It’s been several years since the universe of The Hunger Games has been on movie screens. Now, we’re returning to Panem with the film adaptation of Suzanne Collins’s “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.” Set several decades before The Hunger Games, the novel traces the backstory of the original trilogy’s villain, President Snow. Of course, with any film adaptation of a book, it’s very possible that some plot points will be changed for the movie version. However, if you’re curious for at least a sneak peek of what’s to come, read ahead for “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” spoilers!
Meet Coriolanus Snow
When “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” begins, we meet a young student attending college in the Capitol, apparently living the high life. This man is Coriolanus Snow, the person who will one day become the brutal dictator of Panem. And like so much in Panem, his glamorous life isn’t what it seems. Coriolanus’s family is impoverished, and their precarious situation depends entirely on his success at the Academy. As part of their final project, he and his fellow students are assigned as mentors to tributes for the upcoming Hunger Games.
Coriolanus is assigned to mentor Lucy Gray Baird, the tribute from District 12. Upon learning that the tributes are hungry, Coriolanus starts sneaking food from the Academy to Lucy Gray, and the other mentors follow suit with their own tributes. One mentor, however, is murdered by her tribute, and the cooperation ends abruptly. Coriolanus’s essay on how to “improve” the Games by giving Capitol viewers the chance to “sponsor” tributes impresses the Head Gamemaker, Dr. Gaul, making a name for himself.
While touring the arena before the Games, a bombing attack kills several mentors and tributes. Coriolanus crosses paths with Sejanus Plinth, a fellow student with a more rebellious spirit. As many of the surviving tributes die quickly once the Games begin, Sejanus tries to enter the arena to die a martyr’s death and make a point, but Coriolanus pulls him out. At the end of the Games, Lucy Gray is announced the victor, but Coriolanus’s own triumphs are short-lived. He’s accused of manipulating the Games and stealing from the Academy, and he’s sent to District 12 to be a Peacekeeper as punishment.
Escape to the North
In District 12, Coriolanus finds himself reunited with Lucy Gray. He also discovers that his former classmate, Sejanus, has also been sent to the district as a Peacekeeper. Sejanus is no Capitol loyalist, though, as he’s planning to help residents of the district escape to the North, which is rumored to be outside of the Capitol’s control. Coriolanus alerts Dr. Gaul to what he’s learned, raising the alarm in the Capitol.
Soon after, Lucy Gray’s ex, Billy, and the mayor’s daughter, Mayfair, overhear a conversation Sejanus has with Spruce, a rebel. Spruce and Coriolanus kill the eavesdroppers, setting off a chain reaction of violence. Spruce is soon found mortally wounded, and Sejanus is arrested, accused of treason, and executed. Only Lucy Gray and Coriolanus remain, and Coriolanus agrees to escape North with Lucy Gray, intending to turn down an offer to attend an elite officer’s training school in District 2.
Snow’s Descent Into Villainy
Although their plan to escape starts out well enough, it quickly takes a terrible turn. Coriolanus accidentally finds the hidden guns that were used to shoot Billy and Mayfair, and he panics. He’s convinced that Lucy Gray knows he betrayed Sejanus, and he fears she will think he’s trying to betray her, too.
In response to this, he tries to murder her, but she escapes. After ditching the weapons in a lake, he returns to Dr. Gaul in the Capitol. There, he learns Dr. Gaul sent him to District 12 so he would also see that humanity is violent and unstable, a view that Dr. Gaul believes in.
Coriolanus enters the academy, and there’s still more for him to learn about the way Panem truly works. In conversation with the school’s Dean Highbottom, he learns the truth about the origins of the Hunger Games. Highbottom, along with Coriolanus’s father, Crassus, developed the idea for the Games as a purely theoretical school project. Crassus betrayed him, presenting the idea to Dr. Gaul and leading to the creation of the real Hunger Games.
After learning this, Coriolanus poisons Highbottom, the first of many poisonings that will come to mark his rise to power. He becomes a Gamemaker, implementing new and cruel ideas into the Games, and is set on his path to becoming the fearsome President Snow. Lucy Gray, meanwhile, is never heard from again.