Monday, December 7, 2009

You Can Teach An Old Plot New Tricks: The Hunger Games

Raise your hand if you've read The Hunger Games. That should be everyone reading this post and if you haven't, OMG, stop what you're doing, do yourself a favor and go read it! NOW!

Ok now raise your hand if you thought The Hunger Games was original. Everyone's hand should be up. And The Hunger Games IS amazingly unique and original and just all around awesome. But did you know that The Hunger Games was based off of really ancient stories told thousands of years ago?

We're going to look at two of those stories: Theseus and the Minotaur and Spartacus (both of which Suzanne Collins admits were influences on the work).

Warning: This Post has Spoilers for The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. You've been warned!

The Myth of Theseus and The Minotaur Versus The Hunger Games

Theseus: Every 9 years 7 Athenian Boys and 7 Athenian Girls must go to Crete as tributes, enter the labyrinth and be killed by the Minotaur.

Hunger Games: Every year 12 boys and 12 girls  must go to The Capitol, to enter a labyrinthine like playing field and be killed by each other.

Theseus: Theseus takes the place of a slave to join the others

Hunger Games: Katniss takes the place of her sister to join the others

Theseus: Theseus survives partly thanks to Ariadne who has fallen in love with him

Hunger Games: Katniss survives partly thanks to Peeta who has fallen in love with her

Theseus: Theseus defeats the Minotaur, a hybrid of a man and bull

Hunger Games: Katniss defeats/survives the mutts, a hybrid wolf and boy/girl (part wolf, part fallen tribute)

Theseus:  Theseus escapes the labyrinth with all of the Athenian tributes

Hunger Games: Katniss escapes the Games with all the district 12 tributes (her and Peeta)

Theseus: Theseus leaves Ariadne and eventually marries Hippolyta

Hunger Games: Katniss leaves Peeta and eventually hooks up with Gale (Don't throw tomatoes at me, trust me, I know we have no clue who she will end up with at this point, but I think it's clear from the end of book 1 and a certain section of book 2, that Katniss and Gale have thier moment)

See how she did that? She was able to borrow a lot of elements from ancient myths and legends and refresh it. Instead of Crete, we have Panem a dystopian USA. Instead of a monster that needs to be satiated, it's the Capitol that needs to be satiated in a monstrous way.

Spartacus versus The Hunger Games

While it's easy to see a lot of plot points that are similar between The Hunger Games and Theseus, The Hunger Games is much closer thematically to Spartacus.

Spartacus: Spartacus is a slave under the Roman Empire

Hunger Games: Katniss is essentially a slave--she has very few rights in The Capitol which is modeled after the Roman Empire

Spartacus: Spartacus is a gladiator, fighting to the death in an arena while the aristocracy watches and celebrates.

Hunger Games: Katniss is a tribute, fighting to the death in an arena while the aristocracy watches and celebrates and also films it on live tv.

Spartacus: Spartacus wants nothing more than to go home--he has no intentions of rebellion.

Hunger Games: Katniss wants nothing more than to go home--save herself/save Peeta and has no intentions of rebellion.

Spartacus: Spartacus rises from nothing to being the face/symbol of a rebellion in Rome

Hunger Games: Katniss rises from nothing to being the face/symbol of a rebellion all over Panem

What Next? My Predictions
Now what does this tell us? Well, one that Suzanne Collins knows the classics. Two, ancient myths and stories can make an awesome YA novel when updated properly and mixed with something else to make it new. And three, this might give us some clues to what will happen in book 3.

So these are totally speculations based on the similarities mentioned above, and Suzanne Collins is by no means locked into either plot or story, she borrows freely whatever she needs and when she needs it.

But here's the big question: Peeta or Gale.

Well, Peeta becomes the equivalent of Ariadne and and Theseus leaves her for another. So IF Suzanne Collins is following that myth through than Team Gale has something to celebrate.

Next big question: Will Katniss survive book 3?

Well, Spartacus leads a massive rebellion in Rome, travels with a bunch of soldiers and is almost home when for some reason they turn back and soon Spartacus is killed. This could possibly turn into Katniss leading district 12 survivors and anyone else to the mysterious district 13, only they stop short for some reason (possibly they are betrayed or starvation mixed with rumors of food elsewhere steer them off course) and then with that mistake made, just before Katniss reaches District 13, she is killed.

So...those are just speculations and not necessarily what I want to happen in book 3, but...we shall see.

Hope you enjoyed!

Next up...Twilight and no that post won't have anything to do with Pride and Prejudice. Stay tuned...


  1. All I have to say is go Team Peeta!

    It's interesting to see how similar these stories are, but I really hope that Collins will make the story her own in the third book!

  2. I agree with Mariah. Team Peeta all the way! Hopefully Collins will end the similarities and let Katniss be with the person who is CLEARLY better for her, for reasons I won't go into here, because that is not the point of my comment.

    Anyway, thanks for this post! I knew she had drawn a lot of inspiration from those myths, but it had been more than 10 years since I studied them, so I didn't recognize all the similarities...there were a lot more than I realized!

