Guest Post: ‘A New Map of Panem’ by Mark Windsor

by Elizabeth on October 17, 2012

Recently, we had a wonderful message from Mark Windsor regarding his theoretical Panem map. We are now delighted to present his complete map, along with a very careful breakdown of why he positions which districts in which spots. We hope you will enjoy Mark’s super analysis and graphics and that you you will join in our conversation to support, add to, or contradict his conclusions! Thank you so much, Mark. If President Snow needs a secretary of Geography, the odds are really in your favor!

A New Map of Panem by Mark Windsor

Not long ago, I encountered a map of Panem that someone had created based on reading of the Hunger Games trilogy. My first time through the series, I hadn’t thought too much about what Panem actually looked like. You can compare what appears below with what inspired the attempt. If you scroll down on the link above, you’ll see a list of “what we know”. There are a few things on that list that seemed a bit off track. I thought, “Well, this might be fun.” And thus a new project was born – Why not create a map of Panem? (Interestingly, as I decided to give this a try, Pink Floyd’s “So What” came on an iTunes random shuffle – from the album A Momentary Lapse of Reason. I quickly switched to Beethoven to avoid the obviously cosmic suggestion that I was about to waste a great deal of time.)

I should first say that I’m approaching this as a humanities guy, not a math-magician. I couldn’t make a phi spiral (or pi spiral or ply spiral) to save my life, and I don’t even recall seeing one in math class in college. My degree is in history, so I’ll approach this from a more historical point of view. All page notations are Kindle, Android version.

The Landmass

We know that some amount of land was swallowed up by the seas (HG18-19), so like the other attempts I start by sinking the coasts.
To do this, I chose a simple approach. I looked at several topographical maps of North America as it exists today. I then went into Photoshop and turned the lowest level of elevation into water. This is the result.

This represents an increase in sea level of about 300 to 350 feet (roughly 100 meters, based on the map that was used). This is a bit extreme, but it seems to work. I made attempts at more and less water, but they were less satisfactory. The depth is clearly arguable, so consider this a working option. Your mileage may vary. (Sinking the rest of California, Oregon and Washington, while obviously tempting to a Texan, would not result in Panem. The globe would become something more akin to Kevin Costner’s unspeakable Waterworld. We can’t have that, now can we?)

Assumptions

First, I think it’s safe to assume that all the economic systems functioning today are gone. In fact, they seem lost to living memory. Further, all memory of the great American cities seems to have faded. In Panem, is there still a settlement at the southwest end of Lake Michigan? Hard to say, but memory of all things American, Canadian, and Mexican, seems to have faded over the centuries.

Second, place names survive to some extent. “Appalachia” and “Rocky Mountains” have survived, even if Chicago and Kansas City have not. That indicates that some basic or fundamental place memory may have survived as well.

Third, I’ll assume that technological, commercial and manufacturing components of an economy are mobile over time. This means that an area specializing in technological R&D and manufacturing in the future may have no correlation to areas known for high tech R&D and manufacturing today.

Fourth, agricultural areas will likely remain somewhat intact. It would be easier to move the high tech brainpower from Silicon Valley to District 3 than to force North Dakota to farm large quantities of fish. Therefore, an area that produces grain today (or in the past) is likely to keep doing so.

Fifth, mining areas will remain static over time. Therefore, a place specializing in graphite mining would not be able to pick-up the graphite deposits and move them, but would remain in a similar location as today.

Lastly, borders have been historically guided by geography, land use, ethnicity, or lines of latitude and longitude. Artificially establishing borders based on a mathematical formula, while possible, is not a likely development from a human perspective. For this essay, we’ll stick with geography and land use as our primary guides to District boundaries, with a several points set by latitude and longitude.

What Do We Really Know?

I’m going to do this in a slightly different order than others have in the past. Rather than working this out numerically, I’m going to do it in order of simplicity. I’ll deal with what I see as the easier districts first, with the more difficult to locate last.

The Capitol

The Capitol cannot be Denver. The topography of Denver does not require a long tunnel when approaching from the east (HG58-59). Denver sits on a plateau east of the mountains proper. The Capitol has to be west of modern day Denver.
The Capitol is in the Rockies (HG 40).

