Bombs? The Three Little Pigs?’
Themis pretended to be disappointed, but actually she was relieved. She didn’t want any more kids, and she definitely didn’t want to get sucked down the tornado of Zeus’s throat.
‘You’re right, my lord,’ she said. ‘I will gladly step aside and let you take another wife.’
Hestia witnessed all this, and she was thinking, I never want that to happen to me. With my luck, I would marry some god and give birth to the Three Stooges. No, the possibility is too horrible.
She decided it was much better to stay single and concentrate on helping her siblings raise their families. She could be the cool aunt. The single aunt. The aunt who did not have terrifying shrivelled granny babies.
There was only one problem: some of the guy gods had other ideas. Poseidon kept looking at Hestia and thinking, Hey, she’s kind of pretty. Good personality. Easy to get along with. I should marry her.
Yeah, we’re back to the whole brother-marrying-sister thing. Let’s get it out of our systems – all together, One, two, three : ‘GROSS!’
Taken from Percy Jackson and the Greek Gods by Rick Riordan