Mockingjay Discussion 15: The Hanging Tree

I’ll argue tomorrow that Katniss’ ‘Meadow Song’ is the theme of the Hunger Games trilogy and that the reference to it in the epilogue ties the finale into the series, but today I want to open a thread here about ‘The Hanging Tree’ and its multiple occurrences in Mockingjay. It is the heart of the finale and a key to its most profound and challenging meaning. Let’s look at the song, where it shows up, and what it means to Katniss  before beginning that discussion.

‘The Hanging Tree’ has twenty-four lines organized in four stanzas of six lines each. The rhyme scheme is a-b-b, c-b-b. The stanzas are identical except for the third line which changes in each

Are you, are you
Coming to the tree
Where they strung up a man they say murdered three.
Strange things did happen here
No stranger would it be
If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree.

Are you, are you
Coming to the tree
Where the dead man called out for his love to flee.
Strange things did happen here
No stranger would it be
If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree.

Are you, are you
Coming to the tree
Where I told you to run so we’d both be free.
Strange things did happen here
No stranger would it be
If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree.

Are you, are you
Coming to the tree
Wear a necklace of rope, side by side with me.
Strange things did happen here
No stranger would it be
If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree.

Katniss sings the song to Pollux the Avox on the trip she takes with Gale and a film crew to District 12 as part of their episode in the ‘We Remember’ District 13 propo-ganda campaign (chapter 9). The physical location of her singing is by the lake beyond the fence where Katniss and Gale had fought after Katniss’ return from the first Games about whether to run or stay and fight (Fire, chapter 7). The pair are angry with each other here, as well; Katniss is furious that Gale had not told her about the Peeta propo aired the previous night and he is upset that she cannot understand why he decided not to say anything.

‘The Hanging Tree’ is mentioned again in chapter 15 during Katniss’ time in District 2. Haymitch tells her that the rescued but hijacked Peeta recognized the song when his restoration team showed him the propo made with Katniss singing it. He remembered her father singing it in the bakery when he was a small boy. “It’s the first connection to you that hasn’t triggered some mental breakdown, Says Haymitch. “It’s something, at least, Katniss” (p. 219).

We hear the last verse of ‘Tree’ during the last battle inside the Capitol, when the Celebrity Squad has been caught filming a propo and hit with a manually activated “black wave.” Boogs is dead and Katniss has taken command. Peeta has just insisted their best next move is to kill him lest he kill another member of the squad because of his re-programming. He argues that leaving him behind isn’t an option either, if they care for him, because the Capitol will capture and torture him.

Katniss thinks (chapter 21, pp. 290-291):

Peeta. Back in Snow’s hands. Tortured and tormented until no bits of his former self will ever emerge again.

For some reason, the last stanza to “The Hanging Tree” starts running through my head. The one where the man wants his lover dead rather than have her face the evil that awaits her in the world.

Peeta insists on receiving a Nightlock pill, named for the berries he and Katniss used in their first Games. Katniss refuses.

The last time we hear the song is in Tigris’ sub-basement the night before the surviving five members of the Star Squad head out for the final push on the President’s mansion. Because Peeta is still “unpredictable,” Gale and Katniss urge him to stay behind and wait for the end of the battle in hiding. He agrees that he’s to much of a risk to stay with the group but decides “he’s going out on his own,” that he “might still be useful” by “causing a diversion” (chapter 24, p. 335).

Gale is worried about Peeta’s being captured and gives him his nightlock tablet. He has to assure Peeta that, if he is captured, he is capable of killing himself or that Katniss will kill him if he can’t manage it.

The thought of Peacekeepers dragging Gale away starts the tune playing in my head again…

Are you, are you

Coming to the tree

“Take it, Peeta,” I say in a strained voice. I reach out and close his fingers over the pill. “No one will be there to help you.” (p. 336)

What does the song mean to Katniss? It’s important to her for a variety of reasons.

First, I think, and always is the song’s association with her father. He taught it to her on one of their days in the woods and she sings it “softly, sweetly, as my father did”  (p. 122-123). She claims that the reason the song is “irrevocably branded into my brain” is because her father said mother “just wanted me to forget it” (p. 126). Something about her young daughter making nooses out of rope scraps bothered mom.

Dad liked the song, though, and before mom yelled at him to stop, he used to sing the song in shops. Or maybe just in certain shops, like the bakery.

Mother Everdeen had another reason not to like ‘The Hanging Tree,’ though. Katniss clues us in to this when she says she hasn’t sung it “out loud for ten years, because it’s forbidden, but I remember every word.” It’s against the law to sing the song so of course mom doesn’t want her husband or her daughters singing it in public. She gets enough healer business from the whipping post without having to treat her own husband’s back-become-mincemeat.

Given Katniss’ contrarian Mockingjay Abernathey-esque spirit, I’m guessing that the reason the song is illegal is probably why she has it written on her heart.

We are not told in the narrative line why the song is forbidden though Katniss explains a good deal of it, most notably how the song’s four changing lines clarify in each stanza who is talking and to whom he is talking. ‘The Hanging Tree’ is the invitation in song of a murderer to his true love; the dead man asks the beloved “to flee,” by which he means to join him in death “at midnight in the hanging tree,” her wearing a “necklace of rope” alongside him.

Pretty gruesome, I suppose, but why would the Capitol make singing the song a punishable offense? Here’s my guess based on two popular songs from the 50s with related imagery.

You can’t talk about a ‘hanging tree’ song if you’re in my generation and not think immediately of  Strange Fruit (If you haven’t heard the Billie Holliday anthem, you can listen to it here).

Southern trees bear strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black body swinging in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.
Pastoral scene of the gallant South,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh!
Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

More to the point of Ms. Collins’ reference, though, is the country-western song, ‘The Hanging Tree,’ that was the hit title song for a popular Gary Cooper cowboy movie in 1959. Here are those lyrics::

I came to town to search for gold
And I brought with me a memory
And I seem to hear the night wind cry,
“Go hang your dreams on the hangin’ tree
Your dreams of love that could never be
Hang your faded dreams on the hangin’ tree!”

I searched tor gold and I found my gold
And I found a girl who loved just me
And I wished that I could love her too
But I’d left my heart on the hangin’ tree
I’d left my heart with a memory
And a faded dream on the hangin’ tree.

Now there were men who craved my gold
And meant to take my gold from me
When a man is gone he needs no gold
So they carried me to the hangin’ tree
To join my dreams and a memory
Yes they carried me to the hangin’ tree.

To really live you must almost die
And it happened just that way with me
They took the gold and set me free
And I walked away from the hangin’ tree
I walked away from the hangin’ tree
And my own true love, she walked with me!

That’s when I knew that the hangin’ tree
Was a tree of life, new life for me
A tree of hope, new hope for me
A tree of love, new love tor me
The hangin’ tree, the hangin’ tree, the hangin’ tree!

This song is sung by a man who has at least been to a gallows of the make-shift, arboreal kind and is about true love and the re-union of the almost hanged man and his “own true love.” If you could graft in the message  or spirit of Strange Fruit to this country-western setting, I think you’d have the heart of Ms. Collins’ ‘Tree’ and why it plays the role it does in Mockingjay.

Fruit is a poetic indictment of the lynchings of African-Americans in the United States. Though the photograph which is supposed to have inspired it was taken at a hanging of two black men in Indiana, the song is aimed about the practice as it existed in southern states. A Holliday signature, it became a Civil Rights movement anthem in the late 50s and 60s.

I suggest ‘The Hanging Tree’ of Mockingjay was also a “movement” song or anthem and that the meaning of the lyrics were not as important as what it may have come to mean to the rebel miners in terms of what caused the Capitol to make it illegal.

My best guess for what is means, the foundation of its use as a rebel tune, is that the “murderer” who was executed, the man on the tree singing for his love to join him, wasn’t a criminal but a revolutionary. His murders were not homicides committed in passion, then, but the shooting of Capitol Peacemakers or Mining Company thugs. His public execution was punishment, but, as important, an effective way to deter anyone thinking of joining the freedom fighter/terrorist’s cause. Capita l punishment, the death penalty, here is Capitol punishment, a means to make the districts fear the consequences of resistance more than they hate their masters.

