Study Guide

Prometheus and Pandora Summary

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How It (Supposedly) Went Down

A Brief Summary:

It all starts when Prometheus steals fire from Zeus, king of the gods, to give to mankind. Apparently this isn't cool, and Zeus is so mad that he chains Prometheus up and inflicts on Man the worst thing he can think of: Woman. (Yeah, this was pre-feminism.)

The vengeful king of the gods makes Pandora (the lady) from the earth, and he gives her to Epimetheus, Prometheus's brother, as a bride. Doesn't sound too terrible, but just wait. Next up, Zeus gives Pandora a jar full of everything terrible that you can possibly imagine and tells her not to open it. So guess what she does?

Yep, she opens it. And voilà, all kinds of terrible plagues are released onto mankind. The only thing that remains in the jar is—wait for it—Hope.

So wait, is that a happy ending?

A Detailed Summary:

  • Way back in the day, sometime around the beginning of everything, Prometheus steals fire from Zeus to give to mankind.
  • This is not okay.
  • And guess what? Zeus is majorly ticked off.
  • He chains Prometheus to a rock for all eternity and has big nasty birds come eat his liver everyday.
  • Each night, his liver grows back so the birds have a snack for the next day. Gross to the max.
  • As if that isn't a big enough punishment, Zeus also decides to wreak some havoc on mankind.
  • What is his devilish scheme you ask? What horrible thing does he inflict on men everywhere? Dun dun dun: a woman.
  • (They didn't know about sexism back then.)
  • Hephaestus is on the job, and he mixes some earth and water together to create the first woman, who is named Pandora.
  • Lots of gods have a hand in making Pandora, each giving her a "gift": Athena teaches the woman how to weave; Aphrodite makes her beautiful; Hermes makes her skilled at lying and being deceitful. (Did we mention this was sexist?)
  • Then they all get together and put her in a really hot outfit. So far so good.
  • Zeus also gives Pandora a jar full of every kind of bad thing imaginable and warns her never to open it. (Worst wedding present ever, anyone?)
  • Oh, P.S. All these so-called gifts are how Pandora got her name: it means "all endowed" or "all gifted."
  • Next up, Zeus has Hermes take Pandora down to Epimetheus, Prometheus's brother, to offer her as a bride.
  • Prometheus had warned Epimetheus to not take any presents from Zeus, but Epimetheus accepts Pandora anyway, fearing that if he doesn't, Zeus will do something bad to mankind. (Spoiler alert: that turns out to totally backfire.)
  • Eventually, Pandora gets curious about the mysterious jar that Zeus gave her.
  • She opens it, and every terrible thing you could possibly imagine streaks out of the jar and goes off to plague all of humanity.
  • Oops.
  • But not all hope is lost. Literally: the only thing that remains in the jar is Hope.

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