18 April 2015


Locus Focus: Take One Hundred and Fourteen!

It took six months, but now I am finally CLEARING my Return to Faerie Land Locus Focus challenge! We have looked at settings from a reimagined Beauty and the Beast, an embellished Twelve Dancing Princesses, and a reconstructed-from-scratch Sleeping Beauty; and today, we end as I had always hoped to end, with a nearly unrecognisable Snow White. Who knew that she would be as hard to find as she is hard to kill? =P

The 74th Hunger Games Arena
The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins

The woods begin to evolve, and the pines are intermixed with a variety of trees, some I recognize, some completely foreign to me. At one point, I hear a noise and pull my knife, thinking I may have to defend myself, but I've only startled a rabbit. "Good to see you," I whisper. If there's one rabbit, there could be hundreds just waiting to be snared.

The ground slopes down. I don't particularly like this. Valleys make me feel trapped. I want to be high, like in the hills around District 12, where I can see my enemies approaching. But I have no choice but to keep going.

Funny though, I don't feel too bad. The days of gorging myself have paid off. I've got staying power even though I'm short on sleep. Being in the woods is rejuvenating. I'm glad for the solitude, even though it's an illusion, because I'm probably on-screen right now . . .

What took even longer than completing this challenge was figuring out why Twilight and The Hunger Games seemed to be first cousins. Neither the superficial similarities (both are YA novels that became blockbuster film franchises) nor the crazy coincidences (Kristen Stewart as Bella and Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss have the exact same acting style, although only one of them gets flack for it) could account for the odd feeling I had that they were kin. It wasn't until I started working all the supposedly "new" stories of modern teen culture into their faerie family trees that I realised Stephenie Meyer's and Suzanne Collins's stories had the same great-great-great-grandmother.

As I said in my Twelve Things about After.Life, there's something so sneaky about Snow White that even the writers adapting her story don't seem to realise that they're doing it. Collins only backs me up here, with a trilogy that has the elements of the original faerie tale all tangled up. But note that they're not messed up: there's a logic behind how she has arranged them. The Hunger Games is what you get when Snow White and the Prince reverse their roles in the name of Girl Power. Having got that, you see that it makes perfect sense that instead of an evil stepmother, we have an evil stepfather (*cough*patriarchy*cough*) who still wants to kill the "princess" for being fairer than he in the "mirror" of public opinion. The dark twist is that President Snow (Now do you believe me?) doesn't need to hand out any apples; Katniss brings her own killing berries.

Some elements are cleverly masked, but others are just on steroids. Take the dark forest in which Snow White escapes the huntsman who was charged to kill her: it's an easy match to the woodsy 74th Hunger Games Arena with its twenty-two other "huntsmen." (The twenty-third tribute is, of course, her Prince. Who does double duty as a dwarf.) It's not as elaborate or as sadistic as other arenas that we learn about in the next Hunger Games novel, but it serves its purpose. Though not the intended purpose of proving that Katniss Everdene isn't like the other Snow Whites.

Now, it's true that Katniss, unlike her great-great-great-grandmother, is in her element in the woods. She is used to being in the forest near her home, hunting, trapping, and foraging for food. After she becomes the hunted, she adapts quite easily and becomes a formidable foe. Yet let's not praise our princess's toughness and survival skills overmuch: the novel remains true to the original faerie tale inasmuch as Katniss gets to live because a man falls in love with her first.

But you know, what feminist femmes? That's really not such a bad thing. It's definitely better than the deus ex machina devices that regularly give her a leg up. (Leave it to Alone to spot the obvious.) Besides, it's cheating to make faerie godmother figures cross over from the Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty variants. Suzanne Collins is pushing it . . . but yeah, all the way to the bank.

Image Source: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins


Jenny said...

How do you see this stuff?!!! I seriously need to be in your mind for a day. You're so smart.

DMS said...

Excellent post! I loved seeing the connections you made between The Hunger Games and Snow White. So interesting to think about the way the original was retold with different twists and turns.

Enbrethiliel said...


Jenny -- Thanks for your kind words! For this "exercise," I started with the assumption that all modern YA/MG literature is an adapted faerie tale and would have to fit one of the categories. If you start with an imperative like that, I'm sure that you'll also start to notice the connections. =)

Jess -- It was definitely fascinating the first time the pieces started falling into place for me!

Melanie Bettinelli said...

I see it!

"I started with the assumption that all modern YA/MG literature is an adapted faerie tale and would have to fit one of the categories." I like that assumption.

Enbrethiliel said...


Thanks, Melanie! It's fun to spot these things, aye? =)

Sheila said...

Katniss could have lived without a man falling in love with her. All she would have had to do was kill Peeta. She would have been the victor, and she never would have been much trouble to Snow in that case, because she wasn't much of a rebel.

That's what's cool about Katniss: she doesn't *mean* to rebel, like Gale does. She just learns from Peeta that sometimes you've got to take back something from power. Her decision is not to kill her friend, and *that's* what makes her a hero.

*cough cough* I mean, in my humble opinion. ;)

Enbrethiliel said...


You're right. Katniss could have lived without Peeta. I'd amend my sentence in the original post to read, "Katniss gets to be a heroine because a man falls in love with her first." By "heroine," I mean the Girl on Fire, who is key to overthrowing the Capitol.

I know what you're saying with your own definition, but I disagree with that instance as evidence of heroism on her part. Her decision not to kill Peeta is compromised by her decision to bluff with his life and her own. If the Gamemakers hadn't had their turn to save her (from the consequences of her own actions!), she would have been a killer and a suicide. (Having said that, I do like her quick-thinking and her, uh, balls. She's smart enough to game the system, but when you're gambling with people's lives, that isn't enough to be heroic.)

I just don't think that we can have Katniss both ways. As you point out, if she tries to survive without Peeta, she doesn't trouble President Snow--and therefore, doesn't become meaningful to people or valuable to the rebels. We can't separate her from the romance that Peeta . . . and Haymitch . . . and Cinna . . . all weave for her without her consent or awareness. And for all her worthy qualities, that's a pretty damning mark against her as a moral agent. She just lets things happen to her. There's a frustrating sense in which her friends could have turned any other girl from District 12 into the Girl on Fire. Katniss has less control over her own image than our own media darlings have over theirs.