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Brown-Eyed Janna

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Editor's note: “Brown-Eyed Janna,” also sometimes called “The Green Mantle,” is commonly recognized as a corrupted history of one of District Seven's more legendary figures, Hunger Games victor and Mockingjay War rebel Johanna Mason. Over the centuries her story appears to have merged with a pre-end times ballad in which an unconventional woman's steadfastness saves the victim of a magical kidnapping. Because Mason plays both roles, the tale provides an example of empowerment in ugly circumstances. Grimmer versions as well as thoroughly bowdlerized versions are also in circulation.

Brown-Eyed Janna

Children, never go out at the reaping hour
or they'll call you to the glittering tower.
They'll eat your heart and mock your eyes.
You'll despise yourself and then you'll die.

Brown-eyed Janna lived in a forest bright,
mild and smart and her family's pride.
She made no noise at the reaping hour
but they called her to the glittering tower.

She wept out her heart and wept out her eyes,
the good daughter waiting for her turn to die —
till she cut off her hair and picked up an ax.
Brown-eyed Janna was never coming back.

The forest folk stared when a girl came home
and wondered if she was ever one of their own.
Or maybe she'd always held some deep fey darkness
to menace them now it'd slipped from its harness.

“I'm brown-eyed Janna, please take me back,”
she begged to the doors open barely a crack.
Just the glittering tower answered her plea.
“You'll lie on your back and do things for me.”

“No,” she said, “I am mine, not yours.”

Brown-eyed Janna's family died one by one,
accidents, illness, together, alone.
She lost all her friends by the next reaping hour,
just because she said no to the glittering tower.

It was wrong to say no but wrong to say yes,
and wrong to go silently, wrong to protest.
She's no longer human, has nothing to love,
but she knows herself and she's not letting go.

They turned her to poison, she breathed it, she bled it;
turned her into an animal that snarled when they fed it.
She lived in a cage now with solid gold bars
and when the chance came she leapt for the stars

and she fell. She failed to leap high enough
or bright knights failed to stoop low enough.
She fell back upon the glittering tower
and found herself there impaled on the spire.

The tower folk mocked her, strung her over a flame
while she held to herself and clung to her name.
Her heartbeat stuttered, her eyes turned to black.
They jeered brown-eyed Janna who couldn't come back.

“Yes,” she said, “I am mine, not yours.”

Furious then, they doused her in water —
burning brand of her body turned to its own slaughter.
She let go the world then and wished she could die,
but held to herself till the knights could ride

to save her. Salvation comes with a cost
and even a knight must feed his white horse.
The soldiers at war who carried her back
trimmed neat her hair and offered an ax.

She reached for the handle — was this her time?
To take down the tower, reduce it to grime
on the soles of her feet, still naked and bleeding
from all that they'd done to her without her leave?

Janna'd gone to the reaping and picked up an ax —
defied what they thought of her by coming back —
defied her gold prison by trying to leap —
defied all their torments by persisting to breathe.

To take this ax now would be choosing to kill,
to be turned to a soldier to do someone's will,
and she couldn't do it. She was only her own.
So she dropped the ax and defied the whole world.

It was hard to go on with what's left of a life,
to go back to the forest and live in the light,
when knights and allies alike might've liked
to make her heart stone and pull out her eyes.

She said, “I can do that myself.”

Children, never go out at the reaping hour
or they'll call you to the glittering tower,
but if they do, and they harm both your heart and your eyes,
think of Janna and remind yourself, “I am mine.”