‘Life of Pi’ Ending Explained

Published 2 years ago by , Updated February 19th, 2014 at 10:25 am,

Life of Pi Ending Explained Life of Pi Ending Explained

Ang Lee’s Life of Pi is racking-up critical acclaim (read our review) and pre-award season buzz along with solid box office numbers. Though, for every mention of the film’s beautiful 3D or amazing CGI tiger, there’s a fuddled viewer confused by the movie’s controversial ending.

Readers of Yann Martel’s original novel (the ones who made it to the end) have already faced the challenging last-minute question presented by the story’s narrator, but filmgoers expecting a fanciful adventure at sea have been understandably caught off-guard by the finale. No doubt, viewers will debate the ending with friends and family – but to help steer discussion we’ve put together a brief analysis of the Life of Pi ending, explaining why the final question may not be as cut and dry as some moviegoers seem to think.

It goes without saying that the remainder of this article will contain MAJOR SPOILERS for Life of Pi - the movie and the book (especially the ending). If you do not want to be spoiled about either, turn away now.

Life of Pi Shipwreck Life of Pi Ending Explained

For anyone who hasn’t seen (or read) Life of Pi and isn’t concerned about having the ending spoiled, Pi’s adventure concludes in a Mexican hospital bed – where he is interviewed by a pair of Japanese Ministry of Transport officials. The agents tell Pi that his story – which includes multiple animal companions and a carnivorous island – is too unbelievable for them to report, so Pi tells them a different version of the story: one that paints a much darker and emotionally disturbing variation of events. After both stories have been shared, Pi leaves it up to the viewer (or reader) to decide which version they “prefer.”

Personal “preference” has larger thematic meaning, when viewed in the context of the overarching story; however, before we analyze the ending (via the question) in greater detail, we’re going to briefly lay out the two versions of Pi’s story.

In both accounts, Pi’s father contracts a Japanese ship to transport his family, along with a number of their zoo animals, from India to Canada in an effort to escape political upheaval in their native country. The stories are identical up until Pi climbs aboard the lifeboat (following the sinking of the cargo ship) only re-converging when he is rescued on the Mexican shore. The 227 days that Pi spends lost at sea are up for debate.

Life of Pi Richard Parker Life of Pi Ending Explained

The Animal Story

In this version of Pi’s tale, the cargo ship sinks and, during the ensuing chaos, he is joined on the lifeboat by a ragtag group of zoo animals that also managed to escape: an orangutan, a spotted hyena, a zebra with a broken leg, and a Bengal Tiger (named Richard Parker). After some time, Pi watches helplessly as the hyena kills the zebra and then the orangutan before it is, subsequently, dispatched by Richard Parker. Pi then sets about conditioning the tiger through rewarding behavior (food and fresh water), so that the two can co-exist in the boat. Though Pi succeeds, the pair remain on the verge of starvation – until, after several months at sea, they wash ashore an uncharted island packed with fresh vegetation and a bountiful meerkat population. Pi and Richard Parker stuff themselves, but soon discover that the island is home to a carnivorous algae that, when the tide arrives, turns the ground to an acidic trap. Pi realizes that eventually the island will consume them – so he stocks the lifeboat with greens and meerkats and the pair sets sail again. When the lifeboat makes landfall along the Mexican coast, Pi and Richard Parker are once again malnourished – as Pi collapses on the beach, he watches the Bengal Tiger disappear into the jungle without even glancing back.

Pi is brought to a hospital – where he tells the animal story to the Japanese officials. However, when the agents do not believe his tale, the young survivor tells a different version of his journey.

Life of Pi Suraj Sharma Boat Life of Pi Ending Explained

The Human Story

In this version of Pi’s tale the cargo ship still sinks, but instead of the ragtag group of animals in the lifeboat, Pi claims that he was joined by his mother (Gita), the ship’s despicable cook, and an injured Japanese sailor. After some time, fearing for the limited supplies in the boat, the cook kills the weakened Japanese sailor, and later, Gita. Scarred from watching his mother die in front of his eyes, Pi kills the cook in a moment of self-preservation (and revenge).

Pi does not mention his other adventures at sea (the carnivorous island, etc) but it’d be easy to strip away some of the fantastical elements in favor of more grounded (albeit allegorical) situations. Maybe he found an island but realized that living is more than just eating and existing – deciding to take his chances at sea instead of wasting away in apathy on a beach eating meerkats all alone. Of course, that is purely speculation – since, again, Pi does not elaborate on the more grounded human story beyond the revelation that he was alone on the lifeboat.

Life of Pi Whale Life of Pi Ending Explained

The Ending Explained

Even if the connection between the lifeboat parties was missed, the writer makes the connection for the audience (or readers): the hyena is the cook, the orangutan is Pi’s mother, the zebra is the sailor, and Richard Parker is Pi. However, the film’s juxtaposition of the animal story and the human story has led many moviegoers to view the last-minute plot point as a finite “twist” – which was not the original intention of Martel (with the book) or very likely Lee (with the film). Viewers have pointed to the look of anguish on Pi’s face during his telling of the human story in the film as “proof” that he was uncomfortable facing the true horror of his experience. However, the novel takes the scene in the opposite direction, with Pi expressing annoyance at the two men – criticizing them for wanting “a story they already know.” Either way, much like the ending of Inception (read our explanation of that ending), there is no “correct” answer – and Life of Pi intentionally leaves the question unanswered so that viewers (and readers) can make up their own mind.

