Sunday, November 16, 2014

Was Annie Oakley the Real Katniss Everdeen?












Doing research for Jenny's Revenge, A Steve Dancy Tale, I had reason to read up on Annie Oakley. It struck me that she had a strong resemblance to the fictional Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games.

Katniss is an exceptional marksman with bow and arrow who honed her skill by hunting to feed her fatherless family. In fact, she was so good at hunting, she traded her excess kills for other essentials needed by her family to survive. At 16 years old, Katniss becomes a celebrated hero due her unprecedented display of skill in a national show. To add spice to the story, she has romantic relationships with another contestant and her hunting partner.

At age 8, Annie Oakley started shooting game to feed her fatherless family. She sold her excess kills to a grocery store, and her hunting was so prolific that by 15 years of age, she paid off the family mortgage. Oakley became the first female superstar, famed all over the world for her shooting exhibitions in the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show. At age 16, she married a fellow contestant in a shooting contest, and her husband performed with Oakley throughout her career.

In 1875 on Thanksgiving Day, Frank E. Butler placed a $100 bet that he could beat any local sharp shooter. Annie Oakley beat Butler on the twenty-fifth shot. Some trick shootists might have resented losing to a five foot tall, fifteen year old girl, but Butler invited Oakley to join his act and they were married a year later. (There is some doubt about the actual year, but I’m going with the famous quote from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: “This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”)

Oakley shot almost every gun known to nineteenth century man ... or woman. At ninety feet, she could hit a playing card set on edge, and then hit it repeatedly before it touched the ground. She hit dimes tossed in the air. She regularly shot the tip off a cigarette held between her husband’s lips. I’ve heard of never going to bed angry, but I bet this couple had a different motto.

I have never read that Suzanne Collins said Annie Oakley inspired Katniss, but as Mark Twain opined, truth is stranger than fiction.


western fiction
Coming soon: Jenny's Revenge




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