The Hunger Games: A Modern Fairy Tale?

I have been caught up in the hubbub surrounding The Hunger Games. Members of my book club are planning to go see the movie after Spring Break, and I can’t wait. We’re thinking that this will give teens a chance to go see it, so we aren’t the oldest people in the theater. (We might be the oldest despite putting it off!) I’ve seen many movie adaptations of books I’ve read, so I used a gift card to buy the whole trilogy for my Nook to try to read at least the first book before I see the movie.

I first heard about The Hunger Games a while ago. I had been avoiding reading the books, mostly because I had heard that it involved a fight to the death among teenagers. Reading this post about the movie’s rating on BlogHer reminded me of this reason. As a mom and a teacher, I really don’t want to read about teens killing other teens.

I’m reminded, however, of the kind of stories I used to love. Original fairy tales held such allure for me, and were so different from the Disney movies. One of my favorite stories was Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Match Girl”. This poor little child freezes to death at the end of the story, and is brought to Heaven to be with her grandmother. Fairy tales were told orally and passed down from one generation to the next, and so were changed by the tellers. One of the endings of Snow White has the wicked step mother dance to death in red hot iron shoes as her due reward for her wickedness. Hansel, locked up in a cage, uses a bone to fool the nearly blind witch that he is not getting fat enough for her to eat him. Fairy tales are pretty gruesome, aren’t they?

When I was in high school, I graduated to books like Lois Duncan’s I Know What You Did Last Summer, about a group of teenagers involved in a hit and run scenaro. She also wrote Killing Mr. Griffin, a book about teens intended to scare a disliked teacher only to accidentally kill him off. These books were not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure.

It is in remembering these stories that I know why The Hunger Games trilogy has become so popular among its readers. I was drawn to similar stories when I was young, too. Why are these stories so appealing? Is it because we are facing our darkest fears? Perhaps, although some of those fears are darker than the ones I face in reality. Is it because of the way we think of ourselves? That we would be the ones strong enough and good enough and wise enough to survive?

While I have yet to read these books, I think I will forge ahead despite my reservations since upon reflection they sound just like the kind of story I have been drawn to in the past.

Have you avoided reading The Hunger Games like I have? Or have you read the book and seen the movie? What did you think?

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5 Replies to “The Hunger Games: A Modern Fairy Tale?”

  1. I've read the entire trilogy and seen the movie, and I have so much to say I could probably write an entire blog post myself. πŸ™‚

    As a middle school teacher, I see no problem with teens (even young teens) reading the books and seeing the movie as long as at least one of their parents does the same. In fact, most of my advanced level sixth graders have already read the trilogy. When I told them some people didn't think they should be reading the books because they contain teen-on-teen violence, they laughed and said, "What do they think we are–stupid? We know killing is wrong! It's not like we're all going to go out and starting killing each other!"

    I brought up the trilogy in class because we were starting our unit on dystopia (imperfect societies, the opposite of utopias). In this unit, we read Fahrenheit 451 and Animal Farm. In past years, the kids have complained about Fahrenheit 451, saying things like, "This book is stupid! Why would someone think burning books is good?" This year, they get it. They understand that Ray Bradbury isn't saying, "Hey, let's go out and burn a bunch of books" in the same way that Suzanne Collins isn't saying, "Hey, let's start a contest where kids kill each other!"

    Dystopian literature warns us about how our societies could go terribly wrong if we don't stand up for what is right. In Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury is warning us against censorship by showing us how terrible it could be. In The Hunger Games, Collins demonstrates how a dictatorial government can use mob mentality to manipulate a society obsessed with reality TV. In other words, these books offer up great discussion points by showing us what *could* be if we're not careful.

    As a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, I've been watching an interesting discussion occur through our email group recently. One woman wrote that we should not let our teens get caught up in The Hunger Games hysteria, but many, many others jumped in and said, "Wait! These books offer us a great chance to discussion our Christian values." As one small example (and I don't think I'm ruining anything here), at the beginning of the book, Katniss volunteers to take her sister's place in the Hunger Games. What a great example of John 15:13–"There is no greater love than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends."

    So I say, "Do not delay in reading the books!" Just be forewarned that you will find the book hard to put down after you start. Collins is a master at creating suspense in these books. And if you know a teen who has read them, talk about it with them. I'm sure you'll have an awesome discussion with that teen just like I did with my students. Seriously, it was one of those rare magical discussions that makes all the paper grading teaching requires worthwhile. πŸ™‚
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    1. I agree with Amy, do not delay in reading these books!

      I love dystopia, especially those books written for children and teens because they provide such wonderful vehicles for discussion on current societal issues. The best are the ones that provide us with futures that are extremely plausible, and Hunger Games sadly is one of those books. It provided me with great openings on discussion of class and how easily the masses can be controlled.

      Loved the books, couldn't put them down, and the movie was well done.
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  2. Oh, my, Amy, I'm surprised that Intense Debate let you write such a long post! But I'm glad it did. πŸ˜€ I'm thrilled that reading the Hunger Games got kids excited about Fahrenheit 451! It just shows how a book that is rather old is still very relevant to us! And I also agree that books like this can help us discuss our Christian values, and get kids involved in the conversation. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, especially as a teacher!
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  3. I always like to read the book before seeing the movie. I just received the trilogy so I have not read these yet. There have been some interesting views taken of the movie, and as I understand it, some things added that were not in the book. The intent is to make you think. Thinking is a good thing. I am looking forward to reading the books now.
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