Syfy Insider Exclusive

Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, sweepstakes, and more!

Sign Up For Free to View
SYFY WIRE Features

5 Things You Need to Know About The Hunger Games Canon

With the arrival of The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, it's time to refresh your memory on The Hunger Games

By Tara Bennett
A collage featuring the five movies from the Hunger Games series.

Fans of The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins' dystopian trilogy of novels and the subsequent quadrilogy of film adaptations, are beyond excited to head back to Panem this week with the theatrical release of the prequel adaptation, The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & SnakesCollins surprised her fanbase in 2020 by releasing an unexpected prequel novel centered on a pivotal year in 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow's (Tom Blyth in the new film) life, when his actions had great impact on the 10th Hunger Games. 

Focusing an entire novel on the back story of Panem's greatest authoritarian, and heroine Katniss Everdeen's (Jennifer Lawrence) nemesis, shocked many. But Collins was interested in showing how any person can be shaped by their circumstances, and influenced by having the wrong people around them. In Snow's case, his family's loss of status and wealth due to the Capitol's three-year war against the Districts, gave him the drive to restore the reputation of his family name and to prove himself as deserving of the attention and power that was supposed to be his promised legacy. 

RELATED: Long Live Panem! The Hunger Games Timeline Explained

In both the book and film adaptation of The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, Snow becomes deeply involved in the ongoing direction of the Hunger Games, which will eventually evolve into the spectacle audiences and readers came to know in Collins' trilogy and the movies. As the original four films are now available to stream on Peacock, it's easy to do a mini marathon to prep for the prequel. But for the sake of time, we also created a little primer on the rules of the Hunger Games so you can follow along easily.

The Hunger Games rules and canon refresher

President Snow in The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 1

Collins' world is set in the dystopian future of North America after a series of global environmental disasters necessitates the creation of a new societal order under the nation of Panem. Separated into 13 Districts, Panem is ruled by a central totalitarian government in the Capitol. Needless to say, that doesn't sit well with the subjugated Districts, who eventually rise up to try and dismantle the dictatorship. The First Rebellion lasts three years and decimates both the Capitol and the outside Districts with brutal warfare campaigns. A nuclear standoff between the two sides eventually opens the door for a deal between the Capitol and District 13 that allows the overall rebellion to fall apart. Districts 1 through 12 are then reunified under the iron thumb of a particularly vindictive Capitol regime. 

When did the Hunger Games start?

Hunger Games Katniss Everdeen

Post war, a Treaty of Treason is created which establishes the Hunger Games as a mandatory event to commemorate the defeat of the Districts, and deter any future rebellions. Created by Academy Dean Casca Highbottom (Peter Dinklage in the upcoming film), the annual Games required that every District child between the ages of 12 and 18 would be entered into a random lottery, where one male and one female would be "reaped" as the official representatives of their District. Dubbed the Tributes, the pair would then be sent to the Capitol where they would join the others reaped from all the Districts — 24 in total — for a televised battle to the death in the Capitol Arena. The last person standing is named the Victor, and in theory, becomes the "pride" of Panem and their District. In reality, they mostly become troubled recluses suffering from PTSD and guilt. 

RELATED: 'Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes' promises a 'new version' of Panem in 'Hunger Games' prequel

Have the Games remained the same throughout Panem's history?

Jennifer Lawrence The Hunger Games

The basics, such as the annual reaping ceremonies in every District resulting in two Tributes being sent to the Capitol, remain core to the Games from the first to the very last, which is the Quarter Quell, aka the 75th Hunger Games. What's so interesting about The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes is that it focuses on the pivotal 10th Hunger Games, which is the origin of many of the formula features that audiences come to expect in all of the subsequent Games. It was the make-or-break event due to the populace's waning interest. As such, the Capitol regime tasked Highbottom, Head Gamemaker Dr. Volumnia Gaul (Viola Davis) and the students of the Capitol's elite Academy, to make the Games worth watching once more. 

The first change instituted is that the top 24 Academy students, including Snow, are randomly assigned to be mentors of a District Tribute. Snow is paired with District 12's Tribute, musician Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler). Mentors are pushed to with make their Tributes more show-worthy, so they can be more "appealing" to the viewing audience, gaining passionate followings that will theoretically translate into financial donations. Their mentors can then use their own discretion to apply those funds to necessary items, like water or food, to be dispensed to their Tributes in the Arena.

RELATED: The 10 Greatest Moments from The Hunger Games Saga

It's also important to note that Hunger Games 1 through 10 were stripped back affairs. The Arenas were held inside interior buildings without all the bells and whistles that would become synonymous with the entertainment value of the Games. The Tributes were also treated more like interchangeable cattle, arriving in the Capitol via train cars, and then literally dumped into a massive cage in the city zoo. Snow is the first mentor to see the value in bonding with his Tribute to find out what makes Lucy unique, to then highlight it on-camera for audiences to see for themselves and get behind. Both Snow and Lucy see the advantages of "trusting" one another as their mutual survival depends on it. 

Was there always a Master of Ceremonies?

Stanley Tucci The Hunger Games

Oh, Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci), you are the Daddy of the Games, aren't you? As the reality show style Master of Ceremonies of Katniss Everdeen's 74th Hunger Games, Flickerman was the well-established face of the build up to the big event. Acting as the Capitol approved interviewer and commentator on the Tributes and the Games, he helped keep the spectacle and pageantry front and center, amping up the more dramatic stories to engage the viewing audience. But Caesar is actually just the latest in his family line to do the job. The 10th Hunger Games first introduces the M.C. role with Lucretius "Lucky" Flickerman (Jason Schwartzman). Both a weatherman and a musician, Lucky establishes the comedic observer vibes into the Games, with his gallows humor approach to the proceedings. He is the first to host The Hunger Games: A Night of Interviews televised event, which lets Panem see the Tributes before they go into battle. He's also just as much of a preening peacock as his future relation, Caesar. 

Catch up on the dystopian saga so far. The Hunger GamesCatching FireMockingjay — Part 1, and Mockingjay — Part 2 are all streaming on Peacock! The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes hits the big screen Friday, November 17.