In essence, ‘The Hanging Tree’ calls on the living who love freedom to join the martyred freedom fighter in putting this cause above concerns for their individual lives. It is an invitation to revolution, i.e., to risk death in the hope of a greater life. Mr. Everdeen isn’t singing it because it’s a simple catchy tune; he’s expressing his revolutionary beliefs as openly as he dares and asking others to join him. Mrs. Everdeen, it turns out, was right to be terrified by her husband’s boldness. It’s probably safe to assume that he and Gale’s dad died in a mine explosion that was set by the Capitol to kill men known to be plotting against the regime.

I’m confident this is what Ms. Collins’ version of “Hanging Tree’ means because it is such a match for Katniss, the Mockingjay. She becomes the lightning rod for resistance to the Capitol when she sacrifices herself to save Prim at the Reaping and by her actions in the arena, most notably, her love for Rue and Peeta and her defiant willingness to die for her friend rather than conform to the Hunger Games’ rules. ‘The Hanging Tree’ is the Mockingjay’s song well before Katniss sings it to Pollux, a man who was tortured by the Capitol and would sing the song to the rebels if he could.

Peeta hears this song, and, though he is more than half-mad consequent to his having been ‘hijacked’ and reprogrammed, he identifies with its message and with Katniss. ‘The Hanging Tree’s call to death before demeaning slavery resonates in that remnant of the revolutionary artist’s soul left in Peeta and begins his revival.

Katniss thinks of this song twice after she sings it, both in the context of Peeta being in the Capitol and the dangers he faces. The first time, when Peeta asks for a poison pill, appropriately named ‘Nightlock” after the berries he and Katniss used to defy the Capital in the 74th Games, she remembers ‘Tree’ and refuses his request. The second time, he asks permission to “create a diversion” for the four of them going to the President’s mansion to kill Snow; she insists here that he take a Nightlock tablet.

What’s going on?

In the first instance, Peeta is offering to kill himself rather than be a risk or a burden to the surviving Star Squad. He wants the pill because he is afraid of being re-captured and tortured. It is not a hero’s death he is asking for but a coward’s suicide. This is not the message of the Mockingjay anthem, ‘Hanging Tree,’ so his request for nightlock is refused.

In the heart of the Capitol, though, after Katniss’ kiss, he has again become Peeta the Selfless Warrior sufficiently that he is thinking only of his friends and how he can protect and help them. He has no thought of the consequences of his actions in terms of the risks he is running for death or capture and torture. This resonates with ‘Tree’ so much that, in an echo of her decision in Games, she forces the nightlock tablet into his hand to protect him from being tortured if captured.

We learn in the final chapter that Peeta shadowed Katniss to the Mansion and was burned horribly in the same blast that killed Prim and made the Mockingjay a Phoenix, the girl on fire. Though she does not mention the song, perhaps it is Peeta who hears it after Katniss assassinates President Coin; he prevents her then from taking the nightlock tablet in her Cinna Mockingjay battle-suit for much the same reason that she would not give him the pill in his fear. The Mockingjay cannot die that way.

Why not? For that you have to go to the symbolism of the Mockingjay as the Phoenix and resolution of contraries.

(1) When a writer puts a symbol or a poem or story into the narrative line, it is a very good bet that understanding this image, poem, play, or prose piece is a key that unlocks the story-line. Think of Nabokov’s Pale Fire for an over the top example of imbedded poetry or of the ‘triangular eye’ symbol and ‘Tale of the Three Brothers’ in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. As I explain in ‘The Seeing Eye’ chapter of The Deathly Hallows Lectures, Ms. Rowling is explaining via her characters’ attempts to understand the Hallows symbol and Brothers tale how to interpret the most important artistry and meaning of her book.

(2) Oddly enough, the meaning of that Hallows symbol — the bisected triangle enclosing a circle — was most profoundly explained in text not by Xenophilius Lovegood, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger (no relation), or even Albus Dumbledore. Harry shows us what it means when he buries Mad-Eye Moody’s magical eye in the shadow of the oldest oak tree he can find and carves a cross on the tree trunk (again, see Lectures). The tree is the heart of the symbol in Hallows as it is to the esoteric meaning of ‘The Hanging Tree’ in Mockingjay; as the country western tune puts it, the Hanging Tree is the “Tree of Life.”

A tree is an apt symbol of God and His relationship to the world because, like a tree, especially an ancient one,

  • He is relatively immortal or timeless,
  • His beginning is unknowable and invisible,
  • He is a unity at His core or base
  • that grows into a seemingly infinite extension at His periphery.

All traditional cultures, consequently, understand trees as natural transparencies through which any thinking person can see God, the Creator who brings everything into existence (see, for instance, Romans 1:20). ‘The Hanging Tree,’ from this understanding, is death to the individual ego and carnal concerns but the greater life and love available in God. The seeming contradiction of having to lose your life to gain it, of course, is at the heart of the teachings of the Galilean (see John 12:24-25 and Luke 17:33).

The “tree” of this song, in one word, is the Cross, the “murdered three” is a not-so-opaque reference to the three who were murdered by the state at Calvary, and the criminal calling his beloved to take up his cross is Christ.

“The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.” (Acts 5.30.)

“And we are witnesses of all things which he [Jesus] did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree” (Acts 10.39.)

“And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre.” (Acts 13.29.)

“Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness” (Peter 2.24.)

This is the Mockingjay’s song because sacrificial love and death to one’s ego is the most radical and revolutionary politics that no regime, the World, can tolerate. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Just as at the beginning of Games, when Katniss sacrifices herself to save Prim, she offers herself as a sacrifice at the end of the series to save all the Prims who will die in the revived Hunger Games if Coin lives.

Katniss, in having embraced the Pearl of Great Price in Fire, the example and teaching of Peeta the Christ figure, and committing herself to die for him becomes the sacrifice that redeems the world in Mockingjay; she answers the call of Christ on the Cross and becomes a “murderer,” executing President Coin, knowing it means her death, which, of course, means her greater life with Peeta as Christ.

This is why he intervenes at the assassination to prevent Katniss’ death. She answers the call of the man on the tree, her beloved, the light and life of the world, to join him, a sacrifice prefigured in Fire by “the lightning tree” that is her means of transcending the fallen, murderous world of the arena if she is willing to die to herself and confront “the real enemy.” Mockingjay, throughout which she and Finnick are making nooses from rope pieces as Katniss did as a child on hearing the ‘Hanging Tree’ song, is the story of her preparation to die to self and join her beloved on the tree.

I offer for your consideration that this sacrificial love and means to transcendence is also the meaning of Hunger Games that resonates most profoundly in the hearts of Ms. Collins’ readers, who with Katniss, have the message of ‘The Hanging Tree’ if not its words within them.

As I said in the beginning of this post, though, there is another Hunger Games song that, unlike ‘Tree,’ is in all three books, a song Katniss also learned from her father. Tomorrow I hope to explore the meaning of the Meadow song and how it, too, opens up the meaning and, consequently, the popularity of these books.

Your comments and correction, as always, are coveted.




Comments

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Oh dear, are we back to this conversation? Well, on with the galoshes, and I’ll wade in with my two-cents and all.

    Dolores: I’m afraid you’re wrong about the complete scrub-out: Sunday is still a day of rest, even though the meaning has been lost. Check out the Tick-Tock This is a Clock post (http://www.hogwartsprofessor.com/tick-tock-this-is-a-clock/ ) for a day-of-the-week run-down that really illustrates how Collins uses a Friday=death/Sunday=rebirth motif, per her own indication of what happens each day in the arena. And, if this is what happens when a society completely erases faith in God, then it’s a very strong endorsement of our need for faith. (And you might check City of Ember for another non-religious world, one with faith truly, and intentionally, scrubbed out. It doesn’t go well, either). Without faith, we really do become what some might think we already are: devotees of the idol in our living rooms–the one with the single, large eye. After all, one of the shows Collins is skewering is American Idol. Everything in Panem has become perverted to the power of the Capitol: schools that teach children their “proper place,” community gatherings that re-inforce the order of things, entertainment that punishes. If Collins were concerned about the evils of the faith, particularly in the organized sense (the phobia afflicting Pullman, apparently), she would be using it as another Capitol control device. Instead, like Rowling, she leaves that one social institution untarnished and keeps its meanings without its language: sacrifice, love, redemption, all there without the lingo.

