‘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. Dear friends some evidences:
    1. The tiger’s name was “Thirsty” but it changed with “Richard Parker”
    2. When the man in the church saw Pi he said : “You must be thirsty”
    3. Then he asked if it is rational for god to sacrifice Jesus’ life-as an innocent person- for other people sin.
    4. When Pi gets close to the tiger, his father-because of loving him- sacrificed the life of an innocent goat to teach him a lesson.

    • Thanks Mohammad – food for thought. Because the second version of his story comes at the end of the movie followed by the question of which story one prefers, we need to see the movie a second time to catch all these details.

  2. 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.

  3. I think what really happened was the human story, but it was so painful for him to cope with that he made the animal story to help him cope with what had actually happened.

  4. I didn’t read all 39 pages of comments, so it’s entirely possible that someone else has already commented upon this. Nonetheless, this is interesting:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Parker_(shipwrecked)

  5. Only after he loses all possessions ie water and food does he come upon the island that saves him. Let go of all worldly things.

  6. Wouldn’t there be claw marks in the boat haha don’t know what that has to do with anything but whatever

  7. What I can’t figure out is, the tiger and the kid, were on this boat for like months on end.

    they were eating fish and buscits and other animals and god knows what.

    How come, not ONCE did the tiger have to go number 2?

    I mean, i can understand pissin to be well….pissin away from the boat but did the tiger share the same etiquette? One can say that Pi cleaned the boat. But what about before he tamed the cat? we don’t see any poop marks on the boat! And even if good ol pi was able to train Richie enuff to be able to clean the boat, wouldn’t you think he’d have more important things like SURVIVING than be cleaning tiger poop?

    Since his animals story has no animal POOP, thus I present that there was no animal to start with and PI was alone. The whole movie was a figment of his imagination. Cuz you tend to leave out the poopings from your imagination. Unless you’ve been constipated for a while. Then all you can imagibe IS pooping.

    The defence rests.

    • OC – that is addressed in the book. I believe that part was left out in the movie, so that viewers didn’t have to see the nastiness as per described in the novel throughout the entire movie.

    • True, imaginary animals don’t poop.

    • Read the book. This is covered, they both poop. He says that because their diet is entirely protein based they don’t go very often. In fact, Pi gets so desperate for food that he tries to eat Richard Parker’s poop.

    • Richard Parker did ‘poop’ actually. Not sure if you read the book or watched the movie.. I’m assuming that you watched the movie. There is a part in the novel where Pi explains how RP was embarrassed of his excrements, and would often hide them. So one day, he picked up RP’s poop and rolled it in his hands and smelled it, right in front of RP to show his dominance over him/ to enhance his ‘training’ program.

    • Thank you Jackie. You are the first person with some common sense in this post. The lesson was tigers are strong enough to pull a goat through bars so it wouldn’t have trouble pulling a little kid through bars. So don’t get too close to the bars. and as for which story is true. Adult pi looks like he is telling the true story as he is crying when he says Richard Parker disappeared from his life forever. The second story was a lie made up to see if the reporters would catch on that it was the same story but with humans knowing that they would not want to put a story of cannibalism in a news report and basically giving the reporters an FU for not believing his amazing true story. They probably later investigated the boat and saw clues that a tiger was actually there so they mentioned it in the article. Pi is happy that the author likes the tiger story better because he knows for a fact that it’s the truth.

      • He was crying because HE was the tiger, he even said that what had hurt him the most was not being able to say goodbye…and not to the tiger, but to his father,brother and mother…

    • I would like to say that you are very wrong and in the book it does say that the tiger go to the toilet and it gets very constipated and he does clean the boat because he has lots of time.

    • In the book is spoken about animal feces. The tigers poops, but both Pi and Richard Parker suffer from constipation. In the book Pi even tried to eat the feces of Richard Parker….how that for survival?

  8. the tiger is powerful… god is a word, that is all
    I think we should all try to tame tigers to understand what pi went through

    • Your argument is the most stupid one I have seen so far. Your name is also a word, that is all. You do not exist, You’re a figment of my imagination because your name is just a word. See your logic there? You obviously lack neurons in your brain.

