Sunday, February 19, 2012

Mockingjays and Trackerjackers, what are they?

The skin crawling, eerie, lonely four-note melody at the end of the Hunger Games trailer is the call a mockingjay picks up from Rue, the youngest tribute. Upon first hearing these four notes, I thought of the woods. Tall trees with their leaves casting a shadow over the ground. The sun peaks through, causing momentary blindness. The air is silent, save for the call of the mockingjay. The predators, both known and a mystery, lurk in the pseudo-peaceful woods.

But what on earth is a mockingjay? A mockingjay is the result of the Capitol muttations, jabberjays, breeding with female mockingbirds. Jabberjays were used to spy on the rebels, until they figured it out. The mockingjay has the ability to replicate melodies, something leftover from the jabberjays ability to recite conversations. Mockingjays now roam free, as the jabberjays did after Capitol abandoned the birds. 

The mockingjay has more meaning than that four-note melody Rue taught to Katniss in the arena (you’ll have to see the movie or read the book to find out why). Katniss wears a mockingjay pin, given to her by Madge Undersee, the mayor’s daughter, before she leaves for Capitol. Each tribute can wear some type of token from her district. The mockingjay pin becomes the sign of rebellion and Katniss herself. 

The mockingjay pins sold in stores and online depict the bird holding an arrow in its beak.
Other muttations come into play during all three books. Probably the most disturbing of all are the wolf-like mutts that appear towards the very end of the first Hunger Games. I hope that scene is done right in the movie. 

Tracker jackers also play a role in the arena. Tracker jackers are kind of like wasps. Unlike the wasps we know who will move on fairly quickly after someone knocks out their nest, tracker jackers hunt the offender down. They sting the victims with venom that pulls hallucinations from fears buried deep into the brain. The result is pure terror and pain. The stings leave large lumps on the body and can kill someone. 

Screaming monkeys, squirrels, clicking bugs, lizard-people and other types of mutts appear throughout the series. The muttations tell us much about Capitol. Think about the tracker jackers. The purpose isn’t only to kill it’s to torture. A creature with poisonous, deadly venom wasn’t enough. No, the rebels had to suffer for what they were doing. 

Capitol excels in psychological warfare. The Hunger Games alone are a strong enough example of that factor. They treat the districts as if they are slaves to tend to their every whim, which is exactly how the people are treated. 

*This next section contains major spoilers for the end of The Hunger Games*

The wolf mutts are the worst way that Capitol uses mutts during The Hunger Games. It’s not their ability to stand on their hind legs, or sharp talons that make the creatures so horrible. It’s their appearance. The wolf mutts’s eyes looked like those of the dead tributes. Even the coats were reminiscent. Capitol even put a collar on the mutts displaying the district number, confirming any doubt of who the mutts were supposed to be.

This action is beyond horrifying. It’s exploiting the tributes even more than they already were, which quite a feat is. Disrespecting their dead children can’t have gone over well with the families of the tributes. 

*End spoilers*

These creatures are not so outlandish or unimaginable to make them hard to picture while reading. Creating new, special forms of weaponry isn’t unusual in times of war. There are countless real and fiction examples of these. That live creatures are the weapons make it seem somewhat more barbaric, though both manufactured weapons, be it the atomic bomb or an arrow, and a mutt can kill. It’s all where you draw the line.

Or, if it’s Capitol, there is no line.

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