‘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.

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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  1. His father warning him of of the Tiger’s savagery was a metaphor for being warned against the savagery of animal nature vs the rational man. The goat scene represents the danger of getting to close to the Tiger. You are safe if the Tiger remains in the cage.

    When cast adrift and confronted with the reality of a survival scenario PI released the Tiger from the cage because it could do what the rational man could not. The tiger could kill and eat the flesh of men. This caused his rational self to flee and tag behind in the raft. The Tiger became the rationalization and set the rational man free to ponder his place in the Universe; his being helplessly adrift in the Universe or in the Will of God. As he comes to grips with his helplessness he tames the Tiger. As he submits to the unknowable will of God with faith he finds that the Universe provides him what he needs to continue on. This is the “proof of God”.

    After returning to civilization the Tiger is no longer necessary and returns to the wild, but there are no goodbyes implying he could return at need. PI is saddened as the rational man returns to the fore, no longer able to passively commune with the Universe/God.

    The Japanese find his story foreign and fantastical. So Pi tells the story another way, one that appeals to their rationality. He then says that in both stories the boat sank, his family perished, but he was saved/survived. He acknowledges that neither story explains the cause or the reason but the listener will choose the story that they like the best/what they want to believe.

    This expresses the idea that God is unknowable but caring, and as such the cause and reason is unimportant. All that is important is that one submit and have faith and they will be cared for. That is why it doesn’t matter which version of the story one prefers, because the truth cannot be proven. It must be taken on Faith. And faith is simply what we choose to believe regardless of what version we subscribe to.

  2. Firstly let me say that I loved, loved, this movie, the wonderful colourful effects, CGI, nature shots, music, PI’s openness with 3 religions and accepting them all (the world could learn from that), everything. And I loved reading most of your comments. And I want a beautiful story, and want one for you as well. But since no-one has put this interpretation on it, here is another. (Wrong, probably, but a logical possibility)

    I want to give you two stories. In reverse order of the movie, the brutal one first. (Nice one coming, I promise.)

    Humans are being bred like livestock by higher beings who create the whole ‘zoo’ of human culture, to keep us unaware of the brutal truth – that we are going to be slaughtered and eaten. As Winston Churchill said, “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened.”

    Look at older PI’s eyes in the beginning when the writer asks him for his story that would make him believe in God. PI’s eyes are very very serious and also scared. He holds that stare for awhile, then forces a smile, and says “we’ll get to that”. People can’t handle the truth, and willingly believe in anything to avoid it. PI invents his fantastic story to avoid the brutal reality. Even though choosing to believe in a fantasy, underneath he still feels the sadness of the truth, and it comes out in his story. Also, the Japanese investigators say they want “the truth”, but when PI gives them the truth, they also choose to avoid it and believe in the fantasy.

    Seems pretty bleak. But ..

    In the movie PI’s father says, “That Tiger is not your friend. What you see in his eyes are your own emotions reflected back at you. Nothing else.”

    But before this, when PI is offering the Tiger a bit of meat in the cage, the Tiger slowly approaches, and was seemingly going to accept that PI was not his enemy, and take the meat without harming PI. Only his Father’s intrusion stops this otherwise potentially beautiful moment, and turns it into what his Father believes, that the Tiger is not your friend, that he does not think like you.

    The movie keeps this theme until the end, with the Tiger leaving without even looking back. This is in fact the bleak theme for the movie to take, because in reality we know that Tigers, Lions, Elephants, etc, can love humans and are sometimes in loving relationships with humans. Even wild animals, as seen in the 2011 Brisbane floods, can share a floating bit of tree to stay alive, and willingly befriend humans who pull them from the water. (A lizard and a snake both floating down the river on a log. A crocodile retreating to the city to escape drowning – they all put aside their differences in that time.) In the movie and in some of the comments here it is suggested that we *will* all resort to our darkest sides just to stay alive. This can happen. That is one true story. It sometimes *does not* happen, that is also one true story.

    The truth might be that the differences are superficial, but the true nature of all creatures is all one, and when the fantasy is shattered (by a disaster etc), we realise our oneness with all other creatures.