    Jabberwocky: Seriously, you’re visiting this blog and still want to argue HP is not Christian? Hmmm. Flip that Time Turner over; I think you ‘re still on 1998. Twilight, far more subtle of course, but the big old apple and Genesis epigraph, just for starters, ought to be a clue that Christian themes are at work even before all the redemption, choice, and soul talk (not to mention plenty of Mormon-specific elements, and Meyer states that her faith is a big factor in her work).

    But of course, it’s okay if all a reader wants is a surface read, or a reading just to a certain (i.e. political) level, but such readers ought not to decide for others how deep the mine shaft goes or deny that there might be more, and richer, seams of coal beneath their feet.

  2. Fascinating. Some random thoughts:

    “Harry Potter is a coming of age story. I’m sure you could read Harry as a Jesus figure too, if you wanted, since he has to sacrifice himself, die and come back to save everyone, but you would have a hard time convincing me that was actually JKR’s point.”

    What if JKR herself told you? I mean, if all of her admissions that there were deliberate Christian themes in the series aren’t enough, what is?

    But the real issue at the heart of this is with the following assumptions:

    “If religion was important to the Harry Potter universe, I’m sure we’d hear about it.”

    By your own admission earlier in the same post, this isn’t true. You pointed to two examples – Narnia and Middle Earth – that refute the idea.

    Furthermore, I’m not sure which point of view you’re coming from. What matters more: “the evidence in the books” or “what the author intended?” Those are two different schools of thought on literary criticism.

    I’d argue lastly that a book that ends without hope is not by default a non-Christian book, or one that has nothing deliberately Christian about it. I don’t see how Katniss’s depressed and broken state at the end of the book negates the idea that it might have Christian themes to it.

  3. The song is talking about a dead man wanting his love to rin to him to death by hanging herself on the same tree they killed him on. It is very simple.

  4. Ryan J. says:

    I consider myself to be an intelligent person. I have been an avid reader for most of my life, and have always found books to be meaningful, passionate, though-provoking and just plain emotional. I have always been able to understand the hidden meanings and questions throughout books; even ones that I might find a bit far fetched. That said, while reading Mockingjay, not once did I find any kind of “religious” tie-ins.

    This is not to say, that they aren’t there. I have read your other articles and I agree, there are a lot of similarities between stories and characters in the HG series and the Bible. Though, in all honesty, I think you are seeing what you want to see. I don’t think that those similarities were intentional. They seem more like things that you went out of your way to match. Maybe “out of your way” is a little too harsh. I feel like you saw something that reminded you of the Bible- and went with it. Just because two things kinda-sorta seems the same, doesn’t mean it actually is. A carrot and orange are both orange, and they both are edible, but that doesn’t make them the same thing.

    I think religion was left out of the book for a reason. I think adding it would have had a negative effect on the book. If the capital was religious- bad message about those who are religious. If the districts were religious- it makes people who live without religion in their lives seem like bad/heartless people. Either way, a portion of her audience would have been offended. Yes, it probably would have added a whole new level to the book- but not one I think would have had a positive effect. Everything would have taken on a whole new meaning, and it would have been way more complex in an unappealing way- this is why I think Collins didn’t INTENTIONALLY add it it.

    “I think it’s a mistake to read my and several others’ comments as “there’s no Christianity mentioned, thus there are no Christian themes.” That’s not exactly what we’re saying. Everyone is, of course, free to interpret books any way they like. There are a lot of universal themes and tropes in literature. Christianity uses just as many of these as any other faith or culture, and anyone is going to relate familiar themes to what they know best or are most familiar with.
    What we’re saying is, just because you see a parallel to Christian themes, that doesn’t mean the author intended that parallel. To be honest, I really, really doubt Suzanne Collins intended religious readings of her books. The Hunger Games trilogy is a pretty straightforward commentary on war and reality TV, and the way that we treat human suffering too much like a game.”

    ^This is exactly how I think about it. I’m not saying that the themes aren’t there- just that they aren’t intentional. It is up to the reader to decide what they take out of any book, but I don’t think it’s right to call someone “mistaken” simply because they don’t believe there were any religious parallels.

    “And, if this is what happens when a society completely erases faith in God, then it’s a very strong endorsement of our need for faith.”

    ^I don’t see how you came up with this at all. Most all the horrors, mass/murders, governments, rules, policies, amendments, of our world have been based on a religious belief. The church has killed thousands of people in the “name of God” or for not following “God’s laws”. Countries are at war because of their significant religious differences. Praised scientists/anthropologists/writers/philosophers that we think of today were scorned, thrown in jail, ridiculed and banished simply because they didn’t believe in what the Church did. This is nothing against faith or religion, I’m simply retelling our world’s history. Pretty much everything in our history has been BECAUSE of religion, not lack-there-of. I’m just defending this “god-less” nation in the HG series. Their horrible tortures and disgusting “games” they came up with are not due to a lack of religion. Seeing as how religion is not mentioned for the characters at all, we DON’T KNOW their affiliations- meaning you cannot argue that they are, OR are not religions (leading to my point that you cannot assume that these games are a direct consequence of no faith).

    Next, addressing the “Jesus” characters. I get it- people who sacrifice themselves for another person are considered pure and good like Jesus was when he sacrificed himself for our sins. However, this does not conclude that every character in a book/movie/tv show that shows some kind of compassion, is “Jesus”. Katniss sacrifices herself for Prim- that makes her Jesus. Peeta protects and sacrifices himself for Katniss- that makes him Jesus. Prim sacrifices her safety in order to medically help injured persons, leading to her death- that makes her Jesus. Cinna relays a message in Katniss’ clothing, knowing he would be punished, he “sacrificed” himself for this message- that makes him Jesus. Mags sacrifices herself so the rest of her group could get away from the red mist- that makes her Jesus. Ok people, not everybody in this book can be Jesus. Take it one step further. The story of Pocahontas, she sacrifices herself in order to save John Smith (according to legend)- this makes her Jesus. Bella in twilight cuts/sacrifices herself in order to steer trouble away from Edward- this makes her Jesus. Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast sacrifices herself in replacement for her father- this makes her Jesus. In the popular TV show 90210, a character sacrifices her educational future by taking the blame for something she didn’t do, saving someone she loved from being expelled- this makes her Jesus? ALL of these characters cannot be Jesus. Showing characteristics of compassion, love, selflessness etc… doesn’t automatically mean the author/writers are intentionally drawing comparisons to Jesus. Those are HUMAN characteristics that people find, not just “religious characteristics”. SURE, in all of those stories, there are similar qualities- but that doesn’t mean it was intentional to make them “Christ-like”. I understand that Peeta is “resurrected” in a sense- he was injured, then became better or he was hijacked but was brought back from that horrible mind-set… but why couldn’t the author have just meant “hey, his wounds are better because of the ointment and medicines Katniss gave him” and “He has returned to his original state of mind!” not…”Christ has returned!”. It’s a little far-fetched in my opinion. All of the characters are heroic in their own way, they are all misunderstood by others- but that doesn’t mean they all are like Christ.

    I don’t think religion is a focus in this book series. Sure you can find it, you can find faith anywhere you look, which is a quality in people I envy. However, just because you can find it, doesn’t mean it was intentionally put there. Haven’t you ever played a Word Cross puzzle and found accidental words that aren’t on the list of words-to-find? The maker of that puzzle wasn’t trying to add that word, he wasn’t trying to send a message- it was just seen by people who were looking for it. People draw from their experiences, and I understand that- what people want to take out of a book is the beauty of literature! Each person can take something different out of the same book. That being said, you cannot say “this is what the writer meant”, when in all honesty, it is based on opinion and opinion only. Only the author knows what they truly meant.

