Pandora Box | Mythical Object

Pandora Box | Mythical Object

Pandora's Box is an object from Greek mythology, the centerpiece of the myth of Pandora, the first woman created by Zeus, one of the best known among the mythical stories. Although popularized as a "box" in early versions of the myth, the container is said to be a jar.

In the best known version it is said that Pandora was created by Hephaestus at the behest of Zeus as a way to take revenge on mankind after the titan Prometheus had given men the secret of fire; sent to earth to marry Epimetheus, brother of Prometheus, she was carrying a box with the recommendation that it should never be opened.

Pandora then tries to close the box but keeps inside only hope. In the summary of an encyclopedic dictionary: "First woman, according to Hesiod. Created by Athena and Hephaestus with all perfections, Hermes made her curious and deceitful. Zeus handed her a closed vessel, which Pandora uncovered and all the evils it contained spread throughout the world."

Like all myths this one also seeks to explain the origin of phenomena that are difficult to understand, as well as having an influence on everyday thought and expressions.

In the latter sense one has the expression "opening Pandora's box" (or equivalent as "opening the bag of winds", used in Portugal as a mention of the evil "winds" released with the opening of the vessel entrusted to Pandora) meaning "the origin of all evils."

Its earliest mention is in Hesiod's The Labors and the Days.


According to Pierre Grimal, Pandora is a "hesiodic myth, the first woman, created by Hephaestus and Athena, with the help of all the other gods, by order of Zeus. Each of them assigned her a gift: she thus received beauty, grace, manual dexterity, the ability to persuade, and other qualities. But Hermes put lying and cunning in her heart.

Hephaestus made her in the image of the immortal goddesses, and Zeus destined her for the punishment of the human race, to which Prometheus had just given the divine fire. This was the gift that all the gods then offered to men, to bring them misfortune."

Jean Chevalier and Alain Gheerbrant in their work "Dictionary of Symbols" explain the story, "I will give men as a gift, says Zeus, an evil with which all, from the bottom of their hearts, will wish to surround their misfortune with love."

Similarity to the Japanese myth of Urashima Taro

In Japanese mythology there is the myth of Urashima Taro, which has similarities with Pandora's story; Uroshima was a fisherman who, after saving a small turtle that was actually the daughter of the lord of the seas, is taken to the aquatic kingdom where he is treated to luxuries and parties, but after some time he feels homesick and asks to return;

He then receives a box with the recommendation of only opening it when he is very old and close to death; when he arrives at his village he discovers that three centuries have passed and he has lost his old life; sad and without having answered the call he had made to the princess of the sea to return, he decides to open the box he received and a mist comes out of it and ages him;

he then hears the voice of the princess who informs him that in it are kept his years of life: just as in the myth of Pandora, here too the character receives an object whose contents he suspects to be valuable; in both cases the object releases something that hides the greatest fears.

Cultural impact

Already in 1929 the film Pandora's Box (Die Büchse der Pandora, in the original) by German director Georg Wilhelm Pabst, starring Louise Brooks, uses the myth to depict the story of the seductive character who, after killing her husband, is called Pandora during her trial.