Pandora and the Fall of Man

Lara Croft Tomb Raider_The Cradle of Life

Lara Croft Tomb Raider_The Cradle of Life

So I was revisiting Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life the other day, a flick where Angelina Jolie searches for the legendary Pandora’s Box, and something tickled my brain and gave me pause. I found it interesting that both in the age of antiquity and in some of the minds of modern day, women are the vehicles responsible for the fall of man. Of course we all know the original sin story of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden and the snake and apple. It is probably the most famous of all women are the root of all evil stories. I think there is even a creation movie lost somewhere in the Hollywood archives depicting this cataclysmic moment in time.

In the Pandora myth, the story goes that Pandora was the first woman on Earth, created by Hephaestus in answer to Zeus’ command. It was a command meant to be a punishment for man’s gain of the secret of fire from Prometheus who stole fire from the gods. Zeus’ vengeance came in the form of Pandora, a beautiful ‘evil’ destined to torment all of mankind. (And Prometheus did not escape unscathed. He too suffered the wrath of Zeus in his own separate and terrible punishment tailor-made especially for him by Zeus himself. Prometheus is later rescued by Hercules himself, ultimately escaping punishment, but that is another story.) Many talents were bestowed upon her by the gods like beauty from Aphrodite, a talent for music from Apollo, and the handy gift of persuasion from the generous Hermes. She was also possessed of a great curiosity, a trait given to her by the long suffering and oft maligned Hera.

Prometheus having his liver eaten out by Jacob Jordaens circa 1640

Prometheus having his liver eaten out by Jacob Jordaens circa 1640.

Now Zeus placed in Pandora’s keeping a jar (which over time has become a box for some reason) with strict instructions not to open it, but of course she couldn’t restrain herself and she did indeed open it, to the ruin of all. All the evils of the world came pouring out of this box once opened and despite Pandora’s efforts to reseal it, it was too late. The only thing left in the box was Hope, which I find to be quite apropos since hope can be the most elusive of all emotions. But I ask, if Pandora was flawed, didn’t a dude create her based on the decree of another dude? So who really was responsible for the orchestration of man’s downfall? Can you blame Frankenstein for being Frankenstein? Or does the blame really lie with the mad doctor who created him? Hello, Zeus. It seems to me that Zeus had it out for mankind from the get go, and Pandora was a more than suitable scapegoat. Diabolical if you ask me.

I do find the antiquated theory that women seem to be responsible for everything that has gone wrong with the world a very interesting one indeed. Even more interesting is the counter-theory that all these women being responsible for original sin myths and fables are created by men and are the direct result of man’s fear and envy for the many gifts and talents of women — one of them being the miraculous power to give life. These theories have been debated hotly amongst many interested in such things, and it is a debate that will most likely continue to be debated as long as there is a battle amongst the sexes.

Pandora by John William Waterhouse 1896

Pandora by John William Waterhouse 1896

Yet consider this, a wise man once said, “When you point the finger of blame there are always three fingers pointing right back at you.” Funny how that works, don’t you think? So does that mean that the root of all evil question needs to be reexamined? Anyone can see that the fight started between Zeus and Prometheus , even if you refer back to Hesiod’s Theogony . (BTW, is it just me who thinks Hesiod really seemed to have it out for Pandora? One can presume that Hesiod did not seem to hold women in very high esteem.) In the Greek Tragedy Prometheus Bound it is deduced that Prometheus does seem to be responsible for man’s plight, but that tidbit seems to have been overlooked. Blaming Pandora seems to be much more intriguing.

Yet there is another take on the origins and evolution of Pandora. There is an antediluvian belief that she is all-giving, a fecund and nurturing Earth Mother, that she is life. Isn’t it interesting then that James Cameron would name his lush Na’vi planet Pandora? The Pandora of myth was ‘a beautiful evil’. Here again on Pandora the planet we find the concept of dangerous beauty. It was no coincidence that Cameron would name one of the most memorable planets in fantasy fiction after this mythic personage.

James Cameron's Pandora.

James Cameron's beautiful Pandora.

Even though the Pandora of myth loosed all evils upon mankind, isn’t the fact that she managed to retain hope within that vaunted chest a kind of balance against those woes? And wasn’t Eywa all about balance? Eywa, the Na’vi’s female deity and mother of all things on their magnificent planet is at once both terrible and beautiful. Balance.

Jake asks for the help of Eywa.

Jake asks for the help of Eywa.

As in the myth, the humans do indeed open a Pandora’s box of wonder and peril when they happen upon this planet and begin mixing the DNA of the indigenous with that of mankind. At points in the movie it does seem like there is no hope and that there is nothing left but to despair. Yet in the end Eywa, the All Mother and goddess of the Na’vi, bestows the great gift of her mercy and enables Jake to bring his new people to victory. And isn’t that the hope for help that Jake prayed for?

What’s your take on the original sin theory and the fall of man? Do you think Pandora is responsible? Who do you think is at fault? Do you know any other original sin myths? Regardless of whose to blame for the fall of man, the Pandora myth makes for interesting film fodder.

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Kyra Dawson

By day I'm at Brighter Scribe or blogging at The Scribe's Desk about fantasy, sci-fi, horror, mythology, movies, TV, music, books, humor and some other entertaining ish. I'm also a published author who enjoys random acts of writing, video gaming, the art of fangirlling, and indulging my Inner Perpetual Teenager diligently. I'm also a regular contributor at Cinelinx and am passionate about giving back to the community.

13 Comments:

  1. Nice lead in via Tomb Raider. Did not know what to expect when I saw the Cradle of Life poster. Who would have expected info about Pandora? Why do women get the blame? Where is there a myth where men are blamed for the root of all evil?

  2. I've always liked the story of Pandora. And its true! Amongst all the dither about evil escapin the box and stuff, everyone seems to have forgotten that she was just a pawn in a men's war. Zeus did have it out for man anyway. Men were the toys of the gods afterall.

  3. Totally unrelated but I wish Megan Fox woulda done Tombraider.

    • Lols… so funny. We would have liked her to, but Megan Fox just wasn't down for it. She wants to get as far away as she can from comparisons to Angelina Jolie. o.0

  4. Lol, your so right…..women always get the blame for all going wrong. Its amazing how that works!!! Good post!!

  5. Pandora is a really good story. Love stories such as these.

  6. And why is the name Pandora so powerful. Wonder if people even analyze it to be from All the Gold? Anyway… Pandora is the magic land in Avatar isn't it? Name wise a very disappointing move… Avatar, Pandora… common English names.. even though they invented a whole language to use!

    PS Behind every successful man stands a women…. Telling him he is wrong!

    (and vice versa).

  7. I love posts that open up a good dialogue. Great comments! 😀

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