    The Tiger IS your friend, if you choose that story. The Christian. The Hindu. The Muslim. The atheist, the alligator, the fox, the mouse, the German, the American, the rat, the lizard, the birds, the bees, the plants, the Earth .. of course, Hollywood isn’t allowed to tell you that! :) Still, I loved the movie – I’m going to watch it again now.

    Much Love to you all. :)

    (P.S. Both stories might be true – but I think the latter is the better story .. :)

  3. We are here and we don’t know why. The boat sank and we don’t know why. Neither theology and science can tell us why.
    These over zealous theologians and scientists have everything figured out yet cant tell us why.
    If we knew why then we would not be here.

  4. My two cents: At the end, the plot sums up as:

    Denial = Necessity
    Religion = Denial
    So Religion = Necessity

    Actually the true beautiful question might the most obvious one: Why do we prefer the ‘animals’ version? Why human that are educated thru culture more than nature would prefer the irrational moral story compared to the immoral rational one? Isn’t this book pushing us to think about this profound complexity of human nature that tend to re-shuffle all things towards morality when rational explanations are humanly unbearable?

    Is this ability only a part our ape survival kit or a metaphysical side of human beings?

  5. i treat it as a fiction story because as much as i try to read in between the lines the more confusing it seems. for instance for those saying that the tiger grabbed the goat because it was hungry i dont agree with them. the boys must have gone to the cage at a mid feeding time to avoid being found by the dad. would the tiger be soo hungry to act as it would feeding time? what does the island signify? a tooth in a flower?

    • I haven’t been here in months, and yet, I get more email comments on this movie, than nearly anything I have ever posted. That tells me, this movie has affected people in a profound way.
      That being said, I think the capper, was the statement made around the end, as to which story he believed.
      I think, in my humble opinion, he was simply saying, it doesn’t matter which interpretation you believe, either way, the result is the same.
      Go with God, go without. Either way, you must choose a path to get you through this lifetime.
      Most religions, and philosophies hinge on the same thing, The Golden Rule, “Treat others as you would want to be treated”.

    • The island could be seen as the boat itself. The island eating people who used to be there could be suggesting that Pi resorted to cannibalisms to stay afloat.

      • Richard Parker is the name of the bENGAL Tiger :- I think there is a key and purpose to the name ..

        At this stage if you havent checked already you will find The name is synonymous with Cannibalism OUT at sea. Please check into..

        I prefer the Animal Story. Over the other more traumatic and brutal story about HUMAN NATURE. We all would prefer it being a discussion about ANIMAL NATURE RATHER THAN HUMAN NATURE.

        But:- If we had been shown the other story and only got given the animal story at the end when he was speaking to the japanese officials.. Then all of us would have come to the conclusion that the Animal Story was madness.

        The fact he told us the Animal Story the fact the Japanese Officials preferred to Acknowledge that story (only goes to show not only that they prefer the more positive of the TWO, but more importantly could you imagine the bad press the other story would have brought their comapny).. LOl one of their employees killed client and canibalised a fellow employee.

        I know what i would prfer to write down on my official report :- the Animal Story..

        The whole story basically leds up to the final decision of him running out of rations , losing his ability to fish because of a storm :- and having to resort to Cannibalism :- The Island and meerkats the roots are all parts of the human anatomy he was chuging down ..

        Maybe I am wrong. Maybe i am a cynical i do believe in God however i but just as much in human nature. .

        • O.M.G…. never knew that about “richard parker” lol that adds a whole new layer to the story. thanks!

        • *gasp* omg they were the rations. that’s why he floated them out to sea at first… if there was no one on the boat but him technically the rations wouldn’t have needed to have been moved. unless the rations were…*gulp*

          • I dont think the Island existed. I think He just cannibalised the bodies which he tied next to the boat. The allegd rations he tied to the boat and floated out at sea could have been the dead bodies of the sailor, the cook and his mother.. His image (as a child stayed on the floating ration) this was on the floated (dead bodies) because after he killed the Cook and saw the death of his mother he went mad. His youthful innocence dead like the dead carcuses on the floating human carcuses (dragged on long by the boat aka the rations). The mother, the cook, and the sailor.. Just a thought… LOL …

            The story is it could be argued his attempt ti spend the whole period of time fighting to regain his sanity and tame the Wild Natre within him..