  5. Ryan wrote:
    I don’t see how you came up with this at all. Most all the horrors, mass/murders, governments, rules, policies, amendments, of our world have been based on a religious belief. The church has killed thousands of people in the “name of God” or for not following “God’s laws”. Countries are at war because of their significant religious differences. Praised scientists/anthropologists/writers/philosophers that we think of today were scorned, thrown in jail, ridiculed and banished simply because they didn’t believe in what the Church did. This is nothing against faith or religion, I’m simply retelling our world’s history. Pretty much everything in our history has been BECAUSE of religion, not lack-there-of. I’m just defending this “god-less” nation in the HG series

    Two quick points about this earnest but almost completely upside down view of history and literature:

    (1) The writer certainly is “re-telling history.” The atrocities of the twentieth century are a record of socialist and communist regimes slaughtering believers, from the German National Socialists killing Jews and Christians (8 million) and the Soviet Communists killing Russian Orthodox Christians (60-80 million) to the pogroms, killing fields, and re-education camps of Mao and Pol Pot; to think that “Most of the horrors and mass murders of the world have been based on religious belief” reflects the worst kind of ignorance and arrogance or just an absence of education of any kind. To follow up this nonsense about belief being the cause of all evil with an off-hand “nothing against religion” tells us the writer is living an unexamined life, i.e., despising believers as the fount of inhuman cruelty while s/he feigns a position of tolerance. Get a mirror.

    (2) As bad as this poster is on history, s/he is worse on literature. A good or great book doesn’t mean what you like; it’s not just a projection screen of the individual’s beliefs, if it can certainly be that. To restrict meaning and content to ‘what I get’ or, worse, ‘what I imagine the author intended’ is to divorce the text in question from its roots in English literature, which, as much as it may shock this secular fundamentalist, is a Christian game, start to near finish. Reading Collins’ work in denial of its Christian content because it can be read and enjoyed without grasping this content consciously is a celebration only of deliberate blindness.

    This website is not evangelical. It is, however, dedicated to exploring the power of popular literature in light of its artistry and meaning, both of which, given the tradition of English letters, means exploring Christian content. If you’re not up to that, “oh, well.” But spouting off nonsense about history and literature that is insulting to Christians and dismissive of the obvious and not so obvious in traditional literary criticism is unacceptable. Share your thoughts on like-minded, conventional thinking websites, which are legion.

  6. Ryan, maybe you should consider this: http://ow.ly/52ZW7.

    Also, you might enjoy the Flowers in the Attic discussion at Forever Young Adult, which is one of the funniest things I’ve ever read.

  7. Just finished the series today, and came across these commentaries. I must defend Ryan here and say that I don’t think he meant to say “all evil stems from religious beliefs,” but rather that a good majority of war and violence stems from religious battles and disagreements. Look at the current state of the Holy Land, which is still being fought over by the Muslims, Jews, and even some contemporary Christians. I’m not try to offend, fact is fact. And of course religious beliefs are going to shine through an author’s work. It merely takes a bit of logic that our beliefs are going to reflect our literature.

  8. A wise English teacher of mine once explained that understanding the Bible, or at least the more common stories and themes therein, is crucial to understanding every single piece of English literature ever written, because, like it or not, most of Western culture is built up around the mythos of that book. Every piece of Western literature has Judeo-Christian themes, because all of Western society is built upon a Judeo-Christian worldview. It’s buried deep within us, and there’s no real sense in denying it. Whether or not you personally believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ or the existence of God is irrelevant — our culture (and thus our art) is, for better or for worse, built upon Christian themes.

  9. ………..Lets just say….nice.

  10. When she said it was “forbidden” I was under the impression that she meant it in a “mom said no” kind of way… Not literally illegal. Just my 2 cents

  11. I didn’t think there was a way to take the Hunger Games as “straightforward”. Collins includes so many layers of meaning and artistry, I just can’t see how anyone could fail to take it as such.

  12. I had the same impression as Patrick.

  13. I’m totally on board with the allegorical symbolism in the trilogy, but I don’t find Katniss’ assassination of Coin to be in line with dying to herself or uniting herself with Christ-Peeta.

    I think the ending would have been far better if she had skipped the vote over the 76th Hunger Games and went straight to the execution of Snow. I think the ending would have been far better if 1) Coin announced the 76th Hunger games to the crowd; 2) Katniss shot Snow as planned; and 3) Coin simultaneously fell to her death shot by Gale (to atone for Prim’s death). This would have been a nice parallel with Peeta’s symbolic offering of himself so Katniss could have new life with Gale as shown in the locket (in book 2). Instead, we have an unredeemed, unrepentant and disinterested Gale going off into the sunset and shell-shocked and exiled Katniss and Peeta uniting by default at the end of book 3.

  14. HungerGamesObsessed says:

    will they be making more hunger games movies?if so will they make an actual song out of the hanging tree?i hope so

  15. HungerGamesObsessed says:

    WILL THEY BE MAKING AN ACTUAL SONG FROM THE HANGING TREE,I <3 IT!

  16. Commentator says:

    This is truly an incredible interpretation of the tune “The Hanging Tree” and the symbolism portrayed in Hunger Games as a whole. I had never viewed it that way, although I did understand that Katniss’s multiple sacrificial acts given were indeed of immence importance to the general message I believe Ms. Collins was possibly conveying, I had never really connected it much to “The Hangning Tree”. Regardless, I was quite satisfied with the ending even though Peeta would never be the same-who would after those three books, right. Anyway thank you!

  17. Commentator says:

    Hanging*

  18. I recently read the Hunger Games series and ran accross this website looking for anything delving into it more intellectually. I have to say, I’m a bit disappointed by some of the frankly quite stretched interpretations I’ve seen in some of the posts.
    But, here I am weighing in with my two cents:
    I was really pretty struck by how non-spiritual the Hunger Games Trilogy was. Most fiction, even though it generally avoids religion specifically, addresses or at least mentions spirituality. This is obvious in C.S. Lewis. Tolkein makes references to some sort of spiritual order or system. And Harry Potter has repeated references to some sort of existence beyond death.
    The Hunger Games, however, seems to explicitly reject any degree of spirituality within the narrative. Katniss repeatedly faces death, but sees it as nothing more than the end of life–she never ponders any kind of existence after death, or any meaning in life beyond the material consequences of her actions. This is not to say that the series, or Collins, is at all anti-religion, or anti-spirituality. However, in the narrative I can think of no instance in which there is any reference to spirituality.
    Of course, our perspective as readers is limited by what Katniss knows and is interested in, so it is impossible to say what the broader religious/spiritual make-up of Panem is. However, it seems interestingly clear that Katniss is essentially an atheist–she gives no consideration to spirituality, instead depending on her own resourcefulness and evaluating her life and self-worth based on the real-world consequences of her actions.
    This is not to discount that there are elements in the story that could be related to Christianity. However, the theme of self-sacrifice referenced here is universal. Christians no doubt tend to view self-sacrifice in a Christian context, but I would argue that the theme itself appears in traditions throughout the world and cannot really be considered the exclusive domain of Christianity.

    In all honesty, what I found most powerful about the Hunger Games trilogy was it’s realism, at least on a social/political level. What Collins does particularly well is humanize war and violence, giving them a greater emotional impact. The 2nd and 3rd books do an impressive job of realistically portraying the progression of revolution and the moral and political complexities that entails. Things from the economic inequality between the districts and the Capitol to the victimization of non-combatants in Mockingjay have a number of real world parallels (third world/first world trade ties, the Beslan hostage crisis, and, of course, the past years events in the Middle East come to mind). The power of Collins’ fiction is that it makes these events, which can seem distant and abstract in our news coverage, seem more emotionally real to Americans who have never dealt with war and poverty.
    For this reason I think the Hunger Games is read most coherently not as an allegory or symbolic tale, but as the rather brilliant story that it is.

  19. Thanks for the lyrics, but it would be very helpful to have the notes. I’d love to play this song on my flute but can’t find notes anywhere.

