‘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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2,794 Comments - Comments are closed.

  1. Yeah it was a giant head game! Can we be honest? or do you prefer deceit?

    Pi grows up in an area where multiple cultures(and religions)intersect. His father says, to choose all religions, is to choose none, and suggests he try “reason” instead. In the end, Pi credits his father for his survival, and weeps with regret that he could not thank him. Yet, Pi thinks its ok to tell ELABORATE LIES because that’s what the religions do…? He asks the writer(and audience) which story he “prefers” (as if we could actually choose one) and then justifies his deception by saying god prefers the tiger story too…? “And so it goes with god”. And this is supposed to make us have faith in god? This movie was a visually stunning crock of tiger feces! I can’t comment on the book, as I did not read it.

  2. When pi catches the tuna ( the larger fish he first catches ) he kills it and when it died you saw the colors fade.i noticed at the end of the movie Richard Parker walked into the forest and the color faded in the forest you decide…

  3. When pi catches the tuna ( the larger fish he first catches ) he kills it and when it died you saw the colors fade.i noticed at the end of the movie Richard Parker walked into the forest and the color faded in the forest,you decide…

    • I noticed those color changes too. But I thought it was a dolphin fish(also known as mahi mahi). I think we’re supposed to interpret the color changes as “termination”.
      As for the tiger, the fearsome, carnivorous animal inside of him would never be back. Which sort of supports the human story.

      But did you notice that as the movie was ending it shows Richard Parker one more time facing the jungle, and suddenly there is a brief little movie clip of a happier healthier Pi, so I guess that was supposed to imply that Richard Parker was actually thinking about Pi after all (and somewhat “ceremoniously” too), before he entered the Jungle. Which if you think about it, is more supportive of the animal story.

      After I watched it again I realized that this movie was deliberately misleading, and was meant to create controversy.

  4. Remember they sold all the animals before they got on the boat? Remember that’s why he had time to fall in love before he left. Then out of nowhere the boat is full of animals? only one story was “true” but..

  5. Saw the movie for the first and 2nd time today – yep, watched it twice.

    Here is my take: If you notice, at the time the ship is being battered by the storm, and PI runs out on deck, he leaves the door open. A secured door built to keep sea water out of the interior of the ship. From that moment through when he runs back below decks to try to save his family, to when he comes back up to go to the life boat, that door never closes. With the amount of water coming up over that ship, it would have taken no time for the water to collect below decks, and sink the ship. I think he was responsible directly for the sinking of the ship, and lived in a type of denial throughout.

    I agree that the plot indicated all animals were to be sold so as to provide money for passage on the ship. However, someone earlier had indicated that there were no animals on the ship, but there is the scene below decks where Pi’s father is giving the animals seasickness medicine. So, one has to assume at least some of the animals were being brought to Canada with them.

    Having said that – I think that the tiger was actually Pi’s alpha male/alter ego, one that had been repressed over the years due to his studies in the major religions. I believe that Pi was in conflict with himself about taking on the responsibility of getting himself home safely, and that the tiger was his way of working through his growing up to be able to asert himself in such as a way as to give him the best possible chance to survive.

    Finally – the big fish – first one caught. When he cries out, I’m sorry I’m sorry – thank you Vishnoo for coming to us in the form of a fish to nurish our bodies. That to me is allegorical of the situation of killing the fish, and invoking Visnoo, the hindu god, so that he could “kill” him, thus killing some of his belief and faith systems.

    And for the record – I CHOSE to believe the animal story as well…..I mean, really, who couldn’t?

  6. I believe the animals were ‘pre’sold and were travelling on the ship to be delivered to new zoos in North America. I don’t recall the specifics in the movie but in Ch.15 of the book,the author states “We could have sold our animals to zoos in India but American zoos pay higher prices. The final buyers were a number of zoos, mainly the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago and the soon to open Minnesota Zoo, but odd animals were going to Los Angeles,Loisville,Oklhoma City and Cincinnati.

  7. Thank you, Jacinta. What a wonderful and thoughtful interpretation.

  8. My mother and father never married or even think they really liked eachother. When I was a baby I was baptised in the catholic church. I then lived with my father. He did not really know what he believed so some years later I was baptised in a morman church. I guess that did not work out for us. I was a bit older and learned a few things. Dad then became christian and I was baptised again, by then I was confused and stopped praying or even talking to god. Now that I am married with kids I do have faith and I think in the end we all worship the same god. The movie was great, I related to it because I think he was trying to find something to believe in, and in the end it didnt matter. So at many points in my life I wanted to know the truth, my mother left me when I was three, my dad hating and loving god at the same time….what is the right religion? They are all right. So I hope everybody has something to believe in . Thanks for reading

    • I remember a wonderful woman priest in my Episcopal church saying that God is the same God for all religions – we just get to him through different doors. I like that analogy as it means that we will all find ourselves together again no matter what religion we are practicing.

