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.


  1. Okay, how come no one has mentioned in this discussion thread that the author is a practicing Catholic? Now, being a practicing Catholic myself, if I were to write a novel about a future post-apocolyptic world, question no. one would be: Do I explicitly feature religion as a part of that world? Yes, no, or just a bit on the side? The fact that Collins DID NOT put one explicity ounce of religion, Christian or otherwise, into the world that she is describing hits me as every bit as powerfully as the complete absence of any divine figure or religious activity in Tolkien’s mythology. Good Christian fiction authors don’t put religion front and centre in their writing; it permeates every sentence, every image, every plot turn in such a way that the narrative loads the Christian story into the heart and mind of the reader like a time bomb waiting to go off. Come to think of it, that’s what the founder of Christianity did when he told those little stories we call “parables”.

  2. We have discussed the possibility that Ms Collins is Catholic — in fact, that speculation has become, we fear, the basis of assertions that she definitely is Catholic and “practicing” or “observant.”

    To date we have no evidence of this. Please share any that you have.

    And please read the other Mockingjay threads, which include significant discussion of the Christian, even Catholic content of the Hunger Games trilogy.

  3. Well, that wobbles my hermeneutic!

    The claim that Ms Collins is Catholic is so universal on the internet (even proclaimed by that great authority on all truth, Wikipedia!), that I never thought to question it.

    On the question of whether she is Catholic or not: No, I have no proof or evidence other than the fact that everyone says she is. It’s like the fact that E=mc2 – I can’t prove it, I just accept it because people tell me it is so, and I haven’t heard anyone tell me it isn’t so. If it isnt true, wouldn’t she herself or someone else have corrected the impression by now? Is there much out there regarding Ms Collins biography? I guess one could check for her baptismal records…

    The next question is: regardless of whether the author is Catholic or not, or even religious or not, how can we explain the complete absence of any religion in the world of Panem? (Katniss never, for eg., prays!). If Ms Collins were an atheist (as I have seen speculated somewhere), would she not have included some twisted religious entity in her distopia, in the same way that Philip Pullman included the “magisterium” in his Dark Materials trilogy? What could be meant then by the complete absence of Religion or pseudo religion?

    Accepting that the author of THG trilogy is a Catholic explains the inexplicable: Collins has removed religion from Panem so that the religious/spiritual themes can actually shine throughout the work. This is the same thing that Tolkien and Lewis did (faith-in-Aslan is a kind of religion in Lewis, but never becomes explicit).

    So, if she isn’t Catholic, she should be!

  4. As I noted, I suspect the belief that Ms Collins is Catholic began in speculation here years ago at HogwartsProfessor. Until we have verification from a reputable source, then, it remains speculation and anything but the foundation necessary to perform exegesis of the work’s spiritual content.

    I trust you’ll agree that the absence of explicit religious content does not make an author Catholic, as this is a quality characteristic of all High English Fantasy, most of which is the work of Anglicans.

  5. Of course I agree. Yet I have a hard time believing that the origin of the “rumour-constantly-repeated-as-fact” that Collins is Catholic had its origins in speculation on this site. (Can you demonstrate that the speculation was first raised on this site and the statement of “fact” subsequently appeared elsewhere?). Have any interviewers asked the question?

  6. Can you demonstrate that the speculation was first raised on this site and the statement of “fact” subsequently appeared elsewhere?

    No, I cannot. And I have not read an interview with Ms Collins in which her faith is discussed. No surprises there, of course; few readers see beyond the political allegory of the books.

    I don’t think it self-important guess work to link this site with the prevalent idea the author is Catholic, however, because I have found no assertion of her Catholicism prior to the essay I wrote in February 2010 —posted here — in which I make the Dorothy Day ‘Catholic Worker’ connection with Ms Collins’ beliefs inlaid in Hunger Games (which I have repeated since Mockingjay‘s publication here, here, and here).

    If you have a ‘Collins is Catholic’ reference in print media or online from before February 2010, please share it.

    If not, well, thanks for contributing your assertions and speculations to the conversation, however border-line insulting they may be! Or is there an explanation of your skepticism about the meme having its origins at Hogwartsprofessor that is not inherently dismissive to the work done here?

