Friday, March 30, 2012

Hunger Games - A storyteller's perspective

I like to look at things with a storyteller's eye. After watching the Hunger Games movie, I made a list of stories that came to my mind, and as the list grew, it turned into a set list for a Hunger Games-based storytelling performance!

But before I jump into telling more about it, let me explain how this post came to be.

The Hunger Games is all the craze these days. I have read the books, and enjoyed them quite a lot; they are perfect for the age group they are targeting (even though fans of heavier reading materials might miss the darker tones), and, much unlike some other bestsellers that shall not be named, have a point that is worth making. I also watched the movie, and once I got used to the jumpy-shaky camera, it was a very well done movie, and an excellent book adaptation. Yay!

What really amazes me about the Hunger Games, however, is its impact on young people. I have been talking to students between the age of 10 and 20-something, and observed how a good book leaves its mark on people. First of all, the Hunger Games start long and interesting discussions about serious topics. Second of all, they teach people, especially younger kids, about values like courage, friendship and honesty, and portray love as a deeper connection (as opposed to being obsessed with someone just because he is gorgeous, duh). My favorite thing was a note that one 12-year-old (reaping age, heh) girl wrote for her best friend: "If the Hunger Games was real, I would volunteer for you!". So I made a point of talking to "my" kids about the Hunger Games, and what they thought about them.
This generation just came out of the Percy Jackson era (which has similar positive effects on education - Greek Mythology is trending again!), so at some point in the conversation I asked them if they knew what myth the Hunger Games book as based on. They had no idea! When I told them it was a Greek myth about a hero called Theseus, the class blew up with excitement; that was the COOLEST THING EVER!

So, I started thinking about how I would link up the book with things that we storytellers are familiar with. I like to see popular things like this as windows of opportunity: we get a chance to connect the book with stories that surround it, and make young readers interested in other tales and other forms of storytelling.

So, for the sake of a storytelling brain exercise (and because I love compiling lists of stories), I started to make a list of possible topics for storytelling sessions linked to the Hunger Games. Here is the result of my musings:

1. Theseus
The books are admittedly based on the Greek myth of Theseus. The original myth is exciting, colorful, and a lot of fun to tell! Also, on a related note, Mary Renault's The King Must Die is one of my favorite books ever.

2. Rome
Anything Roman will be directly or indirectly linked to the world of the Capitol - mainly, gladiator games (this is where the archaeologist part of my brain kicks in and starts waving my unused MA around). This falls into the category of historical storytelling as opposed to traditional folktales, but sneaks a lot of Social Studies and History into the classroom. The legend of Camilla, for example, resonates really well with young audiences - fierce archer girl fighting against the Romans, rings a bell, anyone?

3. Appalachian stories
Not like they need any introduction in the storytelling world, but this could be a nice chance to make the new generation like them! District 12 has a distinct feel of Appalachia, and of one chooses the right tales, they go great with the themes in the books!

4. Archery stories
I absolutely love archery (that was one of the main draws for me to the Hunger Games). I did it for quite a few years, and started collecting archery-related legends, myths and folktales back when I was just starting out as a storyteller. As Katniss' weapon of choice, bow and arrow plays an important role in the books, and there are so many amazing stories that one motif could lead to...

5. Miners' tales
District 12 is a place for coal mining; mining as an old activity has a whole circle of tales, legends and superstitions related to it. I am sure any mining community would have quite a few of those...

6. Animal tales
We have no mockingjays or tracker jackers; but we do have old stories about bluejays, mockingbirds, wasps, and how they came to be. Part of the role animals play in the Hunger Games books is how they came to be (excellent background story by the way); some of the traditional stories are just as wild and exciting.

One book (well, three books) and so many stories! I can't wait for my school kids to hear this...

1 comment:

  1. As I was reading through the first book, I also felt a strong influence of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet in the star crossed love bound to die,

    Very nice post!