Mockingjay Discussion 18: Harry Potter’s Shadow

The Hunger Games trilogy is published by Scholastic Books which company, of course, is the publisher of the American editions of Joanne Rowling’s Harry Potter novels. When Suzanne Collins was asked recently about her favorite books, she listed a few books her readers would have expected, a few that were real surprises (the influence of which titles was more obvious in Mockingjay), and not a single Harry Potter novel.

I think it’s fair to assume, nonetheless, that she has read the best selling novels of our time and that the imaginative experience she had inside the Hogwarts Saga and especially Deathly Hallows shaped specific turns in Hunger Games. The Shared Text of our times will be evident in most everything for at least a decade or two. Here are a few of the more obvious echoes in Mockingjay:

Looks Different but Isn’t Different

In Deathly Hallows, the series finale, Harry, Ron, and Hermione do not go back to Hogwarts, but, as alien as the environment of their extra-curricular adventures was, they managed to satisfy every part of the Rowling hero’s journey formula she established in the first six books (see Deathly Hallows Lectures for that discussion).

In Mockingjay, Peeta and Katniss are not chosen in a Reaping and sent to the Capitol for a conventional Hunger Games or Quell in a static arena. Ms. Collins, however, as we discussed in ‘The Hunger Games Formula,’ manages nonetheless to follow every point in her trilogy story formula, from Cinna ‘girl on fire’ costume to Peeta and Katniss together sticking-it-to-the Capitol live on television.

Not a Great Time to Get Married

In Deathly Hallows, the marriage of Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks is announced in the opening chapter by the Dark Lord at a meeting of Death Eaters. Weddings in the rubedo or red, final stage of the alchemical work are usually not a great idea because traditionally the Alchemical Wedding at this point means the “resolution of contraries” or death of the couple. Their union produces the “philosophical orphan,” the anthropomorphic Philosopher’s Stone. Think Romeo and Juliet and what happens at the Hallows actual wedding ceremony. Marriage in a work of literary alchemy usually is a preface to death and a funeral (again, see Deathly Hallows Lectures). Tonks and Lupin die in the Battle of Hogwarts and leave Teddy Lupin as orphan.

In Mockingjay, we get a Finnick-Annie wedding, which, along with his playing with rope necklaces (and humming the ‘Hanging Tree’?) throughout the book, pretty much signaled the incipient repose of Panem’s Aquaman. His death at the hands of the lizard-men mutt-ations was especially poetic, nonetheless, because of the thousand deaths he endured as a Victor in the moral sewer of the Capitol.

District 13 and The Ministry of Magic

In Deathly Hallows, the Death Eaters have taken over the Ministry and what is supposed to be the good-guy center of resistance turns into a nightmare of evil done in the name of good government. Think of Dolores Umbridge’s ‘Muggle-Born Registration Commission.’ In the final battle, there is no moral difference between the villains and the government, a government largely staffed by the villain’s chief servants.

In Mockingjay, Katniss and the survivors of District 12 take refuge in District 13, a quasi police state, that is supporting the revolt of the districts against the Capitol. By story’s end, Katniss has learned that District 13 and the Capitol not only feature the same cast (most notably the Gamesmaker, Plutarch Heavensbee), but work from the same play-book, which is to say, as moral nihilists and war criminals.

The Seeming Death, Resurrection, and Surprise Victory of the Hero/ine

In Deathly Hallows, Harry Potter is vanquished by the Dark Lord in the Forbidden Forest, he visits the inside-bigger-than-the-outside at King’s Cross, and rises from the seeming dead to defeat Lord Voldemort in an ex machina appearance that clearly the villain was unprepared for. He thought the Boy Who Lived was finally dead.

In Mockingjay, Katniss is turned into a literal ‘Girl on Fire’ by the time-delay napalm blast orchestrated by President Coin. She rises from the dead transformed, too, like the Mockingjay-Phoenix she is, to shoot down the unsuspecting evil-doer in her moment of triumph.

Those are the shades of the Potter finale in Mockingjay that come immediately to mind. Which ones do you see that I haven’t listed here?


  1. How about the use by the government of its media outlets? Propaganda plays a huge role in HG, but Rita Skeeter and The Daily Prophet cause a decent amount of problems. Maybe we could compare Lovegood’s publication and Harry’s tell-all to District 13’s propos. Both HP and HG emphasize the power of the media to influence public opinion and assume the value of getting public opinion on your side.

  2. Oops, I just found Discussion 17!

  3. That’s a great connection, though! Rowling and Collins both obviously believe that government and media are the primary vessels of the cultural metanarrative, the big bad guys.

  4. Louise M. Freeman says

    Regarding the alchemical wedding: Though we never actually see a marriage ceremony for Katniss and Peeta, the descriptions of their rebuilt lives in 12 evoke the image of an alchemical rebis. Katniss describes them as “growing back together,” an odd description but consistent with the view the “two shall become one flesh.” Their union takes an androgynous turn in their atypical sex roles: as Katniss says, “Peeta bakes. I hunt.” In the epilogue, Katniss made Peeta sound like the more maternal of the pair, since he wanted children badly, while she finds both her pregnancies as evoking “a terror that felt as old as life itself.”

