The heartbreaking reason for The Hunger Games prequel protagonist’s name

With the highly anticipated release of The Hunger Games prequel this November, several fans may be eager to know the heartbreaking reason for the protagonist’s name.

The forthcoming film adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ novel of the same name, The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, stars West Side Story breakout Rachel Zegler as District 12 tribute Lucy Gray Baird.

Set 60 years before the events of the original trilogy, led by actor Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, the prequel will focus on the backstory of the Games’ oppressive president, Coriolanus Snow – portrayed by actor Donald Sutherland in the original franchise – and his mentorship of Lucy Gray.

While it’s unclear how closely the movie will follow the 2020 novel’s storyline, the book did include a few Easter eggs that directly referenced the meaning behind the defiant tribute’s moniker.

As some literary experts may have already noticed, Lucy Gray is the title of a 1799 poem written by William Wordsworth and published in his collection of poems, Lyrical Ballads.

Although Collins has never specifically addressed the apparent connection between her protagonist’s name and Wordsworth’s poem – which describes the heartbreaking death of a young girl named Lucy Gray who was stranded in a snowstorm – it’s no coincidence the poem is later performed in the book by Lucy’s cousin, Maude Ivory.

Lucy Gray’s surname, Baird, is also derived from the Irish word “bard” meaning “poet”. The name is one letter away from the word “bird”, which Lucy Gray’s nomadic people, the Covey, are often compared to throughout the novel.

Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray and Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen (Lionsgate)
Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray and Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen (Lionsgate)

Recently, the film’s director Francis Lawrence identified the key differences between Katniss Everdeen and Lucy Gray. Lawrence - who directed the Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire, and part one and two of Mockingjay – described Everdeen as “quite quiet and stoic”, while revealing that “Lucy Gray is the opposite”.

“She wears her sexuality on her sleeve. She really is a performer,” he added. “She loves crowds. She knows how to play crowds and manipulate people.”

In April, the movie’s first released trailer showed Peter Dinklage as the Games’ “vindictive” architect, as well as Zegler performing some musical melodies on stage.

In addition to Zegler, actor Tom Blyth will play the 18-year-old Snow, while Viola Davis and Euphoria’s Hunter Schafer also feature in key roles.

As the film is set decades before the original trilogy, it will not see Jennifer Lawrence reprise her role. However, in June, the 33-year-old actor told Variety that she would “totally” be open to playing Everdeen again.

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes releases in cinemas on 17 November.