With the upcoming release of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, the spin-off and prequel to The Hunger Games series, there’s a lot of talk about writing the Hunger Games universe from different perspectives. The original trilogy, after all, was limited to Katniss’s point-of-view, so we missed a lot of key scenes that she was not present in. At the same time, some people are criticizing how the upcoming book can romanticize the trilogy’s villain, President Coriolanus Snow.
Personally, I wanted The Hunger Games prequel to focus on Haymitch Abernathy or anyone who was there for the Second Quarter Quell. Based on all the information we have, Haymitch’s Hunger Games seems like the most difficult given he had twice the amount of Tributes to outlive. A fourth novel focusing on Haymitch, however, may be unnecessary seeing as the book series gives us a lot of information – most of which actually didn’t end up in the film series. So, if you’re interested in finding out more about Haymitch, his background, and how he won his Hunger Games, here’s a complete profile.
Haymitch’s Pre-Hunger Games Life
Haymitch was 16 when he was reaped for the Second Quarter Quell, so he was not alive long enough to experience the Dark Days (the war that led to the Capitol establishing the Hunger Games to keep the districts in check). He was born in District 12. In the books, Haymitch is described as handsome and has curly dark hair and gray eyes, which is a fairly common look (along with olive skin) for residents of the Seam, the poorest area of the district. If we follow the film series’ depiction of straight blond hair and actor Woody Harrelson’s blue eyes, then Haymitch likely lived in the slightly better merchants’ area with the Mellark family and Katniss’ mother’s family due to their common physical appearance.
The books or film series don’t really delve into Haymitch’s childhood and early teenage years. All we know for sure is that he lived with his mother and younger brother and had a girlfriend. We can deduce, however, that Haymitch grew up watching the Hunger Games as required by the Capitol. He probably knew or went to the same school as Katniss’, Peeta’s, and Madge’s (Katniss’ best friends not mentioned in the films) parents, though it’s unlikely he was friends with any of them. Since he was 16 at the time of the reaping, it’s unknown if he added his name extra times in exchange for tessera (additional food rations) in the four previous years he was eligible to be reaped. He survived the 46th to 49th Hunger Games.
The Second Quarter Quell
Every 25 years, the Capitol holds a special year of the Hunger Games known as the Quarter Quell to celebrate the districts’ defeat during the Dark Days of the rebellion. This is to keep the memory of their defeat fresh by adding a twist that makes the games more difficult to compete. This is to remind the districts of their punishment and remind them of the Capitol’s power over them.
In the First Quarter Quell, citizens of each district had to vote for the children that would go into the arena instead of a random selection. This was to remind them that their choice to rebel is the reason why their children have to die every year. There’s no information who won it.
For the Second Quarter Quell, there would be twice the amount of children in the arena; Four children would be randomly picked instead of just two. This was to remind them that for every Capitol citizen killed in the rebellion, two rebels died. In District 12, aside from one unnamed boy and girl, Haymitch and Maysilee Donner (the twin sister of Madge’s mother) were reaped. Unlike the other District 12 tributes, though, Haymitch knew he had to put on a show and pretended to be someone who was unfazed by the competition. During the parade, he and the other three tributes wore “terrible” coal miner outfits.
The 50th Hunger Games
When Haymitch, Maysilee, and the others saw the arena, most of them were mesmerized by how beautiful the landscape was. The Cornucopia was in the middle of a sweet-smelling green meadow. On one side was a forest while the opposite end was a snow-capped mountain. Haymitch remained focused, however, so when the timer ended and everyone could safely get off their pedestals, Haymitch got his hands on a knife and a backpack filled with choice items and ran to the woods even before the bloodbath began.
Out of the 48 tributes, 18 were killed in the initial bloodbath. Over the next few days, the tributes learned that almost everything in the arena that didn’t come from the cornucopia was deadly. The mountain turned out to be a volcano that erupted and killed 10 more tributes including most of the Career pack. The butterflies stung, and all the animals were either carnivorous or poisonous. The sweet smell was actually a poison that could kill if tributes got too close. The stream water and fruits were poisonous, and the only thing safe to eat and drink was rainwater and the provisions provided in the Cornucopia.
At one point, there were only 13 tributes left, including Haymitch and Maysilee. Haymitch ran into a group of three Careers, and he kills two but nearly dies fighting the third one. Maysilee saves him after using one of her blow-darts covered in poison from the arena. They form a temporary alliance, and Haymitch takes her to walk until the end of the arena, hoping to find something they can use. Over the course of their hike, four more tributes die. They reach the end and only find a deep cliff leading nowhere. Haymitch refuses to leave, so Maysilee breaks up the alliance since only five tributes were left and she did not want to be forced to kill him. Haymitch discovers a force field at the bottom of the cliff after a pebble he kicked bounces back. Immediately after leaving him, she is killed by pink birds with skewer-like beaks that stabbed her in the throat.
