Salutes and Eastereggs in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
All the Coriolanus-Katniss Connections
There are many parallel between young Coriolanus and Katniss, as well as nods to the trilogy
• At the beginning, Coriolanus dresses in his father’s shirt as Katniss does her mother’s dress. Both of these suggest costuming uncomfortably as their parents and being burdened with their ill-fitting legacies.
• His shirt has tesserae buttons. These are actually mosaic tiles, linking him with the glories of Rome, but it also recalls the “tesserae grain” Katniss earns.
• Tigris dyes Coriolanus’s shirt with marigolds. Flowers are the central symbol of the District children, especially 11 and 12.
• Coriolanus’s early mentor Satyria Click cares about him but also drinks heavily and lacks self-control. With this, she seems a Haymitch figure.
• This book has the same obsession with food as the original trilogy. From the opening with distasteful cabbage soup, to the disappointing school meals, to the amazing bounty of Ma Plinth’s treats, with special meals like the turkey dinner when they were desperate. Coriolanus is scrawny from a poor diet. However, Snow’s childhood deprivation doesn’t make him generous but cruel.
• “Snow lands on top” is a family saying. This calls attention to his last name meaning. It also contrasts with humble Katniss whose name means a food hidden beneath the water that will help her survive.
• Grandma’am lives in fragile denial, paralleling Katniss’s mother’s fog. In both cases, the teens take every possible chance to become the family breadwinner as they know they’re responsible for doing so. This theme also appears in the Gregor books.
• Both Katniss and Coriolanus begin their stories dressing and hurrying off to Reaping Day, reassuring their delusional parents and filled with responsibility. Each starts with one best friend who knows everything about them and one sister figure (for Coriolanus, Tigris is both). Both receive the last mission they wanted. Both are watched everywhere they go and always aware of it. Both are always hungry and learn to manage it.
• As chapter one ends, “District twelve girl…she belongs to Coriolanus Snow.” All readers promptly think of the main trilogy with the Snow-Katniss tension and his power over her life.
• At the station, Coriolanus thinks that the train whistle meant his father’s return, like the whistle signaling end of the day for the miners like Mr. Everdeen.
• Lucy Gray is memorable and sympathetic, but Coriolanus thinks that she’s scrawny and female so she has no chance. This recalls another tribute. In fact, Lucy is the opposite of Katniss, reveling in performance. She remembers what things were like before and was a traveling player – the freest person of all. She’s only in District 12 by chance. She’s introduced with butterfly imagery – more ephemeral than tough Katniss -- while the snakes surrounding her tie her to nature but also subtly suggest duplicity and the temptation of Eden. Katniss, by contrast, is painfully forthright.
• Like Katniss, Lucy Gray has dresses from the old days that let her dress better than the other kids in their gray.
• Jessup and Lucy hold hands on the platform. She sings with the crowd, offering a chorus of “Nothing you can take from me was ever worth keeping.” This is a significant theme in the trilogy as Katniss loses her entire home with its district and then family and friends. Still, she remains resolute and loving even as the people rebuild.
• “How best to exploit her show-stopping entrance? How best to wrangle some success from a dress, a snake, a song?” Coriolanus thinks. This goal is shared by all of Katniss’s publicists, who frame her as their symbol.
• Coriolanus thinks that starvation is a weapon in their world.
• Back in the war years, Coriolanus takes his childish red wagon to collect the lima beans, like Katniss does with her grain and oil rations. Eight-year-old Tigris learns to cook the beans since Grandma can’t manage the stove. Katniss, too, must step up and keep the family fed.
• Grandma’am says the story of a few tributes escaping during the bombing is “just the kind of story that catches fire.”
• Lysistrata Vickers mentors Jessup. She’s perceptive and reminds Coriolanus they’re being used. This message of mentors being as trapped as tributes, returns over and over.
• Jessup and Lucy (a loyal team of the muscle and the smart one) echo Thresh and Rue. When he dies, Lucy cleans up his body like Katniss does Rue’s.
• Like Katniss, Coriolanus himself is flung into the games. Sejanus finds how to sneak in, while in Catching Fire, the team discover how to sneak out.
• When Coriolanus gets to District 12, he’s creeped out by the forest. He also trades and listens to music at the Hob. The Covey live in the Seam and take him to see the Meadow and the Lake. There, the Covey fish and dig up katniss roots.
• Coriolanus is disgusted by the mockingjays. Over and over, he views them as nature “running amok” and needing to be tamed. He soon accepts the jabberjays, which are controllable with the press of a button. There are particularly suggestive moments, when he tries to shoot the mockingjays and catch them in baited traps, but the birds evade him both times.
• Lucy Gray calls the Covey “pretty birds.” With their freedom and singing, they have much bird imagery. Thus, they foreshadow Katniss.
• The origin of “The Hanging Tree” is revealed with the original hanging that inspired it and Lucy Gray writing it about her life. Eventually, she’s forbidden to sing it and music performances are banned.
• Sejanus wants to be a medic, as Prim will later.
• Lucy tells Coriolanus that he found her though “the odds didn’t seem in your favor.”
• Coriolanus passes the bakery and gets directions there from a somewhat mean woman. It may be a family trait.
• Lucy Gray has a goat, like Prim’s.
• Towards the end, Coriolanus thinks. “Nothing since the reaping had seemed very real.” Peeta has similar thoughts in Catching Fire. Coriolanus also thinks, “Sejanus was playing with fire”
• As he ends the book, Snow’s thoughts turn to Lucy: “She could fly around District 12 all she liked, but she and her mockingjays could never harm him again.” When Katniss, a theatrical girl on fire who sings and wear a mockingjay pin, arrives and wins her games, she must seem like Lucy Gray returned for vengeance.
Valerie Estelle Frankel is the author of The Many Faces of Katniss Everdeen: Exploring the Heroine of the Hunger Games , Katniss the Cattail: An Unauthorized Guide to Names and Symbols in Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games and other pop culture explorations.