Although the national anthem of Panem is mentioned several times in the books that make up Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series, the lyrics are never revealed. (Mostly it is referenced in the text when it plays in the Arena at night, just before the faces of that day’s dead Tributes are projected into the sky.) For the film adaptation of the first book, music and lyrics were composed that played during the propoganda film at the Reaping as well as the Tribute parade at the Capitol. It’s very hard to make out the words when listening to the soundtrack, but if you watch the special features “Post Production” segment on the special edition DVD, there’s a clip of the chorus recording the anthem. After watching that clip over and over, I am pretty confident that these are the lyrics:
O Horn of Plenty,
A Horn of Plenty for us all!
And when you raise a cry
The brave shall heed the call
And we shall never falter.
One Horn of Plenty for us all!
(My submission is in line with the general consensus on what the lyrics are over at the Hunger Games wiki.) I don’t understand why they don’t just officially release the lyrics somewhere. Someone obviously went to all the work of composing a song that could very plausibly be the national anthem of a totalitarian dystopian fictional government, so why not celebrate that? Officially releasing the lyrics could have been a useful marketing tool, to drum up excitement and discussion leading up the movie’s release about how well they fit the Panem we know from the books.
For the record, I think these lyrics fit the story perfectly. It’s an infuriatingly disgusting piece of hypocritical propaganda, but what else would you expect from a government that allows some citizens to enjoy a luxurious lifestyle, (Capitol citizens), while subjugating the residents in all other districts to increasingly severe levels of oppression, including food shortages, forced labor, little or no educational opportunities, and limited electricity and medical supplies, not to mention mandatory participation in the Reaping for all non-Capitol citizens between the ages of 12 and 18, oh and if you try to rebel they’ll cut your tongue out and you’ll become an Avox slave. The distribution of wealth and resources is appallingly lopsided, with the Capitol overflowing and many district residents starving, and yet the anthem asserts unity and “plenty for all!”
It’s likely that many naive Capitol-dwellers actually believe these words represent the ideals their country strives for, that they feel patriotic when the Cornucopia symbol is featured in the Hunger Games prominently every year, not realizing the twisted irony that it’s overflowing with killing weapons instead of food. And I can totally picture someone like Seneca Crane superimposing the line “the brave shall heed the call” over an image of a dead Tribute, thinking it’s a respectful and appropriate homage, and pampered Capitol-dwelling viewers sniffle for a second while they watch the memorial footage reel of the same Tribute, before they get distracted by the latest gossip or fashion trend or a mirror. Meanwhile the dead Tribute’s parents and friends back in their home District interpret the same words as a threat, a reminder, that if they try to rebel against this terrible injustice to them and their children, the better-equipped, more-powerful forces of the government will “never falter” in crushing them back into submission.
There are two specific passages in the books that vividly illustrate the gross inappropriateness of the Capitol to claim, through their anthem’s lyrics, that theirs is a nation of “plenty for all!” The first is found in chapter 5 of The Hunger Games:
Cinna invites me to sit on one of the couches and takes his place across from me. He presses a button on the side of the table. The top splits and from below rises a second tablecloth that holds our lunch. Chicken and chunks of orange cooked in a creamy sauce laid on a bed of pearly white grain, tiny green peas and onions, rolls shaped like flowers, and for dessert, a pudding the color of honey.
I try to imagine assembling this meal myself back home. Chickens are too expensive, but I could make do with a wild turkey. I’d need to shoot a second turkey to trade for an orange. Goat’s milk would have to substitute for cream. We can grow peas in the garden. I’d have to get wild onions from the woods. I don’t recognize the grain, our own tessera ration cooks down to an unattractive brown mush. Fancy rolls would mean another trade with the baker, perhaps for two or three squirrels. As for the pudding, I can’t even guess what’s in it. Days of hunting and gathering for this one meal and even then it would be a poor substitution for the Capitol version.
What must it be like, I wonder, to live in a world where food appears at the press of a button? How would I spend the hours I now commit to combing the woods for sustenance if it were so easy to come by? What do they do all day, these people in the Capitol, besides decorating their bodies and waiting around for a new shipment of tributes to roll in and die for their entertainment?
I look up to find Cinna’s eyes trained on mine. “How despicable we must seem to you,” he says.
Has he seen this in my face or somehow read my thoughts? He’s right, though. The whole rotten lot of them is despicable.
Cinna is unusually sensitive to the hypocrisy and injustice in the system, for someone in the Capitol. It’s certainly not the norm for Capitol-dwellers to be aware of the food shortages in the Districts, much less sensitive to the idea of conserving resources. The following excerpt is from Catching Fire, chapter 6:
“Why aren’t you eating?” asks Octavia.
“I have been, but I can’t hold another bite,” I say. They all laugh as if that’s the silliest thing they’ve ever heard.
“No one lets that stop them!” says Flavius. They lead us over to a table that holds tiny stemmed wineglasses filled with clear liquid. “Drink this!”
Peeta picks one up to take a sip and they lose it.
“Not here!” shrieks Octavia.
“You have to do it in there,” says Venia, pointing to doors that lead to the toilets. “Or else you’ll get it all over the floor!”
Peeta looks at the glass again and puts it together. “You mean this will make me puke?”
My prep team laughs hysterically. “Of course, so you can keep eating,” says Octavia. “I’ve been in there twice already. Everyone does it, or else how would you have any fun at a feast?”
I’m speechless, staring at the pretty little glasses and all the imply. Peeta sets his back on the table with such precision you’d think it might detonate. “Come on, Katniss, let’s dance.”
We’re quiet for a while. Then Peeta speaks in a strained voice.
“You go along, thinking you can deal with it, thinking maybe they’re not so bad, and then you–” He cuts himself off.
All I can think of is the emaciated bodies of the children on our kitchen table as my mother prescribes what the parents can’t give. Food. More food. Now that we’re rich, she’ll send some home with them. But often in the old days, there was nothing to give and the child was past saving, anyway. And here in the Capitol they’re vomiting for the pleasure of filling their bellies again and again. Not from some illness of body or mind, not from spoiled food. It’s what everyone does at a party. Expected. Part of the fun.
My outrage when reading this scene is very similar to the disgust I feel when I consider the shamefully dishonest lyrics of Panem’s anthem. And that is why they are perfect.