The Hunger Names

When I first read The Hunger Games I was struck by Suzanne Collins choice of names … and not in a good way. Katniss particularly bothered me as a choice of name for the lead character, it just didn’t do her justice. Now I know I’m not alone in my concerns about the names in the books and I found this article by Miriam Krule over at Slate worth reading.

There are many shocking elements in The Hunger Games, the dystopic young adult series by Suzanne Collins—it is, after all, about kids killing each other. Once you let that sink in, though, you can absorb the craziest part of the trilogy: the characters’ names. Katniss? Haymitch? Cinna? Collins has never explained how she came up with these names, leaving the books’ many fans to hatch their own theories. (One fansite even created an algorithm to figure out your Hunger Games name; mine is Rebmet G. Skiptulip, only slightly more ridiculous-sounding than any of the ones in the book.)

The names can be roughly divided into two groups: Characters from the poor, depleted districts are named after plants or other earthy items; those from the regal capital have a Roman influence. While the names may seem as random as the reaping, I think there’s order in them: The Roman-themed names play on Collins’ critique of imperialism—the nation of Panem gets its name from panem et circenses, or “bread and circuses”—while the plant names highlight the natural goodness of the books’ heroes.

Katniss Everdeen: The heroine of the trilogy has what seems, at first, like a not-so-heroic moniker. (Her best friend, Gale, calls her Catnip.) But her name is one of the few that gets an explanation: In a flashback, her father—who is already dead when the book begins—tells her that “as long as you can find yourself, you’ll never starve.” The katniss plant has nourishing roots, and is also known as “arrowhead.” It belongs to the genus Sagittaria, and the constellation of the same name, Sagittarius, is also known as the archer—a fitting ode to her impressive bow-and-arrow skills.

Read the rest here.

By the way if you want to find out your Hunger Games name – go here.


One thought on “The Hunger Names

  1. Love this article! Thanks for posting, I was wondering about the names too and how they reflect the personalities of the characters. I thought Katniss was a strange name for a heroine too, but after that explanation it all makes sense.

    BTW, my Hunger Games name is Kimet H Rushreed. I kinda like it.

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