Mockingjay is here! If you don’t know what the aitch that is, read this. Done? Okay, moving on. Long story short: I loved it, I hated it, I have lots of thoughts and opinions about the ending, none of which I’m going to share right now. What I am going to talk about is the song, “The Hanging Tree.” This is something Suzanne Collins wrote in Mockingjay, that I spent a large partof the book trying to make into a real song.
“The Hanging Tree” in the book is a song that Katniss’ father teaches her as a child, which she later sings while revisiting a favorite childhood place that has been destroyed. (Oh- that was kind of a spoiler. OK fine, this post is kind of SPOILER-Y. Sorry!) The song is pretty gruesome, but I think it’s a central theme of the plot. Here’s a quick sample:
The song is banned by the fictional government in the story. It’s never explained why, but if you look at why real-life governments ban songs, you can pretty much figure out why. Think about the Billie Holiday song, Strange Fruit. (If you’ve never heard it, watch a performance of it here)
This song, based on a poem originally written by a Jewish schoolteacher, was so controversial at the time Holiday’s life was threatened. The first time my mom played it for me as a little girl, I got chills over my entire body- and I still get them when I hear it today. It’s no wonder that the song became an anthem for the Civil Rights movement. I believe that the “murderer” in “The Hanging Tree” was actually a rebel punished by the government in THG. The song was banned because it told of government cruelty and might have called the people to action.
It’s easy to see how a simple song can overthrow a government, then. Sometimes we forget just how powerful music can be, if we want it to be. It can bring comfort, describe deep love, and even move people to action. When we as artists make music, it is a real thing that leaves us and goes into the consciousness of people. We can only hope to affect them in some small way.
I’m a deep thinker, ya’ll.
I can’t wait till The Hunger Games movies are made and I can hear this song brought to life. I only hope it ends up being as moving as it was on the page.
Have you read “Mockingjay?” What are your thoughts about this post? Has any song ever affected you like, “Strange Fruit?”