  20. In reaction to the comment by Ryan J. I must protest his depiction and interpretation of the Christ figure. Yes, the Christ figure is depicted as self sacrificing, however there are many other characteristics to consider.
    Katniss is ‘good with children’, as is evidenced through Prim and Rue. She receives ‘wounds in hands, feet, side, and head’, her most notable being in Catching Fire when she breaks her foot falling from the tree and in Hunger Games when she looses hearing in her left ear. Katniss being ‘self-sacrificing’ is a given through her volunteering to save Prim to her killing of Coin even though she will most likely be killed for it herself. ‘Good with loaves, fishes, water, wine’ is more difficult to see at first. The bread symbology is utilized throughout the book; one of Katniss’s bread moments is when she receives the bread from district 11 even though the price must have been astronomical. Katniss being good with fish is quite a bit more vauge, but can be seen though her later affiliations with Finnick. Her gifts concerning water are shown in The Hunger Games, where Katniss talks about the pool and digging for Katniss roots with her father, and in Catching Fire, where the entire center of the arena is water and Katniss spends time swimming. Katniss isn’t associated with wine, so much as alcohol in general. She spends alot of time trying to wean Haymitch off of it, although later she does get very drunk with him because of the 75th games and her having to go back. Katniss is ‘known to use humble modes of transportation, feet or donkeys preferred’; much of the time Katniss is on foot. ‘Known to have spent time alone in the wilderness’. Well, Katniss is a hunter and, before Gale and after her father, spent alot of time alone in the wilderness. Another good one is ‘believed to have had a confrontation with the devil, possibly tempted’. Here the devil is represented by President Snow who offers her many deals, or Faustian bargains. All of them ask her to give up the resistance- which, really, is her soul- in exchange for various things such as her families safety. ‘Had disciples’ couldn’t be easier to explain. As Katniss becomes the symbol of the revolution, people see her as their hero, their savior, and their leader. She may not really have been leading the whole way, but her killing of Coin she shows that, despite what some may have thought, she has always been in charge. I will be the first to recognize that she doesn’t fit everything, but she doesn’t have to. Some of the things such as ’employed as a carpenter’ are less important to the whole, wheres others such as ‘believed to have walked on water’ are to deliberate to drop into a story with no other outright statements of belief.
    Another thing to keep in mind is that you don’t have to be Christian to use and interpret Christ figures and that Christ figures vary. Anything in ‘ ‘ was taken from Foster’s How to Read Literature Like a Professor.

  21. Cora,
    There aren’t any notes but if you search YouTube there are some pretty cool aarangments people have created.

  22. For me, the reason ‘The Hanging Tree’ is so powerful is that you are embracing death without believing that God is going to be there in death.

    “Where I told you to run so we’d both be free” tells me that it’s not the fact you think there’s anything waiting for you in death, it’s that life is too horrible, unfair, and painful that you just want it to stop.

    Also, I think you read into the fact the song was “forbidden” a little too much. I think Mrs Everdeen just didn’t want to hear it, not that is was illegal (although I accept that it could have a wider meaning of rebellion).

    Furthermore, you stated that Katniss’ father died because of the Capitol, but I don’t really think this is correct, because this leads to the question that if the Capitol could make mining explosions happen at will, then why didn’t they just kill Gale in an explosion when they realised that Peeta was the better leverage? Gale wouldn’t have been helpful again to them, and as we see in Catching Fire/Mockingjay Gale was definitely a major part of the rebellion, so it would have made more sense for them to get him out of the way.

    Additionally, I would argue that when Katniss stands up to defend her family and herself it actually pulls apart any Christian themes that could be running rampant in this book. She goes against the rules (isn’t that a sin?) and hunts the forest and then she sells the surplus meat at a black market! My point here is that she doesn’t try to rely on God or fate that if her family is going to have food then they will be given it by some divine power. I really liked another commenters (didn’t think to look at the name sorry) point that if you want to compare some acts of Peeta’s as Jesus or Christ then you should really take everything as being a link to Christ and that leads to pretty much every decent character being Jesus (not really good in the long run!). For example, Thresh shows compassion by avenging Rue and letting Katniss go — he must be Jesus! It really starts to get far fetched when you apply it to every situation.

    To be honest, I think you found a theme you could relate to (religion) in the Hunger Games and then saw it in every little nook and cranny of the book, when in reality it isn’t even mentioned once in practical way (not even in subtext if I remember rightly.)

    I simply don’t agree that the Hunger Games was intended as a religious novel. In part or whole (or sentence :P). It should be taken as it is — a fantastic story of a near future that focuses on political themes and reveals reality TV as the monster it is becoming.

  23. Thank you for joining the conversation at Hogwarts Professor!

    Our ideas of understanding literature are very different, almost as much as our idea of what faith in Christ is about. From what you share here, you see Christianity as a do-gooder’s devotional attachment to the historical teacher Jesus of Nazareth. To traditional Christians, it is that certainly, but also and more important the means to our transformation within and communion with the Logos, the cause of our existence each moment and the fabric of reality, the Circle revealing the Absolute and unknowable Center.

    English literature until the end of the 20th century was part and parcel of this latter understanding — and those writers today who use the tools and artistry of the older tradition, e.g., Ms. Rowling and Ms. Collins’ use of literary alchemy, soul triptychs, and ring composition scaffolding, are after much bigger rewards and experience for their reader than moral instruction or diverting entertainments. Ms. Collins’ dystopia is largely, in fact, a criticism of superficial and corrosive entertainments and she is writing an allegorical critique of postmodernity that extends well beyond the political.

    I accept that you don’t have the grasp of the literary tradition or the substance of Christian faith to get your head around this — but why deny what you don’t understand as an over-reach or projection on my part? Please read the posts on the allegorical and anagogical artistry Ms. Collins puts into into play in this remarkable trilogy and look for the greater meaning which gives this story its power in the reader’s heart, whatever their confession or lack of one.

    Fraternally,

    John

    See these posts for more:

    Unlocking Mockingjay: A Round-up of the First 30 Discussion Points

    ‘Unlocking Mockingjay: The Spiritual Allegory’ On Katniss as a Soul Seeking Perfection and Iconological Reading
    ‘Unlocking Mockingjay: ‘The Literary Alchemy’ On Literary Alchemy and Peeta as Postmodern Christ
    ‘Unlocking Mockingjay: Katniss’ Apotheosis’ On the Alchemical Arena and Katniss’ Perfection in the Inner Sanctuary

    Mockingjay Discussion 12: Real or Not Real?
    Mockingjay Discussion 14: Hunger Games Formula
    Mockingjay Discussion 16: Katniss’ Meadow Song
    Mockingjay Discussion 22: Ring and Mirror Composition in the Hunger Games Series Finale

  24. Thanks for the reply! I’m really enjoying looking further into these books. I have read a few more of your posts on the subject, and will hopefully read more soon, but I’ll respond with my thoughts at the moment.
    I agree that our understanding of literature is VERY different. I’m not going to try and over exaggerate my knowledge, because honestly I’m just starting out on literal analysis (I’m 15 – it will hopefully come with time … and books). And, I don’t claim for one second to know the ins and outs of what faith in Christ entails, because I’m an atheist through and through. What I shared in my last comment was very much the top layer of my thoughts on Hunger Games/religion, but as I said I don’t see it (yet/at the moment). I think what would ultimately sway me on this idea is Suzanne Collins saying she intended it to be interpreted this way (or even what faith she upholds etc. – I might read her other novels to see how they compare), but I unfortunately don’t see this happening anytime soon.
    In a nut shell, the reason that I am “denying” this idea, is to put it simply, because I DON’T understand it (although the more I read the more I can sort of get my head around where you see it in the story, BUT I have literally just read your thoughts on it so I can’t take it as truth yet). It’s very much like my denial/non-belief in God. I just don’t see how it’s a possibility so my brain just rejects it at first sight. This was my first reaction to you quoting Bible passages and saying Peeta is Christ etc. So I may have come off as a little harsh or unreasonable.
    Just another thought quickly: The reason I think this trilogy really ‘got to me’ (aka sobbing crying were I couldn’t breathe :l) is because I can see it happening; stories that reflect reality are much more meaningful to me. Also, I saw a lot of myself in Katniss so it made it that much easier to relate to her and her thoughts/decisions. Finally, one thing that I can remember really enjoying was the little life lessons thrown in, such as when Foxface ate the nightlock berries and Collins/Katniss summed up that it’s dangerous to underestimate your enemies, but perhaps even more dangerous to overestimate them as well.
    Well, these are just some more of my thoughts after reading your comment and some more posts, I’m sure I’ll have more later!