      • No, the post by bunchka was drawing a contrast between two things, not simply a statement about “god” being a word:

        The tiger *is powerful* god is *just* a word.

        The point is that a real tiger is infinitely more powerful than something which is nothing more than a word (ie, god). Those things which do not exist independently of words (ie, are “just” words) have no real power, or anything else.

        Which means it’s a lot safer to be trapped on a boat with a god than with a tiger.

        Also: horrible movie. Whatever the opposite of “entertainment” is, this film was it.

  9. “The “truth”: Pi survived for 227 days at sea, married the girl of his dreams, had children, and lived to tell two stories.”. He never saw “the girl of his dreams” again!… So he married someone else! You should have seen the movie!

  10. Pi didn’t take the opportunity to say Thanks and Goodbye to his Family and Girl Friend, which was the similarity between Pi and Tiger. This is why in the end of the movie Pi himself comparing him with tiger.

    I guess so :)

  11. I watched this movie yesterday on my iPad flying home from Chicago. When I got home I watched it again so I could think about the alternate ending, from the start of the movie. This helped me to really absorb the details. This morning I googled about the movie because I can’t stop thinking about it. I have not put this much thought into the ending since reading Little Bee by Chris Cleave. I personally believe, due to the real, raw emotion Pi showed when telling the human story…..the animal version was his way of coping with the realities of watching the cook kill and then eat the sailor, then later kill his mother before his eyes. When we watch National Geograpgic we are always saddened to see the small deer being hunted down by a stronger animal. When an animal becomes wounded we know they will never make it in the wild. The sailor was doomed from the start. Animals in the wild are not compassionate to the wounded animals. They don’t have that luxury. They need to eat. But it is one thing to watch a kill scene take place on a television screen, and it is another to see it in person on a small boat. Pi had to compartmentalise his emotions and experience…….thus the animal version took shape in his mind to help him cope and move forward from his ordeal. Whatever your interpretation…..this was an extraordinary film. I loved it.

  12. Do you prefer crude facts, or a colorful, inspirational story?

    Personally, I prefer the truth. Still, my opinion weighs no more than anyone elses.

    Science is practical, tangible. rational, but where all else fails, religion helps people cope.

    Why do we tell our children elaborate stories about Santa Claus, the Easter bunny, and the tooth fairy? We might lie to someone who is very sick to comfort them. We tend to bend the truth for those who are weaker, younger, older, disadvantaged….

    Those who suffer hopelessly need some mercy and hope!

    Religion has served mankind through some very dark ages!

    In “The Life Of Pi”. the animal and human stories are simply the fabrications of an author.

    The film had a serious identity crisis. It was supposed to be for entertainment. I didn’t intend to see a mystery where I’m forced to recount the events and rethink the entire 2 hour deception.

    Suddenly, we have a surprise horror theme with murder and cannibalism?

    The truth is, it was a dirty trick to flip the theme on us. Maybe if someone actually suffered it would’ve been more tolerable.

    It was inconsistent and incomplete because it was written as such. Nobody knows what “really” happened because nothing “real” happened.

    We all know life really can be stranger than fiction! We know theres a difference between the improbable and the “impossible”.

    Experience is king. Knowing is reserved for those who experience 1st hand. Its impossible to know anything for definite based solely on someone else’s experience (testimonial). We can only wonder, imagine and empathise….

    There is realism interwoven but its just art. All we can really do is discuss the movie and book as such. What did the author and film producers intend? Did they mean to entertain and/or teach us something?

    Can you handle the truth?

    It was a cheap sales tactic; the classic “bait and switch”. They disguised it as Disney movie. The Indian boy with animals and tiger gave it a “Junglebook on the water” feel.

    The goal was to market it to the largest audience possible, and for obvious reason.

    Obviously, they meant to stir our emotions and create controversy.

    They should have included a sheep (to symbolize the audience).

    Maybe maybe maybe!