            • I personally feel the writer cleverly turned what could/would have been a horror story. About survival heartache and anguish and made it a splendidly palatable fantasy tale. The morality points in both stories give us the same conclusion… Just one is less horrifying than the other.. I think this is the first time i have see a successful story written and filmed about survival out at sea. Probably because he talks and dicusses points metaphorically like many Hindu/ Testament/ Koranic depictions… He is using the craft of story telling with metaphors to allow the story to be UNIVERSAL – I.E. not just for Adults but for Children alike

              I want the Animal Story to be true, and as a story it would be more remarkable. I consider the story at hand to be much more sophisticated Than just a story about animals or cannibalism — Its a story about life and how the world would be a sadder and more horrifying place if we didnt believe in (GOD) or dare i say it (the ANIMAL STORY).

  6. My take on the two stories is that the emotional pain Pi experienced in surviving the human story led him to invent the tiger story. In his human story, he omits some events that correspond to the tiger story. The tiger he invented represents his own violent nature, triggered by actions required for his survival. These include the defensive actions with the spear/boat hook the tiger/cook and his needed abandonment from his vegetarian commitment (fish, meercats). In both stories, Pi needs the help of God to survive.

    Later in his human voyage he reconciles his violent nature with his tolerant, softer self as one person, just as the tiger and Pi are reconciled in the animal story. At the end, he no longer needs his potentially violent self.

    As to the tiger pulling the goat through the gate (movie) I do not think it was intended as a metaphor. There was an attendant there that could have put the goat through, but think about the ensuing scene. If it was filmed, the director (I think properly) cut it. Instead, you see the violence of the tiger’s charge through the eyes of the goat.


      • Justina, nice thoughts. Another one I had was that at the very very end of the movie, we see a very happy young PI on the boat, smiling, then the Tiger appears looking at him, then PI disappears and the jungle replaces him, then the Tiger walks into the jungle. So, maybe when the Tiger was standing at the jungle, he was thinking about PI, that was his thought when he paused. Maybe, but nice anyway.

      • These are just random extractions and thoughts, but I absolutely agree on the fact that the tiger may have been God as well. I will make this in relationship to the Bible as I don’t have enough history about other religions to make such a connection with them (however, Im sure it could just as easily apply). I do think the tiger represented Jesus. To give the tiger a name like Richard Parker is almost akin to making something not human and making it human, much as God took the form of Jesus. The tiger at various parts of the movie was a protector, a savior, a friend, a companion, and was also credited as the reason Pi stayed alive. At the end of the movie the tiger leaves and never looked back, just kept looking forward. To me, this could represent one of two things: 1) Jesus being amongst us and giving us the example for us to follow and then leaving us the free will to make our own choices after that much like what was written in the bible or 2) (and this is also tied to Richard Parker on the island, not Mexico) Jesus being there for us, even when he isn’t seen, when times are rough and seem impossible and then coming any time we call. RP did this right before they left that island. Pi called for RP and said that he knew that he would be coming with him. I thought that was pretty powerful to make a connection where if called upon the other party would come immediately. Adult Pi Patel: “I wept like a child. Not because I was overwhelmed at having survived, although I was. I was weeping because Richard Parker left me so unceremoniously. It broke my heart. You know my father was right: Richard Parker never saw me as his friend. After all we had been through he didn’t even look back. But I have to believe there was more in his eyes than my own reflection staring back at me. I know it, I felt it. Even if I can’t prove it. You know, I left so much behind: my family, the zoo, India, Anandi. I suppose in the end, the whole of life becomes an act of letting go. But what always hurts the most is not taking a moment to say goodbye. I was never able to thank my father for all I learned from him. To tell him, without his lessons I would never have survived. I know Richard Parker’s a tiger but I wish I had said, “It’s over. We survived. Thank you for saving my life. I love you, Richard Parker. You’ll always be with me. May God be with you.” Powerful stuff.

        • Beautiful thoughts about Jesus and the way he is their for us. I loved the part of him coming when called and waiting on the boat for Pi, for he wasn’t off the island yet and still in danger. Jesus waited on the boat for Peter as he struggled with his faith as he walked on water.