The Capitol was attacked in the Dark Days. In fact, I think it’s significant that the rebels in the Dark Days chose to attack the capitol, rather than to wear it down by siege. To me, this means that the Capitol had to have a reliable water supply. Even in ancient times, mankind knew that a quick way to end a siege or take a city was to poison the water supply. Clearly, the rebels were unable to do this. (Yes, a food stock is important too, but as in the middle ages, a well stocked and fortified pantry is rather more difficult to poison or destroy than a water supply.)

The Capitol would be well defended from as many sides as possible. This goes back to the Dark Days as well. An area surrounded on three sides by mountains would be handy. Modern day roads and passes could easily be blocked by man-made avalanches, but an area with a minimum of modern roads leading east would make sense.

As a result of all this, I suggest the mountains and valleys around Grand Lake, Colorado, as the best location for the Capitol. Grand Lake is the largest natural lake in Colorado. The Capitol would be able to sprawl west toward Granby, or even further toward Kremmling (which would be in District 2). There are man-made lakes in the area as well, though it’s unlikely that current dams would have survived the centuries. But even if they did not, the Capitol’s engineers could clearly recreate them with time (as depicted in the movie version of The Hunger Games). Grand Lake is surrounded on three sides by mountains, and is easily accessible only from the west. The roads though the mountains could be bombed and blocked. The mountains to the east would then require a tunnel, or series of tunnels, to approach from that direction. The defensive nature of the area could be held with a handful of dedicated troops, rather than the many thousands it would take to defend the likes of Denver.

Districts 12 & 13

Suzanne Collins linked these two geographically by distance, though not giving a firm location for either one. Therefore, the placement of one district helps locate the other.

District 13 has to be reachable on foot from Districts 10 and 12. (M133, M238 respectively, and CF1756).

District 13 is a one week walk from District 12. (M238) A week of walking is different for different people. The well fed will move faster than the starving. Those trying to hide from the authorities will likely move more slowly than those moving freely in the open. Because it’s reachable on foot, there can be no large bodies of water between D13 and either Districts 10 or 12.

Graphite. This is the strongest clue to District 13’s location. The highest concentration of graphite mining in North America is in Quebec. I don’t think either District 12 or 13 can be that far north, based on other observations. Further south, there were graphite mines in Chester County, Pennsylvania. It seems likely that Chester County must be within the borders of District 13. But Chester County need not be the center of D13. Graphite mining was a cover, so the underground complex could easily be west of Chester County.

There are also things to consider about District 12 that will impact the location of District 13.

“District 12 was in a region known as Appalachia.” (HG41) This does not mean that D12 is all of Appalachia. Rather, it is within Appalachia. This also gives another hint. While the Appalachian Mountains run the length of the eastern seaboard and into Canada, people only describe themselves as Appalachian in a relatively confined area. For example, I’ve never heard anyone from Pittsburgh describe themselves as Appalachian, and around Pittsburgh they’re called the Alleghany Mountains. But I have heard the word “Appalachian” applied to people from eastern Kentucky, West Virginia, parts of eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina and Virginia.

West Virginia is the southern limit of District 12. Katniss recalls making maple syrup with her father (CF3602), and West Virginia is effectively the end of the line for syrup country. In northern West Virginia, along the Pennsylvania border, there is a Maple Syrup Festival each year.

“It’s one of those high-speed models that average 250 miles per hour. Our journey to the Capitol will take less than a day.” (HG41) This creates problems. I get the impression from the books that the train leaves D12 at around 4:00 in the afternoon, and arrives in the Capitol just after breakfast. This is about 16 hours in travel time – at an average of 250 miles per hour the arithmetic is messy. It’s only 1500 miles from West Virginia to the mountains west of Denver. Where do the extra ten hours come from? In 16 uninterrupted hours, this train could cover 4000 miles. Unless they regularly get stuck on a siding for 10 hours, I can’t explain this one.

