Everything we know about Hunger Games prequel The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

The long-awaited prequel to the hit series shines a light on the origin of the games and introduces a teenage President Snow

Tom Blyth as Coriolanus Snow, and Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Baird in The Hunger Games prequel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Photo: Lionsgate
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It’s been eight years since The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 film wrapped up Katniss Everdeen’s story and the hit tetralogy based on Suzanne Collins’s books.

And if you’ve ever wondered why the Hunger Games began, how those Capitol fashions came to be and why President Snow is so evil, the prequel The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes aims to answer all those questions and more.

Since the book was published in May 2020, fans have been waiting for the heroine Lucy Gray Baird's story to be brought to the big screen. Here’s everything we know about the prequel ahead of its November 16 UAE release date.

What is The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes about?

The book focuses on the 10th Hunger Games, meaning it is set 64 years before the first book.

The games are the Capitol’s retribution for the war with the districts that had the city under siege for months.

The Capitol is still damaged and in disarray since the end of the war, and the once-wealthy and powerful Snow family have lost their fortune and prestige since their munitions factory in District 13 was destroyed.

Seeing his chance to restore the family name, 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow signs up to be a mentor for the games.

He is assigned to train Lucy Gray, a District 12 tribute (a child selected to fight in The Hunger Games) who comes to the attention of the Capitol when she sings a defiant rebel song at the Reaping (where tributes are chosen).

As the games draw near, Lucy Gray and Coriolanus grow close, until he is forced to choose between love and ambition.

Who is in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes?

Lucy Gray is played by West Side Story star Rachel Zegler. She is a member of a nomadic musical tribe called the Covey who settled in District 12 after the war with the Capitol.

British actor Tom Blyth takes on the role of Coriolanus, while Euphoria’s Hunter Schaefer plays his cousin, Tigris Snow.

Egot winner Viola Davis stars as head game-maker Dr Volumnia Gaul, a professor with different coloured eyes and an ice-cold demeanour who is the original mastermind behind the games.

Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage is Casca Highbottom, the Academy dean who instructs the mentors – including Coriolanus – to turn the tributes into “spectacles, not survivors”. His order reveals how the games went on to become such an presentation by the time Katniss enters the arena decades later.

Jason Schwartzman stars as Lucky Flickerman, the host of the games, which is being televised for the first time. His surname suggests that Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) from the earlier films is Lucky’s son or grandson.

All the Easter eggs in the trailers

Two trailers have been released for the The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes containing plenty of Easter eggs and nods to the evolution of the games and arenas which Katniss enters much later.

The seeds of how the once liberal and caring Coriolanus evolves into the authoritarian president Snow are planted with the revelation that he becomes a mentor to restore his family’s fortune and get into university.

Fans will also recognise Lucy Gray's performance of The Hanging Tree, which Katniss sings in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1, along with Rue’s four-note whistle which she used to communicate with Katniss in the first film.

Onstage at the District 12 Reaping, Lucy Gray performs a low, dramatic bow to the assembled peacekeepers, a precursor to the bow Katniss gives the game makers in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire after she hangs an effigy of Seneca Crane.

Meeting Lucy Gray when the train carrying the tributes arrives in the Capitol, Coriolanus gives her a white rose, which later becomes his chilling calling card through which he delivers warnings to Katniss.

And Tigris makes her first appearance as Coriolanus's cousin albeit in her unaltered state. Fans of the earlier films know that she has reconstructive surgery to make her features feline and helps Katniss and the rebels in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2.

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is released in the UAE on November 16

Updated: November 14, 2023, 5:44 AM