Facing the final question, it can be easy to forget that, from the outset, The Writer character was promised a story that would make him believe in God. In the first part of the narrative, we see Pi struggling to reconcile the differences between faith interpretations (Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam) – acknowledging that each of them contained valuable elements, even if they tell different stories (elements that together help him survive his ordeal at sea regardless of whether or not he was there with a tiger).

As a result, the larger question is impossible to answer definitively and, as mentioned, the “truth” of Pi’s story is of little concern to Martel or Lee. The real question is – which story do you, the viewer/reader prefer? Interpretation is subjective but the question is intended to serve as a moment of theological reflection. Are you a person that prefers to believe in things that always make sense/things that you can see? Or are you a person that prefers to believe in miracles/take things on faith? There are no right or wrong answers – just an opportunity for introspection.

Life of Pi Island Life of Pi Ending Explained

Pi is faced with a heavy challenge: telling a story that will make a person believe in God. Some listeners might remain unconvinced but in the case of The Writer, who openly admits that he prefers the story with the tiger, and the Japanese officials, who in their closing report remarked on the feat of “surviving 227 days at sea… especially with a tiger,” Pi successfully helps skeptics overcome one of the largest hurdles to faith – believing in the unbelievable.

Since Pi marries The Writer’s preference for the Tiger story with the line, “and so it goes with God,” it’s hard to separate the question entirely from theology. Evidenced by his multi-religion background, Pi does not believe that any of the world’s religions are a one-stop shop for the truth of God – and his goal is not to convert anyone to a specific dogma. Instead, his story is set up to help viewers/readers consider which version of the world they prefer – the one where we make our own way and suffer through the darkness via self-determination, or the one where we are aided by something greater than ourselves (regardless of which version of “God” we may accept).

That said, aside from all the theological implications, and regardless of personal preference, it’s insular to view the ending as simply a dismissal of everything that Pi had previously described (and/or experienced) – since, in keeping with his view that every religious story has worthwhile parts, a third interpretation of the ending could be that the “truth” is a mix of both stories. Like Pi and his three-tiered faith routine, the viewer/reader can always pick and choose the parts that benefit their preferred version of the tale.

Life of Pi Suraj Sharma Life of Pi Ending Explained

The “truth”: Pi survived for 227 days at sea, married the girl of his dreams, had children, and lived to tell two stories.

Like any quality piece of entertainment, a lot of this is subjective and there are multiple ways of interpreting the Life of Pi ending, so feel free to (respectfully) share your interpretation with fellow moviegoers in the comment section below.

For an in-depth discussion of the film by the Screen Rant editors check out our Life of Pi episode of the SR Underground podcast.

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Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for more on Life of Pi as well as future movie, TV, and gaming news.

Life of Pi is now playing in theaters everywhere. It is Rated PG for emotional thematic content throughout, and some scary action sequences and peril.

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2,794 Comments - Comments are closed.

  1. I think the story of Pi in the lifeboat with Richard Parker is plausible without any resort to Divine interference or protection. Even the scene on the deadly island is plausible (although not with evil coming in on the tide)as an island which contains both edible and poisonous food. So is the story of Pi in the lifeboat with the human characters, although it makes no sense to cast Pi as the tiger. Therefore, I prefer the tiger version, just as does the Writer. Jack Crossley

  2. This is what I believe to be the meaning of the film:
    “and so it goes with God ” means : – “believe the truth”
    The first story was the truth and God is about us finding the one truth amongst a myriad of human inventions.
    And so it goes with God: believe what is true. Not what is false. But most prefer what is false.
    At first I felt the story was Bahai. All paths lead to God. Now I believe it is definitely Christian. I’ll explain why.
    All faiths offer something beautiful and may provide a stop in a journey, but when the night comes they will destroy you. Like wolves in sheepskin clothing they entice and satisfy for a short period but have no foundation or time proven legitemacy for real safety , discovery or human change. They are limiting. And have no power.
    The hyena needed to be tossed overboard immediately before he destroyed everyone. I’ll leave that to you guys but I know who the hyena is and toss him out!
    Pi’s struggles are our struggles of loss and triumph under a God who can seem near or far from us. Pi has no control but ultimately is delivered. And along the way sees wonders and tests. He learns to trust what is beyond his own world of experience. When he is near death and hands it over he is saved. He gives God the control and along the way God provides what he needs and when he needs it and not in the manner Pi would expect.
    The animals and Pi are you and I , all travelling lifes road, all necessary and of value except the hyena, and the life boat in a big sea is our salvation till we reach the shore. The life boat stayed with Pi and never broke up in the battery and it supplied all his needs and I believe it is Jesus who held Pi and his opposing struggling tiger within, safely till they reached the coast.