      The Life of Pi moved me so much – not just the amazing photography but the story and the relationship he had with the animals – which is obviously, the story I prefer.

      • I am just now watching the Life of Pi.

        I find your view on religion refreshing. I was raised in the Catholic church, and was taught by progressive nuns and priests. One of the main things they imparted to me was that no one religion was more right or better than another: we are all working towards the same goal, but we may take different roads to get there. All in all, we are one people.

        Thank you for your comment.

    • “Mormons” (members of the Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-Day Saints) ARE CHRISTIAN. HIS name is right in the name of HIS Church. Please know that Mormons believe in and worship the Son of God, JESUS CHRIST.

  9. There could only be 1 true God. Although all religions have things that compliment each other. All religions also have things that contradict each other. So chose 1 & go all in. Your eternity depends on it.. I enjoy Christianity, simply because its the only religion with a “living” God. A God, that you could have a relationship with. A God that cares for you, as a parent cares a child.. Plus. Only Christianity has salvation.

    • Who are you to say there can only be one God?

      Religion isn’t about god, it’s about giving life purpose

      • Religion is man made.

        There is only one God.

        I DO believe in the notion of one God being able to wear many different masks though….it is how I can simultaneously maintain my love of Christ, Buddha, and Hindu beliefs. I am NOT multi-theistic, as I do NOT follow any religion “all in”.
        As a lover of Christ, I DO NOT deny Yeshua’s Jewish roots.

        I hate no one.
        God is always good to me, when I am a good person.
        When I do evil or wrong against others, I am rebuked much the way a loving parent disciplines their child for their own good.

        • Hindus and Buddhists would disagree. That is what you believe, but it is important not to spite other religions just because you do not believe in them. It is not fair. Had you been raised in a family of a different faith, chances are that you would have become one of that faith, not Christian.

      • Who are you to question that? It’s what he believes. When you’re committed to a certain belief, and I mean really committed, like in Christianity, you accept that there is only one God. That’s the truth for them. For Hindus, there are many gods. That’s the truth for them. Who are you to imply we must give up the right to firmly and devoutly believe in something or many things?

        • “That’s the truth for them.”
          Is it absolutely true for everyone that there is nothing that is absolutely true for everyone?
          What a person may believe about a certain thing doesn’t change the actual thing itself. Just because I might believe in many gods doesnt make it true that there actually are many gods. Here’s an analogy: Say I believe I have 10 dogs. But if I only have 1 dog, then I only actually have 1 dog so my belief that I have 10 dogs is wrong. My belief ultimately doesn’t affect whether or not I actually do have 10 dogs.
          I’m not saying I agree with Karina, but I would like point out that there is a self-contradiction in your philosophy: who are you to question whether or not she can question that?
          Seek the truth. It is real, and it is for everyone.

      • Thank you! We all have the decision to make whether we want to follow the path of religion, We are all people with one heart, one brain, and one soul.

    • Dale- interesting thoughts but you are claiming exclusivity in your religion by calling it is the only one. You are well portrayed in the book by ANY of the three wishing to convert the young man. I was a devout religious person but realized that most religious people claim exclusivity. By virtue of the majority claiming exclusivity, despite widely different beliefs, it is obvious that none are exclusive and that exclusivity is a characteristic of serious believers and not an indication of the correctness of their beliefs. The great question is which story you want to believe in the end. Like the book shows, it is easier to believe the fantasy because it helps us deal with the horror of reality. I really enjoyed both the book and the movie, a message got out and the corollary to the obvious message of belief in God is the fact that one does not need to believe with conviction but with the knowledge that self deception is working for us. No one is going to bring harm to another person of faith if that perspective is maintained. In such a world people of faith will be best friends, acknowledge their differences and know that on a greater level they are both very right but in reality creating a world view that is digestible and interesting.

    • Dales comments are small minded. And that is all I will say about hat view.. Very little minded. I personal like to believe in many gods, to think when it rains, th rain gods are making it rain is skid to a living god. Gods which are part of everything, less of this single god view, god which is angry and wants to fight all others gods.. This is not a god view but more a hidden devil.

