- "What happened in the arena? That's humanity undressed. The tributes. And you, too. How quickly civilization disappears. All your fine manners, education, family background, everything you pride yourself on, stripped away in the blink of an eye, revealing everything you actually are."
- ―Dr. Gaul to Coriolanus Snow[src]
Volumnia Gaul was the Head Gamemaker of the 10th Hunger Games as well as an instructor at the University, though she sometimes lent her services to the Academy as well. She was also the mastermind behind the Capitol's experimental weapons division, based at the Citadel. She was usually known as Dr. Gaul. She began her career as an obstetrician, but found that it was not for her, as parents wanted reassurances that she felt the couldn't give. She was a cruel woman who bred various twisted muttations in an underground laboratory. She was a small, stooped old woman with frizzy gray hair.
It was Dr. Gaul who was indirectly responsible for the creation of the Hunger Games. While serving as an instructor at the University, she assigned a project to her students: to create a punishment for one's enemies so extreme that they would never be allowed to forget how they had wronged them. Two of her students, Casca Highbottom and Crassus Snow, got together to work on the project. Highbottom was drunk at the time and Snow plied him with even more alcohol to draw out his darker impulses, leading him to create the Hunger Games. Snow assured him it was a private joke, but then turned in the project to Dr. Gaul while Highbottom was sleeping off the alcohol. After the war was over, Dr. Gaul pulled out the proposal and introduced Casca Highbottom to Panem as the creator of the Hunger Games.
She oversaw the 10th Hunger Games and, although it was said to be Casca Highbottom who created the mentor program, she was, in fact, the one pulling the strings. Although not technically a staff member of the Academy, she appeared to the mentors throughout the Hunger Games, handing out various assignments and saying that she was mentoring their mentorships. One of these assignments was a group project to brainstorm a proposal on how betting and sponsorship might be integrated into the games. However, shortly afterwards, one of the mentors, Arachne Crane, was killed, distracting their minds from the task. Coriolanus Snow, however, suspected that she might still expect to have the assignment turned in and thus wrote up a version of the proposal. He also attached Clemensia Dovecote's name to it, thinking that he was doing her a favor. Gaul, however, correctly sussed out that the proposal was the work of only one person. She placed the proposal inside a tank of neon snake muttations and ordered them both to reach into it. The snakes did not react to Snow as they recognized his scent, but a half dozen of them bit Dovecote. Her life was only saved by the quick administration of an anti-venom.
Afterwards, Gaul warned Snow not to lie to her again and that she would cut him off if he did so, not protecting him from Casca Highbottom. She praised his proposal and agreed to implement it, showing no concern whatsoever for Clemensia.
Dr. Gaul later appeared at the funeral of Arachne Crane, sitting directly beside the president of Panem, President Ravinstill. She swore that the Hunger Games would go forward with more energy and commitment than ever before, dedicating the 10th Hunger Games to her memory. Later, during another class meeting, Sejanus Plinth confronted her, telling her that she and the Capitol had no right to starve and punish people. Rather than getting outwardly angry, she seemed amused by his behavior, and told the class that wars were won with heads and not hearts. She described the war as being endless and ordered the class to write an essay on everything that they found attractive about war. She was disappointed by Coriolanus Snow's essay, which seemed to be mostly drivel, while Sejanus Plinth tried to shock her by saying that he thought there was nothing attractive about the war, other than the opportunity to right wrongs, which it didn't. She also said herself that she loved how the war proved her right.
Dr. Gaul showed up at the Capitol TV broadcast of the games, where she was questioned by host Lucretius Flickerman about their slow start. Normally, there was much more action at the start of the games. She explained however, that the bombing of the Capitol Arena created a number of new hiding spots and there was also a new element in the games with the tributes having the opportunity to receive food and water from sponsors. When she stated that the games might last indefinitely, Flickerman replied that he hoped she had more magic tricks up her sleeve. Gaul responded that she had rabbit muttation that was part pit bull that she would love to see him pull out of a hat. Lucky blanched at this, seemingly sickened and told her that he had his own pets. Coriolanus Snow whispered to Lysistrata Vickers that he almost felt sorry for Flickerman, but she replied that the two deserved each other.
Sejanus Plinth's tribute, Marcus, was strung up in the arena, having tried to escape in the wake of the bombing. Seeing this, Plinth was disgusted and sneaked into the arena, hoping to do something for Marcus. Upon discovering this, Dr. Gaull called Snow, ordering him and Plinth's mother, who happened to be with him, to come to the arena. She then ordered Snow into the arena to rescue Plinth and he did so, knowing after the snake attack that she was not something to mess with. He succeeded in the mission, but ended up having to kill one of the tributes, Bobbin. Following this, she described his experience in the arena as a "lesson," saying that what happened was humanity undressed and mankind in its natural state. She then called his essay drivel, except for a part about control at the end of it, and ordered him to write another essay about the value of control and the social contract required for survival.
After Snow was made a Peacekeeper, he sent Dr. Gaul a jabberjay containing a recording of Sejanus revealing his complicity in rebel activities in District 12. As a result, Sejanus was executed for treason. Afterwards, she engineered Snow's return to the Capitol, describing his time in District 12 as a "summer vacation" and stating that she had no intention of investing so much time in him to hand him off to the districts. She then revealed that he was to study under her at the University. Snow was then taken on as an apprentice Gamemaker and studied advanced military strategy in classes taught by Gaul. His murderous intentions were brought to the fore and he made Dean Highbottom the first victim of his signature method of killing: poison.
Personality and traits
- "Hippy, hoppity, how did you fare? Did they greet you like friends or just sit there and stare?"
- ―Dr. Gaul, asking the mentors how they got along with their tributes during an interview session[src]
She spoke in a sing-song voice and often used silly phrases such as "Hippity, hoppity." Her playful personality belied her twisted nature. She had unnerved Coriolanus Snow since his childhood. Once, during a school field trip, she melted the flesh off a lab rat with a laser before the eyes of Snow's class of nine-year-olds, then asked if anyone in the class had any pets they were tired of. She was quick with praise for those that impressed her, but disliked betrayal and lying. As a result, she could turn quite vicious when she believed that she had been wronged. She also showed pleasure at the expense of others' suffering, as she eradicated all recordings of the 10th Hunger Games but kept a recording for herself for her own amusement. She also indirectly killed Treech, Coral and Circ with her snake mutts, showing that she is not fearful of killing others including children.
She was a morning person, energetic and ready during morning briefings.
- Coriolanus and Volumnia are both names of characters in William Shakespeare's Coriolanus. In the play, Volumnia is Coriolanus's mother who prevents him from destroying Rome out of vengeance. Interestingly, in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Dr. Volumnia Gaul is one of the main advocates of the Hunger Games.
- The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Chapter 8
- The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Chapter 9
- The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Chapter 11
- The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Chapter 12
- The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Chapter 14
- The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Chapter 15
- The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Chapter 16
- The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Chapter 28
- The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Chapter 30
- The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Epilogue