The Reaping Is a Brutal Reminder of the Capitol's Power in 'The Hunger Games'

Allison DeGrushe - Author

May 12 2023, Published 4:44 p.m. ET

District 12 reaping event in 2012's 'The Hunger Games'
Source: Lionsgate

We may be quiet, but when it comes to The Hunger Games, we never know when to shut up! The wildly popular sci-fi series is a dystopia set in Panem, a North American country consisting of a wealthy federal district, the Capitol, and 13 outlying districts in differing states of poverty.

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Every year, the first 12 districts participate in a reaping ceremony — if you need a refresher on the event, stick around because we have all the answers you'll ever need.

Peeta, Effie, and Katniss during District 12 reaping event in 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
Source: Lionsgate
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What is the reaping in 'The Hunger Games'?

In case you have forgotten, the reaping is an annual event that decides which tributes will go to the Hunger Games. It occurs in every district and is mandatory for the entire population, especially for those still of reaping age. Speaking of age, children must enter the reaping once they turn 12 years old.

A 12-year-old potential tribute's name is entered one time — however, because the entries are cumulative, they must add one entry each year. This continues until age 18, when a child's name is entered seven times. Once a child turns 19, they are officially ineligible to participate in the reaping and the Hunger Games.

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Katniss volunteered in Prim's place for the 74th Hunger Games.
Source: Lionsgate

In various districts, children between 12 and 18 can apply for tesserae — but it comes with a heavy price. In exchange for a year's supply of grain and oil (collected every month), the child is entered into the reaping an additional time for every tessera claimed that year.

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The tesserae entries are also cumulative, so if it's claimed year after year for multiple people, the chances of being reaped will increase dramatically. This is the reason for Katniss and Gale's extra entries in the 74th Hunger Games; she had 20 entries, and he had 42.

Another child may volunteer to take the place of a reaped tribute.

When it comes to picking the tributes, each district's escort randomly selects the name of one male and one female tribute from two separate glass balls. Those picked are the official tributes for the upcoming Hunger Games. Now, if someone chooses to, another child of reaping age may volunteer to take the place of a tribute.

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It's very rare for someone to volunteer, as participating in the Hunger Games is seen as a death sentence — Katniss was the first District 12 volunteer in decades. The reason for volunteering varies, such as to protect or save the reaped tribute. This was the case for Katniss, who volunteered for her sister Primrose in the 74th Hunger Games.

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The rules regarding volunteering are never fully specified, but it's quite a simple process in most places except for the Career districts. The reaping in those districts takes hours, as there is usually more than one volunteer vying for a spot in the games (they train their whole lives for this moment).

It's known, however, that a child of reaping age may only volunteer for a tribute that's the same sex as their own — so, a female volunteer can't take the place of a male reaped tribute and vice versa.

May the odds be ever in your favor!

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