  7. “Self-serving”? That’s a bit harsh. I came here assuming that the repeated assertions on the internet that Collins was a Catholic were statements based on fact. You have successfully demonstrated to me that there is sufficient reason to doubt these assertions. Thank you. I am now left with a simple question – as I think it makes a world of difference to the interpretation of the novels: “The author of The Hunger Games trilogy is a Catholic: real or not real?” 😉

  8. I see you have upgraded “self-serving” (the version I received in my email notification) to “border line insulting”! Now that IS harsh! I am not at all “dismissive” of your work on this site! It is nothing short of brilliant. The posts you reference above demonstrate clearly why these novels are so powerful. I am simply trying to understand the whole “Collins is Catholic” story – or meme, if you like. Don’t shoot me for that. I’m a relative new comer to THG. Yes, I am Catholic, and so I was intrigued to learn what a fellow Catholic might be saying to me in her work. I feel rather disorientated (a bit like Peeta coming out of the Capitol) to find what I thought to be real may in fact be a lie. No need to lash out because i have been a victim of a false perspective that has been with me all the while I have been reading these books. It was a perspective that completely coloured my reading and experience of the novels. You have shown me that I need to reassess my reading. Than you.


  9. Pax!

    And thank you for both your kind comment and your good example in how to respond graciously to an uncharitable note. My apologies for the thin skin and harsh language on my part.

  10. I love this post so much! I personally love this Hanging Tree song as soon as I saw it in the book, because there is this really healthy tree which is my favorite in my school. Being kinda antisocial, I always go there during free time and it calms my feelings. But then it was cut down, and I cannot describe the devastation I felt. Even though The Hanging Tree is not all about trees, but this has reminded me greatly of the tree I once had as a best friend. Also, I had secretly named the tree (before it was cut down) the Hanging Tree because of is song.

    I’m also so glad that you mentioned the revolutionary part! I had known it was something like that, but now it ties in with Mr Everdeen’s mine “accident”! I am not sure if it is planned, but it seemed likely, if the Capitol knew that he was singing The Hanging Tree. It’s somewhat creepy how much meaning and danger a song can bring.

  11. Having just seen Mockingjay part 1… Well I was very excited to see the rebels singing the song as their anthem. They took up the call. While that didn’t happen in the book since they never actually broadcast her singing I feel like this theory has been confirmed. Also I noticed Plutarch referring to Katniss as a lightening rod just as you did.

    Looking at the song literally it’s so clear that it’s a reference to Peeta, he had three total kills in the Games, and he did tell Katniss to run from Cato, and he wanted her to live over him, because if she died he’d have no life. Though, I wonder if the line from the last stanza is Katniss answering back…

  12. The man is innocent. That’s the whole point of the song… he is innocent and being wrongly accused, and he’s telling his love to flee because there is no justice for him nor her. He tells her to run so she’ll find freedom from society, and he’ll find freedom in death. Then the song makes a change as the woman decides she’ll not flee, she’ll follow him too.

    Because running is weakness, but dying a martyr is to disobey

    So yeah, the song basically sums up the series perfectly.

  13. This analysis is very well written and thorough. I think every story has a ‘Christ figure’ whether the story teller is religious or not. I can see how Peeta could be the Christ figure, I always saw it as Katniss though. Also, I like that the song can have more than one interpretation and this one is a good one.

  14. I saw the film on Friday and the song and the sacrificial scene that follows was incredibly powerful. It completely fits John’s interpretation.

    As an aside, I loved Jennifer Lawrence’s unaffected country-music/blues delivery; she’s not a trained singer and that was part of the magic. It felt very real!

  15. ICan'tTellYou says

    I loved this interpretation of this song. I had been wondering about the meaning for a while, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. This explination makes much more sence to me than the one given in the book. BUUUUT I do have one little criticism… PLEASE don’t try to link everything back to Jesus. not everyone is catholic and I found it a little weird to find a reference to the bible in an explination of a part of a book that revolves around kids murdering kids… but anyway, thank you for clearing up the hanging tree song for me!

  16. Regular readers, please do not feed the troll.

    Just for the record, I am not Catholic or a member of any of the Reformed Churches.