  3. The director of the movie interpreted the book as the 2nd story Pi told (the one with humans on the lifeboat). If you look closely at the scene when the floating island is shown from a distance, you can clearly see that it’s the profile of a woman (his mother). Additionally while he’s on the floating island, he removes his bracelet and ties it to a tree branch, representing his mother’s wrist. In the movie he goes on to say that the floating island gave him enough food and energy to survive the final stages of the 227 day journey (he had to eat his mother). Personally after watching the movie, I believe the boy, Pi, was god (pi being an infinite, irrational number. Also, there is a scene in the Japanese ship during the thunderstorm, where Pi starts dancing and making these unusual stances as though he was dancing to make the rain fall), the tiger was actually Pi, the monkey was his mother, the hyena was the cook and the zebra was the Japanese sailor. I believe Pi/the tiger had to cannibalize the other three survivors to survive the 227 day journey. What solidifies my theory is how at the end of the movie when Pi is telling his 2nd story to the Japanese investigators, he kept repeating how the cook was really “resourceful” and how he killed and then dried out the rat in the sun–leading me to believe that Pi might have learned to preserve meat longer living alongside the cook.

  4. I believe the story is simpler than is being portrayed and twofold. It is a journey of self discovery. A young boy survives a major event. The prelude is setting up that he is likely to survive because he has faith. This is affirmed inthe reference tothe 227 days. That faith washes the ugliness of life. That is the second part. That humanity needs faith, in something (hence the metaphor of the 3 religions) to cope with the ugliness of living. The ugliness is represented in the savagery in the tiger.

    Expanding on this, our brains are what defines us over other animals. Our capacity to have faith is both what separates us but als what convinces us we only can have faith. The poignant moment that gives this away is the comment “when you look into the tigers eyes, you only see the reflection of your own emotions”. Well is that so? I ask, how does he know that, the tiger can’t tell him. It was that moment wherei knew, there is no tiger. This is the crux of message in the story. We see the world as we wish to, not as it is.

  5. Great Movie, love that it makes you think . I don’t believe faith makes God real. I believe Pi experienced extreme trauma and created a way of dealing with it. If you believe something (that God exists or that God doesn’t exist) you will only find evidence to prove yourself right. I think searching for truth requires the wonderment of a child. By using a scientific mind, but one that is not limited to the standard set of rules that the Human mind has pre programmed. All we have to go on is that we exist. If there is a force that has caused our existence what is it? I don’t think words or conversations can ever bring us answers to this question. Maybe only personal experience can answer this. Agreeing doesn’t make it true. Having an opinion is just that. What is real??? Some people say they have had experiences where they have left their bodies. For those people it was real. For those who have not experienced something like that it was an illusion. You cannot debate it. It was real for that person and isn’t for the other. Perception is different to blind faith. Experiences gives someone a broader perception.

  6. A lot of people mention that the carnivorous island is his mother, but I think its Visnu (the supreme soul and God in Hindu religion). Pi explains at the beginning (during the floating lights ceremony) that Vishu “sleeps floating on the shoreless cosmic ocean” which is where he encounters the island when he is at his lowest point. The island also looks like the Vishu statue that he prays to when he is a boy. I’m not sure what the theoretical connection between the island and Vishu is other than hope at times of need, but there is still a disconnect from the island’s carnivorous darkness at night and this message. Maybe someone else can fill in this gap.

    • I also like the idea that the island represents Vishnu. Vishnu is sometimes called the “Preserver” and also the “Sustainer of Life” Thus it is fitting that the island/Vishnu sustains Pi’s life. Pi also explains that Vishnu is “dreaming us” and if you’re a believer that our dualistic “reality” is really just a holographic universe or dream than what Vishnu is dreaming must contain these dualities of light and dark. The light/day of the island that holds life and peace and the darkness of night that holds fear and death.

      Vishnu is often depicted as reclining on a Sheshanaga – the coiled, many-headed snake floating on cosmic waters that represents the peaceful Universe. The island’s snake like roots seem to represent this. Vishnu’s pose symbolizes the calm and patience in the face of fear and worries. Pi does not let fear overpower him and leaves the island.

    • You are all skipping an important moment. When Pi shows the man hos report at the very end, it says that he “survived over 200 days on a lifeboat with a bengal tiger”. Soo.. Is there really a question if Richard Parker was Imaginary?

      • Yes there is. That the report contains the tiger story proves nothing except that the investigators wrote the report based on the story Pi initially told. The veracity of that story is still up for discussion.

    • I would rather believe the first story rather than the second although I think the second was meant to be the true story (or a factual story). However, it is impossible for a factual story to convey the whole truth which is much more complicated. Through the second story Pi conveys his inner journey. Taming the tiger is learning to know, accept and tame the animal he became. Accepting every part of him that he discovers through this journey. This is why he thanks his father at the end – the tiger personifies who he is throughout his ordeal. First he hides probably scared, then hunger and survival. The island is his wake up call. In a sense it is him – what he has become and it will destroy all of him (the good and the bad). He must get back to his kind – humanity. Become human again. The second story is actually the same as the first but at a deeper level and conveys more than what cold facts can – so in a very real sense, it is “truer” than the first. Remember that Pi’s way of accepting his name was to build a story around it – here he built a story to accept who he is – at least what he know knows of himself. His cries to God represent the guilt and pain of seeing who he is and this lesson was costly.

      • Marie – I am so moved by your observations. I totally missed the island as yet another representation of himself. Thanks you for sharing that.

        • Marie,
          I believe you have it spot on. Thank you.