“…District 12’s population of about eight thousand.” (HG17) This is the size of a small town. Bonnie and Twill also reach the “outskirts of District 12” two days walk before they reach Katniss’ cabin (M1796). District 12 isn’t just small, it’s microscopic. This is likely the size of a county or two in modern America.

“I remember that day. Bitter cold and dark by four in the afternoon.” (M2566) This also creates problems, but offers a possible solution as well. To be dark by four in the afternoon would put D12 somewhere at or north of Quebec City in latitude, matching nicely with the graphite mining in the southern part of Quebec province. But that far north doesn’t fit well in any other aspects of District 12 described in the books (Appalachia, coal). But there was snowfall that day, and with that we can assume heavy cloud cover. The sun setting to the west, with high ground west of town, might make this work. West Virginia could be dark by four in the afternoon with dense clouds and snowfall, and a touch of terrain to make night fall more quickly.

“This is not our wood or our mountains or our way.” (M2550) Mountains, not just hills.

“We board the hovercraft for the short ride to 12.” (M1568) “We sit in silence for the rest of the trip to 13, which only takes about forty-five minutes.” (M236) “A mere week’s journey on foot.” (M238) The week long journey on foot is probably a better indicator of distance than the short flying time. A week on foot, at 20 miles per day, is about 140 miles total. If District 12 were in West Virginia, and D13’s underground complex in south-central Pennsylvania, then the travel time could easily be 45 minutes by air or a week on foot. Either way, you’re probably looking at 125 to 175 miles between D12 and D13. Certainly no more than 200 miles given the Appalachian terrain.

District 12 would need a good water supply as well.

Coal. There needs to be a decent coal seam available in the immediate area (again, Quebec is not a clean fit). West Virginia’s most significant coal fields are in and around Boone County, but I think this is too far south to match with the walking distance to 13. There is, however, a coal field along the Pennsylvania border, in Monongalia County – also home of the aforementioned maple syrup festival.
I’ve excluded the idea that District 12 would cover all of Appalachia as defined above, as this would preclude D12 from being the smallest district (based on data that follows for other districts).

So, where do we place these two districts? There are two possibilities to choose from.

District 12 could be in Boone County, or in Monongalia County, West Virginia. These areas fulfill all the needs of D12.
The Boone County idea would require a very large D13 to cover Chester County. This would put the underground complex a bit west of modern day Camp David, around Hagerstown or Cumberland, Maryland.

If D12 is in Monongalia County, then D13’s underground complex could be as far away as Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. This would easily allow D13 to spread west to Chester County, and maybe as far north as the New York state line.

I’d bet on the second option, and place District 12 in the area around Coopers Rock State Forest, in Monongalia County. (Why not? It’s pretty country even today.) D13 would then be somewhere around Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, spreading east to Chester County (maybe as far south as Fredrick, Maryland, but the sea won’t permit them to go much further south), then north to the mountains around Reading, and back to Chambersburg along the line of the Blue Mountains. Of course, D13 could stretch as far north as Quebec – we just don’t have any way of knowing.

(A slight digression, if I may. Think back to Finnick and Annie’s wedding (M2905). “…the fiddler strikes up a tune that turns every head from 12. We may have been the smallest, poorest district in Panem, but we know how to dance. … Sure enough, Greasy Sae grabs Gale by the hand and pulls him into the center of the floor and faces off with him. People pour in to join them, forming two long lines. And the dancing begins. … Join hands and make a giant, spinning circle where people show off their footwork.” I missed the significance of this scene the first time I read the series. The second time it struck me – these people are from Appalachia, with a fiddler (as opposed to a violinist), and are dancing in long lines and circles.

The music could easily be bluegrass, the dancing what we call flat footing or clogging, and that would make the “white liquor” that Haymitch drinks – Moonshine! I imagine first one, then another, and then several in lines and circles start dancing. Maybe someday there would be a futuristic version of Union Station playing at the wedding of Katniss’ and Peeta’s kids. I am six or seven generations removed from Appalachia, but my ancestor’s memory of this music and dancing survived into my grandparents’ day when I was a kid. Who’s to say that it wouldn’t survive a few dozen more generations? It’s a cryin’ shame nobody got a banjo out of 12.)