Two more tributes are killed in the arena until Haymitch and a female tribute from District 1 remains. As they fight to the death, Haymitch tries to make it back to the edge of the arena. The District 1 tribute disemboweled him, requiring him to hold his intestines in while he ran from her, while he managed to take one of her eyes out, requiring her to keep one hand on her socket to stop the blood flow and use another hand to carry an axe. They reach the edge, and the District 1 tribute unsuccessfully throws the axe at Haymitch but ends up throwing it off the cliff when Haymitch collapses. The District 1 tribute assumes she can still win if Haymitch bleeds to death and waits it out. However, the axe rebounds flies back at her, and lodges itself in her head, killing her and sealing Haymitch as the victor of the 50th Hunger Games.
Post-50th Hunger Games
Haymitch was declared the victor of the Hunger Games. He was immediately rescued by Capitol authorities and treated of all his wounds sustained during the games. Due to their advanced equipment, it’s highly likely that they managed to easily treat his fatal wound.
As a victor, Haymitch was given the special treatment befitting his status. He was crowned by President Snow, given a victory tour, and showered with riches and a home in District 12’s Victor’s Village. Having won the Hunger Games, Haymitch became so rich that he didn’t need to work like all the other citizens of District 12 that were barely getting by. After all, Haymitch was a symbol of hope the Capitol needed to keep the districts in line. However, the Capitol disliked that he had used the force field to his advantage and made him the Capitol look foolish. As punishment, President Snow killed his mother, brother, and girlfriend. It’s implied that their deaths were hushed up because Haymitch was forced to return in all future Hunger Games as a mentor.
Haymitch would spend a few years as a mentor together with the first-ever victor of the Hunger Games (the same person who mentored him). However, that unknown victor died at one point before the 74th Hunger Games, leaving Haymitch to mentor the District 12 tributes on his own. Between his win and Katniss and Peeta’s joint victory, District 12 had no victors for 23 years. The death of his loved ones coupled with the fact that he could not save the 46 tributes under his care really took a toll on him. As a result, he developed a dependency on alcohol and isolates himself from everyone else.
74th Hunger Games
By the time he meets Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark during the 74th Hunger Games reaping, he has become so dependent on alcohol that he is conspicuously drunk during the reaping. Having seen 23 sets of District 12 tributes die in the arena, he has zero confidence in his tributes and assumes and they, too, are going to die. However, when he sees Katniss and Peeta try to fight him, he’s pleased and realizes that the two of them stand a chance of surviving. This motivates him to try and take his role as a mentor seriously.
During the tributes’ training, he instructs them not to reveal their skills to the other tributes and that they should stick together and learn more survival skills. He also instructs them on the importance of being memorable to the audience. While he has an easy time managing Peeta, he and Katniss often butt heads. When Peeta and Katniss are in the arena, Haymitch successfully gets them sponsors to give them aid when necessary. He uses these gifts (or lack thereof) to communicate with Katniss on what she needs to do, both to survive and to “play her role” to win the audience over. He only sends Katniss to sponsor gifts because he believes she has the bigger chance to win, although the fact that Peeta insists on saving Katniss may be another reason.
When both Peeta and Katniss win the 74th Hunger Games, he tells Katniss that the Capitol is furious that she rebelled against them and threatened to kill both herself and Peeta, thus denying them of the victor they need to celebrate every year. He understands the severity of the situation because it’s similar to how he used the Capitol’s force field to his advantage. But unlike him where there was no denying he did it for his own self-interests, he could get Katniss to pretend she did it out of love for Peeta.
Post-74th Hunger Games
After the 74th Hunger Games, Haymitch continues to serve as a mentor for Katniss and Peeta. President Snow confronts Katniss and tells her that some people are seeing her defiance as an act of rebellion. To avoid the Capitol rebelling, she needs to convince the districts that she did it out of love and doesn’t care about rebelling. She confides this with Haymitch, who coaches her to continue the charade. Haymitch convinces her to continue their romance on camera, and later on, tells Peeta as well. Katniss believes that she only needs to pretend to be in love with Peeta until the end of their victory tour, but Haymitch corrects her. Now that she and Peeta are mentors, she will never be allowed to have a private life and will always have to pretend to be in love with Peeta for the rest of her life. Haymitch guides them for the rest of their victory tour before they return home to District 12.
It’s unknown when, but it’s highly likely at this point that Haymitch gets in touch with an underground organization with connections to District 13. He and many other citizens in the districts and the Capitol learn of a plot to take Katniss, bring her to the hidden District 13, and use her as propaganda for their rebellion.
A few months later, President Snow announces the Third Quarter Quell’s twist: to show that even the strongest of the rebels could not survive the might of the Capitol, the tributes will be reaped from the existing pool of victors. Both Katniss and Peeta run to Haymitch’s house, begging him to save the other person. Haymitch says yes to both, knowing very well the plans of District 13 to try and save both. During the reaping, Haymitch’s name is called, but Haymitch is unable to stop Peeta from volunteering in his place.
