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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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: An Update about my Correspondence with Focus on the Family concerning ‘Twilight’s Merits

As you may recall, a few weeks ago, John posted my concerned letter to Focus on the Family after their two-part program that essentially threw up caution tape around the Twilight Saga. After a week or so, I received a response. Below please find the letter Focus wrote to me, my reply, and the most recent response from Focus to my second letter. I’m not planning to reply further, as they clearly are getting more mail on the subject, and I feel a little sorry for Michael Krider, as he may just be the poor guy who drew the short straw and was assigned to respond to the Twilight backlash. I am intrigued by the line in the last letter that indicates  Focus is, as John supposed, taking heat for not being anti-Twilight enough for some folks. There are also, it seems, plenty of others who, like myself, feel that High School Musical is far more “dangerous” than Twilight. Maybe I’m just over-sensitive, but it seems that the FOF folks are more afraid of the crowd that wants them to start burning any book with fictional elements than they are of me. Oh well, now back to our regularly scheduled thoughtful discussion; for me, that means back to the Hunger Games post I’m working up for later this week and some more thoughts on reading , writing, and thinking.

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Guest Post: Elizabeth Hardy Takes ‘A Bird’s Eye View: Birds in Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games’

“O The Cuckoo, she’s a pretty bird,

And she warbles as she flies,

She never says cuckoo,

Til the fourth day of July”

“The Cuckoo” Traditional Appalachian song

A Bird’s Eye View: Birds in Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games

The music of Appalachia is woven though with references to birds and their songs, echoing through the tunes as the notes warble out through the forests and meadows of the ancient mountain chain. As a product of what was once called Appalachia and still retains many of its physical and cultural characteristics, Katniss Everdeen lives in a world permeated by the sight and sound of avian creatures, so it is natural that her story should be one filled with birds serving a variety of functions both practical and symbolic. [Read more…]