District 2

District 2 is large (M2469), with villages scattered across the mountains, each associated with a mine.

District 2 is masonry, and quarries stone for the capitol and districts. Marble is mentioned in Mockingjay (M2681).

District 2 is the defense center for the Capitol, they supply peacekeepers, and build munitions. (M1104). In this, it makes sense to put D2 west of the Capitol. The Capitol is protected by mountains from the north, east and south, but is open from the west. It makes sense that the Capitol would put their most trustworthy district between themselves and any potential threat – from the only open direction available to an attacker. This way, any rebels would have to come through 2 to get to the Capitol – as actually happened in Mockingjay, with the Nut being the last bastion before the Capitol. In the Dark Days, perhaps the attackers didn’t want to tangle with the Nut, but chose instead a frontal assault over the mountains, thus sealing their doom.

There are marble quarries in central and western Colorado, and it looks like they’re centered in and around Gunnison County. There are also granite quarries scattered around the region, running west toward Salt Lake City.

The Nut would then logically be around Kremmling, holding the open ground between the ridges to the north and south, baring a western approach to the Capitol. District 2 could then span from McCoy to Durango via Gunnison County, then west to the Wasatch Mountains, up into southern Wyoming, and back toward Kremmling.

District 4

District 4 is fishing. The simplest thing for the Capitol to do is put District 4 nearby on the Gulf coast. This makes access easy to the markets in the Capitol.

I thought at first that the accent of District 4 was significant (CF2857). But today we might not be able to easily understand Chaucer’s English without help. If hundreds of years have passed, then it’s likely that all the accents would be very different or unrecognizable to our ears. If a thousand years had passed between today and Katniss’ time, then their English may be as different from ours as ours is from that of Beowulf. (ða com of more / under misthleoþum / Grendel gongan! Yes, that’s English.)

District 11

I don’t think it’s necessary to say that District 11 is an immediate neighbor to District 12, but I do think it is necessary to say that District 10 is an immediate neighbor to District 11. Just before they reach the boarder of D11, Katniss notices, “Huge open fields with herds of dairy cattle grazing in them. So unlike our heavily wooded home,” and a few paragraphs later, “…and now the crops begin, stretched out as far as the eye can see.” (CF684)

District 11 is big. “I begin to weary of the vastness, the endlessness of this place.” (CF695)

District 11 is south of, and warmer than, District 12. “’Why? It’s too cold for anything to show,’ I grumble. ‘Not in eleven,’ says Effie.”
So District 11 fits in Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and parts of the Carolinas. If I had to bet, I’d place the main town of D11 somewhere in Georgia. This would give Katniss time enough to get tired of the scenery if the capitol of the district were in what’s left of eastern Georgia.

District 6

District 6 is in charge of transportation, according to the Tribute Guide published by Scholastic. Airlines today (and railroad before them), operate on what’s known as a “hub and spoke” system. In this, a central hub is used to route travelers to destinations along the spokes. This is hinted at in the text. Bonnie and Twill hid in a boxcar headed for District 6 (CF1795) from District 8. Why send a load fabric to the transportation district? It could be used for the locals to make their own clothes, but D6 could also be as a transit point to another district where clothing is manufactured – but that would be District 8 – where Bonnie and Twill started. Could be…might be…may be…

It could be that District 6 is the manufacturer of rail and hovercraft equipment, but it could also be a central hub of the rail system itself. This would require a centralized location. Rail lines from the other districts would then converge on D6. This could also explain why Katniss noted the dairy cattle just before crossing into District 11. If they went to D6 first to change to the line headed for D11, then they may have passed through 10 on the way. (Or, admittedly, District 10 is actually directly between D11 and D12.)
District 6 would not need to be large. It would need the manufacturing abilities to create the trains and hovercraft, and a rail yard large enough to move people and goods as needed. An area the size of Kansas City would do nicely (as Kansas City has in the past).

District 1

Luxury items (HG844). The description of District 1 includes a machine that turns graphite into diamonds (HG914). There is a diamond mine in northern Colorado, along the Wyoming border. It makes sense to put District 1 close to the Capitol, to help quench the Capitol’s insatiable thirst for goods. The diamond mine is a decent fit.

