Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Baird and Tom Blyth as Coriolanus Snow in 'The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes'

‘The Hanging Tree’ Hits Differently in ‘The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’

The original Hunger Games films gave us a revolutionary song—”The Hanging Tree.” The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes revealed a whole new meaning for the song we’ve been listening to for years.

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One of the best parts of the Hunger Games franchise is the music. The soundtracks of all the films are next level. In the original films, there are only a few songs that the characters actually sing themselves. The one that stands out the most is “The Hanging Tree,” which became the rebellion song for the Districts. When Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) became the Mockingjay, she stood against President Coriolanus Snow (Donald Sutherland) and his fascism. During an unscripted moment, the film crew following Katniss asked her to sing something. She thought of an old song from District 12, “The Hanging Tree,” and sang it. The crew took the song and amplified it across their messages to the other Districts.

The song itself is fairly simple. It’s a folk song with lyrics about escaping oppressive tyranny to live freely with your beloved. The words “Are you comin’ to the tree, Where I told you to run, so we’d both be free” speak of a freedom lacking in Panem. President Snow heard the rebels singing this song, a song that brought them all together as the Mockingjay from District 12 marched on the Capitol. Now that we’ve seen Snow’s past and the origins of “The Hanging Tree,” everything hits differently.

**Spoilers ahead for The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes**

The seeds of “The Hanging Tree”

In The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, the 10th annual Hunger Games takes place. Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth), or Corio to his friends, is a privileged young man desperately trying to save his dying family name. The school he attends decides to shake up the normal Hunger Games traditions and tasks the students with mentoring the tributes from the Districts. Those in charge assigned Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler) from District 12 to Coriolanus. The pair fall in love with each other despite—or maybe because of—the dire circumstances around them. Coriolanus helps Lucy Gray win the Games. Once his deception was discovered, his punishment was to be a Peacekeeper in District 12.

Although Corio didn’t want to be in a District he considered primitive, at least he could be with Lucy Gray. As a Peacekeeper, he stands guard at an execution where they hang a man in a large tree. Before the man dies, he yells out for his lover in the crowd to run away and be free. Lucy Gray witnesses the event and processes it through song. She also tells Corio the Hanging Tree is where people go to meet at night since no one watches it. Lucy Gray wrote “The Hanging Tree” as a message of love to Corio. Wanting to run away with him, she describes the scene and where they should meet to make their escape to the world outside of the Districts. It wasn’t meant to start a revolution—Lucy Gray wrote it as a love song for Coriolanus.

When Snow left District 12 to return to the Capitol, he thought Lucy Gray and “her mockingjays” couldn’t hurt him anymore, but Lucy Gray’s spirit lives on in her song. A Mockingjay, singing Lucy Gray’s song about Snow, is who ended up taking down the man no one could touch.

(featured image: Lionsgate)

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D.R. Medlen
D.R. Medlen (she/her) is a pop culture staff writer at The Mary Sue. After finishing her BA in History, she finally pursued her lifelong dream of being a full-time writer in 2019. She expertly fangirls over Marvel, Star Wars, and historical fantasy novels (the spicier the better). When she's not writing or reading, she lives that hobbit-core life in California with her spouse, offspring, and animal familiars.