      • I always fought the tiger was his girlfriend from india for two reasons, firstly he was mystified by them, then when leaving India he remembers everything about their last day except saying goodbye, then when the Mr Parker, the tiger, leaves the boat the thing that Pi says is that he never said goodbye and he never saw him again.

        • The author of the article states at the end of the article that Pi “…married the girl of his dreams…”, suggesting his girlfriend in India. However, in the movie it seemed that he did not marry his girlfriend from India. Or did I miss something?

      • I, too, see the tiger as Pi’s darker (perhaps murderous) side that he no longer needs once rescued. I find rational for this in the scene when Pi tells Richard Parker to come out and see God. The tiger is terrified by the presence and power of God because of his murderous deeds and incredible guilt.

    • your absolutely right, and I didnt know till I read your post, that the reason Richard Parker didnt look back, was because Pi never looked back on that person he had become,

      Another thought came to me, notice the issue Pi always had with his name. He felt like an out-cast until he changed it. Another connection I can think is the name, Richard Parker. The most normal name imaginable and accepted name. Like A whole nother persona, A whole nother Identity. and from Pi’s view it was a little painful to leave such a powerful and unconstrained spirit, Of which Pi was not.

  7. Goodness me. So much about so little. First off there is no ‘truth’ in either story so chose which you want they are both stories and as such don’t need to be consistent because they never happened. As for the wider comments about reality you can’t prefer one reality over another as there is only one reality. It’s deterministic , cause and effect. You can chose not to believe a truth but in that case then truth doesn’t matter and you can’t debate it
    As for the goat and the bars surely it’s clear. The only way a tiger could drag something through the bars is if he could get his head between them and use his jaws. Or if it had hands to grip it. It would be pointless having bars so far apart a Tiger could get his head through and using his claws would tear it to shreds and it clearly wasn’t. As for smashing it and breaking all it’s bones I’m not sure a) an animal of that intellectual level would think like that and b) he couldn’t do it in the time it appears to have taken place. I think you do hear some bones breaking but I think that is supposed to be the Tigre crushing the goat in his jaws. Only a person would be stupid enough to put any part of their body through bars into a the cage of an animal, a goat would instinctively back off.
    As for significance to any of it, at the end of the day everyone is analysing the thoughts of the author not anything that has happened. It’s treating a thought, an idea, as something real or if you want to be pedantic in considering a thought as something real then something physical tangible, touchable something that of it’s self influences other things . Reality is cause and effect, it is what it is nothing more. Only when you can understand that, the truth, the reality can you begin to understand what God is. Anything else is just an idea, a thought and inconsistent story…… Or is that the point of the story that religion like the story is inconsistent and therefore just a story its self, that we chose to believe, not a truth and we are all it’s disciples perpetuating that story?

    • I can’t believe the man with all of the answers to the universe has the time to stop by ScreenRant and explain it to the rest of us dolts. Thank you so much.

      – Sarcasam

      • Fair comment tee. Maybe an animal could be pulled through the bars it’s not really relevant. Wasn’t commenting that the goat was stupid more a subtle comment about how silly some people have been in recent years treating wild animals as if they weren’t dangerous. I would think that most animals would instinctively run from a predator, not put themselves in danger, some people excluded of course.
        My main issue is that this is a story. Anything can happen in a story and the only ‘truth’ is what the author meant, no matter what anyone else wants to think. As for real life, there is only ever one truth / reality, mostly it doesn’t matter what you believe as it won’t affect you but at its most relevant if you get it wrong you are hurt, injured or dead!
        movie b – you are a case in point. Thanks for your insight!

  8. Jesus is the Way and the Life-the truth. The REAL story in life that you can believe.

  9. Jesus is the Way and the Life-the truth. The REAL story in life that you can believe. Though unseen, it really is the truth.