    In many ways, the “hijacking” of Peeta was an even darker version of the Cruciatus torture of the Longbottoms that made them unable to recognize Neville. Mad-Eye correctly described their state as “worse than death”; how uch worse would it have been had they be reprogrammed to hate and want to kill their son?

  5. Louise M. Freeman says

    Another commonality between Mockingjay and Deathly Hallows that can’t be ignored is the high body counts that include both beloved characters and innocent children, despite efforts to protect them. Prim’s death has to be one of the most shocking and heartbreaking events in YA fiction. In a way, Rowling gave us a similar gut-wrenching twist at the beginning of Deathly Hallows, when Hedwig is killed. Yes, it was toned down in the sense of it being a pet rather than a person, but there was still the wrenching “No! I can’t believe they did that!” Readers went into the last books of both series bracing themselves for the death of major characters and open to the possibility that one of the “Big Three” could die. But I think it’s fair to say no one was expecting the senseless death of a beloved owl or a precious little sister. Rowling also showed us the body of Colin Creevy, “tiny in death” being carried from the castle. I’m sure that stunned us all for a moment, much as Katniss was affected by the shooting of the “Lemon yellow coat” child.

    Of course, the body counts seemed higher and were certainly more gruesome in Mockingjay… It was a real adult battle, with real armies in a major city, not a siege on a school next to a small village. The Deathly Hallows deaths are mostly quick, painless and many occur off-screen; Collins shows us the brutality of war up close. This contrast reflects the fact that Harry Potter was aimed a a younger audience and Rowling had magic at her disposal… avada kedevra may be an unforgivable curse, but it’s an immediate and bloodless death. Even the off-screen deaths of Mockingjay are hard to read about; Peeta’s description of Darius’s torture was one of the most difficult passages for me to read, particularly since we know Cinna likely went through something similar.

  6. A very relevant conversation!
    The tone is also resonant, for me, though I felt less deflated after DH, for certain!
    Louise, your points about the deaths are spot on, though Collins does dish them up more brutally. I noted especially the off screen casualties like Amelia Bones and the unresolved deaths/vanishings like Florean Fortescue’s. No one ever knew for certain about Cinna’s death, or even who actually killed all those stylists. Does anyone else wonder if they even got the older ones, including Tigris?

  7. Honestly? The biggest connection I see is Peeta/Katniss = Harry/Hermione. The Delusionals won this time around.

  8. I think the big difference between Deathly Hallows and Mockingjay is that ultimately, Harry Potter is simply about good defeating evil. There’s a message of hope, and even though so many people died, JKR still makes you feel victorious. But in Mockingjay, towards the end, that sense of hope is almost completely gone. You can tell that Katniss won’t ever completely recover from what she’s seen. It’s about what war does to people.

  9. I had a fun little exercise today thinking about what would happen if Suzanne Collins wrote Deathly Hallows. I think I stopped after I determined that Ginny, Hermione, Hagrid and Macgonagall would all be dead.

  10. Louise M. Freeman says

    LOL! And the Malfoys, though we’d never know whether the Death Eaters or the Order of the Phoenix had bumped them off.

    The evacuating Hogwarts first years would have been killed by exploding owls caring care packages. The House Elves all executed on live TV. Dawlish would have wound up an AVOX instead of a Star Trek red shirt stand-in. The Dursleys and Lockhart tortured to death in adjoining Askebaan cells. And Neville’s Gran would have sacrificed herself back in Goblet of Fire.

    OTOH, the scene when Harry’s Killing curse bounces off Voldy and obliterates Umbridge in mid “hem-hem” would have been priceless.

  11. What struck me as a parallel was a line about how easily Katniss would be recognized if she shot an arrow. I immediately thought of Harry and his choice weapon: Expelliarmus!

  12. Oh, I just thought of another one. The whole thing where District 13 wants Katniss to be their Mockingjay is exactly like what the Ministry of Magic wanted from Harry Potter in Half Blood Prince: to be the Chosen One in order to provide an emotional lift to the people.

  13. I was rewatching GoF yesterday in an attempt to see all six movies before going to see DH1 tonight. I’ve seen GoF several times, of course, but this is the first time since I read and subsequently became obsessed with THG this summer. When Dumbledore was talking about “eternal glory” awaiting the winner, I immediately saw a similarity between this and the Hunger Games. I never really considered it before.

    In the Hunger Games, each district has to send two “tributes” (aka champions). In the 3WT, each school has to send one champion. There’s no backing out once you have been selected. Winning means eternal glory. Losing means certain death in THG. In 3WT, losing could mean death and champions have died in the past.

  14. Another comparison is the way Harry fights “for the greater good”= but that only means sacrificing himself.
    Katniss’s arguments with Gale are about the same topic: what constitutes a valid sacrifice “for the greater good” and whether it’s okay to sacrifice others in the name of the greater good.

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