As the first book describes it, volunteering in districts other than 1-2 and 4 is highly unusual and usually done only to save a relative which got chosen. I wonder why that is. There are especially two districts whose tributes stand a good chance:

  1. District 7 in the Hunger Games Wiki is described as "District 7 provides lumber for the Capitol, and its people are known to be good with axes."

  2. District 11 has a big population, most of which work in agriculture. Those are people who have a pretty rough life and who will not be lost in the wilderness (like the district 12 miners or the factory workers from district 8.) True, they are not trained in combat like the 'career' tributes, but it seems they still have a good chance to win. Thresh got close to the finish and even twelve year old Rue got pretty far in the 74th games.

So why is no one desperate enough to volunteer to escape the clutches of poverty?

  • 29
    Being able to chop down a tree with an axe does not equate to being battle capable with one. Trees don't move.
    – Paulie_D
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 16:11
  • 16
    "the clutches of poverty" - you've got the makings of an answer there. Poverty tends to make people malnourished, and malnourished people don't fight well.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 16:12
  • 4
    @Randal'Thor if you want your slave to chop down trees you got to feed him. Those guys may not eat gourmet food but they are in pretty good physical form and used to hard conditions.
    – user68762
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 16:19
  • 13
    @Neeshka Slaves IRL were often underfed anyway. You can beat your slave until he chops down trees, even if he's not really physically up to the task. It might be more rational/efficient to feed them well, but since when have totalitarian governments been rational?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 16:34
  • 5
    +paulie_d missed a chance to paraphrase Bruce Lee: "Trees do not hit back!"
    – Paul
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 17:24

5 Answers 5


Poverty doesn't make for good fighters.

The people in the outlying districts live on the brink of starvation. They're deliberately oppressed, kept poor and ignorant and most importantly weak. Poverty implies malnutrition, and malnourished people don't tend to fight well. For the same reason, armies (especially in poor countries) tend to be more well-fed and in better health than the majority of the population. But what army is there in Panem? The Peacekeepers come from the Capitol or - like Career Tributes - from District 2. From the authorities' point of view, there's no need to ensure any of the people in the outlying districts are in good health or properly fed, especially as children when they're not so useful as labour power.

Sure, some of the tributes from District 7 might be able to use axes, or those from District 11 might be good at living rough, but that usually doesn't make up for the years of combat training that the battle-hardened Career Tributes from Districts 1, 2, and 4 have been through. Career Tributes, brought up in relative luxury, have been able to afford the time to be trained, while those from poorer districts haven't.

Add to this the fact that the tributes are only children. Sure, District 7 has big strong men who can handle axes, but a boy or girl of fifteen won't be as strong and certainly not as efficient in personal combat. This, though, is something that puts District 12 at more of a disadvantage than the others: as Katniss notes in Catching Fire, kids in District 7 are put to work on the trees at an earlier age than those in District 12 are allowed to work in the mines. Which brings us to ...

Maybe there are more volunteers in other districts.

Canonically we know that volunteering is almost unknown in District 12:

District 12 hasn't had a volunteer in decades and the protocol has become rusty. The rule is that once a tribute's name has been pulled from the ball, another eligible boy, if a boy's name has been read, or girl, if a girl's name has been read, can step forward to take his or her place. In some districts, in which winning the reaping is such a great honor, people are eager to risk their lives, the volunteering is complicated. But in District 12, where the wordtribute is pretty much synonymous with the word corpse, volunteers are all but extinct.

-- The Hunger Games, Chapter 2

But it sounds as though there could well be occasional volunteers from other districts, not just the Careers:

One by one, we see the other reapings, the names called, the volunteers stepping forward or, more often, not.

-- The Hunger Games, Chapter 3

You're assuming that volunteering is almost unheard of in all districts outside of 1, 2, and 4, but I don't think the text of the book actually says that. It could be that it's most common in the districts of the Career Tributes, less common but still occasional in other districts, and rarest of all in District 12.