      • I agree with Dale because for Christians, they believe in the Bible. The Bible teaches that there can only be one God in trinity form (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). So if you “claim” to be a Christian, then this is what the Lord commands in his word, that there is only one God. You must know him through believing in his Son, Jesus. So again, if you are a devout, practicing Christian then this is your belief. Not hatred for others because they dont share the same belief. If you truly believe in something, like we as Christians believe in the gospel of the Bible, then you believe what it says, right? If it says I am the Light, the truth and the way. I am the one true living God, well I accept that on faith for truth. So if my belief is there is only one God, I will share what I believe with you. However, you have the freedom to accept this or reject it. I still believe what I believe but will not judge you for your lack of belief. Again, if I believe what God’s word says as true and it is my devout belief (as any devout follower of any faith believes theirs to be true, likewise), then by all account, I believe another’s choice in any other god to be false. Just like Hindus believe in gods and goddesses, plural – then they would view my faith in only one God as false.

    • “Your eternity depends on it..” , “Plus, Only Christianity has salvation.” — Really?? Come on!!

  10. The name of the boat [and lifeboat] was Tsimtsum. Tsimtsum is a concept that God withdrew Himself from a space, so that in it we creation can exist, and not be nullified by his existence. In this place we live and have our being. Yet God is Present but His light veiled, so that we can have some freedom, some decisions, exist, navigate this realm. Yet in this space God is Present even though veiled for our gift of this realm and its purpose. This is Tsimtsum.

  11. I found all of the comments interesting. I loved all the interpretations. its not right or wrong what you choose to believe in the story. however I have noted that however we were touched, believed or disbelieved~ simply showes us where we are on our journey in life. I think its more of an inter reflection on our own lives with or without God. if you are a spiritual person you side as such. who decides what is right or wrong in your life??? God, others, you? What makes ones interpretation the right one?? In my life, I am open to God in any form which He chooses to speak to my life. as a believer, my faith is not correct over yours. funny as the men who wanted a different story, represented to me~ non believers. They cannot wrap their minds around God so that story and God’s story cannot make sense, as their minds are not open to recieve it the story/or Him into their heart. I also liked the island. felt it represented mother earth. where we can survive, yet not live or be satisfied. Just where I am in my journey. thanks for sharing. God bless, whomever He is to you~

  12. It’s difficult for me to imagine that caged animals could make it out of a sinking ship in a raging storm and all but one human perish.
    Not impossible; just far-fetched.

    • I thought the father just drugged the animals to make them sleep so they don’t have to clean their poo later. How can a drugged animal make it out of his cage?

    • Atta-boy, Jerry!

      Spoken like a true atheist!

  13. This was a disappointing movie. I finally saw it on cable last night. While I enjoy movies that don’t always have a concrete ending, this movie really left me hanging. I found myself saying “this is bullsh*t” before Pi finally gave the alternate explanation of what happened.

    At that point, I felt the movie had somewhat redeemed itself with this realistic alternate explanation only to fall back on ambiguity again at the end.

    Unfortunately, film makers are so obsessed nowadays in appealing to as many moviegoers as possible that they’ll leave you hanging at the end. A similar analogy might be the final show / ending of The Sopranos when the screen suddenly went to black. Sure, not the same type of ending as PI, but both leave the ending up to the viewer. Lymelife was another such move. Was Alec Baldwin’s character killed or not? I had to watch the director’s cut (with comments) to find out that the director wanted to leave the end up to the viewer — but ultimately caved in and provided an alternate version ending that clearly showed Alec Baldwin’s character being killed.

    I’m not sure I like this “trend” in film making. Tell a story. Develop the characters. And provide an ending.

    Sorry, folks, if you actually liked this film. But bottom line, I really felt like I had wasted two hours of my life watching this movie.

    {cursory proofreading only; excuse any typos}

    • Provide an ending? Heaven forfend if cinema acts like true art and makes the viewer think about what they’ve been told/watched. Yeah, you’re better off sticking with being spoon-fed entertainment.

      • :)

    • I agree, however that was the same ending provided in the books as well. The novel had both endings, so it was only just that the movie do the same. It gives us a chance to choose which we want to believe.

    • I am so sad for you that you missed all the beauty and eye opening lessons this extraordinary film brought to me….I watch it again and again! it brings me emotions in abundance and fills me with hope and comfort and are I say, a feeling of joy that perhaps we are not all alone…and that is the great gift!

      so my dear peter Cayce, please watch it once more and this time try and open your heart and your mind and do not miss the oh so important point….

      p.s. my fervent wish for you is to retain many positives from “life of pi” and from your own life as well….peace well being and love to you my fellow man…..

