Is Percy Jackson’s mythology too close to Harry Potter’s magic?

Nov. 18, 2009 | 5:49 p.m.

Here at the Hero Complex, we’ve circled “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief” as a project to watch next year, so we’ll be bringing you lots of coverage of its odyssey as a Hollywood venture. Today, Rachel Abramowitz has a report on the similarities between two magical youngsters, one named Percy and the other named Harry.  — Geoff Boucher

In February, moviegoers will get a chance to meet a character who is already a titan of the bookshelves: Percy Jackson, the rebellious 12-year-old hero of Rick Riordan’s bestselling novels, who discovers that he is the demigod son of the Greek sea god Poseidon. But will newcomers to the saga find themselves thinking of a certain boy wizard who discovered his own supernatural heritage within the walls of Hogwarts?

The first Riordan novel, “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief,” was published four years ago, but it remains a hot gift for youngsters this holiday season. It starts off the tale of young Percy, a kid with a flair for sarcasm, getting in trouble and bouncing among schools. He also has been diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia and has a somewhat defeated attitude about his future. It turns out, though, that his brain is wired differently because of his secret heritage: In this story, the Greek gods are alive and well and living on Mt. Olympus, which is now located on the 600th floor of the Empire State Building.

Percy Jackson Lightning Thief

Instead of Hogwarts, this boy hero is shuttled off to Camp Half Blood on Long Island, where he communes with other young demigods. Once there, he’s wrongly accused of stealing the thunderbolt of Zeus, and if he doesn’t find it, there will be a bloodbath among the famously quarrelsome clan of immortals. In the odyssey that follows, Percy discovers his own powers and faces down a bevy of beasties from Greek mythology. The studio executives working with the film are prepared for comparisons to “Potter,” but they say they’re confident that this adventure hero has plenty of his own unique magic to offer.

“We found it was a fresh arena,” says Fox 2000 President Elizabeth Gabler, whose division is releasing the film. “It also deals with a lot of issues that kids and young people go through. Self-realization, breaking with the family, becoming more independent, finding out what your parents are, feeling a bit like an outcast and making yourself strong. There’s also an element of this which is a monster movie. The [kids] come up against Medusa, the Hydra, the Minotaur, Hades – people who are wild and extreme.”

Young Logan Lerman plays Percy, while Kevin McKidd (“Rome,” “Grey’s Anatomy“) stars as Poseidon. The cast also includes Uma Thurman (“Kill Bill,” “Pulp Fiction“) as Medusa and Sean Bean (“The Lord of the Rings” films, “Troy“) as Zeus, the king of the gods. The centaur Chiron, played by former James Bond star Pierce Brosnan, runs the activities at Camp Half Blood. Catherine Keener (“Capote,” “Being John Malkovich“) plays Percy’s mortal mom, Sally, whom he must rescue from the clutches of Hades, played by Steve Coogan, whom many moviegoers will remember as Octavius in the popular “Night of the Museum” films.

As the trailer makes clear, this film is directed by Chris Columbus, the director of the first two “Harry Potter” films and a producer of the third. Gabler said Columbus first heard about the books from his kids and then approached the studio, which owned the rights.

“He of all people was aware that there are some similarities to ‘Harry Potter,’ ” Gabler said. “Who better than Chris to keep it away from that. He’s very sensitive to not repeat what they did in those films, and to bringing out the best of what these stories can be.”

— Rachel Abramowitz


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44 Responses to Is Percy Jackson’s mythology too close to Harry Potter’s magic?

  1. ME says:

    They definitely have similar stories, but JKR no doubt had some kind of impact on various fantasy authors just like the authors before her somewhat influenced her writing. Chris Columbus definitely knows how to attract the big names, so I can't wait to see it. They have some amazing actors in this film just like in Potter.

  2. Alyssa says:

    I have read both Harry Potter and I have started Percy Jackson and the Lightning Theif and am Half way through, I admit I like it because it reminds me of Harry Potter but there are elements Of Harry Potter that are alot more complex and different. I think critics need to stop comparing book series and enjoy them for what they are individually.

  3. Percy says:

    I gotta come flatout and say I really don't enjoy books a whole lot, but my god (or gods should I say) I loved the Percy Jackson Franchise, The first book is my all-time favorite book at the moment (And probably forever, just so appealing, can't really top it in my opinion) Cannot wait to see this movie! February 12th, I'll so be there!

