Wednesday, September 5, 2012

THE HUNGER GAMES - Like Theseus, but...

... like Theseus.

The Hunger Games is admittedly a modern variation on the Greek myth of Theseus. If you are not familiar with that one, or you need to refresh your memory, you can read the myth here (and half a million other places).

Before we go on I would like to insert a DISCLAIMER here:
The fact that I am comparing The Hunger Games to Theseus does not mean in any shape or form that I think it is merely a copy of the original myth. In fact, I like to bring it up as an example of old stories done in a creative and smart way in a modern setting. Even though significant changes have been made in the story, many of the core elements stayed the same, and this creative yet respectful handling of the mythic material resulted in a success that I do not even need to point out.
For the sake of spotting, here is a list that I compiled with the help of excited 6th grade students about the similarities.

1. Hero grows up without father, raised by a mother
2. Lost war against dominant power
3. Yearly tributes collected (equal number of boys and girls)
4. Hero volunteers as tribute
5. Tributes taken to grand city and presented to the leader
6. Strange colorful world of the new place
7. Tributes sent into an arena to fight and be killed
8. Love helps the hero to survival
9. Hero survives the arena
10. Love challenged when returning to the outside world
11. Ongoing trials of the hero after survival
12. Eventual defeat of the ruling power

If you want to read a book that is as entertaining as The Hunger Games and deals with the original story, I suggest Mary Renault's The King Must Die. She interprets the story in a historical way, but leaves some of the mystery in it. Enjoy!

Moving on with the spotting, we are far from done.

When in Rome
The Capitol and its people are in many ways modeled after the ancient Romans. Without going into the endless list of Roman myths and legends, here is one that might ring a bell:
Camilla, the fearless huntress and warrior, fighting against the Romans. Go figure.
For further reading, here is a starting point.
For advanced readers, here is the Metamorphoses by our beloved Ovid.

Archery
Once again, there shall be a separate post for archery soon. Stay. Tuned.

Appalachia
District 12 is set in an area that "used to be called Appalachia"; the movie was also shot in this neighborhood. Appalachia has an incredibly rich treasury of folktales, some of them no doubt have been told to li'l Katniss and li'l Peeta. Or not.
Anyway, here is a list of Appalachian folktale collections for your reading pleasure, to get you in the mountainy mood.
And here is a collection of tales about the strong women of Appalachia.

Miner's tales
Another lore that is probably popular in District 12. There are countless folktales, legends and rumors about mines and mining. Some of them are about creatures that line in the mines and help (or mess with) the miners; others are about rules on what you are and are not supposed to do while down in the dark.

Animals
Although there are not many folktales about mockingjays or tracker jackers, there are plenty about their real life origins. And just as in the Hunger Games the origin of these artificial species are explained, you can find traditional tales explaining the same about bluejays, mockingbirds, or wasps.
Here is one about the sound the bluejay makes
Here is one about bluejay and fire
Here is one about bluejay in love
This one is about mockingbird learning to sing
Here is one about the chattering of Mockingbird
This one is about yellowjackets

Sister and sister
Once again, there is a lot more to the story and the obvious symbols and motifs. One of the emotional highlights is the relationship between Katniss and Prim. Sister and sister tales can be found in many shapes and forms.
On some variations of the Brother and Sister folktale type, like the Hungarian story of Cerceruska, feature sister and sister instead, with the older one usually looking out for the younger.
For a treasury of tales about sisters and strong women, check out this book. It's a classic for storytellers.

The Girl on Fire
For some badass fiery girlyness, check out The Daughter of the Sun in Italo Calvino's Italian Folktales collection!

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