Written by @EllieDangerous
The odds were in her favour. A memorable character in the YA books by Suzanne Collins, and beautifully portrayed by Amandla Stenberg in the movies that followed, Rue is the youngest tribute in the 74th annual Hunger Games. Armed not with arrows and knives but with heart, gumption, and a smile in the face of danger, Rue is just as important a symbol as the legendary Mockingjay. Katniss is the rebel, and Rue is the cause.

Spoiler Alert
The Hunger Games is an annual battle royale in the post-apocalyptic setting of Panem, a country run by an authoritarian-totalitarian dictatorship. Seventy-four years ago, Panem’s thirteen districts rebelled against the dictatorship, AKA the Capitol, and were punished with the Games. Every year, the Capitol uses a lottery to select a teenage boy and girl from each district. The older you are, the more times your name is submitted to the lottery. Being only twelve years old, the chance of Rue being selected was small... but here we are.
Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favour.
— Effie Trinket
Chance was also on the side of another little lass — Prim Everdeen. When Prim is selected for the Games, Katniss makes history by volunteering to take her sister’s place. After three books and four movies at Katniss’ side, we can easily hypothesise that she would have done the same for Rue. Time and again, Katniss volunteers her own life in exchange for the safety of good and innocent people.

Rue is a good and innocent person. We know it when we first encounter her at a Games training session, where she swipes the weapon of the group’s most dangerous fighter — much to his bemusement, and Katniss’ amusement. Despite being savvy enough to understand that these Games mean probable death, Rue manages a mischievous smirk. We’re endeared from the get-go.

Warmth is further demonstrated by her belief that battles can be won without violence. Yes her slingshot can sting like a tracker jacker, but Rue relies on stealth, speed, and communion with nature to survive long after much older and stronger contenders have been killed.
I'm hard to catch. If they can't catch me they can't kill me. So don't count me out.
— Rue
You could argue that befriending Katniss is another string to Rue’s self-preservational bow; a survival technique as valid as hiding in the trees. After all, it’s no secret that Katniss volunteered to die in place of Prim, who shares numerous characteristics with Rue. But using Katniss for mere survival is not Rue’s way. She’s not one of Panem’s “career tributes”, raised to force and exploit her way to victory. Furthermore, it’s clear she genuinely likes Katniss, teasing her about her romance with Peeta and cuddling to her side at night. By saving her from bloodthirsty career tributes and poisonous tracker jackers, Rue singles out Katniss not just as a useful ally — but as a welcome friend.

On the face of it, Rue’s death sparks an uproar because she was so young; a blameless child put to death by the barbarous Capitol. But twelve-year-olds have always died in the Games. The first to be killed in ‘The Hunger Games’ movie, well before Rue, is a curly-haired cherub who can’t be much older. Rue’s death ignites a flame because she was special. Like Katniss, she was enough to shift the stubborn world on its axis.

Rue’s friendship, warmth, and nonviolence in the company of carnage are reasons why her influence on Katniss lingers far beyond her passing. Rue’s quick but meaningful life ends at the tip of a spear, and Katniss sings her to sleep. Before Rue’s body is taken out of the Games by the Capitol, Katniss surrounds her with bright flowers; a gesture of respect that ripples throughout the districts until those ripples become waves.

‘Catching Fire’, the sequel to ‘The Hunger Games’, sees Katniss and Peeta entered into the Games a second time. As they prepare, Peeta paints an image of Rue surrounded by bright flowers, silently reminding Katniss of her cause. In a long divided country, Rue helps prove that togetherness is mighty.
Our lives aren't just measured in years. They're measured in the lives of people we touch around us.
— Peeta Mellark
Ellie Ball is the founder of Good Characters, and someone who enjoys coffee cake a great deal. She is a graduate of the Scriptwriting MA at Goldsmiths, University of London. For fun and respite, check out her TV analysis articles on Bang2Write or tweet coffee cake at her @EllieDangerous.
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Published on 27 April 2018
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