    Maybe Pi ate his family. There were, after all, 4 animals and 4 family members. Two were vegans and two were not.

    The rat was……just a rat? Since all the food in the lifeboat was sealed, its hard to imagine the rat living in there all along. I imagine the rat jumped ship too. Perhaps the rat, sacred in India, was just a rat, but it was also eaten by the tiger/Richard Parker/Thirsty/Pi/ Piscine Molitor Patel.

    During my second viewing, after Pi drank from the holy water, I noticed when the Christian priest said to Pi ” You must be Thirsty”.

    Also noteworthy, Pi asks the orangutan “where is your boy”? Is this symbolic too? Certainly ironic, if the orangutan is mom. Maybe he is asking the fate of his brother…

    Maybe Pi elaborates on the details of his relationship with Richard Parker to spite his father….for 7 1/2 months Pi coexists with the Bengal tiger his father said could not be befriended?

    Given the extreme circumstances, perhaps Pi behaved normally. This sort of thing actually happens. My guess is Pi would have accepted help from anywhere; any god, any religion, including SATAN. Yet Pi credits his practical father for his survival. Survival is instinctual, and we can certainly regress to our beastly, predatory selves if we must. Eventually, calories are calories, even to a religious vegan.

    • I don’t really agree with you here, that the author wrote the ending just for dramatic effect. I think Martel makes an incredibly raw and honest realization by doing this. By making a clear juxtaposition of what would happen when animals are faced with this situation, and how humans would handle it, he makes it very clear that the animals represent the human condition. We will resort to savagery and animalistic instinct when we are faced with the need to survive. I think the animals actually represent humanity, and this is the reason why Martel offers both endings, to show how savage humans can actually be.

      • You said nothing new Heather. God’s creatures choose life over death. There is a difference between what is possible and what is probable. Therein lies the debate. To think all this controversy is accidental or coincidental is just foolish. Did you see where I said, “my opinion weighs no more than anyone else’s”?

  13. This thing about the goat and the bars. Not sure it is significant in any way or meant to show anything. If there was any significance to it then clearly it’s lost and the message didn’t get through. As an observational comment the idea of the goat getting dragged through the bars – wouldn’t the tiger have had to get his head out through the bars in the first place? I thought the bars were too narrow to allow that. Admitted I’ve not gone back to view it again but it wouldn’t be safe to have bars wide enough for the tiger to get it’s jaws into you. The goat didn’t look like it had been clawed through the bars either. And the rope would have had to have been bitten through. It’s good for so much debate but honestly whether the first story or the second story is true…. they are both stories there is no truth in either of them. One is more likely than another just depends if it’s a fantasy or a genuine attempt to make a point. But only one story could ever actually potentially happen. Whatever your religion the first story tells you nothing of God but of yourself.

  14. Here it is my personal though about the meaning of the Piscine’s stories.

    The tiger (Richard Parker) and Pi himself are diferent beings in “real life”. But as we can see in the start of the film, when Pi’s dad intend to give a lesson to his son about the dangers of nature and the true face of reality, leting him see the tiger eating that goat. Then Pi divide his beliefs in two: reality/instincts and fantasy/emotions. He now knows how reality is but he miss something that only fantasy can give to him some comfort and happiness.

    Early after the ship sank, the horrible situation start an inner fight on Pi: his instincts (that are represented by the tiger) and his hope and conscience (that is represented by his human form). His mind is divided in two beings and the two of them fight for the control, of course, his rational side is more aggresive with his hopes and beliefs (I think it is normal in that kind of situations).

    The initial events on the lifeboat are in both stories the same, but in the first story are represented with animals (as you know). When the lifeboat falls from the ship Pi can see the tiger because of the danger of the situation, but when all seems to indicate that hi will survive to the storm his instincs and the tiger hides, now only human-self is shown, we can asume that he is praying for his salvation.

    The tiger is not shown again until the cook kills his mother, that’s because his animal side emerges, Patel/The tiger kills the cook while his human side is looking at the scene quietly, then the tiger attacks to him, a representation of he convincing himself that was the only way to survive, not beliefs, not religions, not god… only actions.