  10. Well, this is my take. To me, anyways, the 1st story was obviously a story invented within Pi’s mind to compensate the emotional and mental anguish he was experiencing after the 2nd (true story) actaully happened. I say this because the 1st story is implausible (Blind Pi meeting another on the lifeboat, Carnivourous Island (filled with millions of meerkats), the whole Richard Parker thing), to me it’s plain to see, it’s made up.
    However much I would have LOVED the 1st story to be true, it simply cannot be. I swear, when I read it the first time, from the moment Pi went blind and thought he could hear Richard Parker, I thought he has died or something and the book took a spiritual turn, furthermore reinforced by the meerkats and the strange island. I thought his spiritual self was creating the perfect Paradise where he would then dwell for eternity (or something to that effect). Only up to where the Japanese men started interviewing him, was I like “What? You mean all that is actually suppose to have happened to him for REAL?” So….. In conclusion, I do believe you were going on a voyage with his altered-mental state. Obviously, the religious experiences he had in the beginning, are evident throughout his 1st story (too many examples to list here), so this imagined setup was needed for him to believe in struggling to survive and not giving up. To me, anyways, this is the only truth I can come up with. As much as we all fell in love with the 1st story, it cannot possibly be true…… Again, just my take….

  11. The key to the end I took to be in how quickly Pi told the second story. If he were making it up as he went along he might falter as one does when they are lying. Remember he tells it quickly as a young Pi still in the Hospital. That makes me believe that the second story is the one that happened but he himself prefers to tell it in his own way. Therefore that’s why he “made up” the first story. People who have experienced a painful ordeal and great suffering don’t always want to talk about it. Like war survivors. But they can teach others with allegory.

  12. Soon after Piscine changes his name to Pi, he begins his spiritual exploration. The number Pi, as the narrator said a few times, is irrational (referring to it being an irrational number). Interesting that his spiritual journey starts when he labels *himself* irrational (yet impressive) to escape the harsh treatment of his peers.

    Notice the mix of irrationality, escapism, and impressing others.

    When he meets the tiger, his father (the atheist) says “what you see in the tiger’s eyes are your own emotions reflecting back at you.” This is important, especially since, as Pi says, he wishes he could thank his father for teaching him what he needed to survive.

    On the other hand his mother bears with her both a fantastical religious wonder and a nurturing love. These also bring messages into the story. Note two other representations of his mother: First the psychedelic dream sequence, where her face is paired with the symbol of Krishna. I take this to mean that Pi was dreaming of her, and her image was part & parcel with wonder, dreams, fantastic godly beings (“the superheros of his childhood”) and so on… she is idealism. Second, she and Hinduism are the island; notice how when the camera zooms out, the carnivorous island is shaped like a woman lying down – his mother. In this instance I think she (as the island) represents religion which “nourishes him by day, and devours him by night”. He (and the tiger within him) had to move on – let go before becoming lost forever. The meerkats are all the gods … thousands.

    Something to note is that the sailor (zebra), orangutan (mother) and hyena (cook), and even himself (tiger) are *nothing more than animals*. Yet the animal in him (the tiger) is what saves him, spurs him to survive, and threatens to consume him. Humans as animals is an evolutionist’s concept, contrary to all Judaic preaching of divine creation.

    In the end, the “tiger” leaves as soon as he hits the shore, which breaks his heart. I need not say more for this.

    When discussing with the writer, he asks about preference, and when the writer chooses the tiger story, Pi says “that’s how it is with god.” Like god, the animal story isn’t one of real events, but symbols and vagueness. It’s half made-up, it’s a way to describe difficult things. In short, Pi not only survived, but also completed his spiritual journey, finally ending up accepting reality – god is only what you make up, we’re all animals, and letting go of religion is the way to move on without being lost forever.

    I’d also like to note that Pi lost his family to a storm (an act of god) right on the outset of his story “which will make you believe in god”; the first thing god did was kill almost everyone. Yet it was Pi, the animal, who survived.

    • I was also disappointed at the ending, and appreciate all of the comments that were posted. But, I want to add one more that wasn’t mentioned. Pi asked the priest in the beginning why God would die for people. I think the brutal ending to Christ’s life is analogous to the “real” story that Pi told to the investigators. Also, rightly or wrongly, I saw Pi as a christ-figure, providing sustenance for an ungrateful lower creature (tiger, with a human name).

    • Brilliant symbolic interpretation. Thank you.

    • Best analysis I’ve ever read, Malignor!

  13. I loved the movie, and at the end, my dad asked me “What was the message? Why did Pi said two versions? Which one is the one?” my version was that the Richard Parker story was the religion: awesome, unbelievable, incredible. And the other story was the science, the logistic; simpler. But at the end, both stories are the same. Pi survived, 227 days in the sea.
    But my dad didn’t think the same, he asked me how that would make him believe in God? I really think it and, like the Writer… I like more the tiger unbelievable story than the other.