  4. Me says:

    Okay…first of all Percy Jackson has to do with GREEK stuff. and Harry Potter has to do with WIZARD stuff. they are two very different things. Yes their are some similarities, but a bunch more differences. Percy is on the search for Zues's master bolt, while in the first harry potter movie, harry (at the very end) tries to get the stone before (who he thinks is) Snape. I think the ONLY similarity for that would be that they both thought it was one person, but turned out to be someone else. Also, Percy is not learning or training at Mt. Olympus, he just goes their in the very end to return the bolt, While Harry is at Hogwarts the whole year.
    I think critics really need to read both books before they go off saying that the two are the same. I am a Harry Potter fan and a Percy Jackson fan…i think the only difference was that i could actually READ the Percy Jackson books with out getting so confused. I am looking forward to the Percy Jackson movie and can't wait for the 1st part of the last Harry Potter movie.

  5. Andy says:

    Yes ofcourse they will be a little similar there both from the fantasy genere but we could also compare harry potter and X-men so suck that
    also percy jacksn was punlished before harry potter thankyou very much so if anything harry potter copied them
    they are both awsum books and they will both be awsum movies and they r completely different and if you thing otherwise ur just thick headed

  6. Mattemer says:

    There are loads of similarities between both the Potter and Jackson books. I haven't finished all the Percy Jackson books, but have re-read Harry Potter numerous times. They both don't know their parents history, or realize they are special. They both go away to a school. They are both divided into specific official groups at the school. They are both put on an impossibly difficult quest, where they each use the aid of their 2 friends to help them through to the end (mostly comparing first book from each series).
    With that said, I feel that the Potter books are much more deeper and complex, yet the Percy Jackson books, while definitely have a good amount of depth, are more entertaining, more action, fighting, etc.
    Actually, the Lightning thief wasn't released until 2005 I believe, although the author started writing the books in '93… whereas The Philosopher's Stone was released in '97. So I don't know if either books really affected (effected?) one another a great deal, since I can only guess that the Lightning Thief was completed well before 2005, and Potter obviously came out before that.
    I hope the movies do well, and look forward to finishing up the Percy Jackson series.

  7. Kevin (Ket) says:

    Because "Harry Potter", "Twilight", and now "Percy Jackson" are all movies that are based on popular book series targeted toward pre-teen audiences. That has been the flavor for some time now and people are comparing them now because the theaters are oversaturated. Nature of the beast: Film industry discovers new big thing. Film industry saturates market. Film industry kills big thing and makes room for next big thing.
    It already happened with superhero movies. I may have liked "Batman Begins", "Spider Man", and "Iron Man" as much as the next person. But even I can see they're already on their way out. Superhero movies, Asian martial arts, Asian horror/crime drama remakes, swords-and-sorcery, Apatow-ish teen comedies. They have all come and gone. That people are looking to "Percy Jackson" and "Twilight" with such suspicious eyes tell me that pre-teen book based serials are next.

  8. the man says:

    I'm sure this comment will be met with endless criticism, but the truth is, the Percy Jackson books are simply a watered-down version of the Harry Potter novels. Consider this: the main character is an adolescent boy who experiences trouble with his family and has difficulty fitting in to the real world. He thinks it is because he just a weird kid, but finds out he actually possesses supernatural powers. After he figures this out, he goes to a special place where he finally fits in with his own people. Then he has to find something that has been stolen and return it to its rightful owner, thus preventing a terrible evil from being resurrected. He has help from his two friends, an extremely intelligent girl and a boy who is somewhat goofy and timid. After he completes his "quest", he learns of a prophecy that says he will have to confront the previously mentioned evil and he is the only one who can stop it. However, the prophecy does not necessarily apply to him, there is another boy who falls under the same criteria.
    For those who don't know the stories, I have just provided a plot summary of the first books of both the Harry Potter series and the Percy Jackson series. They follow the exact same plot.

