Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

This Is Where The Ballad Of Songbirds And Snakes Fits Into The Hunger Games Timeline

With the prequel novel "The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes," author Suzanne Collins took fans of "The Hunger Games" back in time and answered a burning question: Was President Snow always a cruel, crusty, tyrannical dictator, or did he become that as he grew older? The brief answer is that yes, he was. The long answer is that yes he was, but there was drama, too. Whether or not President Snow is the character you would have chosen for a spin-off, Collins' decision to give Snow the protagonist treatment is compelling for the sole reason that handling an established villain's POV is inherently tricky.

On the one hand, readers should be able to find empathetic human qualities in the protagonist, otherwise, little will bind the consumer to the work. On the other hand, making a villain too likable as part of their revised history can backfire in approximately, oh, seven billion ways, the least of which being how such a fatal flaw can make the entire story feel unbelievable as canon. It's a complex tightrope to walk. To Collins' credit, according to the mostly positive reviews collected on book review aggregate site Book Marks, it would seem that she nailed that balance. 

Now that the upcoming film adaptation of "The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes" is picking up steam thanks, in part, to the casting of "West Side Story" breakout Rachel Zegler, fans who haven't done a deep dive into the book are likely more curious than ever about what to expect. Specifically, where exactly does this prequel fit in the larger "Hunger Games" universe timeline? We're here to help with that.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes takes place between the origins of The Hunger Games and the times of Katniss Everdeen

The most obvious possible misconception some fans might have going into "The Ballad Of Songbirds And Snakes" is that the story it's telling serves as an origin for the entire "Hunger Games" narrative. However, that is not the case. 

Neither the civil war, which led to the Capitol viciously dominating the Districts, nor the first Hunger Games are featured in the tale. The book takes place when President Snow — just Coriolanus Snow at the time — is a teenager (to be portrayed by Tom Blyth in the adaptation) climbing the political ladder. A major event therein is the 10th official Hunger Games, in which Snow is a mentor to Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler), a tribute from District 12. For chronological reference, in the first "Hunger Games," Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) participated in the 74th iteration of the deadly competition. If math still functions the same in a YA dystopia, then that translates to "The Balad of Songbirds and Snakes" taking place 64 years prior to the events of the first franchise installment.

While fans should expect the film to punch up the action, "The Ballad Of Songbirds And Snakes" isn't inherently the same kind of story as the original trilogy (or tetralogy, in the case of the cinematic adaptations). Snow is, for the most part, an observer. An actively conniving, deadly, horrible observer, but an observer nonetheless. Another, simpler way to phrase it is this — expect more political intrigue and less battle-worn reality stars.