Back in the day, I had a blog called Misplaced Myths. It contained various myths, legends and tales turned sideways and over-analyzed, sometimes to a comedic extent. Needless to say, it was fun to write and I decided to bring it back here as a regular feature. (Re-)Introducing Misplaced Myth Mondays!
Pandora’s Box: Highlighting Misogyny?
Sensing a theme here? I was thinking the same thing, but it wasn’t intentional. Honest.
The Pandora myth is most known for the box that, once opened, unleashed all the horrors mankind has to contend with. Illness, sadness, anger, injustice, etc…only hope was there to ease the suffering. What’s less widely known is how Pandora came to possess the box in the first place.
Zeus was angry with Prometheus for tricking him and giving fire to the humans. Punishing him sadistically wasn’t enough, it seems, and so he decided to mess with his brother, Epimetheus, as well. He had Hephaestus create a woman from clay. She was the first woman and was given gifts from several of the other gods, from beauty to grace. Some versions of the story claim she was created to be deceitful to man and that these gifts contained a bit of nastiness to aid her to that end.
Zeus gave her to Epimetheus as a bride and gifted them a locked box, telling them it should never be opened under any circumstances. The couple agreed and Epimetheus was given the key. Ol’ Zeus has anticipated that he would give in to curiosity. However, it was Pandora who took the key while her husband slept and opened the box.
Once she realized what she had done, it was too late. The damage was done. Humankind, from then on, was plagued with numerous ills that threatened their survival and well-being. From old age and jealousy to pain, they were doomed to suffer.
Sounds surprisingly similar to the Eve myth in Christianity, doesn’t it? I’m not sure when this story began circulating but the ancient Greeks did have contact with Middle-Eastern nations at a certain point, so the stories influencing one another would not be outside the realm of possibility.
Both stories are about the first woman screwing things up for all humanity, for all time. Or are they? Sure, they depict the woman either being devious or ignorant enough to make a destructive decision. These stories place the women in a bad light – poor little ladies who are easily led (or given to temptation), highlighting a need for women to be looked after by men.
However, what’s often missed is that Pandora and Eve were led to their decision by men, who exploited their innocence. Zeus and the serpent, who many assume is male (i.e. Satan). Many ancient stories in which men make bad choices, it was often out of defiance or other deliberate reason. So, why are women who make bad choices depicted as ignorant or otherwise “weak”? Why isn’t the blame for the results placed on the men who deliberately pushed for them? Food for thought.
Perhaps soon I’ll offset the feminist themes with a story that swaps the victim/villain roles. After all, we must have balance and there are plenty of female villains to go around. 🙂
Got a myth you wanna see misplaced? Gimme a holler!