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Book vs. Movie: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

By Jaden Bowman--Eagle Staff Writer

The movie poster used for The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. (Photo used under fair use provision of the US copyright code)

Just as the book series "The Hunger Games" received a movie rendition, the series’ prequel book now has a movie adaptation. "The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes" was released on November 17, 2023. As expected, there are numerous differences between the book and movie adaptation, which give whole new perspectives, though only two will be discussed in this article.


Arguably, the first prominent change from the book was the interpretation of the Plinth Prize. The movie starts on the day of the reaping for the 10th Annual Hunger Games. 24 of the Academy’s top students, including Coriolanus Snow, gather to hear who has won the Plinth Prize.


Games creator Casca Highbottom then announces that the monetary Plinth prize, which is awarded annually by the wealthy benefactor Strabo Plinth, will “no longer be determined by who has the best grades but by who is the best mentor in the games.” One of the students Arachne Crane immediately voices the concern they're all thinking: this isn't fair if someone happens to be assigned a weak tribute. However, it is made clear that one’s tribute does not have to win for their mentor to receive the Plinth Prize. The goal of mentoring was to create “spectacles not survivors” because the viewership of the Hunger Games was diminishing. It was the students' final project before graduating.

What makes this so different from the book is that originally, the Plinth Prize was not invented until halfway through the 10th Hunger Games and that the students were previously made aware that they would be mentors well before the reaping day. The original motive for Strabo Plinth to create the award was to “bury his son’s [Sejanus Plinth] outrageous behavior.” Sejanus had performed several infractions at that point, because he detested the games. The most prominent of them being his intrusion into the arena while the games were live on television. The book uses the prize to demonstrate

The book makes Plinth's gift an effort to restore his family's standing. (Photo by Jaden Bowman)

Strabo Plinth’s devotion to the preservation of his pristine status and reputation even while his own son was tarnishing everything he had worked for. On the other hand, announcing the Plinth Prize at the beginning of the movie highlighted how the Capitol also has control over its students, not just the people of the districts, by the way they were so easily able to change the rules of the Plinth Prize.


The next noticeable change came from Jessup’s death scene. Jessup, a tribute in the 10th Hunger Games, contracted rabies from an animal bite while being in the Capitol’s captivity. These inhuman conditions show just how low the Capitol perceived the district citizens to be. Fortunately, in the book, the reader is shown that not everyone born in the Capitol is inhuman. Snow prepares to order drones carrying water, which he knows will drive Jessup away, since water repells creatures with rabies, but Lysistrata stops him. Lysistrata, Jessup’s mentor says, “If Jessup can’t win, I want Lucy Gray to. That’s what he’d want. And she can’t win if he kills her.” Then, she uses her own money to send water in to distract Jessup, allowing Lucy to survive.

Lysistrata's humanity shows through in this scene from the book. (Photo by Jaden Bowman)

Lysistrata, along with Sejanus, are two of the few students at the Academy that disagree with the Hunger Games. She asks early in the game, “Haven’t we punished them enough? How long do we have to keep dragging the war out?” By doing this, it shows that Lysistrata possesses some amount of humanity. However, in the movie, Snow tells Lysistrata to send her own water to scare Jessup away because Jessup is “done.” Snow states, “Lyssie, you’re the only one that can get it right to him,” which is false because in that scene, Lucy Gray and Jessup are inches in proximity. This is an early example of how manipulative Snow can be and how easily he uses other people’s feelings to get his way. The movie version makes Snow out to be more initially manipulative while the book makes Lysistrata out to be more compassionate and shows Snow's slow progression into villainy.

All in all, it is fortunate there are two versions of the same story. This way, different aspects can be highlighted from both the book and the movie. The book gives great insight into Snow’s perspective and inner thoughts; however in the movie, we can more clearly see the actions and motives of every character, not just Snow’s. Just as Snow took desperate measures to "land on top,"Lucy Gray's trust issues were well highlighted in the movie as well. The movie allows us to see that Snow wasn't the only person with flaws, and that songbirds and snakes sometimes have a great deal in common.

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