  • 3
    @Neeshka For all we know, Thresh might have volunteered. He was certainly big and strong enough to have a damn good chance of winning.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 16:46
  • 2
    That quote from the Hunger Games (Chapter 2) pretty much answers the question. Volunteer = 1:24 Chance you Don't Die. I have to mention that in many games the elements/environment, thirst and hunger sometimes kill more tributes than actual fighting....
    – LeHill
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 17:03
  • 2
    @LeHill I think your quote does quite the opposite. It shows why those from 7 and 11 would stand a really good chance in the games.
    – josh
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 9:06
  • 1
    @josh I am confused about this argument. Say the chance of a great tribute is 1:3 rather than 1:24. Would you want to take a 2 in 3 chance you die gruesomely in the next days? Would you put your kids into an academy that trains them for this? I think it is more confusing why there are careers in some districts than that there are no careers in most.
    – xLeitix
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 15:24
  • 2
    @xLeitix - Would you put your kids into a lifetime of training and preparation for an endeavor that has a not great chance of fame and fortune, and either way, has a great chance to leave them hopelessly brain-damaged? In our society, we see that with parents who want their kids to be the next great NFL football (American) star. Do parents tend more towards objective analysis when it comes to their own kids, or wildly unrealistic and optimistic views of their kids' characteristics. Then multiply that by the arrogance of training the kid with the best experts money can buy. Food for thought. Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 15:51

The tributes from districts 1 and 2 almost always win because they train all their lives (even though that's against the rules). Almost every year they see someone from district 1 or 2 win. It's obviously all but a death sentence, and given the relative poverty in the outlying districts it seems like nobody there will have the time to train since birth.

  • Yes, but isnt it because the 'best' of them volunteer and cooperate? Training is important, i agree, but isn't manual labour and handling tools also is a kind of training? say two people from district 11 team up and volunteer. A guy like Thresh and a girl who is as old as him and as tough and also innovative. They can agree that whoever survives will help the other's family. Wouldn't they stand a chance?
    – user68762
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 16:59
  • 2
    @Neeshka manual labor and handling tools will make you stronger and very slightly better at fighting with those tools, but it's still nothing compared to real training. Plus, most tools aren't very similar to weapons, and even if they are you still don't know how to use it as a weapon. Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 20:48
  • 1
    @Neeshka I answered the question about teaming up here.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 0:01
  • @Neeshka - No. Manual labor and handling tools is not any kind of training in lethal martial combat skills. At all. I've trained in a system that has over 30 techniques for breaking joints when someone grabs the wrist, specifically, all differing techniques depend on how the wrist is grabbed. Picking up and throwing sacks of flour might give some very general possible advantages, vs nothing, but compared to actual combat skills training, almost no chance of coming out ahead. Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 15:55

Maybe because people have the belief that starvation is a lesser evil then the cruelties of the games, Just because your starving to death and need food doesn't necessarily mean you want to be killed another way like tracker jackers turning you insane or mist that burns you slowly to death or mutts that slowly eat you alive or drowning or the countless other ways you can die in the games, maybe most people have the belief that they'd rather just starve then be killed what they believe to be a more traumatic way.

  • 1
    What you say seems plausible, but this seems a speculative answer. Do you have any quotes to back this up?
    – Voronwé
    Commented Mar 24, 2019 at 5:18

They Don’t Want to Die

Would you want to volunteer when your odds are 1/24? Especially if you were from one of the poorer districts like 12 or 8, where you don’t have any way to survive unless you are very smart or good with a weapon. Your odds would be more like 1/48, including your not having any survival skills and the careers having packs and multiple weapons.


With the exception of Districts 1, 2, and 4, the other districts (especially the higher numbered ones, such as 8, 10, 11, and 12) live in abject, dire poverty. Poverty and undernourishment makes a person weak, and therefore in poor shape to fight, and therefore be able to win the games. By contrast, tributes from wealthier Districts (the Career Districts) are better fed, and have opportunities to train for the games from a young age. This is why they almost always place highly in the Hunger Games.

  • 1
    sorry but you are not adding additional information to other answers, you may want to check that before answering.
    – Ram
    Commented Aug 13, 2018 at 3:21

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.