  17. Reading this interpretation helped me clarify my own feelings as I was not first able to put into words. As in most stories there are different levels of interpretation.
    On the deepest level, for me, Peeta is the intuitive part of every man. The best part at the beginning of man when we were most connected to the oneness of creation.
    Over eons man has been tortured, lied to and deceived to the point where he no longer knows the truth and tries to destroy the very best of himself – Katniss. Katniss is the conscious, the soul, the part of us that struggles towards goodness and our lost selves.
    The veil is lifted and she struggles with both the good and the bad parts of herself but it is she that must decide. Which is why Katniss had to be saved from the games and not Peeta. It was Katniss that must make the choice to fight for freedom. On the deepest level she and peeta are the same person. On the larger level she is the cristos. But she is the phoenix that must die to be reborn. She must die to her old self and become new again. The struggle each one of us faces in himself and the world at large.

  18. I agree with a lot of your opinion and observations of the song. I think it is a beautiful song that really summarizes so much of what is happening and the multifaceted meanings of the songs. I don’t see the religious aspect of the observations when I read it. I don’t think there are religious ties but the great thing about books and what you read and what it can imply is that you can see things that may or may not be there and you can like a song or a poem finding meaning in what is written that brings comfort or it makes you think of things you would normally not think of. I think that Peeta was meant to be Katniss’s hope, her strength and unconditional love. He was there to show her that you can lose so much more than your life. That hope can be stronger than fear. He was this calm, quiet, peaceful person who brought out the good in her like Prim did where as Gale was angry, hateful toward the capital (with good reason) and full of fire. His temper was hot and he brought out in her qualities she didn’t like about herself. It was her getting to see two ends of the spectrum and finding between them where she fell and what she believed. She had started to grow and change making her pull away from Gale and his options and beliefs. The most obvious moments between them was when she had seen what they had done to her prep team. She couldn’t understand why they had done it. Having been through the area, having them ties to Cinna and the fact that the team had never hurt anyone was a line she wasn’t willing to cross and one that she really couldn’t understand how Gale could cross it. The other being when he made the trap that was used to kill her sister. She felt that there should be lines you don’t cross even in war because then you become the enemy or something worse while Gale felt that you should go as far as you could no matter what the cost. I really feel as if those two moments are important and that they show that everything has a cost and that some costs aren’t worth paying. They also show that we should be held accountable for our actions. I think that another point of Peeta, Katniss and Gale and all of there beliefs, personalities and choices are to show that the games and the war changes you forever. The three make it through and yet all of them are damaged. All of them probably have nightmares, regrets and that they are all paying for the choices they made despite how right some of those choices were and how needed. The war and all of the actions leaves two best friends forever broken. Katniss was never able to forgive Gale for Prim’s death but I think also she wasn’t able to forgive herself either because ultimately she wasn’t able to keep Prim safe when that very notion was what spur everything into motion. Had she died in the arena then none of this may have ever happened. The other thing I see is how Peeta was able to afford Katniss some measure of safety in the arena with the love story where as Gale couldn’t help her or save her. Peeta was able to give her advantages time and time again where Gale never had the ability to and in the end Peeta saved her life again by putting his hand over the pill where Gale again would not have or did not have the ability to save her. I hope this makes sense I have a tendency to ramble. I think this is a fantastic post and it is good to explore, discuss and debate possible meanings behind the works because that is what brings about understanding people around us and the people who wrote the works. It gives a greater meaning to the works regardless of who believes what and what exactly the meanings are. Let me know what you think.

  19. Also it should say multifaceted meanings of the books not songs. It should also say his opinions not options. I think my autocorrect got a little trigger happy there. Also having been through the arena not area. Them having ties not having them ties. Woot my typing is not great. It should be their not there. It should be what Spurs. Sorry about all of the mistakes!

  20. i found something interesting I thought I would share. and it would seem that Rs. Collins is a Roman Catholic. The link is to an article about the movie and books and the meanings behind the movie/books which I thought was relevant to this discussion.

  21. I’m really impressed. This interpretation is amazing, It goes so far away from what I thought, but it makes so much sense! Awesome work, really. I didn’t notice before the relationship between the characters of The hunger games and Christianism. I did it a little bit with Harry Potter, because he sacrificed himself too, but in another way.

