After The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 was released in 2015, the hype of The Hunger Games book and film series seemed to die down. Unlike franchises like Harry Potter which went on to create spin-offs of the magical universe and eventually became known as The Wizarding World franchise or The Twilight Saga franchise that spawned a few more books after the final film was released, there was no news about The Hunger Games series for almost four years.
We all probably just forgot about it considering that the Hollywood trend of film adaptations from young adult novels was already dying out at that point. And given that the author, Suzanne Collins, was now a successful and multi-awarded writer (and the first young adult fiction author to be given the Authors Guild Award for Distinguished Service to the Literary Community), most of us thought she was done with the series and opted on an indefinite break and avoided following in J.K. Rowling’s footsteps of adding more information to the lore that no one asked for.
But in June 2019, a press release from publishing company Scholastic revealed that that was not the case. It announced that it will be publishing print, digital, and audio formats of a prequel to The Hunger Games (tentatively titled Untitled Panem Novel) on May 19, 2020. While the details are sparse, here’s what we can expect, what we predict will happen, and how this book can affect the rest of the Hunger Games timeline.
The Prequel Is Set 64 Years Before The Hunger Games.
Untitled Panem Novel takes place during the 10th Annual Hunger Games, a decade after the end of the First Rebellion which ended with the Dark Days, a period when the rebels were slowly losing the war against the Capitol which ultimately led to their defeat.
Let’s recap why the Hunger Games exists in this universe. After the Capitol defeated the rebellion, its leaders wanted a way to keep the districts under their thumb. They believed that The Hunger Games was the perfect method because it showed how they could easily kill the districts’ children but at the same time provide a small amount of hope through the way the winner is showered with gifts and riches.
Naturally, sending kids to their deaths every year isn’t an idea a person could get used to unless they were living in that situation. So even with 10 years after the Hunger Games was established, it’s possible that the Panem citizens at the time of the prequel may still be adjusting to the way humanity deals with a brutal game like this.
It Could Be Made Into a Movie
While it’s still months away before Untitled Panem Novel’s release, Collins has already been in talks with Lionsgate Films about turning the prequel into the fifth film of The Hunger Games franchise. After Collins released the series’ first novel in 2008, Lionsgate bought the rights to the series in early 2009. Since then, Lionsgate has been the home of the four movies based on The Hunger Games trilogy: The Hunger Games, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2.
According to several Hollywood sources, Lionsgate has been working with Collins closely during her writing process. While this means we can expect a fifth movie in The Hunger Games film franchise in the same year or the next year the book comes out since Lionsgate is already considering a film for it this early, it may be troubling for some fans who feel like Lionsgate’s influence will affect Collins’ writing.
YouTuber and Hunger Games fan MovieFlame believes that, with Lionsgate “working” with Collins, the studio may be convincing her to write the novel in a more film-adaptation-friendly way. In the past, Collins has worked closely with the studio with adapting the books into the big screen, and she found that it was difficult to translate her work in the books into the movies. Is it possible that Lionsgate might convince her to write for the sake of a good novel, but a novel that can be easily translated into a profitable movie. We’ll just have to wait and see if this is true.
We Might See Some Old Faces
Because the prequel takes place 64 years before the events of The Hunger Games, we’re not going to see Katniss, Peeta, Gale, and the young adults and children seen in the original trilogy because they weren’t born yet. However, we do see three characters in the series who may have been old enough to be alive during that time: Mags Flanagan, Woof, President Snow, and Greasy Sae.
Mags was the elderly female tribute from District 4 that we saw in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. When Annie Cresta’s name was picked during the Quarter Quell that picked tributes from existing victors, Mags volunteered in her place. Prior to this, she was a mentor to both Annie and Annie’s lover and fellow victor Finnick Odair. So, when Mags sacrificed herself in the arena so that Finnick, Katniss, and Peeta could escape an approaching poisonous fog, Finnick deeply mourned her loss.
Prior to this, however, Mags is one of the oldest victors in Panem and the earliest notable victor in the timeline of the Hunger Games. She was 80 when she died in the 75th Hunger Games, which meant she was 16 when she won the 11th Hunger Games – around the same age Katniss was when she volunteered in place of Prim. This meant she was born during the Dark Days and was 5 years old when the Hunger Games began.
We don’t know if she was chosen at random or if District 4 had already established itself as a Career District and had Mags trained to win the games. Either way, her win made her a victor showered with riches from the Capitol. For the next 64 years, she would become a mentor to the District 4 tributes for the following games. Since the prequel takes place during the 10th Hunger Games, this is still a year before her own Games and she is still a 15-year-old resident in District 4.
President Coriolanus Snow
The most popular character out of this elderly bunch, President Snow is the main antagonist of the series, controlling Panem with an iron fist and eliminating anyone inside and outside his circle who posed a threat to his power. He died at the end of Mockingjay, though the cause of his death was uncertain. After Katniss shot the arrow meant for him at President Coin instead, Snow laughed and apparently started choking on the blood pooling in his mouth around the same time a mob of rebels ran to surround him.
