More ‘Hunger Games’ Bird Thoughts: Katniss and Prim as Dead Duck and Brilliant Mockingjay

No piece of critical writing is every truly comprehensive, covering every possible base. In a March post on bird images in The Hunger Games, I hit some of the highlights of bird connections with the two segments of the trilogy we have thus far, knowing that I wouldn’t get every single reference, of course, but happy to see that we had some great conversations on our feathered friends in Panem.

This week, however, a bird connection occurred to me that I had not pondered before, and it seems like one we might want to address. I wasn’t even thinking about HG, strangely. We were doing a memorial service for Civil War soldiers on a particularly chilly evening, so I wrapped my daughter up in an old fur cape, cast off from a college theatre department, which looks charming with her 1860s garb (in our neck of the woods, we tell folks it’s bearskin, though I guess it’s mink). The poor thing is pretty bare in spots, and, as Isabella was patting the soft fur, she noticed an old, rusty straight pin stuck in the hem. Thankfully, we got it out and discarded before anyone needed a tetanus shot, but it started me thinking about Mrs. Everdeen pinning Katniss’s old Reaping outfit on Prim.

That’s a very poignant scene, in my mind, as Katniss is so concerned about Prim’s shirt coming untucked, what she calls a “duck tail.”  At first, I thought this just a throwaway, a moment of tenderness and levity as the girls quack at each other before the Reaping, but, as I pondered it further,  I noticed that it is the sight of Prim’s “duck tail” that specifically incites Katniss to volunteer. It’s the trigger that sends her “flying” to the platform to take Prim’s place. The bird connections here may be far more complex and meaningful than an untucked blouse, as the duck is replaced by the Mockingjay.

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Chronicles of Narnia Set Second-Most Expensive Sale in December 2009 for AbeBooks

AbeBooks is a great resource for new, used, and rare books. Some real treasures apparently change hands through its website, which recently posted the list of its ten most expensive sales for December 2009.  Some of the listmakers are a little surprising, including several non-English titles (and somebody really is that interested in Dutch medals? Who would have guessed?). Much to my delight, second on the list, pulling in a whopping 8,132 dollars, was a complete original set of the Chronicles of Narnia. Aside from the obvious value (to me) of being in the original order, there is something very appealing about having the same set Lewis would have had from the publishers. But even if I had eight grand to toss around, is this how I would spend it? I’d probably still read my well-worn editions (the last set published in original order), both to my childen and on my own frequent returns to Narnia.

 I suppose many of the books in the vast piles around my home and office are valuable. Perhaps the only person who will really care is the executor of my estate. As far as I am concerned, books are valuable for what they mean to me, rather than for what their monetary exchange rate might be. The ratty paperbacks with my comments scrawled in the margins of them are priceless to me, though a collector, like Madam Pince, would shriek in horror at the sight of them. Of course, I do take care of my books, banning certain volumes from the “reading room” (that one with the tub and sink in it) and making sure that the more elderly meembers of the collection get treated with extra respect and care.

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Newsletter for C.S. Lewis College

A few days ago, I received a kind email from Peyton Beard, who is Assistant to the Vice President for Academic Affairs with the C.S. Lewis Foundation. He had seen last month’s post on the C.S. Lewis college and was nice enough to send along a link to the foundation’s newsletter, which includes loads of information and pictures of the new college. With Mr. Beard’s permission and encouragement, I am posting the link to the newsletter and to the Foundation’s website.  Both of these excellent resources are truly valuable tools for any Lewis reader. Some of you may also want to get on the mailing list for updates. I know many of us will watch eagerly the development of this exciting academic endeavor. It’s wonderful to see that corporate sponsor Hobby Lobby is putting to good use all the money my mother has spent in their stores!

“Myth” Placement: How and Why Popular Culture Monkeys with Mythology – Part 1

I think about classical mythology frequently.  Like Sayf Bowlin (thanks again for the super guest post!),  I was fascinated with the stories when I was a child, and I find that the literature I enjoy for myself and assign for my students has a definite theme of Greco-Roman deities.  Recently, as I was teaching William Butler Yeats’s “Leda and the Swan,” a powerful but distinctly unpleasant little gem, I was thinking about how Yeats used the story of Leda, usually captured by artists as a nice opportunity to pose a pretty girl with a pretty bird, as a vivid reminder of the way those in power use and discard others with no regard for either long- or short-term consequences.

Myths, despite their seemingly fixed narratives and characters, have always been in flux, changing, developing, rather than remaining as static artifacts.  Sometimes it is easy, particularly for those of us who are familiar with the classics, to stomp out of a movie or throw down a book and exclaim, “Well, that isn’t how that myth goes,” and certainly, there has been some mythological tinkering that is  just appalling in its disregard for any of the accepted elements of the stories as we know them. But rather than wringing our hands over kids these days who don’t know Tartarus from Tartar sauce, it might be more interesting to examine why writers, artists, and movie makers alter mythology. Sometimes, as we’ll see, there is not much depth or thought put behind the decision to change a traditionally accepted version of a classical myth, but often, those changes are done for very complex and thought-provoking reasons. In order to make this easier going, I’ll post this part, and later one(s) to follow.

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EBH: Are you Smarter than an Eighth Grader?

At my college, we had an open house for local eighth graders earlier this week. The folks in charge came up with a theme of finding the “treasure” of learning, so the different areas of the college gamely went along to do pirate displays about their areas. It was great fun, with some terrific displays and games for our visitors. I always love a chance to dress up like a pirate, wave a sword at people, and threaten to have them all flogged (that just doesn’t fly in the classroom, I’m afraid).

As part of our Arts and Sciences Department table (decorated with props I snagged from my son’s room, including a treasure chest full of books), we had a literary treasure hunt game, for which students could supply answers as they came through the displays. I intentionally chose questions about books I would have read myself were I in eighth grade now (shudder!), using those to help students realize they do know what some of these literary terms mean. What’s a protagonist? Oh! Frodo Baggins! Got it! [Read more…]