    • This isn’t a trend, this is based completely off the book….if you ask me the book was even more ambiguous in which stories were true than the movie. So don’t hate the movie hate the book, the movie unlike most is very close to the book. Besides do you always need someone to give you an ending, and even when they conclude the movie the truth is there is always more to it. Haven’t you ever wandered what happens after happily ever after or are you ok with out digging deeper and thinking for yourself.

  14. My interpretation of the movie is that the human part happened and the rest of the time he spent battling himself and training himself to deal with the fact that he not only witnessed that horrible stuff but actually killed another person justified or not. This animal was unleashed in him and he had to learn to coexist with his inner Richard Parker, love that name, in order to have a life again. But that’s just like my opinion man.

  15. Did Pi say at the end that he had a wife, A CAT, and two children – or did I mis-hear? I was hoping that we were going to see the Tiger…but that did not happen. Maybe I am just a hopless romantic – and I certainly am in the faith camp believing the “Animal” version absolutely :-) xxx

    • yes he did! you did not miss hear. only was the wife the girl he left behind in india???? if you know write me back…..Freya or others….I am so in love with this film my son notes I am watching and discussing it quite obsessively.

  16. I thought the father just drugged the animals to make them sleep so they don’t have to clean their poo later. How can a drugged animal make it out of his cage?

  17. Genius. Pure Genius; Theologically, Spiritually, Consciously & Subconsciously. As the writer recognizes that Pi is the tiger, the interpretation is revealed. The reality was a lifetime struggle of identity and analysis of the spirit and universe existence and creation, delivered to and through knowledge experience and life-altering events. And as Pi states early, you cannot know faith until its being tested. Pi survived the ultimate life test. Surviving the human story is in itself a challenge of balancing faith, humanity, strength, emotion, and sanity. Pi was the tiger, his own companion, his conflicting subconscious and brutal killer reality, his mind his own worst enemy. The realm of Gods existence is in multiple courses of the victory over death and survival, the inner voice of strength and endurance, overcoming hallucinations and drifting insanity, gifted elements of divine guidance and protection, miraculous rescue and a happily ever after. The fantasy a beautiful metaphor of an otherwise ugly disaster. His alter ego Tiger, the killer, the hunter, the survivor, facelessly disappears as he returns to himself the lost and rescued boy. I say again, GENIUS!

    • A wonderful analysis! Just what I would have liked to have written if I were that articulate.

    • Maria,

      So beautifully said…and spot on. I actually saw the film with a friend to took the “horror” witnessed so far as cannibalism. In fact lots of references to this throughout the script, even in the island metaphor.Pi at one point says “It’s hard to believe what one will do if hungry enough”. I guess you can take the interpretation as far as you want. I wept more than once at the beauty and symbolism. And, especially at the triumph of the spirit of the character Pi in this film

      • I’m surprised few people focus on “the horror” that’s revealed in the last few minutes of the movie. I saw the movie months ago, so please excuse my inaccuracy in the following quote. When Pi was talking about what he needed to do, in reality, in order to stay alive for so long, he confessed (something like) “I did to him what he had done to the others.” So he confessed that the way in which he really stayed alive was not by catching fish or other colorful things that are pleasant for the mind to imagine—but killing the cook and having to tear off strips of his flesh, which must have started to rot eventually, in order to stay alive. And no, the cook did not taste like chicken.It was a horrible, gut-wreching experience for Pi. A “trauma,” a nightmare of epic proportion. He became a member of one of the groups of people that every human being fears and is disgusted by–a cannibal. Would you want to kiss the lips of a an who you knew had eaten a human body? No. So it put him into a horrible dilemma that for the rest of his life he has to endure. How will the human mind deal with this? Psychologists tell us–we distort those things about ourselves that we don’t like in order to be able to tolerate them. Isn’t that what PI has done–he developed a beautiful story which is really a cocoon that surrounds the reality. So that he can tolerate it. And when the Japanese interviewers said they would report the more imaginative story–I’m just guessing here–but they recognized the horror he had just lived through and, taking pity on him, allowed him to live his life undisturbed by what would have happened to him if they had reported that he killed and ate the cook.He would have been tried for murder. So they let things be.

