Guest Post: Hunger Games and Lord of the Rings Mockingjay Discussion Point 30

As a rule I break too often, I prefer not to say anything about J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. The author’s fans are legion and notoriously contemptuous of anyone like me who cannot read, write, and speak Elvish. Forgive me, but, as magisterial as the work is, I feel about it the way Tolkien supposedly did about Shakespeare; the cultish fandom does not reflect well on the Bard himself or his work.

I posted on the Hogwarts and Forks Sagas’ shadows on Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy, consequently, but balked at making connections with Middle-Earth. Fortunately, a new HogPro All-Pro has appeared who has the requisite memorized knowledge of the Ring Fellowship’s journeys to make a credible comparison and I begged him to do the honors. Peter (PK9) has graciously agreed and his compare-and-contrast work below suggests that Ms. Collins, too, is a Tolkienite and her Hunger Games shows the influence of a work read and re-read on her creative imagination.

First of all, I’d like to thank John for inviting me to share my thoughts on this topic.  I’m no professor, just a reader desperate to discuss the series as much as possible.

One of the most influential book series of the 20th century was The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.  It is undoubtedly my personal favorite book series, and I have read it in its entirety at least fifteen times.  Each time, when I finally reach the conclusion of Return of the King, I find myself emotionally spent over the way the story ends.  When I finished Mockingjay almost two weeks ago, I had a very similar feeling.  However, it was not until I really began to think about why I felt that way that I realized there were a number of similarities between the two series, especially with respect to their main protagonists, Frodo Baggins of LOTR and Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games.  I do not know if Suzanne Collins is a LOTR-fan, but I can be fairly certain that she is at least familiar with such an iconic literary work.  So without further ado, let us look at some of the striking similarities.

Both Lord of the Rings and The Hunger Games are war stories.  The nature of the wars are different, although the principal belligerents are the same.  One side represents an oppressive government bent on enslaving the known world, while the other fights for freedom from that tyranny.  The difference is that in THG, the oppressive regime already controls most of the territory.  Panem is a picture of what Middle Earth would have looked like if Mordor had won the war.

As a result, our lead characters come from slightly different backgrounds.  Katniss lives in a dystopian society, essentially a slave to the Capitol.  Frodo’s Shire is utopian though rustic.  However, there are many similarities between the two characters.

Character Background

  • Frodo and Katniss are both orphans, in a way.  Frodo’s parents drowned when he was young.  Katniss’ father was killed in a mining disaster and she became estranged from her mother even while living in the same house.  Nothing special here; this is a common motif in stories of this sort.
  • Katniss is 16-17 years old in the series, almost an adult but not quite, and as a result the other characters sometimes treat her as less mature.  Frodo is a mature adult hobbit, but hobbits are seen as childlike by the other races in Middle Earth

Entry into the Story

  • Our heroes, Katniss and Frodo, are each pushed into action because of a family member.  Katniss enters the Hunger Games because her sister Prim is reaped.  Frodo inherits the One Ring of Power from his uncle Bilbo.
  • However, both J.R.R. Tolkien and Suzanne Collins leave it open as to how said family member got involved.  Gandalf has a talk with Frodo that suggests that a higher power might have meant for Frodo to have the One Ring, although it is also possible that chance was what brought the Ring to Bilbo.  Chance is what supposedly resulted in Prim’s name being drawn at the Reaping, but there are suggestions that it may have been prearranged for some reason.  (See the posts on the Pearl Plot theory for more details).
  • Regardless, the concept of choice is very important to both stories.  Both Katniss and Frodo have two clear moments where they choose to accept their involvement in the story.  Katniss volunteers in order to protect Prim in the first book.  In the third, she willingly chooses to become the Mockingjay.  Frodo first decides to leave the Shire in order to protect it.  Later, at the Council of Elrond, he formally chooses to be the Ring Bearer.
  • In both stories, between the first and second decisions, our heroes undergo a series of perils.  Frodo has harrowing experiences in the Old Forest and Barrow Downs, and several near-misses with the Ringwraiths before arriving at Rivendell.  Katniss endures the 74th and 75th Hunger Games.

Main Quest

  • Both Frodo and Katniss undergo a quest into the heart of enemy territory to destroy the leader of the oppressive regime.  Katniss creates her own secret mission to assassinate Snow.  Frodo’s goal is to cast the One Ring into the cracks of Mount Doom, which will effectively kill what is left of Sauron’s spirit.
  • Both Frodo and Katniss are initially assisted on this quest by a small group of helpers.  Frodo leaves Rivendell as part of a nine-member Fellowship of the Ring.  Katniss has her Star Squad.  Interestingly enough, if you do not count the camera crew as part of the squad, there are nine members of Squad 451.
  • Along the way, both lose several members of their company in tragic fashion, and others end up taking other paths.  As a result, both enter the final phase of their journey with only their most faithful companion by their side: Sam for Frodo, Gale for Katniss.
  • Both are aided by a late addition to their group of questionable trustworthiness.  In fact, both Gollum and Peeta show symptoms of a split personality, with one side wanting to kill our hero/ine, and the other wanting to help.  One of the iconic moments in the LOTR films was the dialogue Gollum had with himself in The Two Towers.  Peeta’s repeated attempts to fend of his hijacking echoes this.
  • Ultimately, both Frodo and Katniss fail in their mission, but circumstances result in the completion of their task despite their failure.  Overcome at last by the power of the Ring, Frodo claims it for himself, but Gollum’s attempt to seize it from him results in the Ring falling into the volcano.  Katniss “fails” twice: first she does not make it into Snow’s mansion before the rebels end the war.  Second, she kills Coin instead of executing Snow, but Snow dies anyway, either from choking on his own blood or being crushed by the crowd.


