The choice of movie title and planet name, Pandora (see Pandora myth below) all figured into the subtle fractal-layered messages buried beneath the obvious tale, aptly described by reviewer Anne Thompson as “disarmingly sincere.” The film’s opening sweeps us into a breathtaking panorama of Pandora’s lush and exotic jungle to the haunting notes of James Horner’s tribal score.
The human scientists of the film discover that the natives are harmoniously linked to one another and to their environment through Nature’s intelligent “network”. Words like “download” and “link up” suggest another “living” network: the Internet. Which brings us back to the name of the movie and all that it entails: Avatar.
What is your avatar?
Meaning and History of Avatar:
In storytelling, an avatar is basically an archetype, representing a concept or quality. Avatar originates from the Sanskrit language in sacred Hindu texts, and is a term for divine beings sent to restore goodness to Earth such as Vishnu, the ever peaceful preserver of the universe, who maintains the cosmic order, Dharma. It translates as “incarnation” or “appearance” or “manifestation”. According to the Hindu texts, good and evil forces are usually evenly matched in the world; but at times the balance is destroyed and evil demons get the upper hand. Vishnu then incarnates in a human or animal form to set the balance right. Cameron’s Avatar (Jake Sully) basically “reincarnated” from one form to another to set the balance right.
The Myth of Pandora:
Cameron chose the name of the planet, Pandora, with deliberation. In Greek mythology, Pandora was the first woman on earth. Zeus ordered Hephaestus, the god of craftsmanship, to create her, so he did—using water and earth. The gods endowed her with many talents: Aphrodite gave her beauty, Apollo music, and Hermes persuasion. Her name Pandora means "all-gifted."
When Prometheus stole fire from heaven, Zeus gave Pandora to Prometheus' brother. Pandora had a jar which she was not to open under any circumstance. Curiousity got the better of her and Pandora opened the jar. All evil escaped and spread over the earth. She quickly closed the lid, but the entire contents of the jar had escaped, except for one thing at the bottom: Hope. Pandora was deeply saddened by what she had done, and feared Zeus' wrath. But Zeus didn’t punish her. Eventually, Pandora heard a voice from inside the jar pleading for her to open it a second time. Pandora did, and fixed her earlier mistake by giving humanity the greatest gift of all: Hope.
Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit www.ninamunteanu.me. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for more about her writing.