Tributes are residents of the 12 districts of Panem who are forced to participate in an annual Hunger Games. Except in special cases, such as for Quarter Quells. Twenty-four children between the ages of 12 and 18 are chosen at random. Every district must give two tributes, a girl and a boy. The circumstances may be different if it is a Quarter Quell, like the 50th Hunger Games. That year, each district had to send two boys and two girls to compete, thus providing a total of 48 tributes. A twist was also applied to the 25th Hunger Games, in which the districts, instead of choosing their tributes at random, had to pick their own tributes. In the 75th and final Hunger Games, the tributes were chosen, or "reaped," from the existing pool of victors. The chosen tributes will fight to the death in an arena, until only one remains, there are only two known exceptions to this: the 74th and 75th where they had two victors in the 74th, and no victor in the 75th as the games never finished, with 6 tributes surviving.
Choosing the Tributes
Each year, all children aged twelve to eighteen are separated into their respective age groups and designated to different areas. There are two glass balls, one for the boys and one for the girls, that contain slips of paper with the names of all the children of that district. Children who are twelve are entered once. Children who are thirteen have their names entered twice and so on until they are eighteen with seven entries. A child's name may be entered more times, if they opt to receive tesserae. For each tesserae taken by a child (with a maximum of however many people are in his or her family), their name is added an extra time in exchange for a year's supply of grain and oil for one person. However, these entries are cumulative, so all entries get rolled over to the next year. Gale Hawthorne took tesserae for five family members since he was first entered into the reaping, and so had his name entered forty-two times by the 74th Hunger Games. Similarly, Katniss Everdeen had her name entered twenty times. Her sister, Primrose Everdeen (Prim), had her name entered once, since Katniss refused to let her take tesserae despite Prim's protests against it.
The district's escort picks a name out of each of the glass balls, ladies first, and the two children whose names are chosen become the district's new tributes. In the 74th Hunger Games, Prim was selected first by Effie, but Katniss volunteers to take her place since becoming a tribute at a young age is basically a death sentence, especially in District 12 (see below). Afterwards, Peeta Mellark is chosen as the male tribute from District 12.
By rule, once a person's name has been chosen to become a tribute, another eligible boy or girl may volunteer to take their place. Normally volunteers are asked for after the chosen person is introduced, but Katniss Everdeen volunteered spontaneously before her sister, Primrose, could mount the stage. This marked the first time that a person had volunteered in District 12.
In the districts 1, 2 and 4 (in the film only 1 and 2) so called "Career Tributes" who have been training all their lives to participate in the Games are eager to volunteer, as the Hunger Games are seen by them as a chance at fame and glory, thus the volunteering protocols are different. Cato however is described as having lunged forward to volunteer. In contrast, in the poorer districts like 12, participating in the Hunger Games is equivalent to a death sentence; therefore, the volunteering regulations are rarely used.
For the 75th Hunger Games, Brutus, Mags, and Peeta volunteered. Mags took the place of Annie Cresta, and Peeta replaced Haymitch Abernathy; thus, District 12 had volunteers at two consecutive Hunger Games, one boy and one girl.
Quarter Quells are special editions of Hunger Games that happened every quarter century, hence the name, "Quarter Quell." Each Quarter Quell had a certain theme that would cruelly remind the districts of their failure at rebellion. In the first Quarter Quell, the tributes were not drawn randomly from the glass balls. Instead, they were voted into the Games by the people of their district to remind the rebels that they were sending their children to die in the war. In the second Quarter Quell, each district had to send two times the amount of tributes to remind the district residents that 2 rebels were killed for every Capitol citizen. These tributes were drawn randomly from the glass balls. In the third Quarter Quell, the tributes were chosen from the pool of remaining victors from past Hunger Games to remind the rebels that even the strongest among them could not defy the Capitol's power.
- Tribute is wealth, often in the kind, that one party gives to another as a sign of respect or, as was often the case in historical contexts, of submission or allegiance. Failure to pay tribute constituted an act of rebellion. Ancient Rome extracted tribute from its provinces and subject kingdoms and this role is repeated with the Capitol as the receiver of the tributes in the form of one boy and one girl from each district.
- The word "tribute" is also the official name for Hunger Games fans in the film adaptation. It was primarily chosen after numerous fan sites conducted a survey on which names should be chosen; some of the names included in the survey were Mockingjays, Rebels, and several other names, such as jabberjays.
- ↑ The Hunger Games, Chapter 3