Fanfiction exists because of a lot of us fandom members like wondering if things turned out differently. What if Harry Potter was sorted into a different Hogwarts House? What if Percy Jackson was actually the son of two Greek Gods? What if Ned Stark didn’t die in the first book?
These questions are also common in the Hunger Games fandom. One question I always see is what would have happened in the Hunger Games universe if Katniss just killed Peeta in the arena during the 74th Hunger Games? Would Peeta dying have any effect at all? And I’d actually have to say that yes, it does. A lot of jokes on the internet show Katniss as the strong dominant figure and Peeta as the weak ones, but Peeta’s survival would have changed the events of Panem completely. Take note that this article is just me speculating, but I’m basing it off the character personalities in the books.
Technically, Peeta Did Die in the Hunger Games
Let’s get this out of the way because a lot of people seem to ask this. No, Peeta did not die in the 74th Hunger Games. He was severely wounded by District 2’s Cato, but he did not die. In the 75th Hunger Games, however, he technically did die, but only for a moment. While Katniss, Peeta, and District 4’s Mags and Finnick were exploring the jungle arena, they reached the edge of the arena protected by a force field. Katniss had warned Peeta too late about the force field and he was shocked after he tried to hit a branch that was actually a force field’s camouflage.
Peeta was electrocuted, and when Katniss listened for his heartbeat, she couldn’t hear anything. However, Finnick revived him uses mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and his heart started beating once more. So, technically, you could say Peeta died in the Hunger Games, but only for a while.
What If Peeta Died in the 74th Hunger Games?
Now, onto the real question: What if Peeta died in the 74th Hunger Games? Let’s recap and lay out the facts.
The 74th Hunger Games in a Nutshell
Peeta was a part of the 74th Hunger Games reaping at the age of 16, the same age as Katniss Everdeen. It was fate that, after Katniss volunteered in place of her sister, the male tribute that got reaped was the boy who had had a crush on her for years and once provided her with bread when she was at her lowest. According to Peeta, when his family went to say goodbye to him, his mother said that District 12 could finally have a victor, but she was referring to Katniss and it was clear she did not expect her son to survive the games.
Peeta and Katniss get sent to the Capitol to train for a few days before being sent to the arena. Peeta’s skills include camouflage and strength while Katniss’s skills are hunting and archery. To stay memorable, Peeta and Katniss play the role as star-crossed lovers, though while it’s real for Peeta, Katniss is unsure about how she feels for him. During the games, Katniss initially believes that the whole thing was a ruse as Peeta apparently has joined the Career pack looking to hunt her down. When Katniss is in a hallucinatory state, she sees Peeta telling her to run, so she’s unsure whether she imagined it or not.
Later on, the Games announce a change in rules that two tributes can win if they come from the same district, a rule that could benefit Katniss and Peeta as well as Cato and Clove from District 2. Katniss later searches for him and finds him badly wounded after Cato attacks him; Peeta telling her to run was real, and Cato caught him. Peeta’s wound is infected and he catches a bad fever, but Katniss risks her life obtaining medicine and nearly dies when Clove tries to kill her, but Thresh kills Clove and (against Hunger Games’ survival instincts) spares Katniss.
They survive to the end by killing Cato, but the rules are changed once more to only allow one victor. Peeta insists Katniss kills him so she can survive, but she doesn’t want to do it as it’s not fair to Peeta. Knowing that the Capitol will lose if they have no victor, she takes the poisonous nightlock berries and says that both of them will die instead. However, before they can eat the berries, they are declared co-victors and win the games. Some people in the districts see their act as one out of defiance rather than their act as star-crossed lovers, setting into motion the events of Catching Fire.
If Peeta Died During the Start of the Games
At the start of the Games, Peeta is seen running into the forest, taking Haymitch’s advice to ignore the Cornucopia and the bloodbath that’s sure to follow and get away from the carnage. In Katniss’s point-of-view, he looks at her as if he knows she’s considering running towards the bow and arrows in the middle of the Cornucopia and is advising her not to do it. His distraction annoys Katniss as she gets a late start at getting off her pedestal and running for one of the backpacks.
Let’s say that Peeta doesn’t follow Haymitch’s orders and instead heads for a backpack or some weapons. Or, he’s not fast enough to run and another tribute (probably one of the Careers) kills him. Or, when Clove tries to kill Katniss with one of her throwing knives, Peeta steps in to take a knife for her. Katniss would either find out on-the-spot to witness his death or would find out later on when the Gamemakers would announce the dead tributes in the sky. Given that the only intimate moment they shared together was the night before the Games, Katniss would’ve felt sad for his death and might have even cried for him, but he hasn’t saved her life or lived long enough for them to form a close relationship like they did towards the end of the games. Katniss would mourn his death, but her survival instincts would have kicked in and she would have moved on.
