Katniss Everdeen, the protagonist of Suzanne Collins’s popular Hunger Games series, embodies many of the qualities found in the Maiden Goddess Archetype. In particular, she resembles Artemis, the Greek Goddess of the Hunt and Protection, also known as the Bringer of Light. Artemis’s Roman counterpart is Diana.
Katniss and Artemis share the following attributes:
Highly skilled archer
Wishes to remain childless
Most at home in the forest
Brave and impetuous
Bringers of Light
Despite these similarities, Katniss and Artemis perceive the world and react to it quite differently. How could they not when one is an oppressed, impoverished human, and the other is an unconstrained, privileged immortal?
When Artemis was three years-old, according to the Greek poet and scholar, Callimachus (305BC-240BC) in his Hymn 3 to Artemis, the goddess asked her father, Zeus, “Give me keep my maidenhood forever.” The young goddess also asked for a bow and arrows fashioned by the Cyclopes, and an embroidered hunting tunic reaching her knee “that I may slay wild beasts.” She asked for sixty daughters of Okeanos, all nine-year-old virgins, for her choir, and twenty Nymphs to tend her buskins (high, thick-soled shoes) and her hounds. Artemis also requested all the mountains to dwell upon, and to be Phaesphoria, Bringer of Light. Zeus granted his daughter’s demands and more, enabling her to live without constraints, free of marriage and childbirth.
Katniss, like Artemis, is a Maiden Huntress. Her greatest strengths are her prowess with a bow and arrow, and her knowledge of the forest and hunting. Unlike the goddess’s world, Katniss’s world is one of constraint and government oppression. It is illegal for her and the other residents of District Twelve to enter the forest. Katniss and her longtime friend, Gale, risk severe punishment whenever they hunt in the woods. But Katniss cannot resist the forbidden forest, it’s where her most tangible links to her late father—his bow and arrows are—hidden. Katniss feels most free in the woods, but she is never free. She hunts out of necessity. If she fails, her family will starve.
The motivating force in Katniss’s life is her desire to protect Prim, her younger sister. When Prim’s name is drawn during The Reaping, a government mandated lottery in which a boy and girl from each district is chosen to fight to the death in an extreme reality show, The Hunger Games, Katniss volunteers to take Prim’s place.
Katniss cannot imagine bringing children into a world where they will be condemned to lifelong poverty and oppression. Her unwillingness to subject her future children to The Reaping prevents her from fully committing to Gale, or her fellow District Twelve tribute, Peeta. Whereas Artemis chooses eternal virginity as a means to escape the responsibilities of marriage and children, Katniss views spinsterhood and childlessness as her only moral option.
Copyright 2012 by Ariella Moon
Copyright 2012 by Ariella Moon
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