    Nevertheless, I’m giving you my interpretation too. It is completely different of what you say in this one, but I may have some interesting facts that complete yours. Pay attention to the capital lettering (sorry about that, I would use italics, but there isn’t the possibility).

    I couldn’t avoid notice that the place where the lightning hits is a TREE. The same tree where, in the second book, Katniss sees Peeta for the last time before the separation, the hijacking and all the other complications. There she tells him “Don’t worry. I’LL SEE YOU AT MIDNIGHT” and kisses him.

    Just before that, Beete tells her to “HEAD FOR THE TREE in the one-to-two- o’clock sector”. But she never arrives to that tree.

    They strung up a man
    They say who murdered three.
    Strange things did happen here
    No stranger would it be

    Then, when Johanna hurts Katniss, Katniss (bleeding, weak, dazed, almost DEAD) heads up to the lightning tree and CALL OUT Peeta’s name for him “TO FLEE”.

    Also, in the first games, when they are poisoned with the trackerjacker venom, Peeta sacrificed himself for Katniss. At the foot of the TREE where Katniss asleep the night before, Peeta CALLED Katniss OUT FOR her (HIS LOVE) TO FLEE away from other professionals (Cato and the others) while he confronts death. And we all know that he lose a leg for this, for her.

    Are you, are you
    Coming to the tree
    Strange things did happen here
    No stranger would it be
    If we met at midnight
    In the hanging tree.

    Katniss asks Peeta for them to leave the group before they head up to the lightning TREE. She told him TO RUN away, SO they BOTH BE FREE. But Peeta tells her to wait for the careers to die (meaning? Wait until MIDNIGHT). But… was it really to run away? She CALLED Peeta OUT TO FLEE away from… whom? from what? The Capitol, the situation, the professionals, Finnick and Johanna, herself, the tree? Or was her CALLING him OUT to RUN to her? Don’t you think that when you called out someone’s name you do it for that person to come over? Because, if you don’t want someone to come, you don’t call his name out, isn’t it?. Anyway, both versions fix.

    Are you, are you
    Coming to the tree
    Strange things did happen here
    No stranger would it be
    If we met at midnight
    In the hanging tree.

    So, according to my theory of her wanting him to come to her, may be unconsciously, Katniss wanted Peeta to die SIDE BY SIDE with her in the lightning TREE. Because she knows the danger that represents to stand next to that three in that very moment.

    Besides, is interesting that when Katniss sees Peeta again, is MIDNIGHT. At the end of chapter 12, when the rescue team arrives with Peeta, Annie and Johanna, Katniss thinks: “It must be MIDNIGHT, it must be tomorrow when Haymitch pushes open the door. ‘They’re back. We’re wanted in the hospital’. (…) I want TO RUN (to him), but Finnick’s acting so STRANGE, as if he’s lost the ability to move, so I take his hand and lead him like a small child”.

    The funny fact? When Katniss met Peeta, his hands works like a NECKLACE OF ROPE, choking her. And his hands are, indeed, SIDE BY SIDE with Katniss.

    Are you, are you
    Coming to the tree
    Strange things did happen here
    No stranger would it be
    If we met at midnight
    In the hanging tree.

    What puzzles me are this two lines on the first part of the song:
    “They strung up a man / They say who murdered three”.

    Did Peeta murdered three people? Well, he did kill indirectly a girl with the professionals at the first 74rd hunger games and he also did kill indirectly Cato when he pushed him out of the top of the Cornucopia for self defense in that very games. Finally, he kills Brutus, again, in self defense. So… yes, he killed three people.

    I know Peeta is not a DEAD MAN, but the Capitol sort of “kills” his mind, The hijacking changes him so much that is almost as if the Capitol STRUNG UP his mind, leaving him worst than DEAD: as a shadow of himself, a phantom, sort of a monster-robot with the order to kill what he love the most.

    Well… This is my interpretation. I would apreciatte some feedback 🙂

    I wanted, also, to ask your permission, John, to translate this analysis to spanish (giving you and the page the credit, of course) to republish it in my blog (

  22. In re: the ‘What Catholics Got Wrong’ post about Suzanne Collins being Catholic.

    The subject had come up here in the run up to Mockingjay’s publication and I had speculated that the author was a Dorothy Day ‘Catholic Worker’ social justice Catholic (see the exchange at the top of this comments list for the links).