Snow was actually born before two years before the end of the Dark Days, which meant he was three years old by the time the first ever Hunger Games was held. This means Mags is older than him by three years, which puts his age at 76 by The Hunger Games, which meant he was 12 or 13 at the time the prequel starts.
While, as President of Panem, Snow liberally uses the symbol of the Hunger Games to keep the districts in check, he was not part of the government that created the Hunger Games as he was still a toddler during the time it was invented. It is unknown when he became president, but based on the fact that it was Snow who ordered the deaths of Haymitch’s loved ones after his stunt at the Second Quarter Quell, we can determine he was already president by the time of the 50th Hunger Games at the age of 52.
While he doesn’t have as much of a prominent role as Mags does in Catching Fire, Woof is another tribute that might have been alive at the time of the 10th Hunger Games, albeit much younger than Mags. Woof, the District 8 tribute, was said to be in his 70’s and is the second oldest victor selected for the 75th Hunger Games, only after Mags. He is said to be senile due to his old age.
Assuming Woof was only 70 at the time of Catching Fire, he would have to be around 5 or 6 years old at the time of Untitled Panem Novel. Unlike Mags and President Snow, however, Woof was already born during a time when the Hunger Games existed.
Although she is a minor character with only two scenes in the entire series, Greasy Sae is the only other character old enough to exist around the time of the prequel. While her age is unknown, the way Katniss describes her character suggests that she is a very elderly woman, which makes it highly likely that she has a similar age with the others mentioned above.
If you haven’t read the books and watched the movies, you might have missed Greasy Sae’s appearances in The Hunger Games and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. In the first film, she’s the one who gives Katniss her mockingjay pin instead of Katniss’ best friend Madge Undersee who was cut out from the entire movie. In Catching Fire, we see Head Peacekeeper Romulus Thread shove her to the ground while raiding the Hob, District 12’s black market. Before he can start beating her, however, Gale tackles Thread and saves her.
In the books, Greasy Sae has a recurring role and appears in all three books. Greasy Sae sells hot soup at the Hob made with whatever she can find. Katniss and Gale make an effort to stay on her good side because she’s a frequent customer of theirs and one of the few willing to buy their wild dog hunts since most of their customers are pickier of the meat they buy from them. Katniss mentions that Greasy Sae has used mice meat, pig entrails, and wild dog meat for her soup, but Greasy Sae calls all the meat she uses beef, regardless of its origins. In Catching Fire, Greasy Sae started a collection in the Hob to sponsor Katniss and Peeta during their Hunger Games, so Katniss, as a sign of gratitude, spends her free time and excessive money from winning the Games to spend on as many vendors as possible. In Mockingjay, it is revealed Greasy Sae survived the Capitol bombings and briefly works in the District 13 kitchen. When Katniss is sent to live in District 12 after the rebellion, Greasy Sae visits in the mornings and evenings to cook and clean for her.
We Could See the Grassroots of the Rebellion
If you’ve read the books, you might know why the Dark Days led to the rebellion’s end. When the Capitol began gaining the upper hand against the rebels, District 13 realized it was impossible to win against the Capitol. Instead, they decided it was much easier to strike a deal for their own freedom and abandon the districts.
District 13 was home to Panem’s arsenal of nuclear weapons in a secret underground bunker. Its citizens wrestled control of the nuclear weapons and threatened to launch the nuclear weapons at the Capitol even if they knew it would mean their own destruction and the irreparable destruction of the rest of Panem. So, they struck a deal: they would basically “play dead” for the Capitol to demoralize the rest of the districts’ rebels, but the Capitol would leave District 13 alone to survive in their underground facility.
After the Capitol was forced to agree with no other option but a nuclear apocalypse, District 13 was bombed, the rebellion died shortly after, and the Hunger Games was put into place. It would take 75 years until the next rebellion revealed itself and fought against the Capitol. During Katniss’ time, the symbol of rebellion was the mockingjay, hence the reason why the book series’ covers feature mockingjays in flight. But take a look at Untitled Panem Novel’s tentative draft cover.
The cover features one single feather. What if instead of just focusing on the 10th Hunger Games the same way Katniss experienced the 74th Hunger Games, what if we see the start of the underground rebels take form? It may be the start of District 13 secretly reaching out to the districts again in an attempt to continue the rebellion after a decade of recovering. Or, it can be people who have had enough of a decade of sending children to their deaths and decide to start forming a team of rebels from several districts intent on taking down the Capitol?
Aside from the things we can infer, we know that the placement of the books will affect the way you watch the books and movies. As a prequel, the events of this book takes place before the previous novels even if it was published at a later date. But if you want to watch it chronologically (which you might want to do if it includes themes about the new group of rebels that reach up to the events of The Hunger Games), this may soon be the first novel you’ll be recommending people should read prior to reading the original first novel, Hunger Games.