  25. Me personally don’t like the hanging tree song but” I LOVE THE BOOKS”
    Big fan of all 3

  26. I agree with Patrick. When Katniss said the song was forbidden, at first I thought she meant illegal, but then she elaborated on the story with her parents, and I then took it to mean it was forbidden by her mother, not the law.

    As a Christian myself, I really don’t see the analogies with Christ or Christianity in Hunger Games. In Harry Potter, yes, absolutely. But not in the Hunger Games.

    Joanne, even though I think the ‘analogies’ with Christianity are very thin at best, I think you have taken it far too literally by saying just because Katniss ‘sins’ there musn’t be any Christian themes in the book. For starters, it is not necessarily a sin to break the law. Jesus broke the law. ‘Sin’ is breaking God’s law, not mankind’s law (often these do overlap, however). And God does not need to make an appearance in a book for it to have Christian themes. There is no God in The Chronicles of Narnia but the Christian themes in that are blatantly obvious. But ultimately, a book doesn’t have to be a total copy of Christianity or Jesus to simply have Christian themes. Harry Potter has quite apparent Christian themes, in that Harry willingly sacrificed himself to save greater wizard-kind, and was resurrected, very much like Jesus. But Harry and his friends broke school rules plenty of times, got into fights, etc etc.

    Having said all that, I’m still not convinced there’s any real Christian analogies in the Hunger Games.

  27. @Leah

    I completely agree with you, that a book doesn’t need to feature God to have Christian themes, but my point was, as you said, that the analogies “are very thin”.

    Also, just to clarify I wasn’t sure if it was a sin or how it would be applied to the situation (eg. God’s law vs. mankind’s law) but I was trying to show you my though pattern (although it was definitely more extensive than this!) in rejecting the religion found in the books.

    One last, quick point, when I said before that when you find something you relate to in a book you see it more prodominantly I wasn’t trying to say that you were making anything up in your post etc. just that you may have been more adept at seeing it. For example, I’ve read the Harry Potter series at least 10 times since I was about 6 but I never really noticed the religion aspects at all until I saw it suggested by a blogger somewhere, and even then I pretty much just saw the examples that they had listed (the obvious ones). However religion has never been a big part of my life so I never think to consciously (or even sub-consciously) look for it.

    Okay, that was longer than I thought it was going to be. Sorry :p

  28. And to think my weak mind only came up with this…the song was foreshadowing that one of them, Katniss, Gale, or Peeta (likely Katniss) would literally hang themselves. Likely at the lake with the house she often retreated to with her father. And Peeta/Gale would come across this and be thoroughly disgusted by what had happened and ultimately take their own lives as well.

    I really enjoyed the whole series but the ending was so flat. Snow’s dead (fair enough to a certain degree he repented); Coin’s dead (I hated her from the get go anyway); Gales (off doing stuff making up maybe for Prim’s loss); Peeta and Katniss (together because two shell-shocked people work together??? ala Finnick and Annie); Haymitch (who knows); Prim (gone…turns out in the end, Katniss cound’t save her sister from the Hunger Games)…and so forth.

    I see the meaning but its the Gale/Peeta/Katniss part that leaves me flat. Like I said the song made me think one of them was going to take their own life. And I mean really would anyone have been shocked it that’s what did happen…I know its a young adult novel but that’s just my two cents.

  29. As to the use of Christian Ideals, they are not to be confused for Christianity. They are used as allusion, similar to using mythology in text. Authors use allusions to allow readers to make connections they would otherwise not make and see things differently without the author being obvious. As I explained in a previous post, being a Christ figure is not limited to being self-sacrificing, and the self-sacrifice isn’t on a one time basis, it’s an overarching part of their personality. For example, when we hear about Thresh risking himself for Katniss this is the only time we hear about Thresh doing anything of that nature; he spends most of the game ignoring Rue and only reacts later because of the situation they were forced into. If a similar situation had occurred later in the games I doubt he would have stopped to think about it. To go back to Katniss, she is shown putting others before herself time and time again. Not only does she volunteer for Prim, she risks herself hunting, she gives up her childhood to take care of her family, she risks literal suicide to make sure both she and Peeta leave the games, and she is willing to give up her happiness and her chance with Gale to make sure everyone gets out of the mess she created in one piece. Moving away from the first book, Katniss tries to help carry Mags even while the mist is burning her, she takes on the dead weight of Wiress (she’s depicted as a mad woman who can’t defend herself, although who, similarly to the blind seers, understands more than anyone else), decides to save Peeta this time and asks Haymitch to help her, etc.

  30. to be honest..i feel like she’s doing everything she can to take out the capitol..but when she sang that it wasnt for that purpose and it actually meant something to her.

  31. “Most all the horrors, mass/murders, governments, rules, policies, amendments, of our world have been based on a religious belief”

    Sorry, but that’s a lie. Only 7% of hostorical wars have been remotely related to religion; reference: ^ Axelrod, Alan & Phillips, Charles Encyclopedia of Wars, Facts on File, November 2004, ISBN 978-0816028511

    Also, The Catholic Chuch has NEVER persecuted Science as a whole thing, but it only some fields of it that were in conflict with their theology.

  32. Sorry, but that’s a lie.

    Easy, Josell, easy. It’s a mistruth or false statement. A lie, per se, is an intentional misrepresentation of the facts. We cannot know if the author of this comment knew s/he was in error and said what s/he did to mislead readers unless s/he confessed to this failing or we have discernment of hearts.

    I’m pretty sure that the person didn’t know the fact you shared (for which, thank you!) but was repeating a popular misconception as fact.

    There’s nothing praiseworthy in that, of course, but neither is over-reaching in judgment of others’ failings.

    Please forgive me for my harsh tone here, not a little hypocritical, as I’m sure you see, in the defense of a gentler, more forgiving tone on the site (and especially as I blasted this troll myself …).

  33. i love this poem and i agree that thus was a direct refrence to peeta

  34. Rachel S. says:

    Madi, as much as I appreciate your right to have your own opinion, I have to point out the following. If Katniss had not volunteered, there would have been not story. THAT was the point of her volunteering. As to the deaths of all those people being caused by her, think of it like the American Civil War. Yes, the election of Abraham Lincoln was the catalyst that started secession according to many sources. However, would the war have occurred at some point regardless? The answer is most likely yes. Katniss didn’t cause the rebellion; she was simply the spark. She was the rallying point people had been waiting for. The rebellion would have probably occurred regardless of Katniss, it just wouldn’t have happened in the same way.
    Saying Katniss is a Christ figure is the same as a character being a matchmaker and being called Cupid, it’s an allusion meant to enhance the reading if you choose to notice and believe it. It DOES NOT mean that Katniss or Suzanne Collins is religious. Just because Rick Riordan alludes to Greek Mythology in the Perseus Jackson series, he doesn’t necessarily worship the Greek gods.
    As to the Gale comment, one’s view on Gale is based around the idea of how much one can handle. The decision boils down to can you handle Gale POSSIBLY (as there is no proof that Coin actually ordered the bombing, although it is implied) being the cause of Prim’s tragic death? Many Gale supporters choose to believe that it wasn’t Gale’s fault and ignore the fact that he suggested the idea; after all, killing someone in person is a lot different from making up theories or just considering it. If some Peeta supporters choose to blame Gale for Prim’s demise, it is their personal choice.
    In addition, I must point out that your last comment is contradictory. You said originally that Gale can’t be with her yet you later state, “the books would have been sooo much better if … katniss had married gale. just cus he loved her more than peeta.” You say that Gale should and can’t be with Katniss in the same comment, which is confusing. Not to mention that many Peeta supporters would argue the measurement of love to the ends of the earth.
    Also your comment that, “the books would have been sooo much better if peeta had died, and prim and rue hadn’t.” isn’t based in logic. If Katniss hadn’t volunteered as you suggested originally, Prim would have died in the Games. If you are referring to Katniss just killing him to go home, think about the way it’s set up in the book. Katniss’s only kills are the boy that she didn’t know at all who threatened her loved one and Cato, which was a mercy killing. Keeping that in mind, Katniss wouldn’t have been able to face her family had she killed Peeta. In addition, although it is possible that she would have won, it is most likely that Rue would have died regardless of Katniss’s interaction.
    This is all my opinion, of course, so feel free to argue against me.

