A multi-million selling US author, whose works have spawned big-screen adaptations, is now studying Irish legend and tradition at University College Cork.
New York Times number one bestseller Rick Riordan - whose Greek myth-inspired Percy Jackson series has been adapted into two blockbuster movies - says he now plans to incorporate Irish legend into his works.
Mr Riordan is studying an online Masters in Gaelic Literature in UCC and was due to visit Cork last month for a conference on modern Irish literary figure Peadar Ua Laoghaire, before the outbreak of Covid-19 led to its postponement.
The Boston-based author said he chose to study at UCC in the hope that Irish legends may inspire his next best-seller.
"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," Mr Riordan said.
Speaking about the origin of his highly successful Percy Jackson series, Mr Riordan said it started out as a story he made up for his son.
"I’ve loved mythology ever since I was a child.
"As a middle school teacher in the US, I taught mythology for years, so I was familiar with how children of that age get excited about gods, heroes and monsters.
"I began writing children’s books based on the myths when I toldto my son as a bedtime story. He encouraged me to write it down, and the Percy Jackson series was born.
"Fifteen years later, much to my amazement, I have tens of millions of books in print. I think this speaks to the enduring power of myth," he said.
The online MA at UCC is one that attracts international attention, according to course originator, Prof Padraig Ó Macháin.
"Our students for this online MA are drawn from all over the world.
"Everyone who undertakes this course contributes something of great value, a bank of experience, and Rick Riordan's contribution to the course is no exception and has been very important," he said.
Mr Riordan said he hopes to use what he's learnt at UCC as inspiration for a new children's book.
He lauded the online course for giving him the opportunity to study an area of interest at his own pace.
"Before I turned to Irish myth, I wanted to be sure I had done as much research as possible, even though I knew the stories fairly well.
"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 program for anyone interested in Irish history, literature, language or mythology," he said.
"UCC allowed me to immerse myself in the subject, interact with students from all around the world, and have access to the finest faculty available for Gaelic studies, all at my own pace and on my own schedule.
"There is no other program like it in the world, to my knowledge," he said.
Speaking about his favourite Irish legend, Mr Riordan cited Fionn MacCumhaill and Cúchulainn and said he believes in the enduring power of these stories.
"I think the fact that any Irish myths exist at all is a testament to how powerful and important these stories are.
"The Irish were oppressed for so many centuries, their language and culture systemically dismantled by colonialism, and yet the stories have survived — not just in manuscripts, but in oral tradition.
"Given everything these stories have been through, I am optimistic they will continue to survive."