  14. Well, here’s my take on it.

    It’s a story about a boy confronting a difficult part of who he is, first told mythologically (with the animals) and then at the end we get the more literal narrative of the journey he has been through. Both stories are “true” in their own ways.

    Early in the film, Pi is a sweet kid, non-violent, vegetarian, searching for spirituality, for wholeness. In the literal story (the one we are told in the end) he is forced by horrible circumstances to acknowledge a part of himself that is at once terrible, beautiful and frightening, and which the younger Pi has disavowed in himself. Over the course of the film he manages to meet, confront, and ultimately learn to live with this part of himself. He has to, in order to survive the ordeal. And when the ordeal is over, the creature vanishes back into the forest and he grieves.

    Which story do I prefer? Well, they’re both important. The literal narrative is the one that the Japanese investigators need for their report to be “believable”. But the story with the animals is far richer and illustrates Pi’s inner journey in a way that the straight literal account never could.

    More importantly, the mythology Pi creates alone in that boat with himself is what allows him to survive psychologically and spiritually under terrible circumstances.

    Ultimately I think the question is not “which story do you prefer?” but “which story do you need?” And I think the answer is “both”.

  15. Thanks for the story – I should have seen myself the two versions of the ending as parallel to Pi’s complicated attitude to religion, but I didn’t. Getting older and slower, I suppose. I agree with John S (although I think the Tiger could be linked to any religious imagery), especially on the point of “powerful stuff”.
    But there’s one thing that bothers me. Everyone looks at the ending, no-one heeds the beginning. The moment when Pi opens the door of the cabin where his parents were sleeping – remember the onrush of water that washes him off his feet? Could his mother survive the submergence?

  16. Throughout most of the story, the tiger intimidates Pi, God is not intimidated by man, thus Pi cannot represent God. Later, the tiger is tamed by Pi, God is never dominated by man, thus the tiger cannot represent God either.

    Notice there is an extra character in story #1. I believe in that one, Pi is both himself and the tiger. This represents an internal struggle; the peaceful, civilized, vegetarian Pi vs Pi’s animal within, the side we all possess and which surfaces in extreme circumstances. It is designed for, and focussed on, survival in the merciless jungle. Yes, the tiger is violent, territorial, self centered. it must be to survive in its natural habitat.

    Story #1 is Pi coming to terms with his own “eye of the tiger”!

  17. The carnivorous island was pi’s take on canninbalism of the chef. What nourishment it gave during the day was robbed from the nightmares. The tooth was Pi seesing the chef’s tooth and realizing morality, returning him to humanity’s principles.

  18. If the tiger story is real, then where is the tiger feces?

    And all the god-loving insanity in this movie just makes me want to puke. “God saved me” and “God made me persevere”, blah, blah, blah BS. Oh wait, what about the other 50 g****** people god killed? Just like a plane crash when 150 people die, but two survive and the jesus freaks come out and say “god saved them and was looking over them”… WHAT ABOUT THE 150 PEOPLE WHO DIED?? christ…

    • Finally. Someone’s thinking straight here !

  19. -Late to the party, but finally saw movie. Pi is an irrational number, right. Therefore, Life of Pi equals Life of Irrationality. No matter how many interpretations, Irrationality still won’t make sense. Loved the movie, but seemed like one long reminder of why mankind still searches for the purpose of life….

  20. I have question or rather a thought:
    In the end, on the beach, Richard Parker, the tiger, leaves Pi without even looking back. After spending 227 days for survival in a life boat with minimal food, water, shelter and the ever growing sense of hopelessness, one (even an animal) finds solace in another being.
    Also, I’ve read that in these situations companionship is a great help.
    Then, why does Richard Parker turn away.
    Rumours were there, that he didn’t abandoned Pi entirely, he had been seeing him being rescued from a corner, because he knew that his presence would delay Pi’s rescue, so he leaves for good.

