Hunger Games: the new book of the saga

Hunger Games: the new book of the saga

The Hunger Games prequel: all the curiosities (without spoilers) of “Ballad of the nightingale and the snake”

Without the fiery girl but with some presence of the imitating jay the Hunger Games are back. From May 19, in fact, it is in the library for Mondadori the new novel of the saga, also available on Audible in audiobook version. Is called Ballad of the nightingale and the snake and a film on this is already under construction prequel story set 64 years before the events narrated in the Suzanne Collins trilogy. They turned into four box office films currently on the air in the Italia Uno marathon (until May 28, every Thursday in the early evening) and launched the Oscar in the universe of stars Jennifer Lawrence.

Here are the curiosities to be known – without too many spoilers – before starting reading. This time nothing Katniss, as fans would have hoped, anxious to know what happens in his life as the wife of Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), his companion in the Arena of two editions of the Hunger Games, and as a mother of their two children. Or maybe curious about the past of their mentor Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), another Hunger Games winner from District 12, the poorest of the futuristic kingdom of Panem. And, why not ?, peek through the secrets of one of the most loved Tributes (participants of the games), Finnick (Sam Claflin).

Nothing to do: the prequel Ballad of the nightingale and the snake – in its 600 pages – is totally focused on the President Coriolanus Snow (played in the cinema by Donald Sutherland), the nemesis of the protagonist, incarnation of Evil itself a Capitol City, the capital of this nation born on the remains of the United States in an indeterminate and post-apocalyptic future.


At the time of the events told in the novel, Snow is an eighteen year old, one of the most influential offspring of the Capitol City elite. Now an orphan of both parents, he lives with his cousin Tigris (yes, the stylist whom Katniss and associates meet during their incursion in The song of the revolt) and the “young lady”, as the matriarch of the house calls her. Times of opulence are long gone because, with the destruction of District 13 during the civil war ten years earlier, paternal investments went up in smoke. The only opportunity for redemption for this ambitious young man who fell into disgrace is offered when, together with other budding aristocratic talents, he finds himself mentoring the Hunger Games. He happens – ironically – the female tribute of District 12, Lucy Gray, practically the weakest pawn among the 24 bloodthirsty draws drawn in the various regions, among all the boys aged between 12 and 18 years. To get her out of the arena safe and sound, she must put aside snobbish attitudes and prejudices to play cunning.

Donald Sutherland as President Snow


The Hunger Games fandom would have decidedly preferred a Midnight Sun-style story by Stephenie Meyer, that is the version of Twilight told by Edward instead of Bella. Or at least a prequel that followed the lines of the mother-saga, as Cassandra Clare did with her Shadowhunters, to whom she gave a new trilogy perhaps even more exciting than the original one. But since after all, as J.K. Rowling (forerunners of Harry Potter set at the time of the young Albus Dumbledore), whenever you return to familiar ground and between loved stories the interest skyrockets, Nostradamus is not needed to predict that this novel will also be a bestseller. In spite of any understandable objection from the public. The positive side? Readers of Suzanne Collins thanks to this new story may respond to some interesting questions about the past. We will find out this way, among other things: who really invented the Hunger Games, how the hybrids were born (frightening genetically modified creatures as lethal weapons), why the chatty jay has thrown the central government into crisis and how the games have been refined to become the tool of propaganda and oppression.


Jennifer Lawrence aka Katniss

The first and perhaps most important difference from the Hunger Games trilogy concerns the storytelling mode. This time Snow is not the first person to speak, as Katniss did, but the story becomes more detached, in the third person. In the childhood and adolescence of the “executioner”, the writer accompanies her from a safe distance. In part he wants to offer extenuating circumstances for the behavior of this heartless tyrant and show when and how his heart has hardened – with sentimental implications to say the least surprising – to go back to that glimmer of humanity that still existed in him before that fateful tenth edition of the games. The oppressor was once oppressed, indeed almost a survivor of that system of oppression and injustices concentrated in the seats of power in Capitol City, which have explained and broken all areas of the country with an unprecedented bloodbath.

To redeem this black soul in part, he is joined by a tribute that seems to be the slightly gipsy version of Katniss, so it can be said that the fiery girl echoes the story in spirit to underline Snow’s emotional path. And not only his: The Hunger Games of Nightingale and Serpent Ballad are even more ruthless and horrible of those already known because on the one hand they contain all the lethal potentials of this practice, but not fully developed.

From the beginning, in fact, the games in the Arena (which recall the shows of the Roman gladiators) are an exemplary punishment to ward off other rebellions, but at the time of the events they have not yet developed the perverse nature that transforms them into pure entertainment, a talent show capable of anesthetizing consciences making them – if possible – even more dangerous.

In the book the Tributes are not the darlings of the crowds, but animals chained hands and feet in the cages of the zoo, without food or water, at the mercy of everything and everyone. The inhabitants of Capitol City have not yet developed the kind of interest that leads the winners to be pampered and fondled as champions, so the participants in the games are slaughtered meat, sacrificial victims whose name and provenance can hardly be remembered. In short, barbarism comes in a raw and primitive form and the Strategists (the “directors” of the Hunger Games) have not yet refined their best weapons.

On the other hand, the concept that in dark times, in order to survive, one gets to embody the worst version of oneself seems sadly current today, in a pandemic period.


The answer is “nì”. It is difficult to empathize viscerally with any of the protagonists and one has the impression of being spectators of a massacre, instead of feeling part of the story tragedies, as happens immediately when Katniss speaks. However inevitable the nostalgia effect is towards one of the saghe young adult more successful than ever, interest in President Snow’s political career reaches a certain point. On the one hand we would like to know more about the female protagonist Lucy, her past, her thoughts and her hopes while on the other a looming legacy looms over her, that of the fiery girl.

The rebel spirit that literally burns in the Hunger Games trilogy is only hinted at here because the focus of the whole story is totally moved elsewhere, in the minds of the oppressors. And this does not always help narration. We will see, in short, if the film adaptation will give a more engaging touch but one thing is certain: “The Snows – as we often read in the novel – settle on top, like snow”. On the other hand, the snake always knows how to wind its coils, taking the opponent by surprise, but this story teaches us not to underestimate the nightingale.

And in an uncertain historical moment like the one you are experiencing, find refuge in the pages of an already familiar world, even if in many obscure ways, it remains reassuring, therefore it is only for this reason that it is worth returning to Panem.


Unfortunately, unable to find the actors of the original saga in this new prequel context, the cast will presumably be brand new. Lionsgate could bet on a group of promising strangers, but if it wanted to play it safe, the options between the successful under 20 and 30 would be very varied. As Coriolanus Snow could play Asa Butterfield (Sex Education), to interpret the female tribute Bella Thorne (At full speed) and in that of Tigris the “feline” Lily Rose-Depp. As presenter of the Games, Robert Sheehan would be perfect. The Toto-Mentori could include Milly Bobby Brown (Stranger Things), Nick Robinson (Jurassic World), Mackenzie Foy (Twilight) and Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones) while the Strategists team would fit Theo James (Divergent), Jared perfectly Gilmore (Once upon a time) and Hailee Steinfeld (Pitch Perfect 3). And how Tributes? Roman Griffin Davis (JoJo Rabbit), Dafne Keen (Logan), Micah Abbey (Grey’s Anatomy), Jack Dylan Grazer (Shazam!) And Jenna Ortega (Jane the virgin).

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