In late April, Hulu released the first three episodes of its new show, "The Handmaid's Tale" — and viewers are losing their minds over this captivating series.

photo: Giphy

The streaming service took Margaret Atwood's 1985 novel of the same name and turned it into an instant television success ("The Handmaid's Tale" has already been renewed for a second season). 

Starring Elisabeth Moss and Alexis Bledel, the show introduces viewers to the world of Gilead: a near-future version of the United States where religious fundamentalism spearheads a police state and women are sent off to work in nuclear wastelands, as servants, or as "handmaids."

photo: Giphy

If you watch the show, you already know that the "handmaids" are fertile, red cloak-wearing women who are assigned to powerful men with barren wives and forced to have sex with them in the hopes of producing offspring.

But even the most keen-eyed binge watchers sometimes overlook subtle details. Here are 20 mind-blowing facts you might not know about "The Handmaid's Tale."


The handmaids' red cloaks allude to Mary Magdalene, a remorseful sinner in the Bible...

The Handmaids' Tale
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..and the blue dresses that the barren wives wear represent the Virgin Mary.

Handmaid's Tale blue dresses
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I see what you did there.


Atwood — the author of the dystopian novel — actually makes an appearance in the pilot episode.

Margaret Atwood cameo
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See that grumpy-looking blur behind Elisabeth Moss? That's Margaret Atwood.

"We wanted her to cameo in the first episode, and we knew she'd play an Aunt — that's the only thing that made sense for her to play — and in that scene, I'm supposed to be slapped by an Aunt, and so we were like, 'Oh, how about Margaret Atwood?!'" Moss told GQ


This is not the book's first adaptation.

There was a 1990 "The Handmaid's Tale" movie, several plays, a podcast, a ballet, and an opera


There's also a "The Handmaid's Tale" audiobook.

And it's narrated by Claire Danes. 


Atwood wrote the entire book on a typewriter.

photo: Giphy

For the most part, showrunners aligned themselves with Atwood's thought process, but something tells me that the scripts weren't typed up on an old-school typewriter. 


The original title of the book was actually "Offred," which is Moss' character's name.

Atwood later changed the title to "The Handmaid's Tale."


And the name "Offred" literally means "Of Fred."

Offred The Handmaid's Tale
photo: Hulu

So the show's titular "Handmaid" Offred belongs to Fred, aka The Commander. 


In the book, Offred's real name is never revealed.

But many readers picked up on a part of the book that references the name "June," and viewers hear Offred announce, "My name is June" in the first episode. 


Atwood admitted that she never intended to name Offred "June," but she's OK with readers using it.

"That was not my original thought but it fits, so readers are welcome to it if they wish," Atwood insisted in a column for the New York Times.


In the original novel, Serena Joy is much older than Offred.

The Handmaid's Tale fact
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Atwood never explicitly states Serena Joy's age in the book, but The Commander's wife is described as having arthritis and uses a cane.

However, the showrunner Bruce Miller decided to make them the same age for the show so that Serena and Offred would be in direct competition (34-year-old actress Yvonne Strahovski plays Serena Joy in the Hulu version).


All of the main characters are white in the book.

Samira Wiley Handmaid's Tale
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In the novel, POC have been "resettled" to other parts of the country, but the TV version of "The Handmaid's Tale" has a more diverse cast of characters — including Offred's friend, Moira (played by Samira Wiley of "Orange Is The New Black") and Offred's husband, Luke.


In the books, Luke's fate is unknown.

The Handmaid's Tale facts
photo: Hulu

But in the show, June seems to believe he's dead.


Ofglen has a much larger role in the show than in the book.

Ofglen Alexis Bledel Handmaid's Tale
photo: Hulu

In the television series, Alexis Bledel of "Gilmore Girls" plays Offred's friend, Ofglen — but the rebellious Ofglen is *definitely* no Rory Gilmore. 

The book doesn't reveal may details about her, but the show makes Ofglen one of the most controversial women in the series. Audiences learn that Ofglen is gay — something that is not OK in this nightmarish, ultra-conservative society — and she has a wife and son who managed to escape to Canada.

(One of Ofglen's female lovers, however, is not so lucky. She is hanged in episode three). 


Janine doesn't actually lose her eye in the book.

Handmaid's Tale Janine
photo: Hulu

But her right eye is taken right away in episode one.


The show references Uber and Craigslist to "modernize" it.

According to Miller, the Hulu version takes place in 2017 and modern-day references were added to the "The Handmaid's Tale" as a way to show that the world of Gilead wasn't some faraway future. 

"Across the board, I think we wanted to just make sure that it felt like now because it's scarier," Miller told INSIDER. "We wanted to update it or make it current in any way we could."


In the show, the handmaids have red GPS trackers attached to their ears.

photo: Giphy

See that little guy on Offred's ear? That's a GPS tracker that the government uses to watch fertile women and prevent them from escaping.

The red tags basically indicate that a person is a handmaid and needs to be watched closely.


Reed Morano directed the first three episodes — but before "The Handmaid's Tale," Morano was a cinematographer on Beyoncé's Lemonade.

photo: Giphy

You can thank her for "Sandcastles."


The show is set in the United States, but it was actually filmed in Canada.

Fun fact: Atwood was born in Ottawa, Canada in 1939.


Atwood doesn't necessarily consider her book a work of fiction.

The Handmaid's Tale facts
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"Everything I wrote in that book was happening at that time, or had already happened," she insisted.

And in this era of political uncertainty, that's perhaps the creepiest "The Handmaid's Tale" fact of all.