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A Look at Where ‘The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’ Fits Within ‘The Hunger Games’ Timeline

Let the 10th annual Hunger Games begin!

Lucy Gray Baird, played by Rachel Zegler, bows at her Reaping in the trailer for The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

The official trailer for The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is finally here—and the atmosphere of it all is both alien and familiar, so similar to The Hunger Games and yet distinct enough to make it very clear that this is not Katniss Everdeen’s story.

The trailer dropped after a renaissance of sorts rekindled the social media interest in Suzanne Collins’ YA dystopia, which are a trilogy of books published between 2008 and 2010 titled The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay. These books are the absolute best work to come out of the entire genre as everything else that tried to emulate it failed to understand what made it such a brilliant piece of storytelling. 

That interest is only destined to grow as we wait for the movie to premiere this November. Actually, there are already fancams circling around Twitter and TikTok—including a glorious one with footage from the trailer edited to “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons. We’re all coming back to what we know best. Nature is healing. What is 2023 if not the 2010s persevering?

While the timeline between the two stories isn’t particularly hard to keep track of, let’s clear it up for those of you who are confused quickly so that we can all get into this new The Hunger Games era.

So is The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes a prequel?

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is indeed a prequel to The Hunger Games. It’s set during the 10th Hunger Games, so very close to the war that ravaged Panem and that led to the supposed destruction of District 13 by the Capitol. By contrast, when Katniss and Peeta are first reaped, it’s for the 74th Hunger Games—so more than sixty years pass between the two stories.

We see this time jump in the way the actual Hunger Games are set up. The ones depicted in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes almost look amateurish compared to the grand, brutal affair of the Games Katniss and Peeta compete in twice. That’s the difference between a punishment system that is barely getting started and a well-oiled machine that kills children for entertainment and has been doing so for more than six decades.

One just has to look at the setup of the initial cornucopia, or how it seems like Lucy Gray Baird (played by Rachel Zegler) is still wearing the same rainbow dress she had on during the Reaping—no one has yet considered how outfits and looks might play a part in the whole circus, because these Hunger Games are still very much a direct consequence of the war rather than a spectacle to keep people amused and subjugated at the same time.

Jason Schwartzman plays Lucky Flickerman in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
The television setup for the 10th Hunger Games really says it all when compared to the dazzling studio Caesar Flickerman was waltzing around in (Lionsgate)

What are the connections with The Hunger Games?

Being set in the same world, there are of course several links between The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes and The Hunger Games—first and foremost the fact that both feature Coriolanus Snow as one of the main characters. 

When we meet him in The Hunger Games, brilliantly played by Donald Sutherland in the movie adaptations, Snow is the President of Panem and rules the nation with totalitarian control and heaps of poison to get rid of his political enemies. But we’ll see a different version of him in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes—young Coryo, played by Tom Blyth, harbors the seeds of the person Katniss will fear and hate, but who is still at this stage in his life very far away from becoming that.

Coriolanus Snow and Lucy Gray Baird as they appeared in the first trailer for The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
This is very much a villain origin story, and a brilliant one at that (Lionsgate)

Then there’s the fact that both Lucy Gray and Katniss are from District 12 and both of them have something to do with music in their own way. More details would be too much of a spoiler, which would be a shame if you haven’t read the book and you plan to go into the cinema knowing as little as possible.

Still, the real connection between the two stories is the Games themselves—The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes lays the foundations of what the Games will become by the time Katniss, Peeta, Finnick, Johanna, and even Haymitch get involved in them. And it will be fascinating to see—in the same brutal way The Hunger Games was.

(image: Lionsgate)

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Benedetta (she/her) lives in Italy and has been writing about pop culture and entertainment since 2015. She has considered being in fandom a defining character trait since she was in middle school and wasn't old enough to read the fanfiction she was definitely reading and loves dragons, complex magic systems, unhinged female characters, tragic villains and good queer representation. You’ll find her covering everything genre fiction, especially if it’s fantasy-adjacent and even more especially if it’s about ASOIAF. In this Bangtan Sonyeondan sh*t for life.