    • What I mainly took from the story is that there are multiple interpretations of the truth. This idea is continually echoed throughout the film. Each of the religions that Pi explored had their own interpretation of the same life/reality, each with their own characters and events and conclusions. Each of his parents had their own view of life/reality, his mother representing the spiritual, magical, hopeful interpretation and his father representing the scientific, empirical, and wary. There are even two interpretations of young Pi: There’s mundane Piscine, who the kids ridicule, and there’s the amazing Pi, who reinvents himself as “a legend” with the unbelievable feat of memorizing and writing out all those digits of pi.

      Similarly, Pi’s two stories are two interpretations of the same events, one magical and one mundane (though horrific). All of these situations are examples of life being interpreted according to personal preference. Of choosing how to view reality/what to believe. The “right answer” is the one you prefer. And your preference is “your own emotions reflected back at you.”

      I thought the last shot was an interesting touch: When Richard Parker walks into the lush, green jungle and disappears, the depth of the picture flattens out and the color becomes desaturated. It’s the same place, but has lost the extra depth and color of the “fantastical” story. The two versions of the world summed up in the final shot.

      Which do you prefer?

    • The thing I mainly took from the story is that there are multiple interpretations of the truth (life/reality/whatever). This idea is continually echoed throughout the film. Each of the religions that Pi explores has their own interpretation of the same life/reality, each with their own characters and events and conclusions. Each of his parents have their own view of life/reality, his mother representing the spiritual, magical, hopeful interpretation and his father representing the scientific, empirical, and wary. There are even two interpretations of young Pi: There’s mundane Piscine, who the kids ridicule, and there’s the amazing Pi, who reinvents himself as “a legend” with the unbelievable feat of memorizing and writing out all those digits of pi. Same kid, different way of seeing him.

      Similarly, Pi’s two stories are two interpretations of the same events, one magical and one mundane (though horrific). All of these situations are examples of life being interpreted according to personal preference. Of choosing how to view reality/what to believe. The “right answer” is the one you prefer. And your preference is “your own emotions reflected back at you.”

      I thought the last shot was an interesting touch: When Richard Parker walks into the lush, green jungle and disappears, the depth of the picture flattens out and the color becomes desaturated. It’s the same place, but has lost the extra depth and color of the “fantastical” story. The two versions of the world summed up in the final shot.

      Which do you prefer?

      • Of course many would go with the Tiger story—that’s the inner strength, we need to navigate life. The tiger story was beautiful–for this tragedy. Pi was an amazing story—wish they do another movie.

        Great interpretation!

  21. It’s not that hard people… none of you get it?… Pi is the Tiger… he had to become the tiger to survive in the boat against the hyena… needed to become the metaphorical tiger, to survive.. to kill the hyena (the cook that killed the sailor and his mother)… he lived with his tiger mentality on the island to survive (i.e., kill other animals)… he had to part ways with that island as it would consume him… when he landed in Mexico, he had to part ways with his tiger nature… no longer necessary for survival. The tiger did not look back because that is not the nature of the tiger… the tiger nature cannot be tamed only parted with…

    The whole animal story was made up in Pi’s mind as a way of coping with surviving the horror of what took place on the life boat among the humans… Under such EXTREME circumstances, humans come up with such fanatsies/hallucinations/temporary insanity as a way of coping with such extreme psychological pressure…

    Get it now? knock, knock? anyone home?

    Great movie by the way…

    • Since you knocked, Gary. I think plenty of people “got it”. You’re not special in anyway. Goodbye senor high horse.

    • Of course the 2nd story is the truth.

      One thing no one has pointed out is that we seen the tiger when Pi fell over board which symbolized his fight to survive as the tiger did. And 2; the tiger wasn’t seen until the hyena killed the orangutang(cook killing his mother) which brought out the (tiger) out of Pi to kill the cook.

  22. I agree that life is the greatest gift the universe has to offer, but life also contains pain, heartache, and death. Nature can be unforgiving and cruel, and good doesn’t triumph over evil. Honest, innocent people will suffer endlessly, while corruption, greed, and cruelty persist. Maybe god is just a tool used by those who rule, so the masses will tolerate the injustice they impose. Maybe we are the gods, as we posses the power to create and destroy! The existence of a heavenly father, and his having mercy on our souls, seems like a long shot, because he clearly has no mercy on our lives! If you want mercy and justice, you have to die? A true father doesn’t turn his back on his misguided children.