    By the way, the miniboat Pi made maybe is a representation of him being away from reality, like he was not in the boat but “somewhere else”, you can imagine that boy in a lethargic state when he was accompanied with the sailor, his mom and the hyena in the human story.

    The rest of the story is an inner fight between Pi’s both sides.

    In the second storm we can see the tiger trying to hide below the lifeboat cover, but his other side force him to see the power of nature, the power of god. After that, both sides accept each other but still separated.

    The part of the island could be a simple island that had food and water, but he choose to have a life in civilization instead of simply survive in loneliness after discover the tooth of someone else in that place.

    At the end of his journey the tiger simply leaves, it could be that way because that side of him was not useful again, and he cry that event in the future possibly because that side of him, all those practical knowledge was from his father, and the tiger was not only a representation of himself but of his practical mind, a part of him that was in that way because his father and his lessons. He lamented that he can’t say goodbye to him and thank him for his lessons, he lamented it not only for his father… hi can’t say a last good bye to his brother, his mother or his girlfriend either.

    At last, the reason he decorated his story is because it doesn’t matter if a history is related in a fantastic way or a realistic one. What matters is the lesson of that history, the same is for god: it doesn’t matter how you think his appearance is, how he created the world, what name you have for him, etc. what matters is that he is visible in the world through nature, he is the universe and as you are part of the universe, god is in you. More or less the same way Einstein or Spinoza viewed god through everything in the nature.

    • Great analysis, I agree with your point of view

    • but how does it make you believe in God?

      • The story teach you that god is an entity without name and infinite names at same time… you can know “him”/”it” as “universe”, “god”, “mother nature”, “Alah”, “Vishnu”, “Creator”, etc. But it’s all the same, that’s the reason Pi believed in so many religions, because for him, all those religions were different paths to end in the same goal.

        Even I think that the meaning of the review writed by the Japanese officials in the report that they did about Pi’s story, “surviving 227 days at sea… especially with a tiger”, was a different way of say “surviving 227 days at sea… especially without losing his faith, despite the situation,”.

        In other words, the story doesn’t make you believe in Catholic god, it doesn’t turn you in a Catholic or in a believer of other religion. The sentence “a story that can make you believe in god” simply means that it can make you understand the existence of an universal force/being that is present in nature: the power of nature, the universe.

        • Except it didn’t make me believe in God. See I have to disagree with something said by the reviewer here, while I’m sure the “intent” was to say “well which world would you rather live in”, I simply can’t be intellectually dishonest enough to view life that way. In the end, the truth doesn’t really care what kind of world we “want” to live in or what we want it to be, it merely is what it is. Thus no matter how much a fantastic story about surviving with a tiger at sea might be over the horror of people killing and eating each other on the boat might be, the end is that if one where actually concerned with finding out what really happened they would not take this lax view of “which story do you prefer?”

          Nothing in this story as such prompted me to believe in any sort of unifying force or power, but rather merely an unfortunate situation where a boy was faced with devastating tragedy and didn’t want to cope with reality. I don’t see how sweeping it under the rug and pretending it didn’t happen would do anything other than hurt his overall psyche in the real world, because in the end if the animal story wasn’t true he would still know (no matter how many mental gymnastics he did) that he watched two people be murdered and then murdered and ate a man himself.

          • As an intellectual human that you are, you believe in the universe, don’t you? You believe in the “existence of everything as a group”. Well, for Pi, that is god… I know what are you trying to say, and I agree with you, by the way, I’m an atheist, so I’m sure that you are refusing the existence of “god” because you think it will put you in “the dogmatic and alienated bunch of chatolic sheeps of society”.

