Name Meanings in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes: Tributes and Mentors
Collins Adds Deeper Connections...
Name Meanings in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes: Tributes and Mentors
The district lack of last names dehumanizes and deprivileges them. Here the emphasis is even more on the mentors, who are introduced on their own list mentoring only “boy” or girl” Later the names are added but only Lucy has a last name of any sort. In the original trilogy, Katniss doesn’t learn most Tributes’ last names and sometimes not even the first ones.
District 1: Mentors and Tributes
Livia Cardew (her family run a bank) mentors Facet. He’s shot trying to escape during the bombing. His name, like Glimmer from book one, suggests part of a jewel, but he’s merely a facet, or small side of the Capitol’s plan. Livia was an empress of Rome, wife of Caesar Augustus and chosen to be a worthy wife and leader. Coriolanus chooses this Livia for similar reasons.
Palmyra Monty mentors Velvereen, whose name suggests a costly fabric that’s still a commodity. She’s shot trying to escape during the bombing. Palmyra, meanwhile, is an ancient Syrian city. As a silk road stop that blended Roman and Persian architecture, she appears a bridge between old and new.
District 2: Mentors and Tributes
Sejanus Plinth is from District 2, so many pick on him. His father is Strabo, a social climber willing to pull strings. A plinth is a pedestal – social climbing has been their family’s total ambition. Strabo, meanwhile, was a wealthy philosopher. Just as the Roman Empire was beginning, he allied with them and was granted Roman citizenship as a reward for his contribution. The parallel seems clear.
Historically, Lucius Aelius Sejanus, from the lower part of the upper class, was the confidante and best friend of Emperor Tiberius. He gained power through the emperor, as this Sejanus does through Snow, and achieved many social reforms. Historically, he purged many people of the opposing party, while Collins’ Sejanus, an idealist, never gets the chance.
Sejanus mentors Marcus, his old neighbor. He escapes during the bombing. Not much of Marcus’s personality is seen, except his hatred, so it’s difficult to know which Marcus, from all of history, is being referenced. For instance, this was the first name of Antony, once allied with Caesar Octavius, who then betrayed him to found his own rival empire and was killed in battle by his former friend.
Florus Friend mentors Sabyn. Sabyn evokes the Sabine women, kidnapped by the Romans. She dies trying to escape during the bombing. Florus’s name suggests he’s flushed, presumably with wealth and good food.
District 3: Mentors and Tributes
Io Jasper (who’s good at gene manipulation) mentors Circ (reminiscent of circuit). Io was a maiden Jupiter claimed, leaving Juno to take a terrible revenge. The name suggests a goddess who’s really a victim-princess, telling commentary on the mentors who are actually being used by those in power.
Urban Canville mentors Teslee. The name suggests a Tesla coil. Urban, of course, evokes the city.
All four come from scientist families, emphasizing how much they could have in common.
District 4: Mentors and Tributes
Persephone Price mentors Mizzen. She’s pretty but her father Nero was a cannibal. In Greek myth, Persephone is lovely but she’s the bride of Death. Emperor Nero was famous for his selfishness while Rome was falling around him.
Festus Creed, rich from timber, mentors Coral (an ocean word, also suggesting the jewel of great price sacrificed in the Bible). His name suggests a festival, and thus his luck at being born to wealth.
The pair fight cleverly in the games as a team but finally die violently
District 5: Mentors and Tributes
Dennis Fling mentors Hy, who dies of asthma or something before the games start. Hy’s name, a single sad syllable, makes him seem barely there indeed. He even is part of the story only long enough for a brief hello. Dennis is derived from Dionysius, the merry wine-drinking god. Of course, the higher gods still condemned his human mother to death, in a repeated theme of sacrifice. A Fling can suggest a party, linking with other joyful mentor names.
Iphigenia Moss mentors Sol. Her father is in charge of agricultural distribution and she definitely gives all her food away. Sol means sun, but also suggests that he’s solo, alone. Moss links with agriculture and subtly suggests she’s from the districts. Iphigenia, in Greek myth, is sacrificed by her own father to the gods so he can proceed with his ambitious plans for the Trojan War. As such, the character’s expendability is stressed.
District 6: Mentors and Tributes
Apollo Ring mentors Otto, meaning wealth. His German name origin emphasizes that he’s not from the Capitol’s Roman traditions.
Diana Ring mentors Ginnee. Generally short for Virginia or something else (like Ginny Weasley’s Ginevra), this victim doesn’t offer a full name, only childish nickname.
Apollo and Diana Ring are twins who deliberately dress alike. Their names, one Greek and one Roman, slightly vary the names of the sun and moon gods, twins themselves. All four die together in the arena bombing, emphasizing that the differences between them are an illusion. The arena is even a ring in itself.
District 7: Mentors and Tributes
Vipsania Sickle mentors Treech. As he lines up the bodies and covers them in the flag, she stubbornly refuses to send him food or water because he’s not killing. Eventually, Lucy Gray must kill him. Treech is urban slang for several types of insults, but it’s unclear if these are meant. Vipsania Agrippina was the first wife of Emperor Tiberius, forced to divorce him and wed another, causing distress to both of them. Like her counterpart, she followed the rules laid out from above, though they led to others’ suffering.
Pliny Harrington (called Pup to differentiate from his naval father) mentors Lamina. Lamina mercy-kills Marcus and survives for some time on a tall pole. The name references a thin layer of rock, emphasizing her toughness.
Pliny here suggests Pliny the Younger. He was a philosopher and imperial magistrate who wrote to and about the famous men of his day but allowed them to overshadow him. Honor Harrington is a famous fictional commander.
District 8: Mentors and Tributes
Juno Phipps mentors Bobbin, who dies savagely in the Games. Juno is described as “snooty,” befitting for the competitive Roman queen goddess. A Bobbin is a type of spool for thread – she’s even lethal with a needle.