  35. Speaking as a Jew, I have no problem with the undeniable evidence that Collins used Christian iconography in the HG trilogy. Religious symbols work in art because they evoke emotion and deep ancient truths. This comment is from Joseph Campbell’s book, Pathways to Bliss: Mythology and Personal Transformation.

    “Artists are magical helpers. Evoking symbols and motifs that connect us to our deeper selves…can help us along the heroic journey of our own lives.”

    “The artist is meant to put the objects of this world together in such a way that through them you will experience that light, that radiance which is the light of our consciousness and which all things both hide and, when properly looked upon, reveal. The hero journey is one of the universal patterns through which that radiance shows brightly. What I think is that a good life is one hero journey after another. Over and over again, you are called to the realm of adventure, you are called to new horizons. Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There’s always the possibility of a fiasco. But there’s also the possibility of bliss.”

    New Testament and Christian imagery is part of the world’s heritage and it speaks to and inspires billions of people to the good. How can this be a bad thing?

    Readers who have trouble dealing with religious symbols in art or who can’t quite see the way religion informs works of art that are not overtly religious might learn from reading some of Joseph Campbell’s works, particularly The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

  36. Rachel S., ok so ifnkatniss hadn’t volunteered, the story could have been about prim. and about gale: there are pros and cons about him, he loved katniss alot, but he left her, and killed her sister, while peeta may never love her as much as gale.

    That is my opinion, but you can argue about it, because it is just an opinion.

  37. i honestly dont see religious points in the hunger games saga, or in harry potter, but i guess there could be. i think that katniss could be singing this for gale, peeta, prim, or even rue. im just not sure.

  38. I agree with Joanne and Leah in the fact that I do not think the hunger games had Christian annalogies. I do not think that the author had the intentions of Christian annalogies in the actions of Peeta and Katniss, rather they were just acts of rebellion and protecting each other out of love for each other which was obvious from the moment they pulled the Nightlock berry trick in the 74th annual games. Some actions may be interpreted as Christian annalogies but, like others have said, it is very thin at best and I too am a Christian.
    I also agree with Patrick where I thought by forbidden it was just our dear Mrs. Everdeen not allowing her daughters or husband to sing it, for fear it would influence the children in the wrong way or others might take the song the wrong way and say they were plotting a rebellion.
    I do agree with the theory that Mr. Everdeen’s death in the mines was no accident and that the Capitol was some how involved (does it surprise any one the Capitol would do that?)
    Just my opinion.

  39. Speaking as a Catholic (not the most devout, I disagree with half the church’s teachings), I didn’t see any religious themes in the series at all. I actually quite liked it that way, not because I “chose” not to see them or just ignored them, but because I don’t think they’re a part of the story at all. Not once is there an underlying theme of Christianity. I understand religions role in history but I think that we are too accustomed to looking for it in literature. I have read a number of comments, and I have to say that while you can explain SOME themes or symbols in the books, they just aren’t a part of the story’s core meaning. I am not saying we should leave religion out, but maybe we should just stop trying to find it in every little thing.

  40. The Hanging Tree was one of my favorite parts of the whole series, giving so much symbolism in such a simple song. It was hauntingly beautiful, and if there’s one thing I’ll remember from this series fifty years from now, it’ll be this song. I can just tell that it’s going to stick with me.

    I never thought about why The Hanging Tree might’ve been banned, other than its obviously grotesque message, but the fact that it may have been an old rebel song is a great explanation for this. When I think about it more, I doubt the Capitol would ban a song just because it depicts hangings, when they were so content with holding public hangings for trivial crimes. No, there had to be another reason behind the banning of the song, and what better reason to ban a song than one that lead to the Dark Days? With this explanation, the “murderer” wasn’t a murderer in the usual sense of killing for recreation, but rather killing for justice and freedom of his people. He may have killed peacekeepers, high-up officials, or others involved in the government. Obviously, he would be hanged for his crimes, and knowing the Capitol, they most likely wanted to punish the people he loved as well. That explains him calling out to his lover, telling her to flee the awful world with him, to “wear a necklace of rope” alongside him. He knew that at that point, death would be better than facing punishment for the crimes she didn’t commit, so he calls out to her, asking her to join him in death. Haunting.

    This also explains why Katniss’ mom was so upset with her dad for teaching them the song. It was a rebel song, after all, and the Capitol wouldn’t have any mercy for someone even hinting at a rebellion, considering that’s why The Hunger Games existed in the first place. Yet we later her from Peeta that her dad had a habit of singing that song in public, an extremely gutsy move, as there were certainly others out there who knew of the song’s original meaning. Was her dad trying to ignite the spark for the rebellion that Katniss did years later? We’ll never know, because he was killed in a mining accident. John brings up a good point though. If all this were true, and the Capitol got wind of it, can we really prove that the accident was indeed an accident, or was it simply a case of the Capitol taking care of a known rebel? The more I think about it, the more I believe that it’s the latter.

    Like it was said many times before me, Katniss thinks of the song twice in reference to Peeta taking the nightlock tablet. The first time, he wanted to take the pill to kill himself so the others didn’t become endangered by his instability. In other words, he was giving up his fight, and didn’t want to be recaptured and tortured again. She thought of Hanging Tree, and how the murderer wanted his lover dead so she didn’t get punished for his crimes, and since Peeta’s motivations didn’t match up with the song, she refused to give him the pill. When Peeta asked for it again later, his demeanor had completely changed. He asked for it thinking only of his friends, with plans to use it only as a last resort so as to not give up any information that could endanger the rest of the group. When Katniss gave him the pill this time on request, I like to think of her as the “murderer” and Peeta as the “lover”. Katniss gave him the pill to protect him from being punished for crimes that she committed. If he got captured, she knew that death was better than what awaited him. Since this is the exact message of The Hanging Tree, she gave him the pill this time without second thought.

    The song became so beneficiary to Katniss in her role as the Mockingjay, it makes you wonder if her dad taught it to her knowing that it could be of use to her someday. I like to think he did. He had no way of knowing that Katniss would be the face of a future rebellion, but I think he got comfort in knowing that when he eventually passed, there would always be someone to pass along The Hanging Tree to the rest of District 12.

  41. Timiteo says:

    Similar to Gabe, the theme of the hanging tree will definitely be the part of the series the sticks with me most. So much deep meaning to it. I thought of it as a song sung about how harsh their lives were in the districts. That the couple could live with it having one another, but the man could not bear the thought of his loved one suffering such a life without him. It would likely be a song passed from generation to generation banned because it is a statement about how bad their lives are and that they are always living in fear of torture or bing killed and the clear cause of this is the capital. I like how this tied in to the end with Rue’s song, which is a song about peace, hope, and love. The new song that Katniss is passing down to her children. The fear of death and misery gone.

  42. I too thought the ending was somewhat flat in that Katniss, Peeta, and Gale don’t finally resolve their love triangle. I wanted Katniss to finally choose one of them after considering each on his merits and her feelings. But as someone else has commented, this story shows what broad destruction occurs with war and corrupt government. Katniss, Gale, and Peeta are all very damaged by the end and none are really to blame. Three worthty people have their potential lives and dreams shattered and we are told that Katniss and Peeta “grow back together.” Gale is no less worthty than Peeta or Katniss but his experiences and “fire” ( as Katniss points out) is not what she needs to heal her own deep brokeness. She notes her owns unforgivable actions as she lets him go and wishes she could find the strength to hold on to him. She is barely surviving and no longer the victor of anything. She is able to grow again with the softer and patient Peeta while Gale is able to move on. Katniss and Peeta only could have each other as a damaged pair searching for hope; about as happy of an ending believeable given the horrors of the whole story.

