In essence, Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games is a myth about the heroism of integrity and loyalty to others in the face of brutality, exploitation, and oppression. Katniss Everdeen, the heroine, is launched on her trajectory when her sister Prim is selected for the brutal Hunger Games. Unwilling to watch her sister go off to certain death, Katniss opts to take her place, and is thrust into the superficial, affluent, cruel world of the Capitol, where she must compete in the Hunger Games, a violent competition staged as entertainment. Katniss must play a difficult game, but she prevails in the end thanks to her characteristics of loyalty and integrity.
Firstly, it falls to this analysis to demonstrate that The Hunger Games is indeed a myth, rather than a fairy tale. Both myths and fairy tales are stories that draw on the fantastic, but other than this they are very different indeed (Lombardi). A fairy tale is generally much simpler: where a myth may be concerned with a grand theme or central problem, the fairy tale is less demanding and more likely to have a reassuring bent to it (Bettelheim 26). Reassurance and hope for the future, according to Bettelheim, are major characteristics and functions of the fairy tale (26). Myths encompass myths of creation, myths of ethno-genesis, myths of events or cultural traditions, and more besides (Lombardi). Classical mythology includes such tales as The Odyssey, Jason and the Argonauts, The Iliad, the story of Perseus and Medusa, the story of Oedipus, etc. (Kirk 8). While myths are generally thought of as ‘sacred’, it would be a profound mistake (though unfortunately it is a common one) to hold that all myths are about gods. Indeed, myths may be heroic tales or even tragedies, as the aforementioned stories, all indisputably myths of the Classical canon, demonstrate (9). The Epic of Gilgamesh is another excellent example: Gilgamesh himself, though part deity is nonetheless mortal and is generally depicted as a king as opposed to a god (9-10).
The Hunger Games does indeed make considerable demands on the reader. It is a tale of heroism, and it is deeply concerned with questions of power and oppression, authenticity and integrity, and loyalty. Author Suzanne Collins has acknowledged the influence of the story of Theseus and the Minotaur (Margolis), a myth rather than a fairytale.
Katniss taking the place of her sister Prim is an important clue about Katniss’s character: she is loyal to her family. However, that much was clear already, because it has already been made clear that Katniss is the breadwinner in the household: she even enters her name in the contest additional times so that she can provide for her family (Collins 12). “With one sweep of my arm, I push her behind me. ‘I volunteer!’ I gasp. ‘I volunteer as tribute!’” (21). This is a clear sign that this is a myth about family loyalty and love: the heroine, Katniss, is only put into the position of having to fight because she loves her sister, and...