April’s Tale: Pandora’s Box

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Pandora’s Box

Monthly tale for April 2013

 Our next tale is from Greece. Pandora’s Box is a very ancient Greek myth from the 7th Century BC.  According to Hesiod who recorded the myth, Pandora was the first human woman. Each Greek god helped to create her … she was all giving, all gifted. There are several early Greek versions of the story but all address the question of, “Why are there so many evils in this world?”

Over the 2,000 years the story has been told and retold, it has had many modifications or new interpretations.  In the earliest tellings of Pandora’s Box the container she was given was a jar. A large jar, which contained all the evils of the world. The original Greek word was Pithos meaning a large jar. Jars were used in ancient times for the storage of wine, oil, grain, or other provisions, or ritually as a container for a human body for burying. In the case of Pandora, this jar was probably made of clay or bronze metal. A mistranslation of Pithos is usually attributed to the 16th century humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam who translated the tale into Latin. He rendered pithos as a Greek word pyxis meaning “Box”. Pandora’s Box has endured ever since.

Another detail of the story that causes contention for some readers is the spirit Hope, which was left in the container. Does the holding of Hope in the box/jar mean it is being preserved for Man, or does it mean Hope is being kept away from man? Friedrich Nietzsche argued that Zeus did not want man to throw his life away. To that end, he gives man hope. In truth, it is the most evil of evils because it prolongs man’s torment. However, M.L.West says, “Hope is preserved as a benefit for humans.”

There are many versions of the myth. In all the versions, Pandora is the creation of all the Greek Gods, beautiful, curious, and talented. In other tellings, she is beautiful but “Sheer guile”, great trouble, no helpmate in hateful poverty, but only in wealth.”

In a modern telling Pandora is an innocent victim of Zeus’ trick on mortal man. When Hera gave her the gift of curiosity and Hermes hangs the key that opens the locked box around Pandora’s neck, it was only a matter of time before she’d open the box. In the end, Pandora saves the day by re-opening the box and letting Hope fly free to comfort mankind.

To read the Tale CLICK on Pandora’s Box under Monthly Tales on our Menu above.  We will be posting our artwork and essays on Monday.     April 1.

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