Hilarius Heavensbee mentors Wovey (a name suggesting weaving). She is poisoned and dies pathetically in the games after barely hanging together. Hiliarius presumably has an upbeat disposition (though such a name also suggests the happy circumstance of being born to wealth) and is related to Plutarch. The last name is derived from a Plutarch quote, in fact.
District 9: Mentors and Tributes
Gaius Breen mentors Panlo. This Spanish-language name adds a little diversity and may evoke the plight of the children in cages. Gaius loses his legs in the bombing and finally succumbs to his injuries. He shared his name with Gaius Julius Caesar, who was stabbed in the back by senators he trusted. This Gaius may or may not have been killed by his teachers, but either way, as with Caesar, they use his death to encourage violence for their own aims.
Androcles Anderson mentors Sheef. This last suggests a bundle of grain, also known for being consumed. Both tributes are injured in the bombing and die, forbidden the hospital. Likewise, Androcles is hospitalized after the bombing. He wants to be a reporter like his mother. The famous story “Androcles and the Lion” is told of a slave from Tiberius’s time. He removes a thorn from a lion’s paw and the lion is grateful. However, the modern Androcles fails to learn this lesson. He doesn’t protect his injured tribute, who dies instead.
District 10: Mentors and Tributes
Domitia Whimsiwick, a dairy heiress, mentors Tanner. Many women of the gens Domitia from Rome were wives or relatives of the emperors. Tannery is the art of converting animal skins to leather.
Arachne Crane (whose parents build luxury hotels that seem especially callous in the face of district suffering) mentors Brandy. The child is named as a commodity, and Arachne treats her as one, mocking her with food until Brandy (a volatile substance that makes people lose their reason) kills her. In myth, Arachne’s arrogance turns her into a venomous spider, so there are clear character parallels.
District 11: Mentors and Tributes
Clemensia Dovecote (the energy secretary’s daughter) mentors Reaper. As mentioned in the book, this is a grim choice of name, but he was born before the reaping and thus it references a farm implement. The Grim Reaper, who takes his scythe imagery from the farmers who dreamed him up, is an inescapable mental image here. Reaper is indeed the final death and, with rabies and poison, he seems in a state of living death for quire some time. Though he appeared the toughest, he comforts Dill who’s dying of tuberculosis and shows compassion in the game.
Clemmie’s teacher has the snakes bite her for lying about writing their group project. There’s neurological damage afterwards. Titus Flavius Clemens was great-nephew of the Roman Emperor Vespasian, executed for following his beliefs instead of the law. He was made a saint, creepily foreshadowing Clemmie’s near-fate.
Felix Ravenstill mentors Dill (a humble food plant with a strong flavor like rue). He dies pathetically of tuberculosis, a victim of poverty-struck district conditions. Felix is the grandnephew of the president. This is another name that means happy. Ravens, meanwhile, are ominous birds known for heralding death.
District 12: Mentors and Tributes
Lysistrata Vickers mentors Jessup Diggs. His name sounds very rural indeed, with a reference to mining and digging. Her parents are in the press, which may explain her commitment to truth. He saves her during the bombing as Lucy does her mentor. She doesn’t like drawing attention to herself. She’s perceptive and reminds Coriolanus they’re being used. She gets her name from an ancient Greek comedy in which women change the system by refusing sex until their demands are met. Thus she has the name of a revolutionary, if a comic one.
Coriolanus Snow mentors Lucy Gray Baird.
The legendary Roman leader is most famous because of Shakespeare’s play, Coriolanus. The play opens with rioting because Gaius Marcius Coriolanus is withholding grain from the starving citizens. He feels the lower-class farm workers don’t deserve the grain because they’re not in the military:
First Citizen: You are all resolved rather to die than to famish?
All: Resolved, resolved.
First Citizen: First, you know Caius Marcius [Coriolanus] is chief enemy to the people.
All: We know’t, we know’t.
First Citizen: Let us kill him, and we’ll have corn at our own price. Is’t a verdict? (I.i.3-8)
This might be citizens of Panem’s Districts demanding food and justice.
After a great victory in battle, Coriolanus becomes ruling Consul. But at his appointment, the tribune Brutus reveals how Coriolanus insulted the people before. He adds:
You speak o’ the people,
As if you were a god to punish, not
A man of their infirmity.
[in other words, a man as mortal and fallible as they are]
Again, here is Snow, the monstrous tyrant. Coriolanus flies into a rage and gives a mighty speech of how the patricians (aristocrats) should rule over the lower classes in every way. Allowing the farmers into the senate at all is allowing “the crows to peck the eagles” (III.i.172). In disgust, Coriolanus declares war on his birth city of Rome, willing to kill his own people for vengeance.
Shakespeare makes Coriolanus a completely contemptible figure, so selfish and vile that he’ll kill his own citizens rather than let them have a vote. At the same time, Shakespeare doesn’t encourage us to understand the character, who only has one weak soliloquy in the entire play. He is no more the hero than Snow is—he’s a thoroughly despicable figure who exists only to terrorize the citizens. Eventually, as with President Snow, the Romans execute him for his treachery.
Snow is the enemy of food plants like katniss and rue and thus a source of hunger and oppression. It emphasizes his cold calculation as well. A few puns and pieces of symbolism like his gifts of ice which are received kindly in summer add some nuance in this version.
As described in the book, Wordsworth's poem “Lucy Gray” (1799) describes a girl perpetually wandering the wilderness, haunting it forever as presumably she will her lost love.
Valerie Estelle Frankel is the author of pop culture works such as The Many Faces of Katniss Everdeen: Exploring the Heroine of the Hunger Games and Katniss the Cattail on names in the original trilogy.