Five Fascinating Facts about The Hunger Games

1. The idea for The Hunger Games came to author Suzanne Collins while channel-hopping between coverage of the invasion of Iraq and a reality TV show. The idea began to form in her mind of a narrative which concerned a televised fight to the death. The theme of the series has led critics to draw comparisons with similar works, principally Battle Royale, a 1999 novel by Japanese author Koushun Takami, but the idea of a dystopian future world in which people fight each other as part of a television programme is found in a novel by Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman), The Running Man (1982).

2. The author of The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins, was one of the writers on the 1990s teen TV show Clarissa Explains It AllCollins worked in television for many years during the 1990s; her other television writing credits included Clifford’s Puppy Days and The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo.

Hunger Games3. Panem, the setting for The Hunger Games, takes its name from the Latin phrase ‘panem et circenses’ meaning ‘bread and circuses’. This is a reference to a superficial means of appeasing the people – by providing food and entertainment for the ‘masses’. The Latin phrase first appears in Juvenal’s Satires, where Juvenal argues that the easiest way to win people over in politics is through rather crass means: cheap food and plenty of games. As the title, The Hunger Games, demonstrates, both of these things are central to Collins’s novel (and the trilogy as a whole: the other two books in the series are Catching Fire and Mockingjay).

4. Collins’s series is Amazon’s biggest-selling book series ever. This was announced in August 2012: The Hunger Games had officially outsold the seven-part Harry Potter series on Amazon. Not only this, but Amazon announced in March 2012 that Collins was the biggest-selling author on Kindle, outselling E. L. James (and her Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy).

5. The classical story of Theseus is central to The Hunger Games. Collins has mentioned this in interviews about the series. The classical myth describes how Athens would send seven youths of each gender to the Labyrinth to be devoured by the Minotaur. Theseus, the king’s son, volunteers himself, and this is what Katniss Everdeen does in Collins’s series. Collins has described Katniss as ‘a futuristic Theseus’. This allusion to classical mythology is, along with Panem, and the gladiatorial games of ancient Rome, one of many classical references in Collins’s series.

Image: The Hunger Games design © 2013 DeviantArt (labelled for reuse).

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60 thoughts on “Five Fascinating Facts about The Hunger Games

  1. Reblogged this on Part Time Monster and commented:
    Hey, check out this post from Interesting Literature on The Hunger Games. Some cool stuff here. I knew about the “bread and circuses” phrase (see my post on Finnick for that) but not some of the other things. Cool stuff!

  2. My students have a theory that Katniss Everdene shares the name and the romantic history of Bathsheba Everdene in Far From the Madding Crowd. We all became quite convinced of it! Peter is her Gabriel Oak!

    • That’s a superb point – I didn’t even twig that they both had the same surname! I suppose there are some crossovers – very suggestive! Now I need to reread Far from the Madding Crowd, if only because it was the first Hardy I read and it has a special place in my affections…

    • I haven’t seen either of the films (need to remedy that), but I agree, it’s a great concept for a series. Dystopian fiction so often hits the nail on the head when it comes to highlighting contemporary fears, obsessions, and the like…

    • I know! I couldn’t believe it when I read that – though this is only on Amazon, so maybe it points to Amazon’s rising dominance of the bookselling market in the last few years (the first Hunger Games novel came out the year after the final Harry Potter book, I think).

  3. #1 reminds me of how Trudi Canavan watched the Beijing Olympics and came up with class conflicts between magicians and slum dwellers who were purged from the city in The Magician’s Guild. I love how Suzanne Collins sees reality show, Iraq, and then thinks of Greek mythology as a motif!!! Great storyworld!!!!

  4. Reblogged this on Telling Tales and commented:
    Insights into Suzanne Collins’ thrilling dystopian trilogy. I hadn’t spotted the Theseus reference (much to my shame), but I’m very happy about number 4, which shows just how popular this complex, engaging, wonderfully written story is.

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  6. Wow! So interesting! I had NO idea that Suzanne was a writer for Clarissa! That’s an awesome 90’s show, and strangely I can see Clarissa and Ferguson fighting to the death…

    I had no idea so much went into Hunger Games. Though I found the content disturbingly mature for a twelve-year-old audience, I did enjoy the gripping narrative.

  7. The Amazon best-seller thing surprised me at first, until I really thought about it. Because I think I, like a lot of people, bought my HP books from actual bookstores — after all, back when the first HP books came out, Amazon wasn’t really a thing. So it makes much more sense now that I think about it :)

  8. The Greco-Roman influence is definitely obvious throughout the trilogy. Even the names echo it (Cato, Caesar, Claudius, Octavia, etc.) I’ve never thought about the Theseus connection, though!

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  10. I love The Hunger Games books, and have blogged at length about how much you can learn from them in terms of writing technique. From the way that Collins portrays her characters’ emotional state to the layers of building plot, they’re just fantastic. But I’d never realised just how much classical mythology influenced the stories – the Theseus connection completely passed me by – thank you for pointing it out.

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