3 things I didn’t know about Pandora

Hello Internet, today is Tuesday, November 27th, which is cue-to-cue and tech rehearsal day at the LSPU Hall. It’s also the day we get to talk about Pandora.

Pandora_-_John_William_Waterhouse

Pandora, by John William Waterhouse, c. 1896

I don’t think this will come as a surprise to anyone who knows me, but I’ve always been a giant nerd. I devoted a large portion of my spare time throughout my teenage years to learning way more than is necessary to know about ancient Greek mythology. Gods & goddesses, a woman who became a spider, a man who fell in love with his own reflection and then drowned, a woman who opened a box that let every bad thing into the world.

Pandora is so entrenched in our culture that a “Pandora’s box” has a meaning beyond the story it came from. You open one and the situation gets out of control and you can’t undo it. You probably know that this is what happened to Pandora – she was told not to open a box, she opened it anyway, and everything evil in the world came out of it.

Here are some things you might not know, things I didn’t know about Pandora until I started working on Original.

1. It was a pot, actually.

Pandora's jar

One of these.

Pandora’s story appears in Hesiod’s Works and Days, and the container was actually a large clay jar – of the variety used to store things in Ancient Greece. It was mistranslated as a box and then got famous.

2. Pandora was a first woman.

Before Zeus had Pandora made, there hadn’t ever been any women. Lots of men. Tons of em, a whole society. No women, though. Nobody ever died (death was in the pot, right?) so there wasn’t really a need for procreation.

3. Pandora was literally a curse on mankind.

Ok, here’s the deal. Prometheus (you might have heard of him if you, like me, are a giant nerd), stole fire from the gods and gave it to mankind, so that men could have heat and light, cook their food, etc. For this he was famously punished, in the following manner: he was chained to a rock for all eternity, and every day an eagle would eat his liver. And then, because Prometheus was immortal (he was a Titan, and not a human, if you’re keeping track), his liver would regenerate overnight so that it could be eaten again the next day. Solid punishment, right? Zeus was really good at punishing folks.

Herk.png

Heroes, right?

This particular punishment was going great until Hercules killed the eagle and set Prometheus free. So then Zeus had to come up with something better. So, he made Pandora. Or, rather, he made the other gods make Pandora. Hephaestus made her, technically speaking. Athena brought her to life and taught her to weave. Aphrodite coated her with charm. The Graces gave her jewelry. Hermes gave her wit, and a sense of mischief. Then they brought her to earth – this beautiful creature designed especially to be irresistible to men – and gave her to Prometheus’ brother, Epimetheus, who, of course, loved her. And then the jar/pot/box was opened and you know the rest.

So, yeah. Pandora was Prometheus’ second punishment. Literally a curse on mankind.

In the very early days of work on Original, I tried out Pandora’s story – starting with the moment she opened her eyes – at a couple of storytelling events. Very little of it made it into the final script, but I feel like I know Pandora far better because of it.

Hermes gave me the pot, and then he gave me away. He gave me a name, too. He called me “Pandora.” It means – he said it means – “gift from all the gods.” So I thought of myself that way for a while, you know? I thought I was a gift.

Pandora, Original. Running at the LSPU Hall November 28-December 2. Tickets are available here.