Pandora’s jar

This is a post for my March book challenge, #marchmonthofmythology.

Today I’m going to dispel a few (for lack of a better word) myths about the myth of Pandora. Number one: there was never any box involved.

Prometheus gets on the Olympians’ nerves

This all begins with the Titan Prometheus. He was one of the few good Titans, and helped the Olympians when they took over the rule of the world. He did this together with his brother Epimetheus. Now, the gods thought Prometheus liked the humans a little too much. He managed to trick Zeus twice in order to help us poor mortals. The first time, Prometheus was to divide the parts of animals between gods and humans; he made two piles of cow meat and byproducts and made Zeus choose which one he liked better. One pile contained mostly bones, but was wrapped in fat; the other contained all the meat, but was wrapped in the cow’s stomach. Zeus, of course, picked the pile that looked nice and greasy. This is why the ancient Greeks used bones wrapped in fat for their animal sacrifices, while they got to eat the meat of the animals themselves.

Zeus then removed fire from the humans in retaliation. So for his second trick, Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it back to the humans. In other versions the first trick is left out and humans hadn’t had fire initially. Prometheus then stole it, because Epimetheus had sort of forgotten about them when giving all the animals special survival talents. This fire caused humans to become smart and resourceful, making up for their (our) lack of claws and fur and fangs and night vision and etc. The gods weren’t happy with that, because they preferred being the only smart beings in existence, but once it was done, there was no going back.

The gods come up with a very elaborate plan

The Olympians were now quite angry with Prometheus and came up with a plan to punish him and his beloved humans. They put a lot of effort into it. First, they created a human woman, upon whom each god bestowed one gift. Hephaestus was the one to create her body from clay; the Charites gave her grace and beauty; Athena taught her all the tasks a woman of those times was supposed to know; Hermes made her quick-witted, but also curious and deceitful. These are just the most notable ones. They called the woman Pandora, meaning ‘all the gifts’.

The gods gave Pandora to Epimetheus to be his wife. Prometheus had warned him not to accept any gifts from the Olympians, but Epimetheus wasn’t that smart. (In fact, his name means ‘after-thought’, whereas Prometheus means ‘fore-thought’.) So Epimetheus took Pandora in, along with a wedding present: a large, beautifully decorated storage jar (not a box). It had been given to Pandora with the warning never to open it.

Well, we all know what happened next. The gods had done exactly what they needed to do to stimulate Pandora’s curiosity. It was only a matter of time before she lifted the lid of the jar ever so slightly to have a peek inside…

… letting out every horrible thing ever to plague humankind. Before Pandora could replace the lid everything from illness to anxiety to mosquitos to stale bread had escaped the jar. The only thing left inside was hope, or so they say. A better translation might be ‘expectation’. You can see this as a good thing (either because hope hasn’t left us or because we aren’t misled by false expectations since they’re still in the jar) or a bad thing (there is no hope).

According to Hesiod, by the way, Pandora was one of the horrible things herself as the first woman. Ever since the creation of woman, humans stopped being immortal and had to procreate in order to gain some form of immortality. (I don’t like this interpretation.)

Pandora – a book you’re curious about

IMG_0747.JPGThis prompt fits most of my TBR, but another one of the prompts I had to do today was ‘yellow’, so that narrowed it down a bit. I read Equal Rites a little over a year ago, and loved it so much I decided to collect the entire Discworld series. The Colour of Magic is the first Discworld novel, and I’m very curious to see if it lives up to my expectations!


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