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I've watched The Hunger Games and Catching Fire a couple of times and I can't seem to find an answer to the following:

Is the world of Panem our own world, but in the future, or is it a parallel world to our own? From what I've been able to deduce, I can't find a clear answer.

We know that Panem lies in the place that used to be called North America, which means it is clearly a version of our world, but that could mean either a possible future for us or an alternate version, where our world and the Panem world diverged sometime after North America became known as such.

What got me thinking that it could be the latter rather than the first is the fact that there is (were) thirteen Colonies, and when America was founded there was thirteen colonies (later known as states).

Does anyone know which it is?


Further Explanation

Is the timeline and happenings of the Hunger Games like A or B of the following:

Timeline A:

AD starts --- America is colonised --- American revolution --- Our modern time --- Unknown period --- The Hunger Games

Timeline B: AD starts --- America is Colonised --- Unknown period --- The Hunger Games.

Is The Hunger Games in an alternate timeline to our own, or is it a possible future in our own timeline?

  • I've thought of that, too. The reason is that, from what I've read, and in the movies, I've come across no mention of the US, Canada, or Mexico having existed in the past, only "North America," which hints that perhaps these nations never existed in the HG universe. – user32801 Mar 27 '16 at 18:46
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If it "used" to be called North America, then it's a safe bet that the reference to past-tense means it's a future version of our planet.

From my understanding (and this site, and this site), it's set in a post-apocalyptic North America in our own universe.

  • Yes, but like the question states, it could still be a parallel to our own world, which diverged from ours some time after North America became known as such. I'll add more explanation in the question. – Gunnar Södergren Oct 2 '14 at 13:02
  • @GunnarSödergren ... Having read the books and seen the movies (to this point), I'm fairly confident Johnny Bones is correct. This is based on a post-apocalyptic North American in our own universe and not some alternate reality. This is a future which could be. How can you differentiate something which has not occurred yet? – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Oct 2 '14 at 13:46
  • @Paulster2 Alright, sounds like a good source. Well, my thoughts were not that it would be an alternative reality AND a future. I rather meant that it could roughly our time, plus minus some years, but in an alternate reality. One in which, as I touch at in the comments, USA never expanded into 50 states, but rather remained thirteen colonies and at some point, was ravaged by an apocalypse. Post-apocalyptic doesn't necessarily mean future. I'll look throught the links that Johnny post again (checked them when he first posted them), and tick the answer after that. – Gunnar Södergren Oct 2 '14 at 13:56
  • @GunnarSödergren ... I don't know if you are, but don't get the 13 Districts confused with the original 13 colonies. The coverage of the 13 Districts of Panem covers all of what we consider the US (if not part of Canada and Mexico as well). It is sort of born out in some of the graphics you'll find on the internet. There is no relationship other than the number. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Oct 2 '14 at 14:05
  • No no, I'm not getting them confused, I realize that they very likely could have nothing do you with each other, apart from the number (like you said). It is however an interesting coincidence and they COULD be the same. Given that HG is an alternate world (and not a future possibility of our own), which diverges from ours at some point after the colonisation of America by the british. – Gunnar Södergren Oct 2 '14 at 14:11
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According to this interview with TIME magazine with Suzanne Collins ...

The Hunger Games is set far in the future.

and in this interview (discussing whether she would cameo in the films)

Collins is staying off-camera. "It's (set) in the future and to be in it would be alarming. I have no need to do a cameo."


I think we can safely assume she means the far future of our own world.

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The Hunger Games is annoyingly bereft on any details about the world before "modern day" Panem.

We barely get any information about Before The Dark Days, (The first rebellion of the Districts against the Capitol, which lead to the Treaty of the Treason, and the Hunger Games being formed 74 years before the events of the books/movies). We don't even know about the rest of the world, let alone before Panem. All we have is the Mayor's speech, via Katniss' internal monologue.

He tells of the history of Panem, the country that rose up out of the ashes that was once called North America. He lists the disasters, the droughts, the storms, the fires, the encroaching seas that swallowed up so much of the land, the brutal war for what little sustenance remained. the result was Panem, a shining Capitol ringed by thirteen districts, which brought peace and prosperity to its citizens. Then came the Dark Days, the uprising of the districts against the Capitol. Twelve were defeated, the thirteenth obliterated. The Treaty of Treason gaves us the new laws to guarantee peace and, as our yearly reminder that the Dark Days must never be repeated, it gave us the Hunger Games."

Aside from that, all we know is that Rome/Latin existed, and that the Capitol is in the Rockies. Specifically named the Rockies.

[It isn’t until Mockingjay however that we learn the ironic meaning of “Panem.” I had thought the name was a variation of Pan-America, and maybe in one sense it is. As I had forgotten, District 12 was once Appalachia, and the Capitol was in the place “once called the Rockies.” [HG, 47] But we find in Mockingjay there is a more sinister association when Plutarch explains it to Katniss:]

It’s a saying from thousands of years ago, written in a language called Latin about a place called Rome, he explains. “Panem et Circenses translates into ‘Bread and Circuses.’ The writer was saying that in return for full bellies and entertainment, his people had given up their political responsibilities and therefore their power. [MJ, 223]

The Rockies weren't called that until late 1700s or early 1800s depending on your source, as western (mis)translations of the indian name for the mountains.


Neither of these are concrete evidence against a divergent timeline, but considering that there would be no point in considering it one without any evidence to that effect. Here, the absence of evidence is evidence to an absence thereof. Had Suzanne Collins intended it to not be our future, she would have made a point to mention it. In a interview with Scholastic, she specifically points out the timeline though:

Q: How long would it take for North America to deteriorate into the world depicted in the books?
A: You’d have to allow for the collapse of civilization as we know it, the emergence of Panem, a rebellion, and seventy-four years of the Hunger Games. We’re talking triple digits.

So Panem is minimum 200+ years into the future of North America. No correction about the question, no hemming and hawing. Frankly, as a story set a few centuries into the future, there is no need to change the back story of the setting, in somehow changing the past of the real world.

Furthermore, in that same interview, she compared Roman entertainment (Gladiators) to modern entertainment (Reality TV), and in the story, she uses the cliche of those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it, by having Coin trying to establish a Hunger Games for the Capitol's children. The literary theme would be ruined had something significantly changed the background of the story.

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