Tessera (plural: tesserae) is the voluntary food rationing system introduced by the government of Panem for the people of the districts.

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The Definitive Glossary for The Hunger Games

Through this system, any child that was eligible for the Hunger Games, i.e., between the ages of 12 and 18, could sign up for tesserae – a year’s supply of grain and oil for one person. However, tessera came at a price. For each tessera claimed, the person’s name would be entered into the reaping bowls for an additional time. Further, the entries to the Hunger Games were cumulative in nature. This drastically increased the chances of the person’s participation in the Hunger Games.

History Of Tessera

The name “tessera” comes from gold and ebony colored cube-shaped tiles that were used for decoration in Capitol homes and buildings before the First Rebellion. During the 10th Hunger Games, Coriolanus Snow was seen wearing recycled tessera tiles as buttons in his shirt. Tessera tiles most likely represented luxury, which the food ration was also supposed to represent.

The concept of tessera was introduced sometime after the 10th Hunger Games. One set of tessera was equal to one year’s supply of oil and grain. The grain was unrefined, dark, and coarse, most likely prioritizing nutrition over taste. Eligible citizens could collect tessera on a monthly basis.

Tessera in the Districts

The nation’s wealthiest districts, i.e., Districts 1, 2, and 4, did not usually have much use for tesserae. Furthermore, these were career districts where volunteering for the Hunger Games was extremely common. Thus, the increased chances of the kids being picked as tributes in the Games also most likely made no difference in these districts.

Citizens from poorer districts signed up for tesserae more often to supplement their food supplies for the year, thus, skewing the ratio of their chances of being reaped. District 12, the poorest district in Panem, saw the most sign-ups each year. Thus, for most of the poorer districts, signing up for tesserae spelled a death sentence. However, despite signing up for tesserae, most families still struggled to feed themselves, resorting to illegal methods of obtaining food.

Purpose of Tessera

Tessera was introduced to supplement the severe food shortage in the districts. It was also most likely introduced as a part of the Government’s propaganda to oppress and punish the districts for rebelling against the Capitol. Ironically, the increased chances of survival that tessera brought to the families also dramatically increased the chances of the person’s death in the Hunger Games as well.

However, the Capitol masked the dark underbelly of the food rationing system through strategic messages shared as advertisements across the country. For instance, one of these messages read, “We’ll have plenty to eat thanks to my tesserae, won’t we mother?” above a picture of a mother and daughter sitting in a kitchen filled with jars of food. Another popular advertisement that ran in the nation was of a woman holding several jars of food in her hands, with the words “I have plenty to eat, thanks to my tesserae” written above her head. These advertisements depicted the Capitol as a benevolent benefactor for the districts, while the real purpose of tessera was to subjugate the districts and bring them under control, all while providing a meager year’s supply of food.


What is tessera in The Hunger Games?

Tessera is the voluntary food ration the Government of Panem offers to the district residents. Those between the ages of 12 and 18 could sign up for tessera in exchange for their names being included in the Hunger Games extra times. Effie Trinket, the announcer of the names during the reaping, would pick the names of District 12’s tributes and read them out loud.

How is the tessera another type of punishment?

Tessera was simply another form of punishment for the district citizens, as most people in the districts are too poor to feed themselves. As such, their children are forced to sign up for tessera. Furthermore, the children who sign up for tessera greatly increase their chances of being picked for the Hunger Games, thereby increasing their chance of death.

How many times was Katniss’ name in the reaping bowl?

At sixteen years old, Katniss’ name was in the Reaping Bowl 20 times. This is because she had signed up for tessera (a form of voluntary food rationing) every single year since she was 12, not just for herself but for her mother and her sister as well, thereby increasing the chance of her name being picked.

How does Gale have 42 entries?

At eighteen years old, Gale has his name entered the Reaping Bowl forty-two times. This is because he has signed up for tessera several times (once each for himself as well as his family members – his siblings, Rory, Posy, and Vick, and his mother, Hazelle Hawthorne) every single year since he was 12. Further, the entries in the Reaping Bowls are cumulative; Gale’s name in the tracking piled up to 42 by the time he was 18.

Who was the little girl with Katniss? Who was Madge Undersee?

The little girl with Katniss in the 74th Hunger Games arena was Rue. Madge Undersee was the mayor’s daughter in District 12 and Katniss’ friend. Compared to the rest of the people in the Seam, Madge’s family lived a leisurely life (being the cream of society), although they still indulged in the black market. For instance, during her days of hunting, Katniss would exchange her game (such as squirrels and wild turkey) for strawberries, pudding, peas, or an orange.

How does the reaping system work?

After the Dark Days, the treaty of treason spelled out the various punishments that the districts would have to endure. Among this was the reaping system for the annual Hunger Games event, where one girl and one boy between the ages of 12 and 18 would be chosen to represent their districts.

Is the reaping system fair in The Hunger Games?

No, the reaping system in The Hunger Games is not fair. The reaping system is designed to punish the citizens in the districts by increasing their chances of being picked in the reaping for every tessera claimed.

How many times was Peeta’s name in the bowl?

The number of times Peeta’s name was entered in the Reaping Bowls is not mentioned in the novels. However, being the son of a baker, it is safe to assume that Peeta never signed up for tessera in his life. Thus, his name was most likely entered the least number of times possible at sixteen years old, i.e., 5.

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