The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, a Hunger Games prequel specializing in younger President Coriolanus Snow, not solely tells the origin story of the formidable villain, but additionally of lots of the components of the world that Hunger Games followers know — together with the origin of probably the most iconic tune of the sequence: “The Hanging Tree.”
Within the context of the unique Hunger Games books, “The Hanging Tree” is an previous, haunting District 12 folks tune, sung from the attitude of a hanged man. In the fashionable occasions, it’s used as a rallying cry for the districts, and unifies the folks of Panem of their insurrection towards the Capitol. Katniss ultimately sings it in Mockingjay, the final ebook of the trilogy, when a insurgent asks her to ship a tune for the song-replicating mockingjay birds and she or he remembers the previous folks tune from her childhood. The haunting tune turns into the anthem of the Rebellion.
In a strong scene within the film, fleshing out an occasion that’s simply talked about in passing within the books, energy plant employees sing in unison as they blow up a dam, successfully chopping energy off to the Capitol.
No one within the unique books is aware of the precise origins of the “Hanging Tree.” It’s simply one thing that’s so built-in with District life that all of them take it as a right, a small staple that finally ends up uniting all of the rebels. But the Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes particulars the precise occasions of simply how the tune got here to be — however in doing so, makes it lose a few of the energy it initially held.
[Ed. notice: This publish comprises spoilers for The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes]
The origin begins off subtly. Coriolanus, now stationed in District 12 as a Peacekeeper, witnesses a public execution of a person named Arlo who by accident killed three Peacekeepers whereas making an attempt to sabotage coal manufacturing. At the hanging, Arlo calls out to his spouse, telling her to run. He’s lower off earlier than he can end his sentence, dying virtually immediately, however the jabberjays — bioengineered birds who can replicate overheard sentences — start to imitate his voice over and over.
As an occasion itself, Arlo’s hanging may’ve simply been a refined nod to the tune that may later outline the insurrection, however the precise genesis of the tune is defined in Songbirds and Snakes. In a scene late within the ebook, Coriolanus finds Lucy Gray, a former District 12 tribute who’s turn out to be his new romantic curiosity, strumming a guitar and singing the primary traces of the tune. Coriolanus wonders if the tune is supposed for him, for the reason that lyrics invite somebody to fulfill beneath the tree.
He’s not completely mistaken. When Lucy debuts the tune, Coriolanus realizes that it’s written from the attitude of her former lover singing out to her, saying he’d quite them each be useless collectively than have her reject him. But she sings it on to Coriolanus, whose personal love of Lucy has solely grown extra possessive and jealous by the day, and he declares that her former lover doesn’t matter as a result of she’s his now.
When it involves the context of the tune within the unique books, it’d add some irony in the truth that the rebels’ tune speaks so on to President Snow. After all, the tune was written by the girl he beloved and the possessive relationships she discovered herself entangled in. But tying Snow so intimately to District 12 already heightens his hatred of Katniss and makes his quick disdain for her plausible. Adding the Hanging Tree to the pot looks like overkill.
What made the tune’s unique utilization so highly effective was that it was a homegrown District tune repurposed for a insurrection. It was taking one thing unintentional and turning it into an emblem of the Districts, very similar to how the hybrid mockingjay, a cross between the jabberjay and mockingbird that nobody deliberate for, turned an emblem. Attributing the tune’s origins to Snow means dropping a few of that edge, even when it makes for some candy irony.