Friday, May 26, 2023

Friday Creature Feature - Mockingjay

“A mockingjay's a bona fide bird."

"And it sings in your show?"

"Not my show, sweetheart. Yours. The Capitol's anyway."

―Lucy Gray Baird and Coriolanus Snow

This year we’ll have the first Hunger Games movie in eight years. The new book, Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, is set to have its movie released in November. Last year, I wrote about the story’s depiction of Coriolanus Snow and his descent into villainy. But before we see Coryo on the big screen, I wanted to spotlight one of the unique creatures of Panem: the mockingjay.

To refresh your memory, here’s a brief Panem history lesson. During the Rebellion, the Capitol started creating mutts for their war against the Districts. One of them was the jabberjay, which was capable of recording and repeating human speech. Kind of a covert reconnaissance drone to spy on the Districts. However, the Districts figured this out and used the jabberjays to feed false information.

When the Capitol realized the deception, the jabberjays were released into the wild to die off. But… They started mating with mockingbirds to create the mockingjay species. A slap in the face of the Capitol. While the mockingjay species couldn’t parrot human words like the daddy jabberjay (all jabberjays were male to avoid breeding… we see how well that worked out), the mockingjay could still copy tunes sung, whistled, or played. 

Chronologically, the first time we see the jabberjays and mockingjays is when Coryo was a peacekeeper in District 12. Even as a young adult, he hated the mockingjays, as they already represented a sense of rebellion towards the Capitol. He and the other recruits were tasked at times to hunt and kill the jabberjays and mockingjays, as a form of pest control and target practice. Some were sent back to the Capitol for study, but that was only a small sampling.

By the seventh decade after the Dark Days, the residents of District 11 used the mockingjays in their orchards to help signal the end of the work day. Rue, a tribute from the 74th Hunger Games, told Katniss that she would use a four-note tune to send word from the top of the trees down to let everyone know it was time to go home (much quicker that way). This trick also became a signal for Katniss and Rue during their time as allies to indicate safety. 

But before Katniss entered the arena for the 74th Hunger Games, she was given her famous mockingjay pin by Madge Undersee. This mockingjay pin became her token in the arena and it was the reason Rue decided to trust her and become allies. It was also the mockingjays who sang Rue to sleep as she died, after copying Katniss’s tune of “Deep in the Meadow."

After Katniss and Peeta won the 74th Hunger Games, the symbol of the mockingjay became fashionable in the Capitol. During their victory tour, Katniss saw it in jewelry, tattoos, and more. For Capitol citizens, they were just excited to wear the victor’s token. However, for the rebels it was a very different symbol. A symbol of rebellion. For example, Bonnie and Twill, who were found by Katniss outside District 12, had a flat piece of bread with the image of a mockingjay to demonstrate their allegiance.

When the Quarter Quell came around, bringing Katniss and Peeta back into the arena, Effie had the idea of matching tokens for their team. Ultimately, Peeta was given a medallion with the mockingjay as his token and Haymitch got a golden bangle. His bangle was ultimately given to Finnick to prove his allegiance to Katniss in the arena. 

After the abrupt ending of the Quarter Quell, District 13 and the rebels wanted to make Katniss their symbol, their mockingjay, to rally the districts together against the Capitol. Cinna even made Katniss’s wedding dress change into one like a mockingjay during her Quarter Quell interview. If that’s not a slap in President Snow’s face, I don’t know what is. But it paved the way for Katniss to inspire the districts into revolting and for the creation of a new Panem.

For now, I’ll close where I began, with Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Specifically, a quote from Lucy Gray: "The show is not over until the mockingjay sings."

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