Let the Hunger Games Begin, Again!

Image result for new hunger games novelJust last month, we were wondering what Suzanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games Trilogy (among other achievements) might be up to these days. ‘Whatever Happened to Suzanne Collins?’ It turns out, she’s not just been playing sudoku or puttering in the yard (or imitating her creations to tramp through the woods or bake).  We have been hoping that she was writing. Earlier this week, the formal announcement came that confirmed our hopes but which also confirmed some of the fascinating metatextual concerns that have always run under the trilogy: concerns about artistry, yes, but also concerns about control and gamesmanship. Collins is set to roll out a new addition to the story of Panem, a prequel, since, of course, the Games Trilogy is just that, a trilogy, three books, no more, no less, emphasizing the triptych focus so central to the story. Set 64 years before the Games that Katniss and Peeta “win,” this new offering will doubtless cover the Dark Days, renew and continue interest in Collins’s work, and make Hollywood Gamemakers giddy with delight.

A Tough Act to Follow

One concern, of course, is whether or not Collins can make lightning strike again. The Hunger Games trilogy is one of the most remarkable works of fiction to emerge in the last fifty years. More than another angsty teen speed read, the story of Katniss Everdeen is a feast for everyone who experiences it, from the casual reader only concerned aboutImage result for critical insights the hunger games Katniss’s survival to the “deep miner” probing the symbols, structure, and allegories that lie beneath the story, as complex as the layers beneath an Arena.  As should be obvious from the great work in Critical Insights: The Hunger Games, edited by the amazing Dr. Lana Whited, The Hunger Games is worthy of deep study and thought. Will Collins be able to bring that same artistic mastery to bear in a treatment of the Dark Days? Since the setting is 64 years earlier than that of HG few, if any of the characters we already know could be among the cast:  perhaps President Snow, Mags, Plutarch Heavensbee, Seneca Crane (who, in the novels, appears to have been far older than the Mephistopheles-bearded version from the movie) or maybe Caesar Flickerman (Capitol plastic surgery is good!).

Based on the ability she has shown, deftly handling both gripping storytelling and engaging deeper meaning, it is probably safe to hope for Collins’s skills to be equally on display in this new offering, no matter who the players are.

Pumping some Fresh Blood into the Franchise

It’s hard to believe that it has been over 10 years since the first installment of The Hunger Games, and although the series has had far better longevity than many others, the public is fickle and thus, as Gilderoy  Lockhart would remind us, so is fame. Today’s hot trend is tomorrow’s has-been. Like the citizens of the Capitol, the public craves something new, all the time, to satiate its desire for novelty and entertainment. Although the Games continues to be a popular series, one can certainly find a fair few copies of HG, Catching Fire, or Mockingjay on the shelves at the Image result for the hunger games thrift stores, evidence that the once- rabid followers of Katniss’s every move have moved on as surely as if she were an actual tribute in the spectacle of shallow voyeurism that so captivates the Capitol.

Perhaps this new installment will revitalize some of the interest in the original series while also bringing in new readers who missed it the first time around or who were too young.  That would be an excellent development, as, no matter what the merits of the new story may be, we know the original trilogy is brilliant, and if the Dark Days story does nothing more than introduce or revive interest in the original trilogy, that, in itself, is a very good thing.

Who is Gaming Whom?

Although the Games trilogy was not Collins’s first published work, it was such a runaway hit that it put her on the Related imagemap and on screens across the world. Before the films were made, the novels were not as well known, of course. The first semester I taught the novel in ENG 111, none of my students had ever heard of it, but now, as I continue to use the novel, I run into more and more students who have heard of or seen the films and didn’t even know that they were based on (superior) books. Where I once had students who were amazed that they had never heard of such an amazing novel, I now have many who are amazed that such an amazing novel was the basis for a story they thought they knew, having seen the film.

Those films are, most likely, a very important factor in this new text development. Hollywood Gamemakers know a cash cow when they see it, and they will ignore artistry, textual importance, and almost everything else if they think they can generate revenue. Hence, stories that are finished are nonetheless dragged back into horrifying sequels that are neither good nor needed. Lionsgate, after making a cornucopia of cash on the Games movies (4 of them, because the concept of a triptych structure means nothing if you can crank out an extra blockbuster), has been pushing Collins for more. Of course, she was never going to do a fourth book in the series (she really does understand structural unity and respects the scaffolding on which her fantastic tale hangs).  But a prequel? There might be another chance for Lionsgate to make more movies and thus, more fantastic gobs of money.

Because there has doubtless been pressure on Collins to produce, we can only hope that she, being the savvy artist that she is, will be able to continue her remarkable work even as it is being produced at the behest of the powerful forces that run the entertainment industry. After all, the character in the novel who is the story cipher for Collins is not Katniss, but Cinna, the brilliant, sympathetic designer who understands what is at stake and how to rebel against the machine in which he is a cog. Let’s just hope that, unlike Cinna, Collins gets to enjoy the accolades for her artistry for many years to come.