The Games continue, and with Peeta dead, the only way Haymitch can sell the star-crossed lovers arc to sponsors is by saying something along the lines of “Peeta would have wanted her to live.” Katniss would instantly win the sympathy vote for as long as she can pretend to mourn Peeta’s loss, and given that the 74th Hunger Games lasted 18 days, she might have been able to hold onto the ruse for at least a week before most of the Capitol sponsors moved on.
It’s tricky to say whether or not Katniss lives. Let’s say the Careers caught Katniss and she’s once again stuck in a tree with them waiting at the bottom. When she finally does use the tracker jacker hive on them, she is stunned in her hallucination after also getting stung. Would it have been possible for her to still run even if Peeta wasn’t there? Possibly, if she saw Cato coming for her. But for this theorizing, let’s assume she does.
After mourning Rue’s death, the Gamemakers cannot use Katniss and Peeta’s star-crossed lovers act to set up the “victors from the same district” rule since this would only affect Cato and Clove and, based on Katniss’ view, it’s highly likely that they didn’t use a similar romantic plot for themselves. Since they were the only two Careers remaining, it’s possible that they decide to split up rather than to turn on each other, since Katniss witnesses Cato begging Clove to “stay with him” after she dies by Thresh’s attack. There would be no feast since Katniss doesn’t need medicine and wouldn’t be inclined to go to the Cornucopia like all the other tributes.
Katniss would have a 1 in 3 chance of winning the Games because the final tributes would most likely be Katniss, Cato, and Foxface. It’s clear Clove knows about Katniss’s closeness with Rue and would find and torture her about it. If Thresh hears this, he’ll kill her, and then Cato will come for him. Thresh and Cato are similar in terms of build and strength, but given Cato’s closeness with Clove, he might be emotionally powered to kill Thresh. And without Peeta accidentally picking night lock, Foxface won’t be poisoned. Overall, I think Katniss will still win between the three. She has Foxface’s survival skills and Cato’s offensive skills. Foxface cannot hide forever – the Gamemakers won’t want the Games to end with a boring win – and Cato can barely stay sane since the Career supplies have been taken.
In short, District 12 gets its new victor after 24 years, Seneca Crane lives to run the Third Quarter Quell, and it’s just another Hunger Games that doesn’t stand out. Katniss becomes a mentor with Haymitch, guiding the future District 12 tributes. Unfortunately for Katniss, she’s likely to be considered desirable by Capitol citizens. Snow, knowing how much Katniss loves her sister, will hold Prim over Katniss’s head in order for her to do his bidding. To protect Prim, Katniss will be driven to follow Snow. At one point in the books, Katniss mentioned that if she wasn’t good with a bow and arrow, she’d probably sell her body to Cray, the Head Peacekeeper of District 12 who was known to pay young women to sleep with him. If doing Snow’s bidding would keep her mother and sister alive, Katniss would do it.
If Peeta Died of Tracker Jacker Venom
When Katniss drops the tracker jacker hive on the Career pack, it stings all the other Careers (as well as Katniss) and kills Glimmer from District 1 and the girl from District 4 (though the latter isn’t a Career in the film). What if Peeta were one of the unfortunate ones to die during this?
Well, assuming Katniss wins the Hunger Games, she will be vilified for her actions. It’s mentioned in the books how kids from the same district don’t always form alliances together, but they almost never end up killing the other person from their district. Not only would it destroy their star-crossed lovers arc (making it difficult for Haymitch to gather sponsors), but it would make Katniss look like a ruthless killer who would kill anyone that was a threat to her. Assuming Peeta didn’t make it clear that he was a double-agent to the audience, they would have come off as people who pretended to be in love for sympathy. When Katniss returns home, she’ll be hated by most of the citizens who think it’s a huge no-no to kill someone from your own district. She’ll win, but she’ll be one of the most hated victors for a while. The only consolation there for Katniss is that if she isn’t as popular, there’ll be fewer people in the Capitol who consider her desirable. Seneca Crane lives, no rebellion.
If Peeta Died of His Wound
In an attempt to save Katniss, he runs back to her tree, sees her hallucinating, and tells her to run. She does, but Cato spots him helping her. Peeta manages to escape, but he sustains a huge wound on his upper thigh. Peeta uses mud, dirt, and other natural debris to camouflage himself by the stream. Meanwhile, Katniss teams up with Rue and later mourns her death. The Gamemakers change the rules and announce that two tributes from the same district can win. But what if, unfortunately, Katniss never thinks about searching for him by the stream and Peeta eventually dies from a combination of blood loss and blood poisoning.
With five other tributes left, Katniss hears the canon and wonders who died. She waits for the evening and mourns Peeta when she sees his name and photo announced in the sky. The same situation applies to if Peeta dies in the bloodbath. The only difference is that since Peeta died in the middle of the games, Katniss can play the grieving lover out towards the end of the games to earn sympathy and get sponsors on her side. Katniss also wins the games thinking that she and Peeta could have won together, since the rule hadn’t been retracted, and would live with the guilt that she didn’t find Peeta in time. The same fate as Peeta’s death in the bloodbath also awaits Katniss. Seneca Crane lives, no rebellion.
