Pandora’s Box

Author: Kurahashi Yumiko (倉橋 由美子)
Japanese Title: パンドーラーの壺 (Pandōrā no tsubo)
Taken From: 大人のための残酷童話 (Otona no tame no zankoku dōwa, 1984)

Zeus was feeling spiteful because Prometheus had stolen fire from the heavens and given it to mankind, so he made up his mind to take out his anger on man and on Prometheus’s younger brother Epimetheus, as Prometheus himself was somewhat hard to deal with. Zeus therefore sent orders to the skilled blacksmith Hephaestus to create Pandora out of kneaded mud. Pandora was equal to her name, for the gods gave her all manner of gifts. Starting with a beauty rivaling that of a goddess, they provided her with absolutely everything that a woman could desire. Only Athena, who had grown weary of Zeus’s childish games, put off giving Pandora the gift of intelligence. Besides, she wouldn’t admit that such a gift is necessary for a woman.

Well then, Epimetheus was a character who was certainly equal to his name, which means “afterthought.” When he saw the alluring Pandora, he made her his wife at once, oafishly ignoring his older brother’s advice that one should not accept gifts from the gods.

Pandora had an abundance of curiosity to make up for her lack of wisdom, and she ended up removing the lid of a box that everyone told her should absolutely not be opened because she wanted find out what was inside. When Prometheus noticed Pandora lifting the lid from the box, he let out a horrible shriek and made a desperate attempt to clamp it back down, but the damage had already been done.

Some people say that all kinds of misfortune flew from the box and spread throughout the world, leaving only a thin glimmer of hope. According to another explanation, only unsympathetic “hope” was left behind after all the joys of the world flew from the box for destinations unknown. The truth, however, is that something a bit more troublesome occurred.

What had left the box and spread throughout the world was misfortune for women. This misfortune was called “envy,” and the hearts of the women of the world were consumed by a bitter jealousy when they realized that Pandora was the most beautiful woman to ever live. From then on, women rated one another’s beauty against their own and gradually came to hate each other. Prometheus was troubled by this situation, so he took self-knowledge from what was left in the box and scattered it among women. This elixir was too potent, however; and women, now aware of their own ugliness, started committing suicide one after another. It seemed that women would continue killing themselves until not one remained, and it would not do for Pandora to be left as the last living woman. Prometheus looked into the box once more and saw that “hope” still remained inside. Pleased with the clarity of his foresight, which he had put aside until that point, Prometheus sprinkled this “hope” over the women on the earth. As a result, the suicides stopped. Although women still hated each other, they stopped hating their own ugliness.

Over time, women were able to exist by not thinking entirely of themselves.
Meanwhile, Epimetheus, completely unconcerned with the painstaking care of the human race that tortured his brother Prometheus, enjoyed his marriage to the childlike and innocent Pandora as if nothing had ever happened, and the two of them lived happily ever after.

The gods gave women jealousy and conceit.


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