      • Thank-you Alice. I also find the tiger figure really interesting. I think it’s his survival instinct. It is the last animal that appears – that is the part of him he doesn’t know of. A survival instinct can be quite terrifying especially for him since all he knew (except for his father’s lessons) was a beautiful, quite even boring life (he says so at one point). He is now discovering a part of him that scares him. he will even say at some point that you don’t know yourself until you’re hungry). He keeps it at bay (he’s on the raft and the tiger on the boat) and only dares to face it when hungry or in need of something to survive. He wants to kill it (when the tiger tries to get back on the boat) because he doesn’t want to be like a hungry tiger killing for food. But if he kills it, he would be killing his instinct survival. He slowly learns to accept it (he will tell the tiger that he will respect his space – that is he realizes that there is a place that survival instincts are required)and tame it (his humanity must keep it in check). The Tiger leaves once he reaches Mexico – the survival instinct is not needed anymore. Thus the first story is HIS SORY – The LIFE of PI. What he has learned about himself, his hope (GOD – but he never really answers), the dark part of him that he can tame (The Tiger). It is the true story of his journey within his soul. The first story – the cold facts – is what triggered his personal journey. It is short and bare. He cries because it was precisely those ugly facts that he couldn’t face that prompted his survival instinct and made him do things he would normally never do. I would need to read the book (and I will) and probably watch the movie a second time.

        • My take is similar to your: that Richard Parker represents that fighting instinct to survive and to protect one’s self. As his journey ended in Mexico, he had undergone many changes while at sea, and decided that the fighting instinct was no longer required, nd so it just ran off into the jungle.
          Might I also add, how much I enjoyed not only the movie, but the wonderful, thought provoking and respectful dialogue that is on this website! I have read many blogs on a plethora of subjects, and it seems they always devolve into insults and online screaming at others. This one has been a delight to read because of the introspection and insight that has been brought and shared by the contributors. Thank you all! I have learned something from each of you.

          • i agree :-). keep it up @ screen rant

        • My take is similar to yours: that Richard Parker represents that fighting instinct to survive and to protect one’s self. As his journey ended in Mexico, he had undergone many changes while at sea, and decided that the fighting instinct was no longer required, nd so it just ran off into the jungle.
          Might I also add, how much I enjoyed not only the movie, but the wonderful, thought provoking and respectful dialogue that is on this website! I have read many blogs on a plethora of subjects, and it seems they always devolve into insults and online screaming at others. This one has been a delight to read because of the introspection and insight that has been brought and shared by the contributors. Thank you all! I have learned something from each of you.

      • I too am most move by your eloquent observations, Marie – I also missed the island as yet another representation of Pi. Thank you for your post.

      • Marie, thank you. Very interesting…..I so love this movie and have no one to talk to about it….Thank you all. ~ Ellen

        • I’d also like to add that Richard Parker not only symbolizes our survival instincts but also our survival behaviors learned in childhood and beyond.

          Ways of coping that no longer serve us once we reach adulthood such as self sabotage, addictions, co-dependency, attracting abuse, devaluing ourselves…the kinds of things that can only be transformed and integrated by going through experiences where you’re forced to meet and accept every aspect of who “you” truly are at the core. To see the true face of the Divine which includes all aspects perceived as positives and negatives mirrored within ourselves.

          Once we’ve done this our inner Richard Parker is free to leave as these survival behaviors have been accepted, loved, thanked and integrated for helping us survive which is exactly how Pi felt. We are now free and a beautiful new life can begin.

          Wonderful movie and wonderful insights from everyone who’s posted.

    • Evil has been committed/witnessed by Pi through the chief killing and eating the sailor and his mother. The notion is that God exists as we choose to present/create ‘good’ (by not vocalising the events) in the face of evil – and that is God’s way of overcoming evil.

  7. I think I would go with the second story. Meaning Richard Parker is actually Pi himself. However, Richard Parker is his primitive Inner self who came out in desperation to survive. This would also mean that he did eat his mum and the sailor. Cannibalism is wrong but when you are in despair and desperation, it seems to be the only option that time I suppose? I think the island is actually his own boat. When he saw the tooth, he has decided that he needs to leave his boat and find civilisation. When he was on land, Richard Parker left without looking back. This symbolises that he does not need that side of him anymore as he already found help and is saved. And notice how he cried after telling the human story? Why would he cry if is a made up story? That’s what I think. But a part from the book leaves me puzzled. The blind Frenchman. Where did that come from? Is he actually the cook because he said he killed one woman and one man? Or is it a fragment of his imagination? Anybody care to explain?

    • I didn’t think the orangutan was eaten by the tiger. I think it went overboard. I could be wrong. I only saw it once.
      As for a blind Frenchman – I totally missed that part.
      I believe your interpretation is correct.
      But then I don’t understand how belief in God comes into it????

      Still puzzled.

      • The belief in god comes when pi says with storie you prefer the japenese man makes you belive that the second storie pi says is the true because the first is to incredible the same is with god, you belive i him if you belive in god you should belive the first storie pi said even if it sounds fake also bananas dont float in water but you saw a orangutan floating with them, thats what pi said and the japenese said thats false but you belive in god even if all sound incredible

      • The belief in god comes when pi says with storie you prefer the japenese man makes you belive that the second storie pi says is the true because the first is to incredible the same is with god, you belive i him if you belive in god you should belive the first storie pi said even if it sounds fake also bananas don
        t float in water but you saw a orangutan floating with them, thats what pi said and the japenese said thats false but you belive in god even if all sound incredible

    • I watched the film and looked for an explanation. Yours I think is the best one I’ve seen and the right one. And if it isn’t the right one – it should be.

