Illustration by Loveday Pride

This may well be my most dangerous article yet. This contentious debate is the greatest rivalry of all time. I may lose some friends, I may lose some family, but that is a sacrifice I am willing to take. Will I be assassinated as a result? I hope not, but honestly, just as well I left this to the end of my allotted time as a columnist. In case my introduction hasn’t filled you with dread yet, and you can’t read the rather large, bolded title immediately above this (no, but seriously… can’t you read?!), this article is the ultimate showdown of literature. It’s worse than Athens versus Sparta, worse than Olympians versus Kronos, worse than Gryffindor versus Slytherin, worse than Voldemort versus his nose. That’s right, oh chosen ones, oh demigods, you’ve guessed it. Today we discuss Harry Potter versus Percy Jackson.

Both series can rightly be considered classics in the canon of children and teenage fiction. People of our generation will almost certainly remember just how popular both series were back in primary and secondary school, even if they themselves had never read it. To set the scene of this battle of the ages, it’s time for us to turn to history and examine the dates. The Harry Potter series ran for a decade starting from 1997, while Percy Jackson was published in the years from 2005 to 2009; not much of an overlap then, but still enough to spark acerbity between the warring fandoms.

This was in no way aided by the two series being pitted against one another as soon as it became apparent that the Percy Jackson series had taken over in the later noughties’ years. I, for one, can attribute my inner turmoil on this matter to walking into my local children’s library, only to be confronted with signs that read: ARE YOU TEAM POTTER OR TEAM JACKSON? – a question that has caused me much trauma to this day. Before I fall deeper into the Tartarus of my own indecision, let’s attempt some pragmatic analysis.

On the topic of originality of these series, it is no secret that Tolkien fans have spotted resemblances between certain characters of both the Lord of the Rings series and the Harry Potter series, with the most recognised of them being the similarities between Tolkien’s Gandalf and Rowling’s Dumbledore. This comparison is only augmented by the likeness between the actors who played them – Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Michael Gambon (after Richard Harris’s untimely death) respectively – even without their flowing cloaks and luscious long locks. Rowling does, however, draw on a number of different sources for inspiration in her series including the Bible, Shakespeare, Paradise Lost, Mansfield Park, the French language, and even old English to create a wholly unique story. Percy Jackson’s originality is found in Riordan’s transposing of renowned Classical Greek myths to the modern-day, as well as his creation of other storylines between his characters that are effortlessly interwoven with myths.

This idea of rivalry is further intensified not only by the two series sharing the same target audience and both belonging to the fantasy genre, but also by the perhaps inherent competition between the UK and the USA. And both series proudly bear hallmarks of the country and culture whence they originated. Harry Potter draws on our fascination with magic and wizardry that has been popular ever since medieval legends of Merlin and Morgan le Fay, utilises the concept of British boarding schools that we are familiar with (even if only through stereotypes), looming Gothic architecture, and showcases British fauna, namely owls. “Merlin’s Beard,” I hear you say, “she’s right!”.

Percy Jackson appeals to its audience in its creation of the infamous Camp Half-Blood, adding excitement, adventure, and specialness to the camps that are such a staple of summer holidays in the US. It’s primarily set in New York City, perhaps the most famous and pined after city in the States, but turns the whole of America into its playing field. Rowling’s Platform 9 ¾ in King’s Cross finds its parallel landmark in the Mount Olympus located on the 600th floor of the Empire State Building.

Nonetheless, the legacy and reception of both series decades after their first release are just as important as their initial success, for what is the purpose of a book if not to immortalise a story for the ages. Riordan has solidified his thanks to following up the Percy Jackson pentalogy with another pentalogy, The Heroes of Olympus, that branches out into the realm of Roman myth while still including characters from the first Greek-inspired series. With these ten books, spanning from 2005 to 2014, Riordan almost matched Rowling’s supremacy. I distinctly remember pre-ordering these books and waiting for their arrival in the post in mid-October, only to devour them in a matter of hours – chores and homework be damned to the depths of the Underworld.

However, I would argue that the Harry Potter franchise has stood the test of time better. I know what you’re all waiting for. Fear not, loyal readers, I shall exCRUCI(O)ate you no longer. When talking of legacy, how can we forget the adaptations? The film franchise was a resounding success and continues to be revered and adored all over the world at any time of the year. Its popularity gave a new lease of life to the series, not only immortalising it for a second time, but also somehow running parallel to the decade lifespan of the books with its own decade-long longevity (2001-2011). Then we have the Fantastic Beasts films as well as the theatre production of The Cursed Child. For those who are not avid readers, the magic of these adaptations is unparalleled and indubitably overshadow Hollywood’s faltering 2 films of Percy Jackson. As far as adaptations go, think bigger than fiasco. Even, or rather especially, to Percy Jackson fans, they are public enemy number one.

But I think the best thing to take away from both Harry Potter and Percy Jackson is the message it gave to its readership, an integral factor in their success. Both series have at their centre misfits who find their place and find a place that accepts, supports, and nurtures them: Harry in the wizarding world and at Hogwarts, Percy with his fellow demi-gods at Camp Half-Blood. These books show the normalisation of what is traditionally deemed strange or other. The quirks that isolate the protagonists in one society are valued, cherished, and exalted in another. They demonstrate important moral and life values such as kindness, solidarity with one’s peers, and a strong sense of community. Hermione and Annabeth are showcased as strong female characters who are valued for their minds, their intelligence, and their resilience, thereby providing inspiration to young girls so used to reading about boys going on death-defying adventures. So, be team Hogwarts or team Camp Half-Blood, or better yet be both! Because while I’m trapped in this muggle world, I just know that my acceptance letter will be arriving by owl any day now, and that my Camp Half-Blood t-shirt means there’s a cabin in Long Island just waiting for me.


Sophie Benbelaid

When she's not drowning in the workload from her French and Russian degree, Sophie enjoys reading, yoga, ballet and writing. You can usually find her staying up all night in the throes of an existential crisis or in your nearest bookshop. She has previously been a Cultures JE and a weekly book columnist for the Blue. In true 'the student becomes the master' form, she is now SE for Columns.