A Treasury of Literary Classics -
Greek Mythology Series


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Pandora's Box

"Pandora's Box" is a Greek myth that comes from a set of epic poems titled Works and Days by Hesiod. Written during the 7th century B.C., these poems centre around how Pandora, the first woman on Earth, was created by Gods and how the gift Zeus gave her ultimately ended the Golden Age of humandkind. "Pandora's Box" is considered one of the most descriptive myths of human behaviour in Greek mythology. It not only shows the weaknesses of humans, but also explains the root of evils and misfortune in the world. The myth of "Pandora's Box" has been catching the imagination of artisits and appears in different art forms. The version of the myth selected is retold by Louis Untermeyer (1885-1977), who was an American poet, anthologist, critic, and editor.

1. Why was Zeus, the Lord of Olympus, angry at the beginning of the story?

A. Prometheus had little sympathy for mankind.
B. Prometheus stole the fire from Olympus to help mankind.
C. Epimetheus was too harmless and slow-witted.
D. Prometheus and Epimetheus had a subtle plan to plot against Zeus.

Your answer:

"Prometheus had thought about mankind with such sympathy that he had dared to steal the needed fire from Olympus, and for this he was grievously punished by Zeus."

2. Imagery is a literary device involving the use of desciptive language that draws on the five human senses. Imagery can be divided into five types based on the senses appealed to:

A. Visual imagery appeals to our sense of sight.
B. Auditory imagery appeals to our sense of hearing.
C. Olfactory imagery appeals to our sense of smell.
D. Gustatory imagery appeals to our sense of taste.
E. Tactile imagery appeals to our sense of touch.

The following excerpt describes how Pandora was made. Identify the types of imagery used in the underlined parts and write the letters in the spaces provided. There may be more than one answer to each underlined part.

Hephaestus took some river clay that had (2a) flakes of gold in it and began to make a lovely girl. In with the clay he mixed (2b) the fragrance of a river rose, the (2c) sweetness of Hymettus honey, the (2d) smoothness of a silver dolphine, (2e) the voices of larks and lake-water, (2f) the color of sunrise on snow, (2g) the warmth of a sunny morning in May. Then he summoned the Four Winds to breathe life into the new creation.
Imagery used Imagery used
2a. 2b.
2c. 2d.
2e. 2f.

Think whether you can see, hear, smell, taste or touch the things.

3. What did the following goddesses give Pandora? Fill in the blanks with ONE world only.

Goddess Power / Gift given to Pandora
3a. Aphrodite
3b. Athene
3c. Hera

3a: "Hephaestus has given her beauty," said Aphrodite,"but I shall make her more beautiful by adding the spark of love. It will shine in her eyes, and everyone that looks on her will be enchanted."
3b: "I shall make her wise," said Athene. "She shall be able to choose between false and true, between what men value and what she must know is worthless."
3c: "I shall make her a woman, a puzzle to every man," said Hera, the wife of Zeus. "I shall make her a real woman, for I shall give her the gift of curiosity."

4. What is the meaning of the name "Pandora"?

A. all endowed
B. the first lady
C. a dowry casket
D. empty-handed

Your answer:

"We will call her Pandora," he said, "Pandora, the All-Gifted."

5. Why did Zeus give Pandora the casket (a box of magic) as her dowry when she married Epimetheus?

A. to please the goddesses that adorned Pandora
B. to challenge Hermes, who conducted Pandora to earth
C. to bless the marriage and congratulate the couple
D. to take revenge and put a curse on mankind

Your answer:

"... he had a more subtle plan. It was a scheme which would not only affect Epimetheus but also the whole race of human beings whom Prometheus had dared to help and who were living happily and untroubled."

6. What did Epimetheus tell Pandora to do with the box?

A. open it to catch a glimpse
B. burn it in the fire
C. put it out of sight and mind
D. sell the box in an auction

Your answer:

"Keep it well fastened," said Epimetheus, "otherwise I shall never rest easy. I do not know what the casket may contain, and I do not want to know. Promise me one thing. Never open the box. It is, I grant, a beautiful thing, too beautiful to destroy, and we will keep it. But hide it. Put it not only out of your sight but out of your mind. Then we shall both be content."

7. What prompted Pandora to open the box?

A. curiosity
B. stupidity
C. vanity
D. anger

Your answer:

"One day, however, the curiosity, so long stifled, overmastered her. "I shall only lift the lid," she said to herself, "and snatch a moment's glimpse of what may be inside."

8. What happened after Pandora opened the box?

A. Epimetheus was upset and blamed Pandora for the trouble she created.
B. Epimetheus and Pandora were attacked by the poison of Malice.
C. The spirits of all that were evil, sad, and hurtful were released into the world.
D. Pandora lost all her dowry and was disconsolate.

Your answer:

"It was only a moment and the lid was up only an inch, but in that moment a swarm of horrible things flew out. They were noisome, abominably colored, and evil-looking, for they were the spirits of all that was evil, sad, and hurtful. They were War and Famine, Crime and Pestilence, Spite and Cruelty, Sickness and Malice, Envy, Woe, Wickedness, and all the other disasters let loose in the world."

9. Which of the following best describes the ending of the story?

A. a resolved ending where order is restored and problems are solved
B. a long-view (a crystal ball) ending which tells readers what happens to the characters in the future over a long period
C. a tie-back ending which comes full circle to arrive back where the story starts
D. a bittersweet ending which closes the story on a positive note, but with a mix of sadness and loss

Your answer:

10. "Pandora's box" has become an idiomatic expression in modern English. Which of the following is NOT the metaphorical meaning of the expression?

A. a source of hope and faith
B. chaos and endless troubles arising from a simple mistake
C. a cause of unforeseen problems and extensive threats
D. a curse in disguise

Your answer:

Only A is positive. It is the odd one out.

Pandora's Box

Score Sheet

Questions Results
Question 1
Question 2a
Question 2b
Question 2c
Question 2d
Question 2e
Question 2f
Question 2g
Question 3a
Question 3b
Question 3c
Question 4
Question 5
Question 6
Question 7
Question 8
Question 9
Question 10

Extension: Think and Share

11. There is an old saying, "Curiosity kills the cat." Pandora opened the casket out of curiosity, which caused the misfortune of the human race. How far do you agree that curiosity leads to trouble?

12. After Pandora opened the box and released all evils, Epimetheus said, "The fault is mine ... I should have burned the box ... After all, you are what you are - only a woman - and what else could one expect of a woman." From Epimetheus' speech, what can you infer about his views on women? Do you agree with his comment on women?