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Are the Hunger Games and Saltburn Connected to Greek Mythology?

Warning: contains spoilers!

As an avid reader and film enjoyer, I've recently read The Hunger Games books and also caved into the trend of watching Saltburn. I couldn't help but notice the similarities to a Greek myth. The Greek story I'll be talking about is the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, which has been represented in many modern movies. The quick summary of the myth for those who don't know is the king of Crete Minos was gifted a bull by Poseidon for sacrifice, instead he kept it alive. As punishment, Poseidon made Minos' wife Pasiphae fall in love with the bull and have a child with it. The offspring became the Minotaur and was kept in a labyrinth created for Minos.  

Theseus, a heroic demigod, arrived in Athens one year. His destiny was to stop the sacrificial practice. He volunteered to be one of the nine sacrifices, citizens had no idea he was planning to kill the Minotaur. As he paraded through Crete he caught the eye of Minos' daughter, Adridne. She then gave him a ball of yarn so he could make his way out. He was successful in killing the minotaur, freeing the sacrificed children and escaping. Theseus then manipulates the royal family and eventually wins the crown to himself. 

Katniss from The Hunger Games shooting with her bow and arrow
Photo: Lionsgate Entertainment
The Hunger Games

The series The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, is loosely based on the classic myth. You can gather this by how she's made her books include human sacrifices which are similar to Minos demanding Athens sends tributes every nine years into the maze. He did this because he sent his son, who then died, so he took over Athens and made his demands. These sacrifices would then try to go against the Minotaur ultimately being killed.

The Hunger Games catches this essence in many ways. The citizens were horrified whereas Panem was fascinated. Katniss embodies Theseus by being able to be aware. She also succeeds in her mission just like Theseus. In both the myth and the books there is a creature whose sole purpose is to kill children. For Theseus, it's the minotaur and for Katniss, it's President Snow. The two defeated their obstacle and were rewarded with their love, Peeta, and Minos' daughter Ariadne. 

Another way the myth and books are similar is their sacrifices. Panem sends 24 children, one boy and one girl, from each district. This was to keep order of the nation and to play as entertainment for the people of Panem. In the myth, they sacrifice 14 children to also keep order in the nation. The children act as sacrificial lambs, which were used for oaths in Ancient Greece. This is to keep the power of both. 

The arena is in a way just like the labyrinth, no one is supposed to win. It's to show that Panem isn't just made out of the blue and how evil humans can be throughout decades. Theseus does the unimaginable by killing the Minotaur, Katniss does the same by leading the rebellion. Katniss is based on Theseus and the goddess Artemis because of the warriors and her bow and arrow. 

A still from the movie Saltburn, depicting character Oliver looking out at a chaotic scene on Saltburn's grounds
Photo: Amazon Content Services LLC

Saltburn is based in the early 2000s following an Oxford student Oliver Quick. Quick is shown to be introverted and cast aside, that is, until he meets Felix Catton, the popular wealthy student. Felix takes Oliver under his wing and introduces him to a wholly different world.

Felix invites Oliver to stay at his family estate, Saltburn. While at Saltburn, there are heavy easter eggs to Greek mythology, the biggest one being the Minotaur statue in the middle of the maze that's on Saltburn's grounds. On Oliver's birthday, he and Felix have an argument which causes Oliver to spiral because of his obsession. This leads to Oliver poisoning Felix in the maze just below the Minotaur. Felix wears white wings hinting at Icarus, or maybe an angel - Oliver wears antlers hinting at the Minotaur. 

The link between Oliver and the Minotaur is obvious. The two clear hints are his headgear at his birthday and the fact that the Minotaur's body was moulded to be the same as Barry Keoghan's (who plays Oliver Quick) body. You can also tell this by how distant Oliver is in the movie just like how the Minotaur is secluded from society in the maze. Like the Minotaur, Oliver has an animal-like nature that takes over him. Oliver's name, Quick, can also be referenced to the Minotaur by its connotation of animalistic instincts. 

However, the symbolism could be different. Felix could be the Minotaur, especially since we only get to see him through Oliver's eyes. Another reason is Felix is known to bring home introverted friends meaning they are the sacrifices. It can also be seen as Oliver being Theseus and being the hero who has slaughtered the Minotaur and taken the throne of Saltburn for himself.  It is shown that Oliver is a master manipulator and has gotten rid of the entire Catton power. 

The most disturbing scene of the movie is when Oliver pleasures himself with Felix's grave. It is clear that even the ancient Greeks would be horrified by this since they took great pride in respecting the dead. Although, they did like to research the link between limbo and spiritual rituals. The Greeks believed there were blurred lines between death and life. This could also indicate Oliver having a rebirth; Oliver could've been the Minotaur, rebirthed into Theseus, making the killing of the Minotaur at his own hand.

Feel free to comment your opinions on either subject!


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