      • Sorry My comment was meant for Louis

    • All experiences are perceptions and everything we ‘see’ is subject to our own interpretation. However there can only ever be one ‘reality’ which is made real by its consistency with everything else. Louis has summed it up and is spot on. Pi says he has to believe there is a soul in everything when he is told by his dad that the Tiger can’t be your friend. So Pi clearly struggles to see ‘god’ in life. Humans like to imagine they are special and we create a world of ethics and morality to support that but if you take the second story it lays bare what we are. Even Pi talks about hunger changing your perception, bringing a suppressed ‘primitive inner self’ to the surface making you do things you would not imagine you are capable of. He also says about day dreams and night dreams merging and not knowing what is real and what is dreamt. There is an oddness about the lack of body parts in the boat and Tiger poo when he finally gets to stay on the life boat, it is clean and ‘tidy’. Finally his second story is said without pause and to be honest if he were making it up wouldn’t he have told a simpler tail? Why even mention the bits about cannibalism? So the second story IS consistent made bearable by his first story. If anything at all, the story suggests that we like to imagine we are something special but are no different than any other creature, ready to perpetrate any gross act on others, but maybe we delude ourselves by creating a false reality or ‘story’ which makes us ‘feel’ comfortable in our day to day, heavily constructed Lives. Pi is perhaps looking for forgiveness in the telling of his first story, from the truth, which he hides from in the second story, the real story. Possibly the suggestion is religion tells us nice stories about our innate potential nature. I guess we all chose how we want to see things the trick is to be able to see things the way they really are.

      • sometimes we are just like animals and this movie lets you really think about it.
        Still there is a difference,we can think.
        I still like to believe that everybody is born as a good person.
        Sure,when we are in despair we can do horrible things.
        But we are not the same as animals,we can think and feel sympathy.
        Still we are the only kind who destrouys our habitat.
        Money is more important than the earth.
        Not even one animal is like this.
        So after all we are very stupid

  8. Beautiful film. Wow that’s a lot of comments! Surprisingly high proportion about how the goat got through the bars – it didn’t even strike me as odd when watching the film; the tiger would have no issue pulling straight through, I don’t think the film makers meant that to be a ponderable event, in a film filled an largely of ponderables.

    My interpretation of the two stories: …which story do you prefer? The one with the Tiger. Thank you, and so it goes with God… To me what this meant was that God liked the Tiger story and God being the one to decide what happens, made the Tiger story happen. The alignment of the stories was to make the human one believable to the insurance men. Pi was charged with telling the book writer a story which would make him believe in God, the story of the Tiger was the true one, it was so incredible that one could only believe it if one believed there to be a God. He’s saying at the end that the Tiger one is what happened, God liked that story and that’s what he made happen, and they share a knowing smile, a very Hollywood-esque ‘ah, I get ya’ wink and a nod, a reference to the charge of telling a story that would make him believe in God; Yes, that is my story, it’s what happened to me, it’s incredible and insane but that is because there is a God and he likes incredible magical stories, the man you met told you that I had a story to make you believe in God, well that’s what happened to me and if you believe me then you must surely believe in a God ‘cos it’s that crazy a story!

    Just the way I saw it. Truly a beautiful film.

    • @Danny: I think you have the most accurate interpretation so far. I came to a similar conclusion after thinking about this for a long time.

      It’s easy to say that Pi was simply coping with a harsh reality and therefore the second story is true. However, both the writer and the two Japanese men choose the tiger story, and they have no reason to cope. Remember, the premise of the movie is a story that will make the writer believe in God. This is not a matter of coping with reality.

      There are two interpretations that I believe fit the overall theme of the movie.

      Interpretation 1: All religions lead to the same God, and you can simply chose which path suits you the best. This was my initial impression after watching the movie, but I think it can be improved upon.

      Interpretation 2: God chooses to use supernatural events and stories to lead people to him. This would mean the first story was in fact true, however unbelievable it may seem. It’s worth noting that Pi himself refers to this as the true story even though he knows it sounds unbelievable. In addition, all religions contain supernatural stories that sound unbelievable to those without faith. Just like Pi’s story, you can chose to believe them or not. The inclusion of the Hindu stories from his childhood support this theory in my opinion. Pi believed them then, still believes them now, and believes that his story is another of the sensational (yet true) acts of God.

  9. Your analysis and insight are very well done. I would like to add one more observation though I cannot quite come to terms on which is which, but I cannot help but also draw the correlation that not only were there 4 animals in the boat at the beginning but that there were 4 religions inside Pi’s head, as his father had said “choose one even if it is one I disagree with”, but in choosing he begins a journey, and in the end Pi concludes that what his father taught him is what saved him. You might wonder to what the four religions are because only Hindu, Catholic/Christian, and Muslim were overtly made reference to, but the fourth was ‘reason’, that his father told him he ought to try, and it was reason that he allowed him to prevail in the end. Thus, the tiger is reason and the Hyena most likely the Muslim, the Zebra, the first to be sacrificed, and the Orangutang representing the Hindu with its karmatic cycle of attacking and then being attacked.

