• Pandora's Jar

  • Women in the Greek Myths
  • By: Natalie Haynes
  • Narrated by: Natalie Haynes
  • Length: 9 hrs and 24 mins
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (252 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

“Funny, sharp explications of what these sometimes not-very-nice women were up to, and how they sometimes made idiots of . . . but read on!” - Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid's Tale

The national bestselling author of A Thousand Ships returns with a fascinating, eye-opening take on the remarkable women at the heart of classical stories Greek mythology from Helen of Troy to Pandora and the Amazons to Medea.

The tellers of Greek myths - historically men - have routinely sidelined the female characters. When they do take a larger role, women are often portrayed as monstrous, vengeful or just plain evil - like Pandora, the woman of eternal scorn and damnation whose curiosity is tasked with causing all the world’s suffering and wickedness when she opened that forbidden box. But, as Natalie Haynes reveals, in ancient Greek myths there was no box. It was a jar . . . which is far more likely to tip over.

In Pandora’s Jar, the broadcaster, writer, stand-up comedian, and passionate classicist turns the tables, putting the women of the Greek myths on an equal footing with the men. With wit, humor, and savvy, Haynes revolutionizes our understanding of epic poems, stories, and plays, resurrecting them from a woman’s perspective and tracing the origins of their mythic female characters. She looks at women such as Jocasta, Oedipus’ mother-turned-lover-and-wife (turned Freudian sticking point), at once the cleverest person in the story and yet often unnoticed. She considers Helen of Troy, whose marriage to Paris “caused” the Trojan war - a somewhat uneven response to her decision to leave her husband for another man. She demonstrates how the vilified Medea was like an ancient Beyonce - getting her revenge on the man who hurt and betrayed her, if by extreme measures. And she turns her eye to Medusa, the original monstered woman, whose stare turned men to stone, but who wasn’t always a monster, and had her hair turned to snakes as punishment for being raped.

Pandora’s Jar brings nuance and care to the millennia-old myths and legends and asks the question: Why are we so quick to villainize these women in the first place - and so eager to accept the stories we’ve been told?

Supplemental enhancement PDF accompanies the audiobook.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio. 

©2022 Natalie Haynes (P)2022 HarperCollins Publishers
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

What listeners say about Pandora's Jar

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  • Overall
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The Golden Age Continues

As I’ve said before; there are times when the spoiled and bored millennial in me stirs and I feel like there’s nothing good to read. Nothing can hold my attention or is well-written enough to keep me invested from beginning to end. Then I read Natalie Haynes latest work “Pandora’s Jar” and I remember how lucky I am.
People fascinated by Greek mythology are living in a very exciting time. Every few months we get a new and interesting take on one of the western worlds great myths. Circe and Song Of Achilles by Madeline Miller, The Mythos Series by Stephen Fry, The Women of Troy books by Pat Barker, and even Natalie Haynes earlier entry A Thousand Ships have all added a thoughtful and modern perspective to an already rich and meaningful mythology. We live in a golden age of new voices telling new stories through ancient myth and the golden age continues apace here with Pandora’s Jar.
Whereas A Thousand Ships was an anthology book telling the stories of the women of the Trojan War, Pandora’s Jar is more an analysis and reevaluation of some of Greek mythology’s most maligned women. Familiar names like Helen, Pandora, Penelope, and Jocasta are discussed with insight and wit but it’s the analysis of people like Medea and Medusa that intrigued me the most. Ms. Haynes has clearly done her homework, knows her stuff, and articulates her points beautifully and subtly. The ancient misogyny of many of these stories is often grotesque and unjust (especially where characters like Medusa, Pandora, and Medea are concerned) and to see these stories and women get a reassessment by someone as erudite and astute as Natalie Haynes was a true treat. I listened to it in one day and loved every minute of it.

12 people found this helpful

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Will be listening again!!

I usually listen to audio books on double speed, (so that I can read more books,) but this one I listened to at regular speed because I didn't want it to end.

5 people found this helpful

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Wasn’t what I was looking for

I’ve enjoyed stories about Greek Mythology since I was a kid. Recently I was on a Troy binge and listened to Natalie Haynes book “a thousand ships” which told the story of Troy from the perspective on the women characters. I enjoyed it so when I saw she had a new book on mythology I bought it without hesitation.

“Pandora’s Jar Women in the Greek Myths” takes a very different approach. Haynes examines in detail various female characters and compares common and lesser known versions of their stories. She focuses on how both historical scholars and modern writers tend to diminish the womens roles. For instance Pandora’s is always presented as being responsible for the woes of the world, yet it was Zeus who had her created in an elaborate plan to get revenge of Prometheus.

Likewise Medusa is depicted as a monster killed by Perseus. But the myths shows she is a victim - first raped by Poseidon in Athena’s temple, then cursed by Athena to have the snake hair because she was foolish enough to be raped in Athena’s temple (punish the victim). And the Perseus story is an elaborate plot by Athena to put Medusa’s head on her shield.

All of that in interesting but after while, Haynes own feminism overshadows the mythology. It starts to feel like a litany of wrongs perpetrated by men (and gods) on women.

All of that may be true, but that isn’t what I was looking for in listening to this book. I’m not trying to bury my head in the sand. But its as if I should be ashamed for liking story’s from Greek Mythology because of their depiction of how women were treated.

I read that Haynes will have a new book retelling Medusa’s story in detail. I may not be so eager to buy it.

4 people found this helpful

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Loved it!

I noticed this book on an email sent by Audible about books that I might like. This one looked interesting, so I checked it out. I loved it! I could not stop listening. I plan to listen to it again, so I can catch things I missed. This book makes me want to dive further into the subject matter. The author was funny and great to listen to. I definitely want to read more from her. Highly recommend - whether or not you’re into mythology. I really wasn’t before listening, but now I am!

2 people found this helpful

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Fantastic Feminist Mythology

Natalie Haynes recounts the various representations of women in Greek mythology, analyzing their stories and criticizing some depections as she goes. A great overview of the often overlooked women in some of the best known stories. Haynes's style incorporates a touch of humor and personality into the lush descriptions of the myths, giving this an almost conversational feel at times.

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Wonderful Discussion

I have gone though a major Greco-Roman myth binge since Covid lockdowns. The discussion of the women in these myths is something I’ve been craving. Haynes has such a wonderful radio/speaking voice.

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The section on Medusa will give you chills

Amazing! This is a must read. It is read by the author and she did a wonderful job. I couldn’t wait to listen every free moment I had. She humanizes the mythological women we thought we knew and validates their perspective. Accompanying pdf had me looking up every vase and statue referenced. 5 star read easily!

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Outstanding!

What's not to love about a modern, clear-eyed look at ancient Greek misogyny (with the noted exception of Euripides)? These stories analyze the the ancient myths with deep knowledge of contemporary attitudes (all male, course) and counter with pathos, humor and occasional flashes of stunning sarcasm. The author's conviction comes across strongly in the narration and enhances the experience.

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Well researched & empowering

I loved learning about each story and character. I love history and mythology but this was not something I've learned before. Such a refreshing read! Only wish there was more.

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Fantastic Read

For anyone who loves Mythology, especially Greek mythology, this book is a joy to listen to. The author is both academic and highly understandable for the layman.

1 person found this helpful