The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, the Hunger Games prequel chronicling the villainous origin of President Snow, is full of various callbacks to the original Hunger Games novels. Some of them serve as crucial cornerstones of worldbuilding, reverse-engineering aspects of the Hunger Games readers know well into something less refined.
Other callbacks, however, aren’t as integral to the plot and feel like they were slipped in just because they could be. In fact, though the book takes place decades before Katniss Everdeen, heroine of the original books, was even born, it contains a sly reference to Katniss.
[Ed. note: This post contains major spoilers for The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes]
In the last third of the book, Coriolanus Snow finds himself stationed as a Peacekeeper in District 12, a punishment for cheating in the games to help his Tribute, Lucy Gray, win. At this point, he’s resigned to his fate, pleased at least that he has Lucy’s affections to himself, even if he sometimes longs for the luxuries of the Capitol.
Lucy doesn’t consider herself to be entirely from District 12. She’s a member of the Covey, she says, a nomadic group of people who are primarily singers and dancers.
While enjoying a day in the woods with Lucy and her fellow Covey, she and Coriolanus have a brief debate about whether the Capitol actually does anything for the Districts. Coriolanus insists that the Capitol provides much-needed safety and order, while Lucy replies that even if that’s true, the Covey have given up their right to travel and perform as they please. Lucy says that people existed without the Capitol, but Coriolanus says that those people have been long gone.
Before the conversation continues, one of Lucy’s friends interrupts to show her a plant.
“Hey, you found some katniss,” replies Lucy.
Coriolanus instantly thinks that the plant with pointy leaves and small white flowers is meant to be decorative, but Lucy tells him that they’re meant to be eaten. It’s a very brief exchange, one not really meant to highlight anything except maybe Coriolanus’ lack of foraging knowledge, but it’s there to remind us of the hero who’ll rise decades later, born and bred in District 12 unlike Capitol interlopper Corioalnus.
The rest of the scene that follows has Coriolanus quite smitten with a simple life, pondering whether his move to District 12 might be worthwhile after all. Lucy’s friends croon a song (incidentally, the same one that Katniss sings to Rue as she dies in the first Hunger Games book, another callback for callback’s sake). But by the end of the book, Coriolanus rejects the quaint aspects of District life for Capitol luxuries and safety — folk songs and katniss plants, included.
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