The Hunger Games trilogy began in District 12, the poorest of the Panem districts, located in Appalachia with coal mining as its primary product. The series starts on the day of the reaping to compete in the 74th Hunger Games. Suzanne Collins’ latest novel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, also begins on the day of the reaping, but 64 years earlier. And once again, District 12’s ceremony is the talk of the Capitol, as Lucy Gray is selected. But who is Lucy Gray in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes? Warning: Spoilers for The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes follow.
Lucy Gray Baird is the first name called out first for the District 12 reaping, as her mentor-to-be, 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow, watches on screen. But she’s not like the other coal miner’s children. Lucy’s wearing a ruffled rainbow dress; she’s made up her face, posing for the camera the moment it finds her. And she’s not going without a scene. Not that Lucy does anything so foolish as to fight back. Instead, she saunters up towards the stage, but not before she drops a bright green snake down the dress of the Mayor’s daughter, causing the girl to panic and wet herself live on camera.
Even better, once she makes it on the erected dais, she’s not done. As someone in the crowd starts singing, she grabs the mic and gives her District 12 audience a rebel song. It’s an act of defiance, but she’s also a hell of a performer. For Snow, who is desperate to win, her courage and fast on her feet performance is proof he might have a winner.
Lucy Gray (as she says to call her) insists she not a District 12 girl at all. She’s from the Covey tribe, a nomadic group who made their living going town to town performing before the war. During the fighting, their caravans happened to roll into District 12, where Peacekeepers trapped them from leaving. She may technically live there, but she has a very different mindset.
It is the total opposite of Katniss Everdeen. She had an instinct for rebellion, but nothing she did was premeditated. Much of what happens during The Hunger Games are the tides of revolution, sweeping her along. Lucy Gray is anything but swept along. Her charisma is the stuff that can’t be taught, but her performances are deliberate, thought out.
She’s also lucky. The Hunger Games are failing, and for the 10th anniversary, the creators are looking for a little spice to get audiences to tune in. That’s why mentors have been added for the first time. And more changes are coming. Lucy’s conversations for the camera, aided by the equally charismatic Snow, inspire children to bring her food. It’s beginnings of what one day will be audiences at home, sending care packages to those in the arena.
Lucy is a natural-born celebrity, and she knows it’s how she can win. It’s up to Snow to take the tools she already has, and find a way to get there.
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