            Well, lets say that you see an apple, it’s a fruit, edible, it has seeds… but why is that thing named “apple”? Is the name important? I can call that thing “firefruit” if I want it and the fruit will not change its form, so, why not?. It doesn’t matter if you name it “apple”, “firefruit”, “red edible plant s***”, it will be always the same thing. So is the universe, the everything, you can name it “god” and it will never change its form. THAT IDEA is the lesson of the movie: the fact that every religion in the world try to understand the universe on its own way, so there are a lot of names for the universe a.k.a. “god”, there are a lot of ways to “understand” it but all of those things point to the same thing. So, when the writer says to Pi that he really made him believes in god, it’s just him accepting the fact that “god” is only other name for “nature”, “universe”… nothing more.

            Maybe Pi doesn’t believe in the “animal story” neither, I don’t really know, I just say it because he actually knows the real story, he never forgot that experience. Maybe he just told the story because it’s more entertaining, the real story is simply traumatic and horrible and the backround of his memory is the same: he wrecked, his family died, he survived 227 days and finally lived to have his own family.

            So, what do you prefer a story about a boy that wrecked in the middle of the ocean and saw his boat sanking while his family died, a boy that later saw his mother being killed by the canibal cook of the ship, and because a feeling of rage killed the cook just for stay 277 days in complete loneliness and dispair? or do you prefer the story about a boy that wrecked in the middle of the ocean and saw his boat sanking while his fimily died, a boy that later saw an orangutan being killed by a hyena that before killed a zebra, and because he is just lucky a fierce tiger appears by surprise but it’s not only that, he had to survive 277 days with that tiger, he had to tame it and learn how to stay one more day alive…

            I don’t know about your preferences, but I prefer the animal story, my little sister even cried when the hyena ate that zebra, I simply don’t imagine what would be her reaction to an act of cannibalism. And if the human story were the main story in the movie, you can be sure that I would not see the movie, for sure.

            But what story is “true” (knowing the fact that both of them are not, because, you know… it’s a movie, a book)… well, it’s obvious that the human story is the real story of both, I’m not stupid. A carnivore algae island? A man surviving in the middle of the ocean with a tiger? THE TIGER LANDING ALIVE? (those animals need a lot of meat daily) All those animals surviving while their cages were all locked?… I’ll say it again: I’m not stupid, and I’m sure that everyone believing that story being the “truth” blindly are the real idiots. One thing is to choice one thing because you prefere to do it, understanding the real facts… and other is to believe without any proof one story.

            Even Pi Patel did not say a thing about “the truth”, he just said “what story do you prefer?”. Actually, when the chinese guys said to Pi “we want a story that would not show us like stupids in front of our bosses… (Pi’s response)… yes, the truth” or something like that (I actually watched the Spanish version), he clarify what is the real story.

            So, that’s all, that is my response to you, and my last review, maybe I’m wrong, so be free of believe in whatever you want, in the end the truth is the truth.

  15. Here it is my personal thought about the meaning of the Piscine’s stories.

    The tiger (Richard Parker) and Pi himself are diferent beings in “real life”. But as we can see in the start of the film, when Pi’s dad intend to give a lesson to his son about the dangers of nature and the true face of reality, leting him see the tiger eating that goat. Then Pi divide his beliefs in two: reality/instincts and fantasy/emotions. He now knows how reality is but he miss something that only fantasy can give to him some comfort and happiness.

    Early after the ship sank, the horrible situation start an inner fight on Pi: his instincts (that are represented by the tiger) and his hope and conscience (that is represented by his human form). His mind is divided in two beings and the two of them fight for the control, of course, his rational side is more aggresive with his hopes and beliefs (I think it is normal in that kind of situations).

    The initial events on the lifeboat are in both stories the same, but in the first story are represented with animals (as you know). When the lifeboat falls from the ship Pi can see the tiger because of the danger of the situation, but when all seems to indicate that hi will survive to the storm his instincs and the tiger hides, now only human-self is shown, we can asume that he is praying for his salvation.

    The tiger is not shown again until the cook kills his mother, that’s because his animal side emerges, Patel/The tiger kills the cook while his human side is looking at the scene quietly, then the tiger attacks to him, a representation of he convincing himself that was the only way to survive, not beliefs, not religions, not god… only actions.

