On the Hunger Games trilogy

Mythology and Music in Panem

By V. Arrow

The Hunger Games wears its Roman allusions on its sleeve, from the name Panem (Latin for bread, from the phrase panem et circenses or “bread and circuses”) and the Roman gladiatorial system discussed previously to the names of its Capitol citizens, which allude to figures in Roman history, particularly those included in Shakespeare’s interpretation of Julius Caesar. However, although the majority of the allusions in the trilogy hail from the history of Rome, other historical and cultural practices make significant contributions to Panem’s narrative mythos. Greek mythology and American folktale and oral tradition play a role in the Hunger Games series as well.

Greek Mythology

One of the most enduring–or at least most famous–Greek myths is the story of Theseus slaying the Minotaur. In one version of the tale, King Minos of Crete, having waged and won a war against the Athenians, demands as victor that, every seven or nine years (depending on the version of the myth), seven Athenian boys and seven Athenian girls were to be sent to his palace, as tribute, to be devoured by the Minotaur.

. . . Sound familiar?

Theseus, like Katniss–and the Careers–volunteers himself to take the place of one of the youths in order to enter the labyrinth and slay the minotaur, and thereby ends the reign of tyranny. In fact, Suzanne Collins told School Library Journal in 2010, just before Mockingjay’s release, that “Theseus and the Minotaur is the classical setup for where The Hunger Games begins, you know, with the tale of Minos in  …

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