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How Did Haymitch Abernathy Win The Hunger Games?

On Thursday, June 6, news broke that "Hunger Games" author Suzanne Collins is writing a long-awaited installment in the dystopian series — namely, "Sunrise on the Reaping," a novel centered on Haymitch Abernathy and his victory for District 12 in the 50th Hunger Games (known as the "Second Quarter Quell"), with a movie adaptation coming in 2026. So how did Haymitch (played by Woody Harrelson in the films) triumph, what were his Games like, and what happened to him afterwards?

First, let's revisit the concept of a "quarter quell" and why the second one was so vicious. Every twenty-five years, the cruel Capitol — which engineers the games to punish the twelve districts for their rebellion years prior — adds in a horrifying twist to the Games, and in the 25th Hunger Games, citizens of each district had to vote for and choose the districts they were likely sending to their deaths. As for the 50th, the year Haymitch competed, he was faced with a gutwrenching change to the Games: the number of tributes chosen would double, meaning that 48 children would fight to the death and only one would emerge victorious.

Though Haymitch initially allied himself with Maysilee Donner, a fellow tribute from District 12, he ultimately watched her die in the arena ... which seemed to strengthen his resolve. When Haymitch discovered the edge of the force field surrounding the arena, he used it to his advantage, and when he faced off against the final tribute — a "Career" from District 1 — he let her throw her axe at his head and simply ducked, which sent the axe rebounding into the girl's skull. Haymitch was declared the winner of the 50th Hunger Games as a result, but more horrors were yet to come.

After his time in the Hunger Games, Haymitch sinks into a deep depression — but still has to be the District 12 mentor

Immediately after Haymitch won the 50th Hunger Games for District 12 — becoming the second-ever victor from that impoverished district after Lucy Gray Baird, Rachel Zegler's leading lady from "The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes" — he was punished for his manuever with the axe. Because Haymitch manipulated the force field and made the Capitol look foolish, officials killed his mother, brother, and girlfriend, leaving him alone and showing that the Capitol is not to be crossed.

From that point forward, Haymitch sank into a deep depression and developed a dependency on alcohol, mentoring all tributes from District 12 that came after him ... all of whom died in the arena. Ultimately, though, he meets District 12 tributes Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) during the 74th Hunger Games, which is where the story of the original books and films begins. Though Haymitch is certainly pessimistic about Katniss and Peeta's chances at first, he soon discovers Katniss' talents with a bow and arrow as well as Peeta's brute strength and affinity for camouflage, and is clever enough to guide them through their first time in the Games. 

When Katniss and Peeta, like Haymitch before them, manipulate the Capitol by nearly taking their lives as the only two tributes left standing — forcing the Capitol to declare them both winners — they're punished too and put right back into the arena for the Third Quarter Quell, wherein only former victors can be chosen to compete. From there, Katniss, Haymitch, and Peeta all join the resistance effort against the Capitol — so what happens to Haymitch next?

Katniss and Haymitch survive the war against the Capitol — but leave it traumatized

At the end of the third book in the original "Hunger Games" trilogy, "Mockingjay" — which was split into two movies for the film adaptations — the rebels narrowly defeat President Coriolanus Snow (Donald Sutherland) and overthrow the Capitol, but that doesn't necessarily mean that Katniss, Haymitch, and Peeta get a particularly happy ending. After all is said and done, Haymitch is the one to tell Katniss that the two of them are to return to District 12 (Peeta is absent at this point, still recovering from his time as a brainwashed political prisoner in the Capitol), and also informs her that her mother won't be joining them.

In the films, that's pretty much it for Haymitch, but in the books, Katniss notes that her mentor leaves her at her house and doesn't visit very much, presumably finding solace in drinking. When Peeta returns, healed, the three band together as best they can; as Katniss says, "We learn to keep busy again. Peeta bakes. I hunt. Haymitch drinks until the liquor runs out, and then raises geese until the next train arrives. Fortunately, the geese can take pretty good care of themselves. We're not alone. A few hundred others return because, whatever has happened, this is our home."

Haymitch's story is one of the most tragic ones in the entire "Hunger Games" universe, which is really saying something — and when "Sunrise On the Reaping" is released, fans will get even more information about his background.