Pandora: Hope on the Scaffold

If you remember the tale of poor Prometheus, he hooked mankind up with fire.

(for more on his story, click here).

Note, the use of ‘mankind’ was intentional, not sexist.

Mankind, because in this particular Greek myth-arc. there were no women, just men.

Female deities and magical beings, yes: Goddesses, Nymphs and Faeries for sure…

But humans? Not a single woman.

It was, to use a modern colloquialism, a sausage party.

Back to Prometheus: Zeus was pissed off at Prometheus specifically, and mankind in general.

To set his machinations in motion, he sent Epimetheus, Prometheus’ slightly dim-witted brother, a gift.

This gift was crafted by Athena and Hephaestus. The Goddess of Charms, and the God of Technology; together, forged the most beautiful object in all of creation.

Perhaps it’s better to say ‘subject’ rather than ‘object’.

Together, they made the first human female.

Her name was Pandora, meaning She Who Bears All Gifts.

Zeus presented her to Epimetheus, and Epimetheus was smitten. Zeus suggested marriage, and Epimetheus gladly agreed. A wedding was arranged, and many lavish presents were given to the first couple, including a sealed vase.

The vase, it should be noted, came with a simple instruction from the Gods: Do Not Open.


In the brilliant Ren and Stimpy episode Space Madness, Ren gives Stimpy one directive: do not push the History Eraser button.


Earlier, Prometheus had warned his brother about accepting gifts from Zeus. Likewise, the Gods had warned Pandora not to open her vase (often mistranslated as box).

Both Pandora and Stimpy did what any deranged space cat would do…


At least Biblical Eve had a serpent to blame; Pandora’s excuse was nothing but her own curiosity.

When she opened the vase, out flew All That Ails Humanity:

War, Pestilence, Famine, Death.

Fear, Shame, Prejudice.

Greed, Violence.



In the nick of time, Pandora shut the vase.

Every ill escaped, except the final ailment, the ultimate sorrow, the cruelest affliction:



Intentional irony?

Gallows’ humor?

Theodicy (i.e. a theory to explain the origin of evil in light of the Gods)?



Hope, according to Doctor Who:

Priestess: All you’re doing is giving (her) hope.

The Doctor: Since when is hope a bad thing?

Priestess: Hope is a terrible thing on the scaffold.


The earliest account of Pandora comes from Hesiod. He doesn’t come off as a fan of Pandora in particular, or women in general:

From her [Pandora] is the race of women and female kind:
of her is the deadly race and tribe of women who
live among mortal men to their great trouble,
no helpmates in hateful poverty, but only in wealth.

Should a man therefore avoid the company of women? Apparently, that isn’t a good advice either:

He reaches deadly old age without anyone to tend his years,
and though he at least has no lack of livelihood while he lives,
yet, when he is dead, his kinsfolk divides his possessions among them.

As for the vase and its singular content:

Only Hope was left within her unbreakable house,
she remained under the lip of the jar, and did not
fly away. Before she [Hope] could, Pandora replaced the
lid of the jar.

This was the will of aegis-bearing
Zeus the Cloudgatherer.


Zeus wasn’t done messing with humanity. His next act of wrath would be a flood to exterminate the human race (this is chronicled in the Roman poet Ovid’s Metamorphosis).

Only Pandora’s daughter Pyrrha, Pyrrah’s husband Deucalion (a son of Prometheus), and their six children survived the deluge.

The world was washed clean, but Pandora’s progeny survived.

Sometimes, Hope is a good thing, even on the scaffold…


Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Pandora, 1881
Actress Louise Brooks, from the 1929 German silent movie, Pandora’s Box
Theogony and Works and Days (Oxford World’s Classics)

The Metamorphoses of Ovid

7 thoughts on “Pandora: Hope on the Scaffold

Leave a Reply