The Hunger Games has, for a while now, been one of my favourite book series and I love the films as well. However, considering the series is literally called “The Hunger Games”, we only really get snippets of what the actual Hunger Games are like from Katniss Everdeen’s own viewpoint (quite literally in the books, since they are first-person). We also get fragments of her own memories of watching the games and what others tell Katniss, but in essence, we don’t really have much. Of course, we get a little more insight into one of the earlier Hunger Games (the 10th) thanks to “A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” but the Hunger Games change so much between then and the setting of the trilogy that they are almost separate entities.
But what if we were forced into an arena to fight for our lives in the Hunger Games? Is there enough information from Katniss’s experience in the Hunger Games series to help us? How exactly would you survive in the Hunger Games? Well, that is exactly the question I’m going to answer today.
Warning, this article contains spoilers for the entire series!
Should you go to the Bloodbath?
Imagine the clock is counting down, you are standing on a podium with 24 others around you looking at the arena Cornucopia. There are lesser supplies scattered further away, closer to you, whereas there are more valuable commodities such as weapons and food closer to the centre. You have three options when the countdown stops:
-Get out of there quickly, ignoring the supplies.
-Grab some of the closer, less valuable commodities and leg it.
-Enter the Bloodbath, a frenzied melee as the top fighters’ scrap over the goods in the Cornucopia.
So, what should you do? That depends on exactly who you are and the risk you are willing to take. Approximately 50% of tributes die in the Cornucopia Bloodbath, so to even consider entering, you have to be one of the best fighters or exceedingly quick. You must be a Career Tribute, like Cato or Glimmer in the 74th Hunger Games, trained to kill from an early age or a brutish powerhouse from an outlying district, like Thresh from District 11, who managed to power his way into the centre very quickly and get out before the real killing began. It’s a risk but after the Bloodbath, the supplies will be unavailable to you as the Careers will guard the Cornucopia (unless you can do a sneaky like Foxface and steal the supplies).
So, if you aren’t an awesome killer, run, right? Well, no, not exactly. That is the advice Haymitch (who I would like to say, would know much more about the Hunger Games than I do, obviously) gave to Peeta and it is a strong strategy. But imagine you have run off and hid. You have nothing. No supplies, no food, and no guarantee you can find water or equipment for hunting food.
I think you should only run straight away if you know you can survive in the arena with nothing. For example, if you are from the lumber district (District 7) and the arena is a woodland, get out of there! You know how to live in the woods and would know what to eat and how to fashion basic traps/tools from the wood. If not, the supplies close to your podium could save your life. Just think how many times Katniss’s bacon got saved by the stuff in that backpack. It’s risky but you’re in an arena full of killers, the whole thing is risky.
The most important part of the Hunger Games is to survive it. Yes, it’s true that the super killy careers almost always win, but they still have to survive being killed and survive the traps the Gamemaker’s set. There have been several instances where just being the longest surviving was enough to win the Games. Annie Cresta (Finnick’s sweetheart) won when her arena flooded. Being from District 4 (fishing), she could just simply swim for longer than anybody else. The female Morphling in the 75th Games won her own Hunger Games simply by camouflaging herself until all the other Tributes were dead. If you think about it, Katniss doesn’t kill very many herself either. She just survives. Even if you are a vicious killer, feigning weakness and surviving until the field is thinned out before going on you murder spree is a great tactic. This is exactly how Johanna Mason won her games.
You would also have an advantage if the arena is similar to your own District but during the training before the Games, you should be able to deduce what landscape you are heading for by the survival skills they teach you there. Learn new skills, pay attention to the survival lessons, and plan on how to survive before how to kill.
Perhaps you are one of the few Tributes left or you are a hardened, trained Career. Now it’s time to fight. I need to stress this point very clearly; you must have a weapon! Preferably one with good reach, like a spear. Yes, you can kill with your bare hands but the reach/range that a weapon will give you puts you at a massive advantage. You will struggle to get past the point of a spear or running down an archer, even if they have only basic training. Even if you just have a long, stout branch, you can do more damage with that than you can with your fists.
