The Ballad Of Songbirds & Snakes’ 8 Biggest Hunger Games Prequel Book Changes

Warning: This post contains spoilers for The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes movie and book




  • The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes film stays loyal to the 2020 novel, but some changes are made to characters and story developments.
  • The film adaptation of the prequel doesn’t mention the erasure of the Tenth Hunger Games, unlike the book which confirms it in a final scene.
  • The movie adds more overt dramatic moments, such as Sejanus hearing Coriolanus’ betrayal recording before being hanged, and the students pressuring Dr. Gaul to declare Lucy Gray the winner of the Hunger Games.

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is adapted from Suzanne Collins’ book, and since the film is a different medium entirely, the prequel includes a few distinct changes that separate it from its source material. Directed by Francis Lawrence, who previously helmed three of the four Hunger Games movies, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes novel is over 500 pages long. Bringing Coriolanus Snow’s story to the big screen — given its limited runtime — required screenwriters Michael Lesslie and Michael Arndt to do some trimming and shuffling around of the story’s details.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes has received praise from critics, though some of the reviews for the Hunger Games prequel have also been mixed. Either way, the franchise film has been highly anticipated for some time now. The four previous Hunger Games films were generally faithful to Collins’ original book trilogy, so it comes as no surprise that The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is also pretty loyal to the 2020 novel. While the prequel film retains the biggest and most important moments from the book of the same name, the film does change up a few things with regard to the characters and certain story developments.

8 The Ballad Of Songbirds & Snakes Book Erases The 10th Hunger Games

In Collins’ book, Dr. Gaul claimed the Tenth Hunger Games were a disaster and that it was a mistake to involve any of the academy students, especially once they started dying left and right. Dr. Gaul believed it made the Capitol look weak, and there were so many hiccups that occurred that she thought it best to erase the Tenth Hunger Games from existence entirely — at least publicly, since she would keep a master tape for herself. The fact that the Games were erased wasn’t mentioned in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes movie. In the book, the confirmation of erasure occurs in Dr. Gaul and Coriolanus’ final scene together.

7 Coriolanus’ Recording Of Sejanus Doesn’t Play When He’s Hanged

It’s never confirmed whether Sejanus knew of Coriolanus’ betrayal

Sejanus Plinth in front of the Hunger Games monitors upset in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.

One of the biggest twists from The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes comes when Coriolanus records Sejanus’ plans to help citizens of District 12 using a jabberjay and sends it off to Dr. Gaul. Sejanus Plinth is hanged shortly thereafter in the film, with his words from the recording echoing around the Hanging Tree. Hearing the recording while Sejanus stands at the gallows is effective, driving home the extent of Coriolanus’ disloyalty.

In the book, however, Sejanus is marched to the Hanging Tree and killed without hearing the recording at all. The Peacekeepers state that he’s being hanged for treason, but it’s never confirmed whether Sejanus knew it was Coriolanus who betrayed him. The Hunger Games prequel film is more overt in that respect, although Sejanus’ reaction to Coriolanus’ betrayal is never shown, only calling out to him for help as the friend he believed him to be. Recording or not, Coriolanus never faces the consequences of such a betrayal.

6 Lucy Gray Surviving Dr. Gaul’s Snakes Isn’t What Ends The Hunger Games

Lucy Gray’s final face-off is with Reaper before she wins

In The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Dr. Gaul decides to send the snake tank into the arena, and the creatures finish off the remaining tributes. Lucy Gray survives because Coriolanus cheated and threw the handkerchief she used into the tank, so the snakes would recognize her scent. While the scenes involving the snakes and Lucy Gray singing to them to stay alive are also in the book, they aren’t what ends the Hunger Games and gives Lucy Gray the victory. Rather, the snakes are sent into the arena earlier than in the film, and the final tribute to die is Reaper, which secures the win for Lucy Gray.

What’s more, in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes movie, the students begin vocally urging Dr. Gaul to declare Lucy Gray the winner of the Hunger Games after she sits with the snakes for a while. Pressured to make the call, Dr. Gaul concedes and the Hunger Games finally come to a close. In the book, though, Lucy Gray being named the victor is less dramatic, with Lucy Gray checking Reaper’s pulse before Lucky Flickerman quickly announces her as the winner of the Tenth Hunger Games.