  10. I see a lot if confusion…it’s simple…faith is choosing to believe even though evidence and rationality goes against it, he told a fake story (animals) and a real story (reality) …when he asked which do you prefer and he chose animals that means even though religion goes against rationality we still except it because it makes us feel better than having to deal with the harsh realities

  11. The tiger was a part of Pi’s inner nature that he had to face, become familiar with, learn to discipline and control, stop fearing, and finally to love and accept. The only way to God is to accept and love the entirety of our being, every aspect of who we are, and that includes – ESPECIALLY includes – the parts that are antisocial, vengeful, even murderous and cannibalistic under some circumstances. Every one of us could become a murderer or even a terrorist under some circumstances. To deny this truth is to deny a part of who and what we are. The bedrock of Christianity is the forgiveness of sins by belief in Jesus – acceptance of God’s forgiveness for being who we are – for being what God MADE us. By becoming naked to God – naked to ourselves – we re-enter the Garden of Eden and shed our fig leaves, no longer concerned about our nakedness, no longer ashamed of who and what we are. Then and only then do we return to complete, un-barricaded communion with God – that is, with our inner self that is connected to all other beings and to the entire universe, the veil finally torn and allowing us to see everything without impediments, to be joined completely with the entirety of creation and the ultimate reality of the spirit plane.

    • I have just seen the movie and read many comments of which all are very interesting thanks to all posts.
      To put my view in very simple terms without taking too much space and time I believe, what we have is a story on the human condition and how we react accordingly to the conditions we are in.
      The Tiger, was Pi’s inner emotion , his animalistic instinct portrayed as a Bengal Tiger. It was Pi’s own inner soul he was dealing with when he was staring into the eyes of the tiger.
      When he landed in Mexico, we see the Tiger simply walk away into the abyss(the jungle) this is because Pi has no need any longer to draw the survival instinct within him to survive his ordeal as he has now reached civilisation , that is why he screams and becomes very emotional when he is picked up by the rescuers.
      It is a brilliant film, throwing all these images to its audience about how humans react physically and mentally given the circumstances and how we as humans tap into our inner experiences and teachings in order to survive.
      Like every living thing on this earth which has a beating heart or simply a central nervous system our instinct for survival is an incredible gift from GOD.

  12. Finally managed to watch the movie and I thoroughly enjoyed it, even though I may have been a large skeptic throughout the film (surely he would have arrived at land a lot sooner than 227 in the pacific, which is filled with islands) but I maintained that it was a fiction based movie. Ultimately, what you have to remember is that the concept of god is a lot more complex than certain religions depict. It is down to you weather you want to seek this sort of knowledge (which is what PI managed to do when he independently researched different religions, which everyone should do) PI managed to experience many events that involved his relationship with god. Some would say he is lucky, to have gained clarity of gods existence…because from then on you have no doubt. That would appease some, to the extent of living a happy life. And when you truly accept to be the man/women that gods intends you to be…only then will you feel grace, internally. Externally, the rough reality of life will always be your learning curb, bad and good. Doesn’t matter if your black – white, Christian- Muslim, male-female, small- large etc be a good person, no matter what the world throws at you.

  13. I think it’s an argument for the existence of God appealing to beauty and emotion. Pi asks which story the reader prefers. Both are possible. The reader (along with the Japanese officials) prefer the story with the animals– it is a better and more beautiful story. It represents the story of the universe with the existence of God.
    The story without the animals represents the course of the universe without the existence of God.
    Basically I think Yann Martel is saying that no one can academically prove or disprove the existence of God, so rather than presenting an academic argument he presents an argument based on beauty– life would be more appealing and more beautiful if God existed.

  14. 227 days on the boat….22÷7=pi……

  15. I’ve read many of the comments and i think everyone is missing a very essential piece to he movie. I my self didnt catch it until i watched it again. There is obviously an inner reflection that is raised when the reader or moviegoer has to decide which story to beleive. But more importantly you have to remeber the scene where pi tries to feed the tiger at the zoo. His father teaches him an important lesson, as a man without faith he sees everything through the scope of science and reason. He explains to Pi that animals are just creatures who don’t think and love they just exist. Pi replies that they have souls, but he quickly learns that they have no souls and that what he saw was simply a reflection of himself. Therefore the animals in the boat, are the people he doesn’t want to beleive them to be. Because when times become difficult people loose their souls and loose their faith and turn back into the animals they pretend so hard not to be. Therefore we are all animals and we need god and religion to believe this magical story to make our difficult and meaningless lives have some meaning. We have no souls, there is no god and in troublesome times people have done horrible things to one another. The island represents life as we know it just like the god Vishnu there is nothing but death and destruction. So when people are faced with hard times all we can do is try and believe in something, to give us some hope, to beleive in the unbelievable because the truth is difficult to accept. This is why we need god, but the truth is that there is no god.

  16. I think atheist thought is represented through the father when he tells Pi that one must use reason to sort out life. There may only be yourself in the universe to guide you, and you use this reasoning to get through life’s struggles. That is all you can know. I think this is just one aspect of the whole discussion on reasoning because both Jewish and Buddhist thought are mentioned.

  17. What about when he is telling the story as an adult and cries when he comes to the end when Richard Parker walks into the jungle without looking back at him after every thing they have been through…He does compare it to not being able to say goodbye to the ones he loves –his girlfriend in India and his family on the boat and finally Richard Parker “who does not say good bye to Pi” doesn’t that make the animal story the true story in Pi’s heart?

