After watching the popular film The Hunger Games, and then reading the young adult novel upon which the movie is based, I can’t help but focus on how plants helped the protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, survive. The book in particular goes into detail about how Katniss worked with the plants to some degree, and about how Rue, the eleven-year-old tribute from District 11, in particular relied heavily on plants for nourishment and healing.
I think some of the popularity of the book and movie lies in the fact that it strikes a chord with so many of us. How might we survive if we were thrown into an environment and expected to fight for our lives? How might we fare if we had rely entirely on ourselves for finding food, shelter, for healing ourselves (with little hope of receiving helpful gifts from sponsors)? It’s a classic tale of self-reliance, and this version, I think, is particularly evocative.
Being plant savvy, I latched on the role of plants in the possibility for survival–in particular in the realm of edible and medicinal uses, though of course plants are helpful in the realms of creating tools, building fires, making shelters. Here are just a few random notes about how plants appeared as edible and medicinal allies in the tale, and some of my musings.
In a back story, Katniss turns her family’s situation around, saving them and herself from starvation after her father’s death, by gathering edible plants, starting with Dandelion!
In the book, Rue is skilled in edible and medicinal plants. Plants for drawing out venom and soothing the pain/discomfort of stings. In the book (and movie), Rue tends Katniss stings with poultices of a particular leaf. Later (in the book) Katniss uses her experience with those leaves (learned from Rue) of drawing out venom to attempt to draw out the infection in Peeta’s wounds using the same leaf. While this action wasn’t totally successful, it showed just the kind of thinking you need to have as an herbalist!
Edible berries–and knowing which are poisonous–was a matter of life and death and life in the story. I won’t say anymore about that!
Katniss soothes herself emotionally with Honeysuckle nectar when she recovers from the tracker jacker hallucinations.
What might she have used–plant and other-wise–to help her soothe and heal her burns, if available, or her many scratches, bruises? How about that very severe burn? Is there anything she could have done to treat that burn? How might she have found water from the plants?
Katniss early in the games, seeking water, stops at a pine, peels back bark to inner bark, and eats that as survival food. Which trees in your area might you be able to eat? What other survival food might you look for?
Recall that one of the training stations had to do with identifying plant ID. What do you look for in identifying plants? How do you begin? (plant families, hazardous lookalikes, basics of plant anatomy …)
And, yes, there really is a Katniss plant. Katniss is an edible, bulby water plant also known as “Arrowhead” and several other names. Read more about the Katniss plant here. For that matter, Katniss’ sister Primrose, and her ally Rue are named for plants ….
I’ll be answering some of the questions above, and offering “food for thought” about how you might begin viewing the plants in your environment in terms of survival. Consider it a “what would you do if–“ exercise. You never know when life, or heck, the breakdown of our society, might throw you into some kind of ‘hunger game’.