Third Quarter Quell
Haymitch, serving as a Hunger Games mentor for Katniss and Peeta, changes their strategy. Instead of last year’s strategy where Katniss and Peeta have to stick together and hide their skills, he encourages them to find allies during training. Unknown to Katniss and Peeta, Haymitch is working with the Head Gamemaker, Plutarch Heavensbee, as well as the tributes from Districts 3 (Beetee and Wiress), 4 (Finnick and Mags), 6, 7 (Johanna Mason), 8, and 11. The tributes from these districts work to keep Katniss and Peeta alive, with some (Mags, the District 6 female tribute, Johanna) risking their lives to save them from the arena’s traps and the other tributes. Katniss notices this and is confused about why many would try to save her and Peeta.
Later on, after Katniss successfully blows up the force field protecting the arena. District 13’s hovercraft saves her, Beetee, and Finnick, but leaves Johanna and Peeta behind. Haymitch, Plutarch, and Gale are there to explain to Katniss what’s going on: that there was a plot all along to save Katniss and make her the face of the revolution. Katniss realizes he never meant to keep his promise to protect Peeta, and with him probably captured by the Capitol, she rages at him and attacks him. They continue to yell at each other until she is taken away.
District 13 Rebellion
During Katniss’ first few weeks in the bunker of District 13, we don’t see Haymitch for a while. According to Katniss, he’s somewhere within the bunker being treated until he sobers up due to the withdrawal symptoms he’s experiencing from being off alcohol, which isn’t available in District 13. He returns to the fold when Katniss finally accepts her position as the Mockingjay, and he enters laughing at Katniss’ and Plutarch’s attempts at creating heartfelt propaganda (or “propos” as Plutarch calls it). Haymitch convinces everyone that they can get better footage of Katniss if they give her a natural scenario and let her out into the districts instead of keeping her within the bunker. After everyone but Katniss and Haymitch leaves, they reconcile: Haymitch explains why they were forced to leave Peeta behind, while Katniss explains why she had to let Peeta out of her sight.
While Katniss leaves with her bodyguard and film team, Haymitch serves as Katniss’ mentor, advising her through an earpiece from District 13. During an airstrike from the Capitol in District 8, Haymitch advises Katniss to take cover, but she ignores him in favor of shooting down the Capitol air crafts that blew up a nearby hospital filled with injured District 8 citizens. Upon her return, Haymitch warns Katniss about disobeying his orders, especially since District 13’s president, Alma Coin, stipulated that if Katniss steps out of line, their deal to rescue and pardon Peeta for doing pro-Capitol propaganda will be forfeit.
After Peeta warns District 13 about an incoming attack from the Capitol, Haymitch convinces Coin that the threat is real. The morning after, Katniss is unable to perform in front of the camera and panics when she sees white roses, President Snow’s signature lapel and a reminder that he still has Peeta. When she wakes up, Haymitch is eventually forced to tell her that Gale is part of the rescue team to infiltrate the Capitol. Haymitch comforts Katniss after Peeta attacks her, their relationship improving slightly.
After Katniss successfully makes it into the Capitol along with the rest of the Star Squad, we never really see Haymitch again until after the war is won. Like Katniss, Haymitch did not believe in District 13’s cruel strategies like trapping the District 2 loyalists in a mountain or bombing the front of Snow’s mansion surrounded by children and medics.
Prior to Snow’s execution, all the surviving Hunger Games victors are taken to a room to vote whether or not the new government should hold a final symbolic Hunger Games featuring the children of prominent Capitol politicians, most likely including Snow’s granddaughter. Katniss votes in favor of the games, saying she’s voting yes to avenge Prim’s death. Haymitch, knowing very well that Katniss would never say yes to this idea, realizes Katniss is doing something. He decided to side with her and voted yes. This made Coin pleased as the majority voted in favor of a final Hunger Games, and believes that Katniss will side with her, which is exactly what Katniss wanted. Showing she trusts her, Coin offers to let Katniss shoot the arrow that will execute Snow. However, Katniss uses this opportunity to kill Coin while Snow dies from the angry mob that follows.
After the deaths of Snow and Coin, Haymitch was one of the first District 12 citizens to return to their area, eventually joining Katniss (who was acquitted of murder on the grounds of insanity) and later on Peeta. He continued to drink, but not as much as before. He also raises geese.
Haymitch lived to see many Hunger Games in his life, and his background is more complex than the movie shows. Some people think that his alcoholism and cynicism is just for comedic effect, but when you consider the life he’s lived and the guilt he’s had to carry knowing he was responsible for the deaths of his loved ones and all the previous District 12 tributes, it’s no surprise that Haymitch would be someone who would guide Katniss towards the revolution.
If you prefer to listen than read, I recommend watching MovieFlame’s take on Haymitch. The channel has a very in-depth profile on him and has most of the things I’ve discussed in this article.