  43. I decided to read The Hunger Games Trilogy a second time, and gained a deeper understanding of the story especially the character of Mrs. Everdeen. I stopped viewing her from Katniss Everdeen’s perspective as a weak and fragile woman, and began to view her as a revolutionary. I must admit I never viewed the song “The Hanging Tree” as illegal but rather as a song Mrs. Everdeen was not too fond of. However when you consider it was the only time Katniss ever saw her mother yell and lose control it seems probable that anyone caught singing this song would have been executed by the Capitol. It might also explain her reaction to her husband’s death. Did she experience guilt from his “murder” by the Capitol because she encouraged and loved him for his rebellion? Losing a husband is tragic but her complete withdrawal from life suggests the pain cut deeper. Her withdrawal is also similar to Haymitch and Madge’s mother. The former who watched his family die at the hands of the Captiol and used alcohol as an escape from reality, and the latter watched her twin sister lose her life in the games and became mad and on some occasions could not tolerate the sound of music in her home.

    Mrs. Everdeen belonged to the merchant class of district 12 so it is easy to view her as a privileged girl who although was subject to the reapings did not suffer in the same way as people from the seam. However she married a man from the seam leaving her life of luxury and subjecting herself to the suffering of the seam. She had experienced suffering at the hands of the Capitol in the form of the death of her best friend Maysilee Donner. According to Peeta’s father the baker she chose a man from the seam over him because when he sings the birds fall silent. This comparison of Mr. Everdeen to a bird is extremely symbolic. During the dark days, the jabberjays were a creation of the Capitol used against them by the Districts in an act of rebellion. The mockingjay the offspring of the jabberjay later became the face of the rebellion. A bird a free animal symbolizes the district’s quest for freedom from the Captiol’s cruelty. Mrs. Everdeen’s attraction to Mr. Everdeen could symbolize an attraction to a rebellion against the Capitol. There are also a few instances when Mrs. Everdeen exhibits rebellion against the Capitol. When Katniss and Peeta return from the Games and she states Katniss is too young for a boyfriend. Eventhough she has never objected to Katniss’s relationship with Gale. This is her way of showing her disapproval of the life the Capitol fabricated for Katniss. Another act of rebellion is evident when President Snow visited Katniss in her home in the Victor’s Village. Her mother alerts her to the situation and even interrupts the meeting with Snow to offer refreshments. Another important point to consider is Mrs. Everdeen only escapes her depressed state when Katniss brings home fresh game. Game acquired from illegal hunting, which in itself is a rebellion against the Capitol. It could be with the death of Gale’s father and her husband the revolution in district 12 died. She could not bear to live in a world where there was no sign of a revolution against the Capitol. The hunting symbolized the spirit of rebellion which was able to bring her back to life.

    Mrs. Everdeen in a sense is similar to Peeta. Courageous and brave but being raised in the merchant class had learned to defy in a subtle manner.

  44. Andreas J.A. (Xeradox) says:

    I just finished the 3rd book and was blown away by the end, not really a happy ending though.
    Now, I love the hanging tree poem (see here for a great version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DdJJ1KpvLCw), and I wonder what meaning could be found in the line

    “Where they strung up a man they say murdered three.”

    Three lives been destroyed? Katniss, Peeta, and Gale?

    What about the irony that Coin turned out to be no better than Mr. Snow?

  45. I just came across this article and subsequent discussion. It’s great. I love the interpretation of the song. I believe there is a lot of christian theology, actually Roman Catholic theology in the trilogy. For crying out loud, Peeta is referred to many times in the books as the “boy with the bread,” — and didn’t Jesus self identify himself as the Bread of life? As a former Roman Catholic so many things in the story jumped out at me. For example, when Katniss is in the cave mourning Thresh and “silently saying good-bye to Thresh and thanking him for my life,” — hey, it sounds like praying for/to the dead, a very Catholic thing to do. As a published writer of YA short stories I can tell you the author never would have gotten the books published with a secular publishing house if they were overtly religious in content. I think Suzanne Collins did a great job writing a trilogy that could be interpreted on so many levels and, in my opinion, there is definitely a religious level to be found there.

  46. Wow! You are all REALLY DEEP people- which I like. The Hunger Games trilogy is a lot more than just Katniss’ thoughts.I think that “The Hanging Tree” is really key to fully understanding the books. Collins is certainly very clever. I like what “MTK” said above about “the boy with the bread” (whom I love =)) but I know nothing of religion, so I can’t really go into that- I guess we’d have to hunt down Collins to get her to tell us about the symbolism within that she planned. Though I think we should be allowed our own personal interpretation of the books in which we can take into our lives and learn from. Whilst reading the books I also thought that the link between Capital punishment and the Capitol’s punishments was intentional and maybe there is something deeper here which Collins was trying to express.
    So are you, are you coming to the tree?
    P.S What happens when Peeta or Katniss dies after the book ends?
    What do you lot think?xx

  47. The reader says:

    I´ve read many of the comments above and have similar and contrary opinions on the topics here discussed, however I will state my opinion on the song, which is the main topic of this post.

    I´ve really enjoyed reading this song in Mockingjay, the disturbing yet so strangely alluring lyrics of this song have remained in my memory ever since I read that book. But I have to say, it never crossed my mind that this song would have any other meaning to the trilogy than the love triangle and Katniss’ feelings for both Peeta and Gale and the tragic result she (and some of us readers) thought it would have. This is why I think it wasn’t a main symbol in the trilogy, because it centered in the love story, which in my opinion is a secondary plot, being the revolution the main one.

    For starters, like many others I also think that “The hanging tree” was just forbidden by Mrs. Everdeen and not by The Capitol, mainly because Katniss/Collins tends to explain why something is against the law, what kind of punishment people get from it and even a story to go along to understand it better, and in this case, she just mentions how his mother forbid them to sing it, in my opinion because it was such a tragic and disturbing topic for a young girl to be thinking about.
    Also, the fact that his father used to sing it in public, even in the bakery shows that it wasn’t against the law or he would have been more cautious about it, and would’t endangered his family by doing it so careless.

    I have to say I really enjoyed reading at your opinion on how the song was more than that and how it had a revolutionary context, and really appreciated your analysis; however when I got to the religious or spiritual explanation I completely disagreed.

    I really don’t see any religious content in any of the books, and must say that many historic characters had shown some of the characteristics of many of the characters, that are, as others have said “human characteristics” and not divine ones. I must say, I found more similarities in revolutionary icons like Che Guevara or some liberators and Katniss than Jesuschrist.

    I understand that this site intends to explore christian content in literature, however I don’t think this book has that content, and I really think some may force their believes in it to fit their take on Christianity.

    Regards,

    Ps: I apologize for the the grammatical or spelling mistakes my post may have. My primary language is spanish, so I may have make some.

  48. On Che Guevera, ‘Guerilla Doofus and Murdering Coward.’

    Che is Chic, certainly, among those who wear t-shirts with slogans, but Katniss is not about this kind of ‘revolution,’ but a spiritual transformation.

    Thank you for contributing to the discussion, however much we must disagree.

  49. Very interesting idea and like how you delve into a possible conspiracy where mr everdeen and Hawthorne dies in the mines. Also I don’t like the ending of the series very much
    however I definitly agree with katniss’s decision to shoot coin, the whole reason for the rebellion would be pointless if they started the hunger games again, this would mean all Capitol people are shunted into the districts- where they will live for future generations, ultimately just switching the powers, coin would become the new snow and I am certain she would become obsessed with power and lead a dictatorship rather than a democracy that was stated in book 2 part

    The fact that nothing significant happens to any of the characters after the point when Katniss shoots coin is annoying. I hate the way Katniss isn’t happy and no one seems to be, gale neaves and Katniss has kids which is something she said she never wanted. She isn’t happy, what is the point in the rebellion if you aren’t happy? Seems that nothing much has changed from before and after. Would have been much better if the epilogue was 50 years later, the world has long been rebuilt and things are fine, there is a democracy where there is a mayor/minister of each district that brings ideas. Katniss is districts 12 leader

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