  • Katniss and Frodo were the figureheads of the side of good in their respective wars, so one might expect them to be key parts of the new government.  Not so; both fade into the political background in the rebuilding years.
  • Both Katniss and Frodo are broken by the horrors that they experienced.  (This was the very first similarity that I noticed).  Unlike Harry Potter, neither is able to completely enjoy the fruit of their labor.  Now, the mechanism of their breaking is slightly different.  Katniss is overwhelmed by all the deaths that she either causes or witnesses, especially Prim’s.  In LOTR, the body counts are significantly higher – I think some of the battles had more combatants than the entire population of Panem – but almost all of them are characters that Frodo himself does not meet.  Rather, Frodo is wounded by the Witch King’s knife, Shelob’s sting, and the long burden of carrying the Ring (ahem, horcrux, ahem ahem).  The conversation Frodo has with Sam in the final chapter seems to speak for Katniss as well:

“But,” said Sam, and tears started in his eyes, “I though you were going to enjoy the Shire, too, for years and years, after all you have done.”

“So I thought too, once.  But I have been too deeply hurt, Sam.  I tried to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me.  It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: some one has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them.”

In the end, Tolkien does not leave Frodo a broken being, but gives him a way out by leaving Middle Earth along with the elves.  Katniss is not so lucky; she spends the rest of her days in exile in District 12.  But Katniss has something Frodo never had: a love interest who can identify with her brokenness.  Together, Katniss and Peeta help each other heal, albeit only partially.

  • The final similarity that had me feeling emotionally spent at the end of each series is the finality of the separation of our beloved characters.  Frodo and Gandalf leave Middle Earth forever.  Legolas, Gimli, and Aragorn each have their own countries to inhabit.   The hobbits remain in the Shire.  Such is the same feeling that we get from the ending of the Katniss/Gale relationship, Mrs. Everdeen moving to District 4, and of course, Prim, who has passed on from this world.  With the absence of religion in the series, there is no sense that there is any hope of their being reunited in some sort of afterlife.

So what do you think?  Is Suzanne Collins obviously an LOTR fan?  Am I stretching the comparisons?  Are there others that I have overlooked?  To borrow a line from John, “your comments and corrections are coveted.”


  1. Wonderful comparison! I loved the LOTR books and found the ending satisfying in a sweet and real way. Your comparison helps me find more satisfaction in mocking jay.

  2. My teenage daughter brought these books home on Friday. Because I generally like to get an idea of what she is reading, I picked up book one and was hooked after three pages. I’ve read all three in three days, passed them to my son and husband, who are equally engrossed, and am now impatiently waiting for them to finish them so I can have some of these discussions with them. My impatience is what led me to this site.

    As I’ve been processing the series, I have had this feeling that I’ve been here before. I’ve had this same melancholy feeling, but i couldn’t place it. Then I read the last point of this post and realized it was at the conclusion of The Lord of the Rings trilogy and my reaction to it was the same as yours. I felt emotionally spent.

    The other point I want to mention is that I also recognized the finality of death in these books. It hit me with every loss Katniss experienced that there was no hope in reunion for her after death. This added to the melancholy at the end.

    That being said, I can’t remember the last time I have felt this kind of connection with a story. Ms. Collins is a magnificent storyteller.

    Thanks for your thoughtful post!

  3. I know that I am…errrr…late in commenting here, but I just read the Hunger Games (finished the Catching Fire and Mockingjay last night), and the last bit, about Frodo and Katniss being so changed, REALLY got me.

    As soon as I finished THG I was crying, remembering after I had moved as a 6th grader coming to a new place, that really the only place I found comfort/empathy for a long time, was in the Lord of the Rings. The story of Frodo and the story of the elves, both fighting for something then ultimately being too changed. (I had not fought for anything, obviously, rather it was the deep sense of loss of home, identity, connection that struck me as I moved to the USA). These books gave me that same feeling. At the end, with the loss of so much (in some ways Prim seems more like the Shire to me–in the sense that she is lost to Katniss and in many ways she is something that Katniss wanted to protect at the beginning, though district 12 is also similar–in the sense of rebuilding among other things)!

    Ultimately there is hopefully a better place, a better world, but Katniss is no longer a part of it in the same way. Im so glad that she has Peeta at the end, to bring some hope back into her life 🙂 There arent too many things in life that strike that particular chord deep inside my heart/being, but both these trilogies do in similar ways. Funny how something like moving has resonated so deeply (for me–16 years later I still respond with that same particular sense of loss) with these stories.

  4. Ooh, Prim as the Shire! How nice, as, of course, her name is actually Primrose, and it’s Sam, not Frodo, who marries Rosie and settles down to have a houseful of flower-named children. Such truly idyllic bliss escapes our maimed Ringbearer/Mockingjay.
    And it’s never to late to join the party here at HogPro!

  5. Well . . . if it’s never too late, I’ll jump in too. I just finished “Mockingjay” and like with other books that leave me thinking all night after finishing them, I turned to google to look for discussions. I’ve really enjoyed the comments on this site, and have found them helpful and insightful.

    After finishing Mockingjay, I thought of Frodo in LOTR also . . . the heroes win, but don’t live happily ever after. You’ve expressed what was in my mind much more clearly. The other comparisons you make are interesting also, and ones that had not occurred to me. I almost want to go read it again! Thanks.

Speak Your Mind