There are not a lot of other details available about District 1.

District 3

District 3 has factories (HG805), and electronics (CF2041). Beyond this, there are few details that might give a clue to District 3’s location. The factories and technological R&D centers could easily have been moved a dozen times between our era and the dawn of Panem.

But Katniss mentions that the Capitol is “ringed by thirteen districts” (HG222). Well, if D1 is north of the Capitol, and D2 is west of the Capitol, perhaps D3 is completing the ring by being south and southeast of the Capitol. I’ve made it relatively large, and centered around the point where the Oklahoma panhandle meets New Mexico, and to include southeastern Colorado and the northern part of the Texas panhandle.

District 5

Power. This is an interesting aspect of these books. Clearly, coal is not needed (unless, of course, you envision coal-fired hovercraft). There’s a better energy source available that powers the Capitol, the rail lines, and the hovercraft. Coal is used for the masses, to keep them dependant on the Capitol. But this power could come from a variety of sources.

There are not a lot of details about where D5 is located, and none that I could find that would indicate how big it might be. I’ve put it in prime solar and wind territory, with opportunities for hydro-electric. That runs D5 along the desert southwest of Arizona and New Mexico, and into west and north central Texas. Who knows – in the time it takes to get from the present day to the dawn of Panem, maybe they perfect cold fusion and D5 makes power units the size of a postage stamp – thus making D5 only a little bigger than District 12.

District 7

There is little information that would place District 7 on a map easily. The only hit is that they are lumber and paper (CF2643), and that pine “smells like home” to Johanna Mason (M3269). But pine forests are all over North America, from the Piney Woods of Texas to the northern reaches of Canada. There’s really little else to go on in the books.

The Pacific Northwest would be a logical choice for District 7. However, much of the lowlands west of the Cascades are under water.
Old growth forests in North America are largely gone now, outside of the west coast of the US and northern Canada. But the last of the old growth forests to disappear were in northern Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. This area stretched into the adjoining Canadian provinces as well, reaching north toward Hudson Bay.

There is one other tidbit of information. “I see the lights of another district. 7? 10?” (HG643). This is on the train from District 12 to the Capitol for the 74th Annual Hunger Games. Interesting isn’t it? It’s almost as if Katniss expects both D7 and D10 to be along the rail line between District 12 and the Capitol.

So, I’ll place D7 in the upper great lakes and southern Canada. The assumption here is that the old growth forests that were once thick in the upper Great Lakes would eventually reestablish themselves. The mills and processing facilities would be south of the Great Lakes, making transportation a bit easier by avoiding transit of finished products over or around the lakes themselves. From here it would sprawl southward to a point where it could be between District 12 and the Capitol.

District 8

District 8 is an urban and industrial area (CF1746). I don’t see District 8 being overly large (though others seem to think that it is quite large). Really, it need be no larger than an average modern city. There’s not much more to go on for geographical placement.

Contrary to the assumptions made by others, I don’t think it necessary to assume that District 12 can be reached on foot from District 8. Bonnie and Twill hid in a boxcar for the ride from District 8 to District 6 (CF1795). They fled the train along the way (CF1791), but it doesn’t explain whether that was along the way to D6 or D12 (after a stop in D6). This still isn’t much to go on, but it doesn’t mean that a close physical connection with District 12 would be absolutely necessary.

So I’ll wedge District 8 into some of the space left over in the middle of the county. Southern Kansas, southwest Missouri, western Arkansas, and most of Oklahoma.

District 9

Grain, and presumably Food Processing. There are few other details offered in the books.

District 9 would need to be big, and it would have ample opportunity for bigness. The plains states east of the Rockies and up into Saskatchewan and Manitoba, would do nicely.

District 10

Livestock. District 10 is implied as a neighbor to District 11 (CF684). District 10 is implied to be between District 12 and the Capitol (HG643). District 10 is walking distance from District 13 (M132), though there’s no indication how long of a walk it might be.