        • no he would not have been tried for murder because was he supposed to starve and die himself?? he killed the cook because the cook killed the others including pi s own mother so, right or wrong he lived to tell the tale. he had an iron will to survive the disaster and he accomplished his goal. so dear bill, no matter how distasteful (no pun intended) you are finding cannibalism to be we have a drive in us to survive and the cost is great to ourselves and others. however we have the strong urge to overcome our reluctance to kill and eat human flesh or enact vengeance but in the final analysis WE WANT JUSTICE…..WE WANT TO LIVE!!! LIVE!!!

    • I must agree with you maria wolf. THE best film I have seen in a long while. I means so much more than I, mere mortal am able to describe within the limits of language….but our collective human hearts communicate without words to connect us all eternally……..

    • thanks for the wonderful explanation.

  18. Far be it for me to criticize someone’s interpretation of reality, after all – that is the MAIN theme of this story. But here goes:

    1) The Tiger is NOT God. Quite the opposite. The Tiger represents the animal and base part of ourselves. The creatures that we were BEFORE we gained self-awareness. This is also the main theme of the Garden/Apple story in Genesis. Pi must resort to calling this part of himself forward, when faced with the mortality of his mother, and threatened by the Cook. It is also the part of himself that he needs when left with the option of resorting to eating the cook, when faced with starvation. Could a vegetarian Indian boy eat a person to survive? No – but a TIGER could. Review you concept of the Tiger after viewing the film again, and consider THESE two things:

    a) Watch the scene when the Hyena(Cook) kills the Orang(Mother), and see how the rage begins to boil over in Pi, as he wields the knife. Just as we think Pi(Boy) is going to kill, the Tiger(Pi) leaps forward, and does the killing for him. This is Pi, calling forth his “animal” self.

    b) Witness the foreshadowing as Pi’s father tells him:
    “Animals do not think like we do. People who forget that get themselves killed. That tiger … is not your friend. When you look into his eyes you are seeing your own emotions reflected back at you. Nothing else!”
    We are told at the very beginning of the story, that the Tiger, is a reflection of YOU.

    2) The ship itself is symbolic in the larger theme of the story, in that it represents a question as to the nature of self – and the mortality of awareness. This is the question in which the insurance agents require an answer. This is a question, to which Pi has no answer. Why does the ship sink? Why do our bodies die? I cannot answer that, suggests Pi. But here are two interpretations of my experience with Death. Which do you prefer?

    Which indeed.

    PS. I had originally interpreted the naming of the main character “Pi” as a way for the author to show how the Force of Will can bend the perception of reality. Pi uses this “FoW” to change his name, in a clever and amusing way. I had missed the larger symbolism of the nature of irrational numbers to illustrate the relationship between the finite and infinite. Thanks for that, Debbie – very illuminating.

  19. I really don’t think much of stories with open endings. I don’t look at it as the writer having some great depth of thought inspiring our imagination to complete the story. Rather I see it as a failure of imagination on the part of the author. Unable to describe to completion a story with satisfactory depth, he leaves it open congratulating himself on his art. The reader is quite capable of imagining alternate paths and endings regardless of how complete and irrefutable the story, and to think otherwise is arrogance on the part of the writer. Such a writer has not displayed some great desire and talent to stimulate imagination; he has merely exposed his lack of it. He may as well have just written the first chapter, and said “You take it from here”.

    That being said, I would not classify “life of PI” among these. There may be a question among the readers/viewers of what the author intends to be the “real” story; however he well describes his complete vision.

    As a side note, I also view people that believe something like a Picasso is art, as fools comparable to the Emperor with his new clothes.

  20. Pi says that he needs to feed Richard Parker or the tiger will harm or eat him. I think that since the tiger represents Pi’s savage side, and Pi later says hunger can change everything you ever thought you knew about yourself, that Pi is actually afraid of what he himself will do without fish to eat. I think that this is shortly before the tiger takes over and Pi resorts to cannibalism, which is what he was really afraid of when he said Richard Parker would eat him

  21. And while it did make me think, the tiger is not God. I highly doubt Pi would try to train God. He was trying to train the beast within himself.

  22. The animals got out because one of the many un-drugged, un-sleepy humans on board let them out so they didn’t drown in their cages. So that they would have a small chance to survive. Duh.

    • And then the plenty of drugged-up animals, including things like zebras, climbed up narrow stairs with water pouring down on them in the 60 seconds it takes pi to go and search for his family and come back out?

      No way.

