The Hunger Games: A new gateway to teaching survival skills to youngsters?
The hit movie and book “The Hunger Games” has taken the young adult audience by storm. Can the outdoors community reap some of the benefits?
by Leon Pantenburg
My 16-year-old daughter and I have different tastes in reading, to put it mildly. But when she mentioned that she’d like to try shooting a bow and arrow after reading “The Hunger Games” and seeing the movie, I paid attention. I also read the book last week.
There may be something there…
Generally, I ignore anything associated with zombies, survivalist wackos and apocalyptic weirdos and I have no interest in stories about kids killing each other. And most survival fiction, IMHO, is not based on any sort of real-life skills. (One exception is John A Heatherly’s “The Cave and The Sea”. Check out the review!)
Written by American novelist Suzanne Collins, “The Hunger Games” was originally published in September, 2008. The movie came out several months ago.
The story is narrated by 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives in the post-apocalyptic nation of Panem, where the countries of North America once existed.
According to the book description: Katniss is a 16-year-old girl living with her mother and younger sister in the poorest district of Panem, (which is located in the coal mining areas of Appalachia.)
Long ago, the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, “The Hunger Games.” The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change, but one thing is constant: kill or be killed. When Katniss’s sister is chosen by lottery, Katniss steps up to go in her place.
But Katniss has considerable wilderness survival skills that give her an edge: She has supported her family for several years as a poacher on Capitol lands, using snares and archery gear to kill small game and an occasional deer. She also learns to use many plants for food and medical purposes.
All these skills will provide useful, as she is placed in this massive outdoor arena to survive as best she can.
I like kids reading sentences such as this:
“The meat and plants from the woods combined with the exertion it took to get them have given me a healthier body than most of those I see around me.” (This comes from when Katniss enters the arena for the first time and sizes up the competition.)
I also like that Katniss mentions squirrel hunting frequently. I maintain that is the best training possible for still hunting deer and other big game. The marksmanship necessary to consistently bring down one of the small, illusive animals with a rifle or bow transfers easily to bigger game.
The book also emphasizes the hunting skills that easily transfer over into the brutal, merciless game. These include the ability
remain still for long periods of time, walking quietly, tracking, concealing yourself with camouflage and marksmanship under field conditions. Katniss understands the value of a good survival knife, and is skilled at making a fire under survival conditions.
The story line has elements of a video game, with different weapons being distributed, changes in the rules and unexpected outside influences. I suppose this is to keep the attention of an audience largely brought up on electronic media.
But here is where the value might be for the survival/preparedness community: When was the last time a hit young adult movie could start a realistic conversation about survival? Have your children seen the movie or read the book and wanted to know more about some survival/wilderness skills you may already practice?
My kids were raised on wild game meat, and my daughter’s favorite meal is chicken-fried elk steak with mashed potatoes. Eating a squirrel, rabbit, duck, goose etc. is no big deal, even though she doesn’t want to hunt. But how many urban young people, for the first time, might even think about hunting in a positive light? And chances are, most of them have never considered eating a squirrel!
And what about survival fire making? This might be the first time a kid sees the value in something us older survival-types may take for granted.
Be alert for a teaching moment if your child comments on “The Hunger Games.” Personally, the idea of archery has intrigued my daughter and one of her friends, and they will both be getting a chance to try it out!