  9. Sabina says:

    Excuse me, Andy, but the Harry Potter series were published well before Percy Jackson, thank you very much. There has recently been the 10th year anniversary of Harry Potter series hence the special edition cover of Harry Potter and the Socerer's Stone. This article clearly states the Lightning Thief was published 4 years ago. I might be prejudice because I am a very devout Harry Potter fan, but I am about 3/4 of they way done with the first Percy Jackson book and I can't help but notice many similarities between these two novels. Some examples are Harry's and Percy's appearance, they both have dark black hair and green eyes. Both of their mothers died to save them. They have both been forced to temporarily live with people they do not like because it's for their own protection. They both go to a school where they get divided into groups that represent them to learn more about who they are and what they can do. They both don't find out what they are until the young ages of 11 and 12. They both show signs of magic that they cannot control when they are mad, before they find out what they are. Harry and Percy overcome obstacles and travel with their friends, 1 clever girl and 1 boy. "Half Blood Camp, "Half Blood Prince." Finally, there is a prophecy made by oracles at their school/camp that they have to eventually fulfill. Don't think that's all, I have more. I understand that the books are based on completely different things, magic and Greek gods, but come on. I'm 15 and I can figure out that these books have a fishy resemblance. Nevertheless these are both good reads and if you haven't read them yet you should seriously consider it!

  10. sarah says:

    Alright, lets clear up some confusion here (I'll try to be nice about it too):
    1. As a life long HP fan, I know that the first Harry Potter book was published in 1998 (yes, I'm an old lady, 23) So to kids out there who are just discovering the genre of YA fantasy, HP has been around for a while. Harry (the character) is going to be 30 this summer if that helps you. Percy Jackson is relatively new and I imagine some of it's success as to do with how J.K.Rowling made YA fantasy popular for publishers. I highly recommend PJ for kids.
    2. PJ is not like Harry Potter. Sure you have similarities that both feature young boys. But, that is what defines YA fiction. The main characters are young. Then you have the magical powers, but that is what defines Fantasy, "Magic". There is a lot of YA fantasy fiction out there that features young boys (or girls) discovering there own powers, and essentially having to grow into adulthood. These stories usually deal with issues that matter to kids (friendship, first love, relationships with parents, school etc)
    3. If you want to learn the routes of the Percy Jackson story I suggest reading some Greek Myths, because PJ is a modern Greek heroes quest. HP is more like a modern King Aurthur or Dickens novel, very, very British.
    Keep reading – sarah

  11. may says:

    Hey i am a very big percy fan hate me or not but people please get over it camp half blood and hoggwarts are not the same gods and wizzards aint the same read the books study the books and reread you’ll see the diff. less than 3 <3

  12. Sophia says:

    Well I’ve always been a bookworm, and I’ve read both series and heroes of olympus, and I sensed a connection. Both are mythological, unknown, and are on intresting quests. In my opinion, however, Percy Jackson is better. And this is coming from a sixth grader who has read Harry potter at the age of 9.

  13. Whichone says:

    Rick Riordan did not rip off Harry, or at least not intentionally. It was a bedtime story for his nephew (or son… I don't remember which). He did not have a goal to become the next Harry. He actually didn't try to publish it until a few years after he created it. Percy doesn't have the depth that Harry does, but even a lot of Harry fans have to admit the amount of description can become fairly annoying. I can't choose. Honestly. When I was younger, I was a loyal Percy fan. But now, Harry appeals to me as well.

  14. Mr. S says:

    Percy has both parents alive while both of Harry's are dead. Harry fights with a wand, Percy a sword that turns into a pen when he's not using it. Annabeth is clever because she is the daughter of Athena, while Hermione is only smart because she's a bookworm. Harry is an only child. Percy has many half-siblings. Percy is the son of a god and has to return Zeus's master bolt. Harry must defend the Sorcerer's stone. When has Percy ever had to live with someone he doesn't like? He loves Camp Half-Blood. And speaking of which, Percy is a DEMIGOD, hence the name half-blood, while half-blood in the wizarding world means one of your parents is a witch or wizard. In HP, you're split into the four houses based on personality traits, while in PJ you must be claimed by your godly parent to be put into a specific cabin of the 12 Olympians. The prophecy about Harry simply says he must face Voldemort. Harry is hardly ever visited by anyone, whereas Percy meets Gods and Goddesses all the time. Finally, Percy's mother isn't killed by the minotaur, she is KIDNAPPED, but is still alive as Hades's prisoner in the underworld.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Harrry Potter and Percy Jackson are very alike but I find Harry Potter stories a bit more confusing. Percy Jackson is a fast paced story persisting on Demigods while Harry Potter is a magical but dull and confusing because of the use of British vocabulary.

