Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Opening Pandora's Box ...

In my travels over the lanes of various children's books this year, I've been noticing how many of them rely on the theme of Pandora's box. The idea that one little misstep by one little individual can wreak havoc far and wide. Coraline opening the little door between her flat and the Other Mother's World. Alice and her key/looking-glass. Bluebeard's wife. Little Red Riding Hood. Tom Riddle's diary. Curiosity sometimes kills the cat. Sometimes it makes him/her stronger.

Pandora's story is much like that of Eve and her apple. Pandora, supposedly the first woman on Earth, was gifted to a man, Epimetheus, as his wife by Zeus, who was craftily thinking of a way to get even with Prometheus (Epimetheus's brother) for giving fire to humans without asking his permission. Pandora came with a box, a box with a heavy lid and a lock containing sickness, disease, hate, envy, you name it.  Pandora is cautioned to never open this box - and we all know what happens when people are told not to do something. Her natural curiosity wins out, she lifts the lid, and lets loose upon the world the terrors contained within. But, here's the kicker, Zeus knew all along that she would lift the lid. And, along with these evils, the box contains a little thing called hope, which flies out into the world.

In each children's book that contains this theme, and there are many, the book itself becomes a kind of Pandora's Box, a tome that, once opened, looses obstacles and frights on the child's imagination. The book itself is a sort of haunted house, full of booby-trapped stairs, doors, and locks. And at the bottom of every book lies hope, a curious little bug that has just as much power as all of the evil in the world.

" Hope, ... which whispered from Pandora's box after all the other plagues and sorrows had escaped, is the best and last of all things. Without it, there is only time" (Ian Caldwell, The Rule of Four). Until tomorrow. ~Alice  
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