Thursday, December 12, 2013

Hunger Games = Minotaur?

A while back, I did a post about the similarities between “The Hunger Games” and “Battle Royale.” Many people have accused Suzanne Collins of “ripping off” “Battle Royale.” I still stand by what I say about it being foolish to think that they do not invite comparison, but “The Hunger Games” is still the better of the two and has plenty to be its own story. As I watch the movies though and read the story, my background in mythology always kicks in for some reason. I see the plight that Katniss goes through, I think of why she is there, why the capitol does what it does, and then draw parallels to another story that is well known and very similar. I think of the story of Theseus and the Minotaur.
“The Hunger Games” is a tournament where youth is recruited to be sacrificed because of a penance that surrounding districts must pay for losing a war to the governing body also known as the capitol. The districts send a young man and woman to die in an arena as a reminder of the capitol’s power.

In the story of the Minotaur, Greece must send seven sons and seven daughters to Crete to be sacrificed as penance for their actions. In some versions of the story, King Minos of Crete sends his son Androgeus to compete in the Pan-Athenian games in Athens. Androgeus does so well in the games that people in Athens become jealous enough to send assassins to kill him. When King Minos finds out about his son’s death, he demands that Greece send Minos the assassins for execution. Nobody knows who the assassins are. Greece pays Minos by sending the entire town.

The other version of the story has Crete defeat Athens in a war. In both versions of the story, Greece must send seven sons and seven daughters to be executed every set number of years. This version of the story mirrors “The Hunger Games.” Some differences come in at this point. The biggest difference being that the seven sons and daughters are to be fed to the Minotaur while the tributes must kill each other until one remains. 

Like most Greek myths, a hero emerges to kill the Minotaur and save the people of Athens. The hero’s name is Theseus. When it comes time to pick the seven sons and daughters, Theseus volunteers to take the place of one of the boys. Wait a minute, he
volunteers? Where have a seen that before?
Both Katniss and Theseus have outside help. Katniss has the help of Haymich and her sponsors, while Theseus gets help from King Minos’ daughter. Both of these assistants give the heroes things they need to aid them in their quest. Theseus gains a ball of string that helps him find his way out of the maze, while Katniss gets burn medicine, food, or anything she may need to stay alive.

One big difference that may still be on your mind is the fact that Theseus has to face a Minotaur, and Katniss does not. While Katniss does not have to face a Minotaur, she does have to face beasts that are hybrids. The Minotaur is a hybrid of a bull and a human. Katniss must face a few different hybrids. The most disturbing of these creatures can only be read about in the books. When there are only a few tributes left, Katniss must not only face the other tributes, but a pack of dogs that have features of the fallen tributes. At one point Katniss wonders if the capitol actually took the eyes from the fallen tributes and placed them in the dogs. This puts a half man half-animal creature in the arena with Katniss.
We also have the symbol of “The Hunger Games,” a bird called a mockingjay. The mockingjay is a hybrid of a mockingbird and a jaberjay, another creation of the capitol. Katniss herself becomes a symbol of the rebellion of the districts later in the story and is referred to as the mockingjay. The Minotaur becomes the symbol of Theseus’ story just as much as the mockingjay symbolizes Katniss’ story.
What this comparison boils down to is a basic fear of war. In both stories, young people are drawn into a situation that means their death. When there is a war, young people are called upon to give their lives. Whether the cause is just or not, the fear of this situation is something we all carry inside of us.

I do not know if Suzanne Collins is a big fan of Greek mythology. I am willing to bet she has a working knowledge of the Minotaur’s story. Whatever the case is, there will be more stories that can be traced back to the story of Theseus and the Minotaur. It is a story that will always remain relevant, not matter how obscure it may seem to people.

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