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The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes


The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes


The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is a dystopian action-adventure novel written by the American author Suzanne Collins. It is a prequel to the original The Hunger Games trilogy, set 64 years before the events of the first novel. It was released on May 19, 2020, by Scholastic with an audiobook of the novel, read by the American actor Santino Fontana, was released simultaneously. The book had a virtual launch due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A film adaptation by Lionsgate, The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, was released on November 17, 2023.

Plot

To help revive the televised Hunger Games' declining viewership, 24 Capitol Academy students are chosen to mentor tributes for the upcoming 10th Hunger Games. Eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow hopes to win the offered Plinth Prize to pay his way to the University and return the Snow family's prestige.

Snow is assigned the District 12 female tribute, Lucy Gray Baird, a member of the Covey, a nomadic music band. District 12, the poorest district, has never produced a victor. However, during the reaping, Lucy Gray sparks the Capitol's attention by defiantly singing and slipping a snake into the dress of Mayfair Lipp, the daughter of District 12’s mayor. Snow starts considering her a possible victor. He urges Lucy Gray to use her musical abilities to garner Capitol viewers' favor and gifts during the Games.

During a Games arena tour, rebel bombs explode, killing several tributes and mentors. Lucy Gray chooses to save Coriolanus from a fallen beam while Marcus, the District 2 male tribute, escapes amid the chaos. Lucy Gray and Snow overcome their mutual mistrust and share their first kiss the night before the Games. With Snow's help, Lucy Gray wins the games.

Dean Casca Highbottom discovers that Snow gave Lucy Gray unpermitted assistance and confronts Coriolanus with evidence of his cheating. Threatened with his family's public disgrace, Coriolanus reluctantly joins the Peacekeepers for a 20-year contract, but requests to be assigned to District 12, hoping to see Lucy Gray again.

In District 12, Coriolanus and Lucy Gray resume their romance. Sejanus, another Academy student who has also been forced into the Peacekeepers, plans with rebel Spruce to smuggle other dissenters beyond Panem's northern border. Coriolanus and Lucy Gray discover the plan and argue over Sejanus' involvement. Upon discovering Mayfair eavesdropping with Billy Taupe, Lucy Gray’s ex-boyfriend, Spruce and Coriolanus kill them. Spruce is detained for the crime and hanged for treason.

Knowing he can be linked to Mayfair and Billy's murders, Coriolanus agrees to run away with Lucy Gray. In the process of escaping District 12, Snow finds the weapons used in Mayfair and Billy’s murder. Snow realizes that Lucy Gray is the only link to his crimes, and begins to turn on her. While searching for her in the woods, Snow is bitten by a snake, which he believes was a booby trap set by Lucy Gray. Snow chases after and shoots at her with the gun, but she escapes. While Lucy Gray escapes, Snow hears her sing the last stanza of 'The Hanging Tree', mockingjays echoing the melody over and over as Snow fired wildly into the trees. Later, Snow disposes of the guns and returns to District 12.

Snow reports for his training. He meets with Head Gamemaker Dr. Volumnia Gaul, who reveals she exposed his cheating and arranged his military service, wanting to shatter his idealism and show that authority must contain humanity's violent nature. Snow receives a spot at the University and Sejanus' parents make him their heir, unaware he betrayed their son.

Later, in the epilogue, Snow visits Dean Highbottom, who drinks a vial of morphling, unaware that Snow had poisoned it.

As Gamemaker, Coriolanus introduces the Victor’s Village and rewards winning districts each year with money and food. This ultimately incentivizes the Games for both districts and the Capitol, thus beginning his rise to power.

