- "Do you hear that, Coriolanus? It's the sound of Snow falling."
- ―Casca Highbottom, taunting Coriolanus Snow upon expelling him from the Academy[src]
Casca Highbottom was the Dean of the Academy and the unintentional creator of the Hunger Games. When the creation of the games was officially announced, Highbottom served as the public face of the event, beginning a years-long downward spiral that would end with his assassination by future president Coriolanus Snow.
- "The evilest impulse, cleverly packaged into a sporting event. An entertainment. I was drunk, and your father got me drunker still, playing on my vanity as I fleshed the thing out, assuring me it was just a private joke."
- ―Casca Highbottom, describing the creation of the Hunger Games to Coriolanus Snow[src]
In his youth, Highbottom attended the University with Crassus Snow, the father of Coriolanus Snow. While studying under Dr. Volumnia Gaul, whom he loathed, Highbottom came close to failing her class (as his willing participation was virtually impossible). For the class's final project - which saw him paired up with Snow - the students were challenged to create a punishment for the districts so extreme that they would never be allowed to forget how they had wronged the Capitol. This suited Highbottom, as he had always excelled at puzzles, and in a drunken stupor he conceived what would become the Hunger Games. In the process, Snow got him even drunker, playing on his vanity as he fleshed out the project, all the while assuring him that it was just a private joke. The next morning, Highbottom awoke, horrified to find that Snow had turned in the project to get a good grade. He never forgave Snow for this betrayal. Before that, he and Snow were said to close down Pluribus Bell's nightclub every night.
After The Dark Days, Highbottom was publicly credited with the creation of the Hunger Games, though in fact it was Dr. Gaul who had pulled out his proposal, introducing him to all of Panem as the architect of the event. That night, he took morphling for the first time, which gradually led to heavy dependence on the drug. He thought that the Hunger Games would eventually die out, due to their horrific nature, but Dr. Gaul took the idea and ran with it. Highbottom even developed a grudge against Coriolanus Snow for his father's actions, maintaining a dislike of the boy throughout his years at the Academy.
10th Hunger Games
Highbottom personally oversaw the creation of the mentor program, presenting himself to the students and announcing who had been assigned to which tribute. By this point, he was often heavily dosed up on morphling, causing Coriolanus Snow to mock him by creating the nickname "High-as-a-Kite Bottom," which quickly spread throughout the campus of the Academy. Snow initially suspected this nickname to be Highbottom's reason for hating him, supposing the Dean had caught wind of it (this later proved incorrect, however, as the grudge Highbottom held against Snow's father was made clear). At the time, there were also rumors circulating that, due to his declining health and addiction to morphling, the board of the Academy was losing patience with him.
During the buffet after the Reaping, Highbottom handed Coriolanus Snow a large slice of pie and focused on him. He asked what Coriolanus's plans would be after the Games, reminding him of his family's poor financial situation and laughing at the mentor's discomfort. Later, when Volumnia Gaul asked Coriolanus about his actions in the Capitol Zoo, the dean asked him what he thought the purpose of the Hunger Games was and told Dr. Gaul that it had been a failed experiment. Highbottom then gave Coriolanus a demerit for engaging in reckless behavior.
When Highbottom was questioned by Dr. Gaul after Sejanus Plinth had spoken out rebelliously in the classroom, he fiddled with a pen and disagreed that their goal should be to make the audience feel passionately about the tributes, saying his idea had all been theoretical.
After Arachne Crane's funeral, Highbottom gave his condolences to Coriolanus and admitted that he found the funeral excessive and in poor taste. Coriolanus blamed his loss of self-control on the dean, wanting him to be locked up or deported to a faraway outpost, although he didn't say it aloud.
Highbottom made television appearances for the 10th Hunger Games, alongside Lucretius Flickerman. He seemed largely bored and disinterested with the proceedings, proving an uncharismatic companion for the weatherman. He was also not amused by Flickerman's magic tricks, or his antics with his pet bird. At five o'clock on the first day, Highbottom dismissed the student body and later the mentors, suggesting bringing a toothbrush and a change of clothes in the future.
When Sejanus Plinth entered the arena, Highbottom observed him and, along with Dr. Gaul, sent Coriolanus into the arena to rescue his friend. The two adults debated audio levels and watched both versions of the feed, the real one and the artificially darkened one that was visible to normal viewers.
Highbottom was instrumental in blackmailing Snow and forcing him to enlist as a Peacekeeper: He presented evidence of Snow illegally assisting Lucy Gray Baird in the arena, cheating to ensure she would be safe against Dr. Gaul's snake muttations and helping her poison others during the Games. He even appeared to take some level of pleasure in having Snow sent away, continuing to punish the boy for his father's actions.
Before Sejanus joined the Peacekeepers himself, he and Strabo Plinth convinced the Academy to let both boys graduate. However, Highbottom brought up that Coriolanus had broke a rule in the Games to help Lucy Gray and technically had not graduated secondary school, so he should be denied a diploma, but he was outvoted.
Snow eventually returned to the Capitol, where Highbottom returned his mother's compact and commented on his conscientiousness after Snow removed Sejanus Plinth's diploma from its frame. During this meeting, he finally divulged his reasons for hating the boy. This, however, would prove to be the his undoing: Thoroughly tired of Highbottom's obstructive actions, as well as the Dean's opposition and hatred of him, Snow slipped some poison into Highbottom's morphling. The Dean cluelessly took it and died shortly after, becoming the very first victim of the future president's signature murder method.
Though he once possessed a fine physique, Highbottom later became shrunken and draped with sagging skin. Doped up on morphling, he had the appearance of a sleepwalker, with dreamy eyes. His close-cropped haircut and crisp suit only served to throw his physical deterioration into relief. Highbottom also wore glasses.
Behind the scenes
- It wasn't mentioned if Highbottom was the one who created the concept of and scenarios for the Quarter Quells. Given his disgust with his own creation, it's possible that these were created years later, perhaps even around the time when the 25th Hunger Games occurred.
- The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Epilogue
- The Ballad of Songbirds and Snake, Chapter 11
- The Ballad of Songbirds and Snake, Chapter 1
- The Ballad of Songbirds and Snake, Chapter 2
- The Ballad of Songbirds and Snake, Chapter 4
- The Ballad of Songbirds and Snake, Chapter 6
- The Ballad of Songbirds and Snake, Chapter 9
- The Ballad of Songbirds and Snake, Chapter 13
- The Ballad of Songbirds and Snake, Chapter 15
- The Ballad of Songbirds and Snake, Chapter 16
- The Ballad of Songbirds and Snake, Chapter 21
- The Ballad of Songbirds and Snake, Chapter 22