      • That is the problem with religion; the self righteous people who act like they have been personally deputized by god. They attack anyone with an objective opinion.

        • Hey Jim, check out your first posting before Gordon’s posting. Talk about self righteous. IIsn’t that statement by you hypocritical???

  23. To believe that our UNFATHOMABLY complex and ORDERED universe came into being by spontaneous happenstance is tantamount to a belief in Magic and hardly less fideistic than the traditional postulate of a Prior Cause.

  24. Quick point, if both stories began when he was about to get on the life raft then it seems obvious to me that the first story is true. Pi’s mother was in bed with his family there was no way she made it out. The whole goat through bars thing is just jibberish, and irrelevant to talk about it having meaning in the whole picture of things. You saw the cook fall overboard you never saw the mother sliding around the deck. Tony was right. God is everywhere no doubt, but he wasn’t a boy or a tiger.

  25. Firstly I would just like to acknowledge how revealing some of these comments truly are people who blindly say this story is moral bs are basically are very obvious atheists whereas those that point to singular characters as definitely Jesus are obvious full out Christians.

    I believe the point in a novel/story is to reflect the view of the author and so from this standpoint I believe the point in the film and indeed that of the novel is to undoubtedly tell a story, albeit one from a perspective of neutrality on the wisdom of belief versus unbelief. From the perspective that religion is irrational the tiger or animal instinct of a human prevail e.g. you kill without remorse, eat because you are hungry and take whatever you want because you want it etc. Solely lead by this the life of the tiger the point in your life is only personal gain think (the wolf of wall street) and you will lack empathy for others. Dressed as if an Indian yogi Pi represents religion/belief. Because firstly without his belief in god he would not believe he could live nor feel much optimism for his survival eg taming tiger etc. Without logic and animal instinct e.g. the tiger however Pi would of forgotten to eat (cannibalism) in order for his survival because he would simply think that god would save him.
    In conclusion, without belief in a higher purpose your life will not be as ultimately fulfilling as that of belief in a higher purpose. But believing that a higher purpose that has fated everything for your life will rob you of living at all.

    Note proof of Tiger vs Pi argument
    Robert Parker is animal instinct: When Pi arrives back with civilisation Robert Parker disappears.
    Pi is the neutral empathetic and pleading negotiator when the hyena kills both his mother and the sailor.

    • Jim, anyone who labels you an “atheist” doesn’t actually know what the word means. What you are is an “agnostic.” Agnosticism is the view that “humanity does not currently possess the requisite knowledge and/or reason to provide sufficient rational grounds to justify the belief that deities either do or do not exist.” And I’m with you on that one. As you pointed out, it doesn’t mean people can’t *hope* there’s something bigger and more meaningful. It just means that absolute belief in one path over all others with nothing to back it up but your local, cultural traditions is a bit short-sighted. Especially when *every* culture believes their local traditions just happen to be the “one true path.”

      Personally, I think that was some of what this movie was saying. Pi’s experiences with the various religions, the spiritual views of his father vs. the empirical views of his father, the two stories of the raft, etc. point to the idea that, while there may only be one reality, there are many ways to describe that reality. Some are more colorful and each is dressed in its own symbolism, but is one any more right or wrong than the other?

      Honestly, I think that’s where a lot of religion — and non-religion, for that matter — goes wrong. People start worshiping the ritual rather than the message. Rather than just embracing and understanding the wisdom of the overall message, people insist that you have to pray a certain way with certain words, perform certain ceremonies with certain steps, and believe in their own culture’s symbolic interpretation of the uninterpretable. Basically, in the name of religion, they turn their own god into a golden calf that they dance around with very specific steps.

      I liked that Pi, in the movie, explored multiple religions and ideas, and that he never really concluded that any one was “more correct” than any other. He incorporated them all, but didn’t confuse the message with the envelope it came in.

      • *the spiritual views of his MOTHER vs. the empirical views of his father…


  26. “…that, when the tide arrives, turns the ground to an acidic trap.”

    The state of the tide would be irrelevant on a floating island. Tide matters only from the frame of reference of solid land on which it can be seen to rise and lower. As stated by Pi in the movie, it was his belief from watching the behavior of the meerkats and Richard Parker and the subsequent death of the fish in the pool that darkness triggered the island’s trap.