Sometimes I Forget Just How Young Katniss And Friends Were in ‘The Hunger Games’
The first time I read The Hunger Games, I was pretty much the same age as the main characters and so it made perfect sense that teenagers like me were taking on the role of incredibly important figureheads in a revolution to overthrow a totalitarian and oppressive government. After all, are there any other stages of life besides being a teenager when you yourself are one? In theory, sure, but they don’t feel particularly real.
All of my following re-reads, though, hammered home just how young everyone in The Hunger Games really were—especially now that I’m getting closer to the age Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark were during the very last few pages of Mockingjay, which can’t be considered “old” in any way, shape or form. And that is, of course, part of the main point Suzanne Collins wanted to make with her entire trilogy.
The series—which remains the absolute best thing to come out of the YA dystopia genre, everything that came after it never really understood what made The Hunger Games great and this is a hill I’m very much prepared to die on—is actually experiencing a renaissance of sorts right now.
Whether it’s because the four movies of the main saga are now available to stream on Netflix or the fact that The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, a prequel to the story of Katniss Everdeen, is being released this next November, there has been lots of content about the saga and its incredible characters popping back up on social media platforms everywhere.
So, now seems like the perfect time to take a moment to recap everyone’s exact ages as their story starts—because again, that is very much part of the point of the entire series. There are spoilers ahead, so be warned.
How old was Katniss Everdeen?
Katniss Everdeen, one of the best YA heroines ever put to paper and then to screen, starts the story at prime young adult main character age—16 years old. That means she has only two years left before she stops being eligible for the Hunger Games, since the tributes are Reaped among children between the ages of 12 and 18.
She’s only one year older when she returns to the arena for the third Quarter Quell, either in her last months as a 16-year-old or freshly turned 17. Katniss was born in May, and the Hunger Games themselves clearly take place in the warmer season—given how the Victory Tour, stated to be scheduled in-between Games, starts in the winter. So, it depends on how early exactly the 75th Hunger Games started.
The revolution that occurs throughout Mockingjay also lasts more or less a year, meaning that Katniss is around 18 years old when she executes President Alma Coin—actually saving everyone in Panem from having another version of President Snow just in a different font—and is banished back to District 12. She should be in her early 30s in the epilogue, somewhere between 33 and 35—since she says that it took “five, ten, fifteen years for her to agree” to have children.
What about the other people in District 12, like Peeta, Gale and Haymitch?
Peeta “If It Wasn’t For The Baby” Mellark was born in the same year as Katniss, although his precise birth month is never specified. That means that just like Katniss, he’s 16 years old when he becomes a Tribute in the 74th Hunger Games and he’s more or less a year older when he volunteers to return to the arena for the third Quarter Quell. He’s 18 years old when he returns to District 12 sometime after Katniss is banished there, once the revolution is over, and he is also in his early 30s by the time he plays with his and Katniss’ children in the Meadow, finally at peace.
Gale Hawthrone is a couple of years older than Katniss and Peeta, meaning he’s 18 years old by the time the Reaping for the 74th Hunger Games rolls around—not that it helps his odds much, since his name has been added multiple times as he took out several tesserae, or food rations, to help feed his family. He’s around 19 during the events of Catching Fire, and he’s 20 years old as he fights in the revolution that happens throughout Mockingjay.
The odds were not in Primrose Everdeen’s favor either—truly one of the most brilliant examples of how to write a character that might be walking and talking, but is very much already dead the second the story begins. Katniss’s younger sister is 12 years old at the opening of the first book meaning the Reaping for the 74th Hunger Games was her first—the chances of her getting chosen as the District 12 tribute should be minimal since Katniss has forbidden her from taking out any tesserae, but we all know how the story actually went. She’s tragically just 14 years old by the time she steps out of a District 13 van to try and bring medical aid to the children of the Capital that have just been bombed, towards the end of Mockingjay, where she dies in another explosion.
Then there’s Haymitch Abernathy, who is the only victor in District 12 when Katniss and Peeta are Reaped for their first Games—and the second person from the District to have, by that point, won the Games. For more details about the very first District 12 winner, see The Ballards of Songbirds and Snakes. Haymitch won the second Quarter Quell—in which the number of Tributes was doubled—when he was 16 years old. That means he was 40 when he mentored Katniss and Peeta, and 41 when he started orchestrating liberating the victors from the third Quarter Quell arena in Catching Fire. He’s around 42 years old when the revolution ends in Mockingjay.
How old were the other Victors, like Finnick and Johanna?
Finnick Odair is famously the youngest person to ever win the Hunger Games—he became a victor of the 65th Games when he was just 14 years old, making him 24 when Katniss meets him in person during the third Quarter Quell. He dies around a year later, so he can’t have been older than 25.
Annie Cresta is just a couple of years younger than her late husband—she won her Games, the 70th, when she was 18 years old and is around 23 by the time the events of Catching Fire and Mockingjay roll around.
Johanna Mason, from District 7 and another major character during the revolution, is around the same age as Finnick and Annie. Johanna won the 71st Hunger Games when she was 17 years old, meaning that she’s around 21 or 22 old during Catching Fire and Mockingjay.
And finally, what about the people from the Capitol, like President Snow and Effie?
President Coriolanus Snow is in his early 80s by the time Katniss gets Reaped into the 74th Hunger Games—we’ll see his 18-year-old, not yet become despotic and poisonous ruler self in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. And to stay on the topics of Presidents, even though she’s not from the Capitol, Alma Coin, the leader of District 13, was in her 50s during the events of the books, though her exact age is never specified.
Effie Trinket’s age is never specified—but we can assume she’s somewhere between Haymitch’s age and Cinna’s, who’s supposed to be in his early 30s. Actress Elizabeth Banks, who played Effie in the movies, was 39 years old when The Hunger Games came out, so it checks out.
(featured image: Lionsgate)
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