    This idea has become something of a ‘given’ in conversation about Hunger Games but there is no, repeat, NO confirmation of what religion, if any, Ms Collins observes.

  23. Ah! Ok I am sorry! I looked it up and it seemed to have been stated as fact. That is my fault. Thank you for clarifying for me. It is rather diffuse now at times to find truthful information. It gets speculated and in some cases posted as if it were true and everyone starts to think it is. I have to say that I respect you greatly not only for being willing to debate different points of view but also like earlier in the comments when someone asked about whether the catholisism had been confirmed you apologized to the commenter and that you are willing to help clear things up when it gets confusing. You have a wonderful integrity that can be sooo hard to find on the Internet. I may not always agree with your observations but you make wonderful, complex and brilliant arguments as well as having an amazing integrity and willingness to truly debate not just bluntly beat someone over the head with you point of view. I think I will enjoy greatly reading back through your other observations that you’ve made. Thank you for being awesome.

  24. Charmaigne Deato says

    The scene of bombing of the dam. Those who bomb the dam sing the song during the process because they volunteer themselves to wear the”rope of hope”(rebel martyr) of the “hanging tree”(rebellion) for the nations “love to flee”(freedom).

  25. i thought -I strung up a man there, they say he murdered three- might mean she killed snow and they said he murderer district 13

  26. Elle – it isn’t i strung up a man. It is they strung up a man.

  27. This is really amazing!!!

  28. This should suffice: “We use our own assumptions about the world in order to understand what assumptions a particular text is based upon” (Weber & Horner, 2012).

  29. Thank you for the academic statement that all interpretation is by default projection from bias. Nonsense, but a valuable statement, if only because it is so widely held.

    Somehow I’m guessing that this means to the contributor Christians need to shut up about the Christian content of any book because that interpretation is necessarily and essentially projection from their unexamined, opiate-driven beliefs. The nominalist and secular critics get a pass because their POV is, being so pervasive (really the unchallenged law in the academy), of reality rather than an inborn and cultural bias.

    To which I say, bologna. This perspective requires the view that Christianity is a sect whose doctrines about man, God, and world are human confabulations that will not stand serious (i.e., materialist and rationalist) scrutiny. This weakness is true rather of the materialist and rationalist views, all of which collapse on examination against any and every human experience of truth, virtue, and beauty, while Orthodox Christian doctrine, which informs everything of value in literature, especially in the English tradition, is not sectarian but, like every orthodox revealed tradition, about the human condition in its fullness, as it is.

    Thank you again for this citation.

  30. My apologies in advance to Anna if her point was that secularists cannot see the Christian content because of their rationalist-materialist bias! My reflex, sadly, is to assume the worst or the commonplace, for which I ask your forgiveness.

  31. Jonh, first, my apologies for not stating that I found your explanation of the meaning of “The Hanging Tree” incredibly interesting and convincing. And helpful, too, in my reading of the sequel. I remain offended by your original interpretation of my contribution to this blog. I do not believe it nonsense, as you yourself testify in your responses to my posts, which you base in “in your own assumptions about the world,” putting words I never uttered into my mouth… and then, incited by an afterthought, apologizing, and projecting yet another interpretation of what I wrote; another, but rooted as deeply in Chrstian beliefs and prejudices as the original one. I am not a Christian myself, but, let me reiterate, I find your interpretation of the song well justified and viable. Nonetheless, while not a literaure expert myself, I look forward to other interpretations. That is all I was trying to say. Excuse my cumbersome manner in expressing myself.

  32. Anna, if I may, thank you for this kind, pointed response. I apologize again, this time for having twice assumed you were saying what you had not said, rebuking you once and congratulating you in turn, both times for positions you were not advancing, both times pigeon holing you into categories from my experience into which you did not belong. Having been treated this way myself more often than not, by secularist academics and by sectarian Christians seemingly incapable of appreciating nuance and distinction, my failing here in my responses to you is shameful.

    Thank you again for your gracious response, and, again, I ask your forgiveness for twice assuming, in a public forum, you were saying what you were not and responding reflexively in that error.

  33. Excellent analysis, in my humble opinion. Dead on or not, I have not seen or heard a more logical interpretation.

Speak Your Mind