Characters

  • Coriolanus "Coryo" Snow - The protagonist of the novel. His family faced financial difficulties following the war, and he makes great efforts to hide this and maintain his social status. He is arrogant, cunning and strategic, taking whatever actions are necessary to improve his situation.
  • Lucy Gray Baird - The female tribute from District 12 for the tenth Hunger Games. Lucy Gray is a member of the Covey, a nomadic musical group forced to settle in District 12 after the war. A smart and calculating free spirit, she develops a romantic connection with Snow.
  • Tigris Snow - Coriolanus' cousin. She is the breadwinner of the family, leaving school and working for a fashion designer in order to support herself and her family. It is also implied she is forced to sell her body in order to keep food on the table.
  • Sejanus Plinth - Coriolanus' classmate and fellow mentor in the Games. From District 2, Sejanus now lives in the Capitol because of his father's connections and business during the war. He is rebellious and idealistic, and strongly opposes the Capitol's treatment of the Districts and the existence of the Games.
  • Dr. Volumnia Gaul - Head Gamemaker and the overseer of every Hunger Games since their inception. She has a twisted view of human nature and believes in an authoritarian government and the need for punishment and control over the Districts.
  • Casca Highbottom - Dean of the Academy. He is credited as the intellectual author of the Games and holds great disdain towards Coriolanus and the whole Snow family. He is addicted to morphling, a drug similar to morphine.
  • Grandma’am - Coriolanus' and Tigris' paternal grandmother. Her granddaughter gave her the nickname "Grandma'am" since she believed she deserved something that sounded imperial. During the war, she took care of her grandchildren, and ensured their survival.
  • Mayfair Lipp - She is the daughter of District 12's mayor. Jealous of Lucy Gray and her relationship with Billy Taupe, she arranges for Lucy Gray to be reaped. Mayfair eventually becomes a spy for the Capitol in its efforts to suppress future rebellions and is murdered by Coriolanus and the rebels.
  • Billy Taupe - Lucy Gray's ex-boyfriend and Mayfair's current boyfriend. He and Mayfair are shot after being caught spying on District 12's rebels.
  • Strabo Plinth - Sejanus' father. He is the head of a munitions empire in District 2 that sided with the Capitol during the war, thus allowing him to buy his family's way into a new life in the Capitol. At the end of the novel, he sponsors Coriolanus and names him his heir.

Reception

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes has received positive reviews. Even though book critics had an overall mixed reception to the novel on its release day, the review aggregator website Book Marks, which assigns individual ratings to book reviews from mainstream literary critics, indicated that the novel received a cumulative "positive" rating, based on 19 reviews.

The Guardian praised the book, writing, "Collins's themes of friendship, betrayal, authority and oppression, as well as the extra layers of lore about mockingjays and Capitol's history, will please and thrill." Similarly, Time said that Collins shines most "as she weaves in tantalising details that lend depth to the gruesome world she created in the original series". Kirkus Reviews gave it a starred review, saying the book is "both a tense, character-driven piece and a cautionary tale".

The Daily Telegraph reviewer criticized it as "not the most promising opening [fans expected]" and said that Collins should "stick to plucky heroes and dazzling plot-twists". She wrote that when it comes to writing the murkiest backwaters of the human psyche, Collins is fathoms out of her depth".

Darren Franich from Entertainment Weekly said, "The storytelling itself trends desperate at times. Chapters close on violent cliffhangers that edge into parody," and that "there are too many folk music interludes [and] some ludicrous franchise callbacks" but overall it "is a major work with major flaws, but it sure gives you a lot to chew on", ultimately giving it a grade of B−.

Film adaptation

In August 2017, Lionsgate's CEO, Jon Feltheimer, expressed an interest in spin-offs of The Hunger Games, with intentions to create a writers' room to explore the concept.

In June 2019, Joe Drake, the chairman of the Lionsgate Motion Picture Group, announced that the company was working with Collins on an adaptation of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. By April 2020, Collins and Lionsgate confirmed that plans were underway for the film's development. Casting had not yet begun, but the director Francis Lawrence had been confirmed to return after his success with The Hunger Games series. The film's writer was to be Michael Arndt, with Nina Jacobson and Collins as producers.

In August 2021, Lionsgate's chairman, Joe Drake, revealed that the film was in pre-production with filming expected to begin in early 2022 for a targeted release of "either late fiscal 2023 or early 2024". On April 28, 2022, it was announced that the film would be released on November 17, 2023.

On May 16, 2022, it was announced that Tom Blyth had been cast as the young Coriolanus Snow. On May 31, Rachel Zegler was cast as Lucy Gray Baird. On June 15, Josh Andrés Rivera was cast as Sejanus Plinth. On June 22, Hunter Schafer was cast as Tigris. On June 27, Jason Schwartzman was cast as Lucretius "Lucky" Flickerman. In July, Peter Dinklage was reported to have been cast as Dean Highbottom.

On June 6, 2022, Lionsgate released a teaser trailer for the film, followed by a full trailer on April 27, 2023. On November 17, The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes was released in theaters to mixed reviews from critics.

References


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Text submitted to CC-BY-SA license. Source: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Wikipedia (Historical)



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