If Peeta Died By Nightlock
While Katniss is hunting for game, Peeta goes searching for berries and other things they can eat. He collects berries he assumes are edible, but Foxface sneaks behind him to steal what he gathered. She eats it and dies almost instantly. Katniss discovers that Peeta almost ate nightlock, an extremely poisonous berry.
What if Peeta ate some of the berries while collecting? Well, the only difference here is Foxface’s fate. If Peeta eats the berries first, Foxface would see him die and avoid the berries, preventing her death. There’s a chance Katniss may have seen her, but knowing Foxface’s strategy, I don’t think she’ll be sticking around to console her. Katniss’ fate would be similar to if Peeta died from his wounds. It’s not her fault, but she might think that she could have saved him if she just watched over him. Foxface would still die, possibly to the mutts since it shows that she doesn’t have much combat or flight skills. Seneca Crane lives, and still no rebellion.
If Peeta Died By Cato
Towards the end of the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta run from a pack of mutations. The reach the Cornucopia and climb it for safety, but Cato was already there and duels them while the mutts await at the bottom. Eventually, Cato has Peeta in a chokehold and can easily kill Peeta by suffocation or breaking his neck. However, Katniss finds an opening to safely shoot Cato in the hand and Peeta goes free and pushes Cato off the Cornucopia. As a show of mercy, Katniss shoots Cato in the head to kill him instantly rather than leaving him with the mutts.
If Cato snapped Peeta’s neck, Katniss would have no reason not to shoot him with an arrow and he’d fall down to the bottom and die. Katniss’ fate is similar to what would happen if he died from his wounds, except she wouldn’t get the chance to use Peeta’s death to her advantage since she already won the games. Seneca Crane lives, no rebellion.
If Peeta Killed Himself
After Cato’s death, Katniss and Peeta should have been declared victors. However, it’s revealed that the Gamemakers have revoked their rule change, and now only one of them can live. Peeta insists Katniss kills him so she can live, but Katniss suggests they both die by eating nightlock. Because the Gamemakers need a victor to tout around as their symbol of hope for the districts, Seneca Crane decides can’t have a Games with no winner and they’re both announced victors before they can eat the nightlock.
Unlike Peeta’s tracker jacker death, Peeta has allowed Katniss to kill him so she can live. Instead of cold-blooded murder, it looks like the ultimate sacrifice for a boy in love with a girl. If Katniss does kill him by her arrow or with the nightlock, it won’t destroy their star-crossed lovers arc especially if she is visibly having difficulty carrying out the task.
The Capitol will enjoy this not only because they diffused the situation, but they showed how powerful they are by forcing Katniss to kill Peeta if she wants to survive. She cannot be the face of a revolution if she’s doing exactly what they want her to do. She wins, but her fate is the same. Seneca Crane lives, no rebellion.
If Peeta AND Katniss Died By Nightlock
In all these possible deaths, we’ve only talked about what happens if Peeta dies and Katniss wins the Games. But what if both Peeta and Katniss die at the end and end up eating the berries? In Catching Fire, Snow tells Katniss that he wouldn’t have this big of a problem if Seneca Crane simply let both of them die and have no winner, so what if Snow intervened and told Crane to let them both die?
Both Peeta and Katniss dying would have been another act of defying the Capitol. The Capitol needs a victor to parade around the districts because, apparently, it gives people hope. Although it’s not mentioned in the books, in the films Snow talks to Crane about why the games exist. If they wanted fear alone, they would simply randomly pick children from the districts and shoot all of them so it’s much more efficient. But a victor gives hope. Not so much hope that they think they can rebel, but enough hope that people can still be controlled.
If both Peeta and Katniss died, District 13 and those planning to rebel would see this as the act of martyrs, choosing to die rather than become a pawn of the Capitol. Some people can see it this way, but not enough. In fact, Snow was right to think that both of them dead would have been better than both of them alive. With Katniss and Peeta dead, no one can definitively say that they did it because they hated the Capitol or because they couldn’t bear to be apart.
With both of them alive, however, it makes the Capitol look weak because it looked like a 16-year-old girl forced them to change their decision to her choice. And the fact that she walked away unscathed can rally those planning to rebel. And no one knows this better than Peeta and Katniss’ own mentor, Haymitch. Haymitch’s Hunger Games ended because Haymitch turned the arena’s force field into a weapon of his own, humiliating the Capitol because he used their own tech to his advantage. As a result, his mother, younger brother, and girlfriend were killed. This is why he understands the situation Peeta and Katniss are in.
Seneca Crane would most likely die, joining Peeta and Katniss as the next nightlock victims. The rebellion, however, is unlikely. Or a small and weak one the Capitol can easily subdue, especially since they don’t have a face for the revolution.