Study Guide

The Lost Hero Strength and Skill

By Rick Riordan

Strength and Skill

Leo was no help. He was too busy building a helicopter out of pipe cleaners.

"Check it out." He launched the copter. Jason figured it would plummet, but the pipe-cleaner blades actually spun. The little copter made it halfway across the canyon before it lost momentum and spiraled into the void.

"How'd you do that?" Jason asked (1.101-103)

Is it actually possible for someone to build a pipe cleaner helicopter that flies? We highly doubt it, which means Leo's technical skills just might be as magical as his fire powers. Either way, Leo's ability to build stuff functions not just as a skill, but as a kind of incomprehensible super-skill.

"People!" Drew screeched. "Don't be stupid! She's charmspeaking you."

"No," Piper said. "I'm just telling the truth."

At least, Piper thought that was the case. She didn't understand exactly how this charmspeaking business worked, but she didn't feel like she was putting any special power into her words. She didn't want to win an argument by tricking people. That would make her no better than Drew. (15.102-104)

Is Piper using charmspeak here? We never really find out, and even Piper doesn't know. It's also unclear whether she's using her power at other points. Is charmspeak a skill she can turn on or off? Or is it just part of who she is—naturally charming, if you will? And if it's part of who she is, is it wrong to use it? Piper's skill is the one that the book treats as most morally problematic, and also the one that seems most tied up with her self, none of which seems quite fair.

He imagined his mom's voice: Most problems look worse than they are, mijo. Nothing is unfixable. (23.10)

This is maybe not so true in real life, but the novel more or less functions this way. If you've got strength and skill, you can solve just about everything. That's how superhero stories work.

Leo deactivated all of them. It was like he could smell the traps, and he picked just the right tool out of his belt to disable them.

"You're amazing, man," Jason said.

Leo scowled as he examined the front door lock. "Yeah, amazing," he said. "Can't fix a dragon right, but I'm amazing." (31.3-5)

Of course, by the end we find out that Leo is actually going to fix the dragon. He is even more amazing than Jason thinks he is.

"What is that style?" Lit growled. "You don't fight like a Greek."

"Legion training," Jason said, though he wasn't sure how he knew that. "It's Roman."

"Roman?" Lit struck again, and Jason deflected his blade. "What is Roman?"

"News flash," Jason said. "While you were dead, Rome defeated Greece. Created the greatest empire of all time."(32.111-114)

The Lost Hero is really into teaching you about the Greeks and Romans, so it makes sense that knowing about the Greeks and Romans becomes something of a skill here. Jason knows the Roman sword-fighting style, but he also just knows more, period, than Lit. Lit maybe needed to swing by a library after he stopped being dead to bring himself up to speed.

Leo wished he could reach inside his tool belt and pick just the right wrench to fix Jason's memory—maybe a little hammer—bonk the sticking spot and make everything run right. That would be a lot easier than trying to talk it through. Not good with organic life forms. Thanks for those inherited traits Dad. (36.26)

This is sweet—Leo wants a superpower that could heal Jason. Also, Leo is actually pretty good with organic life forms; he's kind and thoughtful and funny and has good friends. We guess even superheroes tend to underestimate themselves.

Coming this far had been a team effort, but when it came to a life-and-death decision, Leo knew Jason was the one to ask. Even if he had no memory, Jason had a kind of balance to him. You could just tell he'd been in battles before, and he knew how to keep his cool. Leo wasn't exactly the trusting type, but he trusted Jason with his life. (41.58)

Jason's skills here are part of a past he doesn't remember, but Leo trusts him because he can tell that Jason has been in battles before, even if Jason doesn't remember them. Jason's battle skills are just something we're told, part of his past that nobody knows much about but that creeps into the present anyway.

The battle had started well enough. Jason's instincts kicked in, and his gut told him he'd dueled opponents almost this big before. Size and strength equaled slowness, so Jason just had to be quicker—pace himself, wear out his opponent, and avoid getting smashed or flame-broiled. (43.2)

Again, Jason magically has skills he didn't know he possessed. It makes us think we might wake up one day and be able to fight giants. (No? Maybe a small giant?)

"Go to sleep, cage," Piper said. "Nice, sleepy cage. Yes, I'm talking to a bunch of earthen tendrils. This isn't weird at all." (50.65)

This use of charmspeak is pleasantly goofy, though also somewhat forced. The book is maybe stretching a bit to give Piper something to do with her skills. Shmoop thinks Aphrodite should have given her a ray gun to go with the charmspeak.

"That was Hera," Thalia grumbled. "Her majesty, the Loose Cannon."

"That's it, Thalia Grace," said the goddess. "I will turn you into an aardvark, so help me—"

"Stop it, you two," Piper said. Amazingly, they both shut up. (51.27-29)

Mostly we just wanted to quote this because it is funny, and this was the only place we could think to put it. But in terms of strength and skill, it's worth pointing out that if you have superpowers, you need to be a bit careful with them. Also, turning someone into an aardvark is a great superpower.

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