5 Lucretius “Lucky” Flickerman Doesn’t Have As Big A Role In The Book

He’s the comic relief in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes movie

jason schwartzman as lucky flickerman in the ballad of songbirds and snakes

Lucretius “Lucky” Flickerman plays a big role in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. He isn’t only the host of the Tenth Hunger Games, but he’s also the comedic relief throughout. Lucky makes plenty of comments, boots students from the hall after their tributes die, and occasionally discusses the weather while on the air to change course. In Collins’ book, Lucky Flickerman is also the host of the Hunger Games, but his role is much smaller.

He mentions being an amateur magician, but his magic tricks are more prominent throughout the movie. Lucky also doesn’t guess who the winner is going to be in the book. Crucially, Lepidus Malmsey, the reporter who appears at the zoo where the tributes are being held, is a more prominent figure during the Tenth Hunger Games, and he spends much of his time interviewing the students about their tributes throughout the event and giving the Capitol updates on what was going on inside the arena.

4 Ballad Of Songbirds & Snakes Movie Doesn’t Reveal Clemensia’s Condition

Coriolanus Snow also puts his hand in the snake tank in the book

clemensia, dr. gaul and coriolanus snow in the ballad of songbirds and snakes

Coriolanus Snow’s classmate and friend, Clemensia Dovecote, ends up in the hospital after putting her hand in Dr. Gaul’s snake tank. What The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes left out was that the snakes’ venom caused neurological damage. Clemensia’s physical appearance was also affected, with her hair and skin being altered. She appears to Coriolanus in the hospital, convinced that Dr. Gaul is out to kill her and that she’s got scales growing on her skin. She eventually leaves the hospital, but she’s not the same after. What the film also leaves out is that Coriolanus also puts his hand into the snake tank at the same time as Clemensia.

3 Sejanus Plinth’s Parents Don’t Interact With Snow In Hunger Games Prequel

In the book, Coriolanus uses Sejanus’ death to leverage a relationship with Strabo Plinth

Coriolanus Snow in Panem's Capitol.

In The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Sejanus Plinth’s parents are often referenced, but they’re only seen once during the film. They play a bigger role in the book, especially after Sejanus is hanged. When Coriolanus returns to the Capitol, Sejanus’ parents treat him as their own. Strabo speaks to Coriolanus about how he would like to work out an arrangement between them to secure the Snow family. The Plinths even buy the Snows’ apartment, with the Plinths residing one floor below. Coriolanus effectively leverages Sejanus’ death to build a rapport with Strabo, using him to gain money and power. It works, too, as Coriolanus is named the Plinth heir.

2 Dean Highbottom’s Hatred Of Coriolanus Is More Overt In The Movie

Highbottom is in the book, but he more openly antagonizes Coriolanus in the film

Dean Highbottom’s hatred for Coriolanus Snow is tangled with the disdain he feels for Coriolanus’ father, who took his idea for the Hunger Games directly to Dr. Gaul without his consent. Highbottom takes a few jabs at Coriolanus in the book, but his resentment towards Coriolanus is far more prominent in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes movie. Dean Highbottom treats Coriolanus antagonistically throughout the book, but the prequel film positions him in a way where he’s more consistently in Coriolanus’ face, reminding him that he will never achieve what he wants. Highbottom even appears at Heavensbee Hall in the film to chat with Coriolanus during the Tenth Hunger Games.

1 Spruce’s Death Is Different In Ballad Of Songbirds & Snakes Book

Spruce is not hanged alongside Sejanus

Coriolanus Snow from Ballad Of Songbirds And Snakes.

Spruce is hanged alongside Sejanus in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes movie, but his death is completely different in the book. In the pages of Collins’ novel, Spruce is captured by Peacekeepers and beaten badly enough that he later dies from his wounds. Spruce is still implicated in the murder of Mayfair and Billy Taupe, just as he is in the movie, but his death isn’t made so public. Spruce also played a bit more of an active role in the book, especially in his attempts to free his sister Lil — whose partner, Arlo, was previously hanged in District 12 — from jail.

  • The Hunger Games The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Poster

    The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

    Release Date:

    Francis Lawrence

    Tom Blyth, Rachel Zegler, Hunter Schafer, Jason Schwartzman, Peter Dinklage, Josh Andrés, Josh Andrés Rivera, Viola Davis


    157 Minutes

    Action, Adventure, Drama

    Michael Lesslie, Michael Arndt, Suzanne Collins

    Color Force, Lionsgate


    The Hunger Games, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

    The Hunger Games


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