A tempting location for D10 would be Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska – areas long known for cattle ranching. But this area isn’t really known for dairy cows. So I’ve made District 10 a meandering place, covering what is today both horse and dairy regions in the real world. This would also allow a close connection between D10 and D13, so Dalton’s walk would be easier to understand (as opposed to walking from Texas). The central Mississippi and entire Ohio River valley would be included here. This also allows for dairy cattle and pasture lands to be seen just before crossing into District 11 after a stop in D6.

What We’re Left With

Here is yet another version of the map of Panem. It is, of course, all conjecture, but I humbly submit that it’s based on a more complete view of the terrain as written in the books.

And here is a view with the rail lines included.

To me, with a background in history, it’s a little easier to get my head around the geography than the spiral high-tech version. But I freely admit – it could be either one…or another.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Eldon October 22, 2012 at 1:34 pm

I always wondered where the capitol would be if they were on a train going 200mph for 2 days (200 x 24 =4800 miles). Alaska? (kidding).

carrenm November 7, 2012 at 1:05 pm

Fascinating. Thanks for taking the time to do this. I’m always impressed with anyone who attempts to make sense of Collins’s confounding description of geography, relative distance and time. While I’m devoted to the story and characters, I was often frustrated by these little details that didn’t seem to fit together (when she says “weeks” go by, does that mean 2, 4, 12??). Now if someone can just tell me when (meaning, which months) the Reaping, Games, Victory Tour and ultimate attack on the Capitol take place, I can rest easily. I’m all for authors leaving some things to the readers’ imaginations, but in this case I feel that a little knowledge is a dangerous (or at least distracting) thing.

Erich Jacoby-Hawkins December 6, 2013 at 12:36 am

I very much like the way you’ve put this together. I can’t stand the “scientific” spiral map, as it ignores both real geography (how regions & borders form) and most of the geographical clues in the books.

I would not worry too much about the train not travelling far enough. “average 250 mph” could to some extent be propaganda or exaggeration, and would apply when going straight on level ground. Plus, it’s probably more of a top cruising speed than a true start-to-finish average speed. Curves, mountains, and of course any need to spend time on sidings for other trains to pass would reduce the overall trip speed, and we can’t assume that the train goes directly from 12 to Capitol in a straight line. (Via a hub is very possible, and hubs can take you quite far from the crow-fly distance). While on the topic of rail, I like your idea of 6 as a transpo hub, rather than just the maker of rolling stock, but I feel your rail map overdoes the concept; there would probably be some more direct routes from the Capitol to its closest neighbours.

I sort of gagged when I read “making transportation a bit easier by avoiding transit of finished products over or around the lakes themselves” given that water transportation, whether across lakes/seas or along rivers, is generally easier than land transportation, especially for bulk resources. Granted, the books don’t make any mention of barges or freighters, but we mainly only hear about 12 which is land-locked. Of course, doing all inter-district transportation by rail does prevent the tempting freedom-of-travel that goes along with having a boat or car. Yet you could still use rivers or lakes as a great way to transport lumber over large distances at relatively low energy cost (free, when floating downriver) within District 7.

My one concern with just about all maps I’ve seen is that they make the districts pretty much contiguous, although some put a (rather uniform) buffer along each border. The sense I get from the books is not of borders where one district ends and the next begins (and a Berlin Wall between), but instead each district being a discrete, fenced-in region with vast areas (perhaps the majority of the land mass) remaining unpopulated wilderness between. So instead of a modern-style map where lines divide each area from the next, you’d have something more like a series of widely-spaced blobs linked by rail. This large, trackless wilderness would serve as its own form of border enforcement, suitable for crossing only by the most skilled survivalists (Katniss & Gale) or desperate refugees (Bonnie & Twill). One could, of course, imagine that the districts are large with somewhat arbitrary contiguous borders while the residents are limited to much smaller, fenced-in areas of habitation & activity, but we already know that the residents of wee District 12 feel they have left the district as soon as they go under the fence surrounding their town & mine; there is no reason to assume that other districts would be different in this respect, although each of them is larger than 12.

Overall, I find your map the best of the many that I’ve been able to find online, and the only significant change I would suggest is to pull the other borders back inward, where possible, more like you already have for Districts 1, 2, 3, 12, and 13.

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