You should also prioritise weapons depending on your skillset. For example, Johanna Mason from District 7 (lumber) fights with axes, which are tools she would have grown up with. Finnick Odair, from District 4 (fishing) began to clean up once he was given a trident and wove himself a net. Even the Victors were nervous of Katniss once they saw her shoot her bow in the lead up to the 75th hunger games.
If you display proficiency in a weapon in training to the Gamemakers, there is a good chance there will be that weapon in the arena. However, this isn’t always the case. In one Hunger Games, the only weapons provided were spiked maces. But think about it, even if you were the better fighter with no weapons, would you want to charge somebody waving a spiked mace about?
Perhaps an unusual thing to prioritise when you are an arena trying to kill other people, but popularity is a must. When you are in the Games, your mentors are busy trying to get Sponsors to send you gifts in the arena. These gifts are expensive and range from food to tools. Nobody is going to send you anything if nobody likes you or if they think you won’t win! Put the effort in, become personable in the interviews, get a good training score from the judges and show something unique about you that will attract sponsors. Katniss and Peeta played up to the star-crossed lovers act to get supplies from Sponsors and Lucy Gray Baird, in the 10th Hunger games, was so popular her mentor (Coriolanus Snow) received enough food to feed her for weeks. Finnick Odair received a golden trident from his Sponsors, which Katniss believed was the most expensive gift any Tribute had ever received.
Another important factor to consider is medicine. If you aren’t a Career tribute with easy access to the Cornucopia, then the only way you are getting medicine, without enormous risk, to treat that infection or soothe your burns is to get it sent to you by your Sponsors. This happens to Katniss in both of her Games. The Sponsor gifts can save your life in other ways as well. For instance, in the 75th Hunger Games, Katniss’s pack received a spile. Banging the spile into a tree was seemingly the only means of getting fresh water in the arena. After all, they weren’t going to last long without water.
Pack or no pack?
The last thing I think needs to be considered is whether to join a pack or not. Often the Career Tributes group together to form hunting packs which mop up the chaff in the arena. You don’t have to be a career to join a pack though. Peeta was in a pack for a bit because the Careers wanted to find Katniss. A District 3 (technology) Tribute joined the career pack in the 74th Hunger Games because he could rewire the booby traps around the starting podiums to protect the supplies at the Cornucopia.
This is a risky strategy though. If you aren’t a Career, the chances are you are just fulfilling a purpose. Once that purpose is fulfilled, they are going to kill you. Peeta only narrowly escaped Cato once he broke free from the Career pack, sustaining a leg wound that would have killed him if Katniss hadn’t got him medicine. The truth is, there can (usually) only be one victor, which means that eventually the pack full of the best killers in the arena will start to kill each other and you are going to be very, very close to that danger.
There are advantages though. Watching each other’s backs in fights, setting watches when you sleep, getting a level of protection when you’re injured etc. Forming a pack could well save your life. So, my advice would be to form a decent-sized pack if you are a Career or Victor (after all, you’re a stone-cold killer that can protect yourself and Careers nearly always win). If not, it would be very beneficial to form an alliance with one or two others that you trust. This tactic helped Katniss, Peeta and Haymitch survive their Games.
You don’t have to form a pack though. Foxface did well on her own (until she died, obviously) and so did Thresh (until he died, obviously) …Actually, on second thoughts, definitely form a pack.
There you have it! I’ve given you all the tips and considerations you need to win your own Hunger Games. Of course, I am just a nerd sitting behind a screen typing about a fictional set of circumstances, so I would have no hope of winning my own Games. History (or in this case, canon) can teach you a lot though, so I think I have covered the basics of the theory. Have I missed anything? What do you think you would do in the Hunger Games? Would you survive? For now, “Happy Hunger Games, and may the odds be ever in your favour”!
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