  1. Wayne Stauffer says

    Maybe the new release will be the first of a second tryptich? She does understand the 3-act play structure…
    Maybe we see the rise of young Pres Snow and Pres Coin and the split with District 13?

  2. Elizabeth says

    If she is able to have her druthers, I can’t imagine anything other than another triptych, but, just like the Games, when Hollywood is involved, the players are seldom calling the shots.

  3. Louise Freeman says

    Given that the first book was set at the time of the 74th Hunger Games, the math would place the prequel at the time of the 10th. I predict we’ll either see Mags’ victory, or it will be crucial to the story.

  4. This seems to be the consensus, Louise, in ‘Hunger Games’ fandom. Google ‘Mags Hunger Games prequel’ and surf through all the story scenarios featuring our favorite Girl-Pearl of the trilogy!

    Pearls are huge in Collins’ writing, from the White Rat in Gregor the Overlander to Madge, Mags, and Peeta’s ‘Pearl of Great Price’ in Catching Fire. It shouldn’t be a surprise, if Collins was pressed by Lionsgate to write a prequel (or they would write one themselves…), that she would choose the Games in which Mags features as a Tribute.

    Here is a discussion of the significance of pearls from the Literary Alchemy: Mockingjay post:

    In Catching Fire, instead of the light of fire on coal illustrating the alchemical end game, we have the symbolism of the pearl. Again, this I have explained at length in another post (‘The Symbolism of the Pearl’ is the conclusion of February’s introduction to this subject, ‘Unlocking the Hunger Games’). “Pearl,” like the swan, silver, and the moon, is a traditional alchemical symbol representing the white work or albedo of transformation (see Abraham’s Dictionary of Alchemical Imagery, page 142). It is especially apt because a pearl’s beauty is in its whiteness, certainly, or purity, but mostly in its luminescence. When Peeta gives Katniss the pearl before the crisis of the Quell and after promising to die for her greater life, we have the gift of love and light that is only the Christ figure’s to give — and a sign of her eventual divinization if she can retain the purification she has experienced there.

    And pearls are life-savers in Fire. Madge brings the pain-killers that make treatment of Gale’s shredded back possible. Mags sacrifices herself into the mist in the arena so that the others won’t die trying to carry her. Both these characters’ names are derived from ‘Margaret,’ the Anglicization of the Greek word for Pearl. Gold is the solid light of material metals that is the universal symbol in traditional cultures of God’s Glory; the pearl is the solid light of the seas and is considered invaluable and beautiful for the same reason.

    The idea of “pearls” isn’t introduced in Fire, oddly enough, but in Games. It is Effie’s bizarre comment there that introduces this image– to show how cleverly she was marketing Peeta and Katniss to potential sponsors! — that “if you put enough pressure on coal it turns to pearls,” a comment made soon after they arrive in the Capitol (chapter 5, p. 74). Peeta even repeats this line as a joke in Fire before giving his pearl to Katniss in the arena as a token of his love. Collins is sophisticated enough a writer that she points to the coming alchemical stage’s predominant imagery in the previous stages.

    The Dantean white rose that plays such a large part in Mockingjay, as we discussed, is first shown to us in the Primrose that causes Katniss to make her first sacrifice and again in the end of Games in Katniss’ interview outfit.

    Seeing Mockingjay as the Great Work’s rubedo is easy once we recall that it is the revelation of the changes that have occurred in the ablutionary albedo or white stage. Think of the nigredo as the stage in the soul’s transformation corresponding to repentance and renunciation. Katniss the soul turns to Peeta the Christ and, in her decision to sacrifice herself for him, she turns away from her previous identity with Gale the body.

    The albedo of Catching Fire, likewise, is best understood as the soul’s experience at initiation or baptism into the world of the spirit. Katniss the soul, after purification in the pool of the Quell’s arena and her taking the pearl from Peeta-Christ, is bound to him, and when separated from him, still joined to him by her remembrance of his unconditional, sacrificial love.

    And that’s not to mention Cinna’s design for Katniss’ wedding dress:

    It is “heavy white silk with a low neckline and tight waist and sleeves that fall from my wrists to the floor. And pearls. Everywhere pearls” (Catching Fire, p. 247).

    I’m with you, Louise, and the rest of Hunger Games fandom in hoping the prequel is the Mags story! “More pearls like this, please!”

  5. David James says

    This is exciting news for Hunger Games Fandom around the world.

    A great deal of speculation I’m sure is coming of which parts of the Dark Days Collins will focus upon. We can be sure that the early rise of President Snow (including his pre-president days) will be a major point along with his followers who develop the Games themselves as a way of controlling the districts from ever developing a plan to overthrow the Capital.

    I would hope to get a glimpse of the world just before the Dark Days to see how this world came to be.

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