    By the way, the miniboat Pi made maybe is a representation of him being away from reality, like he was not in the boat but “somewhere else”, you can imagine that boy in a lethargic state when he was accompanied with the sailor, his mom and the hyena in the human story.

    The rest of the story is an inner fight between Pi’s both sides.

    In the second storm we can see the tiger trying to hide below the lifeboat cover, but his other side force him to see the power of nature, the power of god. After that, both sides accept each other but still separated.

    The part of the island could be a simple island that had food and water, but he choose to have a life in civilization instead of simply survive in loneliness after discover the tooth of someone else in that place.

    At the end of his journey the tiger simply leaves, it could be that way because that side of him was not useful again, and he cry that event in the future possibly because that side of him, all those practical knowledge was from his father, and the tiger was not only a representation of himself but of his practical mind, a part of him that was in that way because his father and his lessons. He lamented that he can’t say goodbye to him and thank him for his lessons, he lamented it not only for his father… hi can’t say a last good bye to his brother, his mother or his girlfriend either.

    At last, the reason he decorated his story is because it doesn’t matter if a history is related in a fantastic way or a realistic one. What matters is the lesson of that history, the same is for god: it doesn’t matter how you think his appearance is, how he created the world, what name you have for him, etc. what matters is that he is visible in the world through nature, he is the universe and as you are part of the universe, god is in you. More or less the same way Einstein or Spinoza viewed god through everything in the nature.

    PD: Sorry if my english cause some misunderstanding, I’m not an usual english speaker. Regards.

  16. Which story do you prefer? Do you hold fast to the rational because, as Pi’s father felt, religion is a dark force to manipulate people? Or does the grandeur of nature make you wonder about a higher power? Those of us who have rejected organized religion can lose touch with the richness of spiritually. Without the beauty of ritual and symbolism, our consciousness can sink to the grubby details of filling our bellies. The tiger story proves that there is a god because it offers a choice to create one.

  17. Just some notes.

    Pi would have anticipated his having to recount the events….the taboo facts would never be well received.
    He could have easily said, “The ship sank in the storm and I was the only survivor”.
    Substituting animals may be Pi’s way of telling as much of the truth as possible….?

    I think we’re supposed to interpret Pi’s embellishments as denial.
    Humans eat animals, animals eat animals, humans do not eat humans.

    Confined, starving “animals” eventually killed and ate each other in order to survive.
    All of god’s creatures prefer to survive, even during hardship. “And so it goes with god”.

    Pi was sort of “entertaining” the writer, as his dinner guest.
    It would be tasteless to discuss cannibalism at the dinner table.

    Of all the subtopics, “the goat through the bars” is the one I question the least.

    Infinitely, more worthy of discussion, was opting to tear a few critical pages out of the novel to prevent closure!
    This predictably sparked controversy, debate, sales…..

    When I watch a film I try to forget its just cameras, actors, props, special effects, etc. A good movie ropes us in and helps us forget.

    “Life of Pi” was ficticious, we all knew from the start, but we were trying to believe in it, for its entertainment value.
    Suddenly its spoiler; and a big head game.

  18. Okay, I like this article, but it’s wrong about the ending. In the book he mentions he found the orangutan floating on a bunch of bananas, and the Japanese don’t believe him because bananas don’t float. Well, they do. They do float, and to many of the book’s fans this proves that the animal story is the correct one.

  19. According to this book and movie, religion is a story you fabricate when the truth is too uncomfortable. This is exactly the materialist, non-religious view by which religion can be explained away very nicely. Of course, “truth” is not a matter of your preference. You cannot “prefer” to have had lunch if you haven’t. A sill book for a silly mind.

  20. I don’t know if you noticed but in the end of the movie
    we are seeing the tiger and the kid together on the boat and then the child is vanished
    and the tiger continues to walk alone into the jungle
    is that mean that there was not a tiger in the boat
    and the child imagine the tiger just to survival

  21. I respect both versions of the ending of the Life of Pi. But I personally believe that this incredible story of human survival is really about “slipping two fingers in”.