  16. confidentioal says:

    yah i agree with evrey1 stop copare and just read them i liked the movie of the lighting thief exept for the fact that no graet prophcey no cliff hanger and no other movies which sucks completly changed the strory!

  17. Anonymous says:

    You can find similarities in any two books in the world! Riordan actually has a long post on his blog on the differences between the two books. Here are a few points I would like to point out:
    1) The fact that Harry and Percy are both ordinary boys that find themselves in a magical world.
    Yes, true, and the same thing applies to many other books (Spuderwick Chronicles, The Chronicles of Narnia…)
    2)Harry and Percy both have a smart female companion.
    Yes and this applies to numerous other stories… For example Hansel and Gretel.
    3) They both discover a magical world.
    Uh, that's why the genre is called FANTASY!!! How many fantasy books can you name? Loads, probably.
    4) Harry and Percy look similar.
    Yes, but that is for completely different reasons.
    5)They both have mythology in it.
    Thats a very stupid reason for thinking a book is a ripoff from another. If this really counted as a reason, then Greek Mythology would also be a Harry Potter ripoff because of Cerberus aka Fluffy.
    Fun fact: A woman in a bookshop looked at the cover of the Percy Jackson book (the one with Cerberus on it) and exclaimed " Look, a three headed dog! Riordan obviously copied JK Rowlings made up character Fluffy!"

    JK Rowling did not make Fluffy up! (gasp) Its a mythological creature! (more gasps) She didnt make hippogriffs and werewolves up either!!! (everyone faints)

    So please understand that both of these stories just apply to the rules of modern fantasy books, like loads of others.

  18. rAd says:

    Yeah but she definitely made Blast Ended Skrewts up! Plus, Kronos is too similar to Lord Voldemort. Both Kronos and Voldemort don't have a body in the beginning. Then they take somebody else's body. Then they fight a war with their enemies (Hogwarts in HP, Olympus in PJ) and they both hunt for a body (Harry and Percy). Oh and Chiron loves Percy just like Dumbledore likes Harry. We all think Luke and Professor Quirrel are good guys in the first book – turns out they're not! Both HP and PJ go searching for an item (Zeus' Master Bolt and the Philosopher's Stone) AND both have a major prophecy. Like majorly close prophecies. Neither can live while the other survives? Same thing in PJ.

  19. sea says:

    both books are awesome (i like Percy's character even more than Harry's, especially in heroes of olympus series), harry potter movie is good, too, but PJatO movie wasn't interesting at all :| i suffered it till half but it was definitely boring

  20. Emma says:

    BTW what Andy said was right, the Percy Jackson manuscript was finished first in 1994, whereas the Harry Potter manuscript was finished in 1995. Soooo technically if anybody was ripped off it was Rick because he had the idea first. The only reason why it was published a lot later than Harry Potter was because Rick originally only intended the book for his son, Haley, and not the world and as such did not get published until 1997 when Harry Potter was first released.
    But hey maybe these writers just have the same kind of story because 'Great minds think alike'!!!

  21. ilvharry:) says:

    i can see the similarities between percy jackson and harry potter
    1) Percy and Harry look exactly the same
    2)percy and harry are both in the dark about there parentage
    3)both have supernatural powers that they were unaware of
    in some ways they are tha same but i love harry potter waaaaaay more….don't get me wrong i love PJ to but harry is better
    JK gives the character more depth and properly develops the story line on the other hand riordan's stories are fast-paced and full of action

  22. TheGirlInTheShadows says:

    Ugh, honestly.
    Everyone constantly says that Percy Jackson is a ripoff version of Harry Potter, and although I see the similarities, the differences outweigh them infinitely, mainly in character development.
    In Harry Potter, both the villains and the heroes are flat. What good things can you see about Malfoy? What bad things can you see about Harry? The Harry Potter books unfairly criminalise Slytherin House, and the villains are as flat as the paper they are printed on.

    In Percy Jackson, even the villains have their redeeming points. Luke will do anything for his friends. Ethan just wants to be accepted. The Heroes have bad points; Percy is far too loyal;He puts his friends above the greater good. Annabeth is proud, and will not ask for help, even if she desperatley needs it.While Ares Cabin is considered 'the bad house' They are heroes as much as the others.

    In Harry Potter, the villains are all from one place: The criminalised Sytherin. In Percy Jackson, no one house is 'evil' or 'good'

    *whew.* long response

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