  18. so having just watched i find myself compelled to post my 2 cents. i haven’t read the book or all the posts but i think back to pi’s lesson with the tiger where he tells his dad that animals have souls and his dad tells him that what he is seeing in an animals eyes is his own reflection (i’m paraphrasing). now coupled with pi’s references to the tiger having saved his life and his anguish at the tiger not even looking back, i am led to believe that the tiger was pi’s survival mode/persona. you could also make the case for the tigers’ name being switched with the hunter richard parker as maybe an allegory of man/beast. now having said that..i thoroughly enjoyed this picture.

  19. If Pi was the tiger, what was the meaning of the Tiger walking away into the Mexican wild without looking back? why was Pi so concerned?

  20. I found it interesting that both times that Pi was shown reading when he was coming of age and finding his faith(s) he was reading more existential texts…. One was an anthology of short stories by Dosteivsky titled “Notes from the Underground and other stories” and later on, “The Stranger” by Camus. Religion/spirituality and existentialism are not mutually exclusive, as one can make a “leap to faith” in spite of acknowledging the absurdity of life and the benign indifference of the universe ( at one point Pi yells something like, “What’s the point of this ???” when the lightening storm is frightening Richard Parker and he is in danger of losing everything once more….). All along he has been trying to find his way, literally and figuratively, on land and cast adrift at sea ( as we all are in our ultimately lonely decisions of how to live our lives and how we face our mortality.) I was also struck by the old saw, “no man is an island” – either way you read the island, as a metaphor for having to turn away from and relinquish his own acidic rage or as literally realizing he could not live alone with the dichotomy of a bipolar island ( benign and nourishing by day, caustic by night), he could not stay without making his existential attempt to arrive at himself. Jean-Paul Sartre said that “Existence precedes essence….” I believe this is not necessarily a tale to make one believe in God, but in encouraging one to find one’s meaning and selfhood….

  21. we are all animals before we are human beings. We have capacity to horrify ourselves given the right (wrong?)circumstances. That is survival and we have it hard wired into us. We like to think we are special and have social structures with morality and rules but we first have to ‘live’ before we can have morality. There is much over complication to the interpretation of this film / story. This is good because it promotes thought about, who we are, god, morality etc. But this is a story with a simple plot and a twist. Story 2 is the right one and story 1 makes it possible to deal with it. We all do it. We forget things we don’t like or we change the story. The message in the film is which one would prefer to believe – the truth or a ‘story’ that brings you to the same conclusion. If you prefer the truth you are on the way to salvation, if you prefer the ‘story’ you are lost because if you want to put a religious spin on this (and it’s that more than anything that defines us a humans) don’t all religions talk about truth! But I do wonder what truth they mean?

    • For Matt. I don’t think he ever mentions the word “truth”. And it is interesting that he doesn’t ask “which story do you believe” but rather which one do you “prefer”. In the fist story his journey is somewhat fruitful in that he learns about himself and human nature. In the second, it’s bare facts, horrible and people are like the animal he father described (no soul?!). I guess that if you prefer the first, you prefer to believe that something “fruitful?!” can come out of any situation – in this case knowing himself. In the second, it’s almost useless. It’s shocking but nothing other than horror comes of it.

      • I think when we look on this site we are wondering which of the two stories was true. That is more what I was thinking about . Marie you are right about believe or prefer but I think the guys writing the report want a version that is believable as they clearly didn’t believe the first story. We might prefer something but it doesn’t lead to answers, well not the right ones necessarily. It is right that people can believe what they chose but they do that so as not to face reality. I’m not sure that hiding from reality is that beneficial to us, seeing the extremes that people go to avoid it. I also believe that we as humans are about learning the truth of things. Ultimately that is what is important to us as a species. Science over faith if you like, it’s why science exists. It’s that ‘reality’ that makes us human to deny it would only make us the animals everyone seems to want us not to be. Without the truth, however ugly, you only have a lie.

  22. It’s a movie about broken Indian family whose migrated to Canada. And the arrogant boy whose left the family has finally realized and learn to grow a family again.

  23. Both the stories are the same. It is the same story, living creatures cast into a world where they feel lost at sea. The only thing that differs is that the ‘animal’ story removes judgment. Nobody judges animals for doing what animals do; surviving. With judgment removed, we allow ourselves to feel compassion for Richard Parker, he is a tiger, he is noble and beautiful and blood thirsty and seems to think only of his own survival. He kills. That is what tigers do. When the storm arrives upon the little boat, Pi feels ecstatic, he celebrates the fearsome beauty of creation. Richard Parker cowers below and when Pi sees his fear, his love for the tiger leaves him screaming at the god he has just been praising ‘why are you scaring him?’. Why does life scare us as it simultaneously raises us outside our own concerns and leaves us wondering in awe? How are we to reconcile our love for life in its giant, vast, un-tameable beauty with our love for our own small lives, which that larger life will eventually consume into itself, like an endless island spawning and eating itself. The small mind is incapable of understanding that Reason and God are brothers. They cannot live without each other. Both are true. The man and the tiger inside the man need each other to survive. What is God? Perhaps it is the ability to disperse of what we imagine to be the truth, what our false reason convinces us is reason, and instead to watch every circumstance as it is. To watch life unfold, however beautiful, however terrifying, however unbelievable, without judgment. I don’t think the question is which story is true, both stories are true. The question is, when you close the book, or switch off the movie, and step into the vast, untameable sea of your life, with what eyes will you watch this world that no amount of reason can help you to explain or control? Will you watch with eyes that condemn what they see, presuming they alone know what is right and wrong, or with eyes that see the soul in the struggle all around you, eyes that watch, observe, and let it be. Let what they think they know go. Let life happen, because it’s going to happen anyway, whether you give it permission or not. And when you watch with those eyes, with the eyes of god, when you watch each living creature without judgment, and know them as a tiny fraction of what lives inside yourself,and yourself a tiny fraction of what lives inside them: what does that make you? It makes us capable of love. Because when you watch something alive, I mean really watch it, completely removed from any thoughts that might define or explain it by your terms, but instead, just watch it. How can you not love it? It is life; in it exists that same vibrant reality that is within you, that makes life, life, that makes us all a part of each other within this spinning universe of life drawing life into death and birthing life again. I think that’s why Pi prays silently before he eats, because despite the storm of his journey, or perhaps because of it, he remains capable of love. And that’s why he weeps when the tiger leaves. Because he’s learnt to love every part of himself, even the parts that appear incapable of love as he thought he understood love to be. That’s why it rains and storms. God loves every part of itself. It’s the only reasonable explanation.