  22. I bet the cook gave Pi some acid …

  23. The “truth” depends on the stance of the viewer; if you read it from within the “animal” level of the story, it means one thing; if you read it from the “human” version, adds another layer and, finally, if you read it from a personal level – the subjective stance – all the levels come together. It is a story about the power of narrative – whether it’s mythic, religious and/or rational. All levels hold truth.

  24. As Joseph Campbell may say, “It’s metaphor, you ARE the tiger”. Ya gotta understand the importance of the embodiment of your symbols.

  25. As Joseph Campbell may say, “It’s metaphor, you ARE the tiger”. Ya gotta understand the importance of the embodiment of symbol, which is also what religious stories also try to communicate.

  26. Hello all,

    I have watched the film and just finished reading the book. It is a brilliant piece of writing and very well adapted to the cinema. I absolutely love the ending of the film and here is my personal interpretation of the it.

    First off the writer is purposefully leaving the ending as subjective as possible as mentioned by many other people on here. This is due to the very subject matter of the book being about religion and the subjectivity of belief systems (all the different religions Pi encounters).

    However, my personal interpretation is one that I have not read or heard by someone else (apologies If you have written it on here, I haven’t read ALL the comments).

    I believe that in all likelihood (going back to rationality) the story involving the animals is not ‘real’ but is created in the mind of Pi for the utility of getting through an unbearable situation (much like the way religions serve many people). Right, so far this is much the same as what a lot of people have stated but I read more into it than that.

    I think that as explained at the end of the book his mother is the Orangutan, the cook the Hyena ect. However, it is stated that he (Pi) is the tiger. Therefore who is Pi? I think the answer is, he is god. He (Pi being the tiger) has killed the chef (the hyena) and is at his whits end with no hope left. Surely after such events you would ether kill yourself or become so depressed you would slowly die anyway. Therefore at this point in the book Richard Parker (Pi) is very despondent and is just under the tarpaulin all the time.

    Shortly after this Pi(god)decides to take mercy on Richard Parker (Pi) and help him by feeding him and conditioning him ect. At first Richard Parker (Pi) is aggressive toward Pi(god)but slowly becomes more and more reliant on him as his faith and life is slowly restored. There comes a point where Richard Parker (Pi) is completely devoted to Pi (God) and will perform tricks for him (i think this on the algae Island, the conditioned tricks are possibly representative of prayer.

    It is also reiterated that Pi (god) has a unwavering love for Richard Parker(Pi)in the book. In my mind this is the explanation for the profound nature of the bond between Richard Parker (Pi) and Pi (God) in the first story and the only reason Pi made it through his ordeal.

    The only reason I thought of this interpretation is that before the story is told Pi states that ‘this is a story that will make you believe in god’. My personal interpretation is that this story will make you believe in God because no man could possibly have survived this on there own. It was only with the help of God that a person could get through such an ordeal.

    I think it is making this point in a Pragmatic sense though, as it is evident through many real life examples that humans believe in God in time of great adversity. So whether God ‘actually’ exists or not is not of much importance, it is having ‘faith’ that is important because only that will get you through the toughest battles.

    Anyway that is my take on it. I hope of explained it well enough as it is a fairly confusing explanation. But as many have said it is completely subjective so your interpretation says as much about you as the film itself.

  27. Of course, the significance of the 227 days that Pi was on the boat comes from the fraction 22/7, which is an approximation of pi. But here is another cool thing, that I just figured out. If you take the ratio of the number of days in a year to the number of days he was on the boat, it is almost equal to the golden ratio. Nice coincidence, huh?

  28. In “Life of Pi” the main character narrates an elaborate 2 hour story, then rather unexpectedly, defaults to another less popular version.

    Then Pi asks (the writer) “which do you prefer?”, as if the stories are somehow equivalent….as if the truth made no difference….as if the writer (or audience) could actually choose… after Pi forfeits his credibility and despite the author’s deliberate omission of critical facts…

    The theme of Yann Martel’s “We Ate The Children Last” is also worthy of mention.

  29. any movie that i have to read about just to understand the ending does not seem like anyone would want to waste their time with