  3. I'm with Mariah and Heather. I'll cry and maybe curse Suzanne Collins name for a few minutes, then cry some more if things go the way of your prediction.

    Go Team Peeta!

  4. *agrees with AnAlaskanGirl*
    I will cry if things go the way of your prediction!
    Nice post, very interesting *thumbs up*
    Team Peeta!

  5. Really awesome Frankie! And you're right -- no matter the similarities, it in no way takes away from how much I LOVE The Hunger Games!

  6. My thoughts? (Small spoilers if you haven't read it)

    Collins has set up a couple possibilities for the end of the triangle:
    1) Peeta dies for Katniss. He talks about it constantly, and is willing to do it.
    2) Gale and Madge. The very first book, in the beginning, they have anonymosity. You can't hate someone that you don't like at least a little. Then Madge brought him painkillers when he was whipped. She at least likes him. And if she helps in the rebellion, I have no doubt that it could be established that he likes her.

    Just my current thoughts. I cannot wait until the third book comes out!

  7. Haven't read it, but your description at the top makes me want to go read it. My crit partner just picked it up, too, so a perfect opportunity to read it along with someone else. Thanks for the recommendation!

  8. I knew about the similarities with Theseus, but not of SO MANY similarities. That is just amazing O.o

    And I definitely hadn't thought of Spartacus. I mean, gladiators? yeah. Spartacus? Not thought of it.

    And your predictions... well, I just LOVED them ^_^ Even if you are absolutely wrong.

    And I'm Team Gale (no tomatoes for you, then)

  9. Mariah, I totally know why your Team Peeta. I keep flip flopping, I don't know what team I'm on!

    Heather, I had the same reaction. I knew a lot of basics, but until I really sat down to write this post I had no idea how many there really were which was cool!

    AnAlaskanGirl, I might cry either way, I love them both!!!

    Ella, thank you. I really hope I'm wrong, at least on my second prediction. But who knows...we'll have to wait and see.

    Donna thank you, and yeah this kind of makes it more awesome.

    Megan, hmmmm your number 1 is really interesting and I think very possible.

    Carolina yay! Im glad, you'll love it!

    Barnsdale11 I know, I was surprised too!!! And Im glad you like the predictions, I do sort of hope I am wrong. And yay no tomatoes. I'm Team Gale and Peeta!!

  10. Awesome post - love books that come from mythology or fairy tales. You did a great job of breaking it down. Hope Katniss doesn't get killed though. I'm with you - I keep flip flopping, but mostly I think I'm team Peeta.

  11. Thanks Mary!!! Me too. I love myths and fairy tales and finding them reinvented makes the dork in me go SQUEEE! Yay for flip flopping. how can you choose!!! Seriously when Peeta's on the page, I'm Team Peeta. When Gale walks on, I'm team Gale!

  12. Great post. Saw you guys commenting on Kristin Cashore's blog and thought I'd come check you out. :)

  13. Wow! Great post! I had no idea that The Hunger Games drew so heavily on ancient stories. Love it.

  14. Lovely comparison post Frankie! :) My favourite thing about THG was the refreshing way it was told, but I agree, not too much original content, only new original ways of telling it.

    As for whether or not Katniss will die... I'd be willing to bet on NO WAY. 0%. As fearless as Suzanne Collins might be with some other sympathetic characters (Cinna, for instance), she's not going to kill her own heroine. XD We've heard Suzanne mention that Katniss is our eyes and ears to this world, and if she dies, that's it. No Katniss, no story.

    Re: Peeta or Gale, honestly, I'm thinking that Peeta really deserves someone better for him romantically. Katniss has got her own issues to work out, and it's sweet that he's so in love with her, but it seems like he's getting the short end of this stick. Of course, there's a war going on, none of those kids should be caring so much about romance...

  15. Hi Tinkandalissa, glad you found us. Welcome.

    Thanks LiLa, so interesting, isn't it?

    Faye! Hi!!! Can't wait to see you in January for the SCBWI conference!!! I think you're right about Katniss not dying...but I think I'm right that they will be very close to District 13 and then suddenly turn around. And Katniss will at least have to die some kind of literary death. And yeah Peeta does deserve someone who loves him and can worry about that-but I don't know, he loves Katniss so much, I can see him sacrificing himself for Gale in the end to make Katniss happy. Aaah that idea stresses me out. I don't know. I just can't wait to read!!

  16. Wow that was a really cool post! I really like the Hunger Games

  17. Oh goodness I hope no on either prediction! Very good analyzation though. I never though to analyze the myths to possibly predict the future.

  18. agreed with Megan Rebekah, katniss was suspicious about gale and madge, madge even showed interest in gale and all those years of delivering strawberries to the mayor helped gale and madge see eachother, both peeta and gale deserve katniss and i dont know who to chose

  19. Debbie from MurrietaJanuary 28, 2010 at 10:49 PM

    I had no idea about the similarities. Thank you for this. GO TEAM PEETA!

  20. Wow... this is old.


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