  24. I think there are two ways to look at the book, and I think both are intentional. First is: both stories are correct. It is a matter of how you see things. You can choose to look at the bigger nature of things as reality, or you can constrict your viewpoint to something narrow and familiar, but you miss out on the beauty and meaning. The second is this: we are the reporters, and life is Pi. It is inexplicable. There are two ways you can view the story. One is religion. It is the first story that was told. The second story is science. It is much easier to believe. Here is the thing though. Both can be true. There were animals on the boat, so there could have been animals on the life boat. There were also humans on the boat so they could have been on the lifeboat. We will never know the real story because we weren’t there. You have to choose what story to believe.

  25. I saw this movie 3 weeks ago and its on my mind since then.
    What a great movie.
    This is what a movie is supposed to do,grab you from the start en let you think (a lot)when it ends.
    I have a lot of questions (especially about the Island)but i think the human version must be true.
    But i like to believe the animal version,what a great story and what a great movie.
    THANK YOU MR LEE

  26. Here is my take. When Pi says at the end, “And so it goes with God”– he means that God imparts wisdom through stories that are not literally true. The bible is full of stories that have really important messages, but obviously are not literally true. Humans weren’t created in their “final” form, and women certainly weren’t created out of Adam’s rib. But the story of Adam and Eve and the serpent provides great insight into what it means to be human– that intelligence and particularly self-awareness separate us from animals, but also remove us from the Eden that comes when you cannot contemplate death, etc. So, God is a great story teller, and doesn’t use literal truth to get the point across. Of course the version of the story that involves humans, murder, etc. is the “true” story of what happened, but it doesn’t provide much insight or wisdom told “straight”. Pi’s version, as with God’s, is not literally true but brings understanding of Pi’s life.

  27. Just watched this quite moving movie with my family, here is my contribution to the many great insights here, I loved the idea of telling the story of your life. Portraying who you are and what you experienced as a story without the need for literal truths that humans so lazily seek out. I see the movie (Pi’s childhood) exploring the many different stories of religions some quite obviously too fantastic to believe literally, some not so, but again the idea of a story without the need for truth. Not so much a leap of faith to believe in a fantastic story, but to ‘believe’ (maybe the word is ‘accept’) the story without a truth judgement, a bit like the many beautify stories of Hindu. Just a small part of this quite wonderful movie.

    • Geoff, your comment just got me thinking. I wrote a few comments during the last week after viewing the movie, but I didn’t mention anything about the theology in the film cause I really wasn’t getting that part. Every religion has a kind of foundational story. We see this in the movie at the beginning when the priest explains to Pi the story of Jesus (BTW I loved the part where Pi thanks Krishna for meeting Jesus. That was priceless!). Through his own experience reflected in his two stories: the first his inner journey (see my other comments) and the second the bare facts (but both are true), he realizes that behind a story lies an inner truth, a greater truth than what the bare facts reveal. I would need to watch the film again (or read the book) to listen to Pi’s reflections on Jesus after the priest explains to him who Jesus is and what he did for humanity. Just a thought but would love to read other insights on the subject.

  28. i really think this is a great story, and reading your posts it just make it greater. For your consideration, i think about the two stories, that maybe one of them can be see as the real one. i mean, the story of the animals and the tiger highlights because of the other one. it is in the moment when you meet the cruel and brutal version of the human side, that you get in a reflection point and ultimately “prefer” think in a young man who struggles for survive offshore with a tiger for 227 days, just like the japanese officers and the writer did. i also think that is the relation that is implicit with the religion. i cant stop thinking about the questioning of Pi about Jesus. he doesnt understand that story because it seems illogical to him. i remember living that as a young man too. however, it is not just about catholics, but all religions. there are several stories there, that maybe are just like pi’s story. there, i see a conexion with the line “and so it goes with God”, in adition to what do you want believe, how do you want to see life, how to live spirituality and how do you want to choose to relation with God. that started in pi’s life with his father and mother personality. about the island, i think there’s a lot of things to consider. i have to do some homework with your comments and see the movie again. Thanks to everyone.

  29. What if the island signifies the stark realitlies of Atheism vs. the beauty/existence of God?