Okay, hear me out!
I’ll explain why I believe that Peeta Mellark in The Hunger Games is essentially the same character as Matthias Helvar in Six of Crows, the only difference being their upbringing. This post definitely won’t turn into the ramblings of a madwoman who’s recently re-read both series and spent most of that time sobbing into her pillow and has had too much caffeine today and then also had some chocolate fudge cake so there’s the sugar rush as well… But that’s definitely not fuelling what’s to come… Anyway – please expect spoilers for both series, so if you’ve been living under a YA rock and haven’t read either series yet, there’s no helping you.
Okay, so, the obvious aside – two muscly white dudes with blond hair – the very first thing that connects our two friends is their devotion to their baes (do people still use that word? Oh well, consider me old-fashioned… or a time-traveller from 2012). Time and time again, Peeta and Matthias prove their undying affections to the lovely ladies in their lives (I was going to go with ‘badass queens’ but I am partial to an alliteration). No one’s disapproval (Gale vs Zoya, as the no.1 enemies of our star-crossed OTPs, though Snow and Jarl Brum are close runner-ups) will end their dedication to staying with their chosen ones (no, this is not a Harry Potter reference).
One thing I appreciate about these two relationships is that they’ve moved away from the typical toxic and controlling boyfriend scheme we see too often in YA books (hey, Edward, I hear you’re making a comeback). Not once does Matthias question Nina on her work in The White Rose or tell her she can’t do something or shouldn’t risk herself just because she’s a girl/young woman (which one is more appropriate? I never know). And while Peeta is hurt when he realises that Katniss considers their relationship an act for the cameras in Catching Fire, he always prioritises her well-being and happiness over his own sorrow. Many a YA hero could learn something here (like human decency, eh, Darkling?). And, indeed, both of these boys provide the moral standards for their communities. How often do Katniss and Haymitch remark on Peeta being so much better than them? How often do the dregs look to Matthias to chastise them for immoral behaviour? You get my drift.
Now here’s the catch: Peeta, bless him, grew up in relative comfort, at least for District 12, and he always had enough bread (pita bread, anyone?) and a warm house to come home to; he had friends at school, participated in extracurricular activities, like competitive wrestling. I am in no way implying he didn’t struggle as we know his mother hit him, and of course he lives in a country that happily sends him off to die for a reality TV show. However, Matthias never had any of the security provided by a real home. He was taken in by Jarl Brum after his family were killed by Grisha, and he didn’t fit in with the other boys training to be drüskelle, or witch hunters. The only way to be accepted by the people he spend every day with was to adopt their hateful mindset. And as much as we’d like to think we’re on a moral high ground and wouldn’t have fallen for those fear-mongering anti-Grisha stories… History has shown just how easy it is to brainwash children and turn them into soldiers, especially when there are personal grounds for hatred of the Other. On top of this, we also see Peeta being manipulated and drugged into hating and strangling Katniss (SO SIMILAR to the scene of in Hellgate, where Matthias attempts to kill Nina, right?). Their characters highlight that even the most moral person can be turned into a pawn in someone else’s hateful games.
One more thing these boys share is that they’re hugely underappreciated by fandoms. Peeta is just so purely GOOD and caring and loving and nourishing that I don’t know why he’s not on top of every single bookish boyfriend list (okay, right after Jem Carstairs, maybe. Oh and Finnick is great too!). Similarly, Matthias gets so much hate and I absolutely understand the problems with him as a drüskelle but does book Twitter just ignore that Crooked Kingdom exists…? That’s what I call a character arc, people! Luckily, Peeta doesn’t share Matthias’s fate, and both stay true to their (good) nature until the very end… *quiet sob*
That’s all we seem to have time for today, but I’d love to hear your opinions. I’ll go lie down for now, and dream of the Shadow and Bone trailer…