The novel takes place 10 years after the first rebellion. Coriolanus is made the mentor to the District 12 girl, Lucy Gray Baird. However, things are extremely different from Katniss’ time in the arena – the Games are being televised for the first time and the mentorship program has just been introduced.
Antagonist Turned Protagonist
The novel is a brave attempt simply because it tells the story of the antagonist of the Hunger Games. President Coriolanus Snow, a ruthless dictator, and murderer, is hated by the Hunger Games fandom. However, Collins has turned the villainous antagonist into the protagonist of her prequel.
This does not mean that she makes Coriolanus a sympathetic character. He is instead an arrogant, overconfident, and entitled 18-year-old boy griping about his poverty while living in one of the most imperial mansions in the Capitol. The main problem he has right now is that he does not have enough money to fund his university education. His only hope is doing well in the final project for the Academy: the Mentorship program for the tenth Hunger Games.
Throughout the novel, it almost seems as if Coriolanus is trying to do the right thing whenever he is at a crossroads. But at every step of the way, the reader is reminded that he is simply doing the right thing for himself. This is reinforced by the conclusion of the novel – where he guns down the love of his life simply because he thinks that love makes him weak and vulnerable. Thus, the protagonist of the novel continues to be the villain of the story. And yet, readers are compelled to turn the page.
Political and Philosophical Allegory
If the Hunger Games trilogy was an exploration of human nature at its worst, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes digs a little deeper. This prequel attempts to understand why human nature has come to this. Collins introduces several philosophers in the epigraph including Locke, Hobbes, and Rousseau, to demonstrate that Coriolanus is going to undertake a serious exploration of human nature.
The novel does not show Coriolanus’ rise to power. Instead, it shows the shift in his mentality: from snobby Capitol elite to cold-blooded and power-hungry autocrat. We understand where his philosophies come from and how they have shaped the dictatorship he implements years down the line.
The novel also offers differing perspectives in the form of Sejanus Plinth and Lucy Gray. Sejanus, Coriolanus’ classmate, and former District resident does not agree with the Capitol’s cruel laws. He is the only one who questions the right of the Capitol to punish the districts. He is also the only one to actively plan with the rebels. Ironically, Sejanus and Coriolanus are deemed best friends – a tag that Coriolanus works hard to eradicate. Of course, he does not wish to be associated with Sejanus’ ideas and principles.
The turning point in Coriolanus’ personality comes when he betrays Sejanus to the Capitol. Throughout the novel, Coriolanus tries his best to keep Sejanus out of trouble. However, in the end, Coriolanus exposes Sejanus’ activities with the rebels, effectively getting him hanged for treason. This paves the way for future executions – which would become a norm during President Snow’s time.
Although Collins does more of telling rather than showing in this novel (with the conversations between Coriolanus and Dr. Gaul, for instance), she writes The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes as a political and philosophical allegory. Rather than acting as a prequel or a spin-off, the novel acts as a companion to the Hunger Games Trilogy – offering more depth and perspectives to the laws that govern the nation of Panem.
The Use of Symbolism
Collins is known for her overt use of symbolism in the Hunger Games Trilogy where she made Katniss Everdeen the Mockingjay. The use of symbolism continues in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes as well, with the most predominant one taking place through Coriolanus’ mother’s compact.
As a boy who is orphaned during the war, Coriolanus often thinks about his soft and gentle mother. She left behind a compact that contains the powder she used when she was alive. This powder is comfort and safety to Coriolanus; the smell of it transfers him to a secure place.
While the protagonist undertakes his journey as a mentor, and then later as a Peacekeeper, the compact undergoes a journey of its own. In the beginning, it acts as a source of comfort during hard times. Later, it acts as a source of protection for Coriolanus’ love – Lucy Gray. In the end, however, the compact gets drenched in the lake and Coriolanus does not hesitate to throw it away. Thus, the compact stands for Coriolanus’ personality throughout the novel, shifting its role and purpose whenever Coriolanus changes his mind.
Did President Snow love his granddaughter?
In the Hunger Games Trilogy, President Snow’s granddaughter is the only known member of the Snow family. It is presumed that Snow holds affection for her, as Joanna Mason suggests that she take part in the 76th Hunger Games to punish Snow and the Capitol.
Did President Snow have a child?
Yes, President Snow has a child named Julianus Snow. Julianus commits suicide after his father is overthrown by the rebels.
Why does President Snow smell like blood and roses?
President Snow smells like blood because of mouth sores that he sustained after drinking poison. He used to drink some amount of poison himself whenever he would poison someone else to allay suspicion. Snow smells like roses because he used genetically enhanced roses to ward off the smell of blood from his mouth.
How did President Snow rise to power?
In The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, President Snow rises in rank through his university education. In Mockingjay, Finnick reveals that President Snow rose to power by poisoning the people who stood against him.
Why did Snow and Tigris fall out?
Tigris and Snow always had different opinions about the Hunger Games. While Tigris did not approve of them, Snow thought they were necessary to control the districts. While Snow and Tigris initially worked together on the Games – Tigris as a stylist and Snow as a Gamemaker – Snow personally fired Tigris for their differences.
Is Lucy Gray in the Hunger Games?
Yes, Lucy Gray is one of the protagonists that is introduced in the fourth Hunger Games novel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. She is picked as a tribute in the tenth Hunger Games and is mentored by Coriolanus Snow.
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Review
Lasting Effect on Reader
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Review
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins is a prequel and spin-off to the Hunger Games trilogy published in 2020. The novel follows the story of the antagonist of the Hunger Games – Coriolanus Snow during his early years as a student at the Academy. Collins explores various themes in the novel including human nature, morality, propaganda, and the formation of the government as she illustrates the origin of the Hunger Games.
- Adds depth to the original Trilogy
- Provides a philosophical understanding of The Hunger Games
- Has a compelling protagonist
- Good macabre setting
- Too lengthy
- Too many franchise callbacks to the Hunger Games Trilogy
- Too many folk song interludes
- The author is too direct at times