The Curious Case of Pandora

Whenever someone begins a work which results in messy problems, we say – the person has opened a Pandora’s box.

Do you know the story behind Pandora’s box? And do you know who Pandora was?

Pandora is a much-maligned female character in Greek mythology.

Story of Pandora and her box:

Prometheus, a divine god, steals fire from heaven and gives it to humans for their betterment. Zeus, the ruler of heaven is consumed with anger. He orders Hephaestus, another god, to design a woman out of the elements of earth (meaning, a mortal human). Zeus plans to use her for the downfall of humans. Hephaestus, thus, makes the first woman on earth. Several gods grant her divine gifts and blessings. They name her – Pandora which means – All-gifted. She is then taken to humans where she marries Epimetheus, brother of Prometheus.

To Pandora, Zeus gives a jar full of evils like jealousy, hunger, war and greed. Cunningly, he asks her not to open the jar. Now it is interesting to note that when a person is asked NOT to do something, he/she is most likely to do it – out of curiosity. Especially when a reason is not given.

Sure enough, poor Pandora who is unaware of Zeus’s evil plan, is not able to contain her curiosity. One day she opens the jar (later texts calling it, a box; hence the idiom). In doing so, she lets loose upon humanity, all kinds of problems. She is able to close the lid once again. But by then, only Hope remains inside the jar.

End of story.

The Real Meaning of Pandora’s Box:

When I first read the story of Pandora, several unanswered questions arose in my mind.

  • Why did the gods fashion a woman and not a man?
  • If Pandora was the ‘first’ woman amongst men, who was birthing them? How was humanity growing?
  • Why was Pandora gifted so many blessings by the gods if she was a messenger of doom? And what became of all her god-given blessings?
  • Why is Pandora blamed and not the cunning Zeus?
  • Why didn’t Hope, the only blessing amongst all the evils, not escape out of the jar?

It took me a long long time to figure out the real answer: The story of Pandora is actually a metaphorical one.

Greco-Roman mythology is full of stories which contain hidden ideas and beliefs. During the later centuries people started giving false meanings to these stories. At times, the central idea got lost altogether! My belief is – Pandora’s story is one such case.

The middle ages are infamous and replete with stories of female repression. No wonder then, the story of Pandora’s box started getting associated with – women being the root cause of all troubles. So instead of learning the actual lesson delivered through the tale, people began blaming Pandora (and all women folk) for world problems! That is the only thing that seems to register in people’s minds after reading Pandora’s story .

But wait. What is Pandora’s message?

Regardless of what the idiom (opening a Pandora’s box) has come to denote, the message in Pandora’s story  is –

The learning process begins with having a curious mind. (Pandora is curious to learn what’s inside the box). The process; the learning activity requires us to open our hearts. As we do that, we come face-to-face with the darkness that prevails all around. Even the darkness that resides within our own hearts! This often brings unexpected chaos in our lives. And what is able to sustain us through all the disorder? Hope.

We have a choice – between (a) and (b)

(a) Not to encourage curiosity of mind and remain in darkness.


(b) Be brave enough to ignore what the world says and open our hearts to new experiences.

And the only thing that is capable of seeing us through the havoc and confusion is HOPE.

Your Takeaway:

Pandora is symbolic of our own curious nature which longs for knowledge.

She is the voice of our soul where eternal hope resides; which asks questions and longs for new learnings. Sometimes the learning process takes us through chaotic paths. But that’s alright. Because in the end, what we receive is – divine light, unveiling of the truth, new experiences, growth and exciting adventures.

  • It takes an all-gifted, blessed person to realize the importance of learning.
  • You’ve got to be open-minded to learn truly and deeply.
  • Don’t be afraid of confronting the darkness in pursuit of learning and growing.
  • Keep hope eternal in your heart.
  • Hope is your divine gift from God.
  • With Hope as your life jacket, you can survive all storms of life.

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