  23. I am a Christian, a Calvinist. Spurgeon showed me through mention in a sermon that in Galations 3:1 Paul refers to himself as “Christ crucified” aka “Christ with power”. This makes sense to me as he was used to write more of the new testament than anyone else.
    As in Rev 11 (the two witnesses being Jesus and The Holy Spirit) the American church for the most part is apostate and dead. Not to suggest American legal and medical and political are worse…these four American powers plot all the day long to destroy Christianity and most any other peaceful religion or innocence. But I am not suggesting they won’t at the slightest opportunity eat anyone or anything else if it looks hurt, weak, ranked out, beautiful, or innocent. Thanks for reminding us there is hope we can find common ground.

  24. Interesting interpretation about Pi being God. I’ll have to think on that one. :)

    My take is that the first story with the tiger is true. The second story was made up to appease the Japs. Here’s why.

    You see, the truth is right in front of us. It is beautiful, miraculous, unbelievable and unreasonable. But it is true. Few of us make the small leap of faith and allow God to show it to us and guide us through it.

    Most of us in this life will choose to make up or believe a dark, demented story (evolution, no afterlife, no self worth, etc) and believe it instead because we feel like it gives us some sense of control. We think that reason is control and faith is weakness. So we choose to believe the dark story because it’s “ours” because we “reasoned” it out. It’s not until you make the leap of faith that you see real truth. Those of us that have seen it know.

    Pi knew. He had faith and God led him through this ordeal miraculously. The writer (who Pi was telling the story to) didn’t have faith yet. He chose the tiger story because it was a better story. But the reason he was there was to hear a story that would “make him believe in God”. So he had taken the first step towards knowing. I think over time, as he writes the story, he will come to realize that it was Pi’s faith that led him to be beautifully and miraculously saved. And that the second story was made up because it was more believable. He took the first step towards believing and if he keeps and open mind, he will find the God he seeks.

    After the writer says that he prefers the tiger story, Pi says, “as it is with God”. Meaning that God has given you a choice. You can choose to have faith and see the truth or you can choose the darker story that you mistakenly believe will lead to you to some man-made enlightenment (through reason) that doesn’t exist. Just like the second story didn’t exist.

    Would you be willing to make that leap of faith? To take a step back from what you think is reasonable and consider the possibility that God has a beautiful, miraculous life He wants to show you? It’s not a fairy tale. It’s not weakness. It is in fact the most powerful and wonderful thing you’ll ever know. And the more I study the Bible, the more I find that it is “reasonable”. He reveals more to me about myself and the world around me each and every day. But you have to start with Faith.

    If you want to know what Pi knew at the end and you want to know what those of us with faith know (the tiger story was true / God is real and miraculous), you should find someone to ask. First, take a minute to ask God to show you the truth. But do it with a pure and humble heart. Then seek out answers and He will guide you. Here are some ways to seek God. Find a Bible to read. Just start reading it. A little each day will work. Pray and read each day and see what God does. We all have friends with faith that would be glad to share with you why they believe what they believe. If you don’t, then seek out a church or a minister to talk to. I know it will be hard, but what’s on the line is very important. And don’t believe all the stories you hear about church people. I find them to seldom be true. Most of us are loving, caring people that accept others just like they are. We would love to bring you into our family and love you too. We want to call you one of our own. God wants to call you one of His own.

    • you sound wonderful wes! I wish I knew more people like you and with that kind of openness for your fellow man. if more “church people” were this way instead of cliquey and dogmatically closed more non believers would come into the fold. thanks for sharing thoughts and loving philosophies.

  25. What I see in the movie is: pi survived being on a boat for 277 days. the human story was the real one but pi told it as he saw it. the hyena was the cook, the zebra was the sailor and the orangotang was his mother. the tiger however was the animal inside pi that came out in order for pi to survive. pi had to see the world in an animals eyes to survive because in reality, the tiger would kill him straight away. of course pi had to train and tame his animal. also, remember when he said that taking care of the tiger was what kept him alive? he had to take care of himself to surive. ofcourse this is my own opinion so you do not have to agree. I think everyones opinions are really good!

  26. “Finally I’ve been pondering the significance of the odd name of Richard Parker for the tiger. ”

    The name Richard Parker has long been associated with shipwrecks and cannibalism.
    It’s a foreshadowing of what’s to come:


  27. People all I have to say us that Life of Pi is a great movie,might even be the best movie I’ve ever watched#just saying

  28. I think that the story of the humans on the boat is the one that actually took place. I respect all religions, but there is a strong curiosity in me about whether things like death are explained away in religion because we as humans can’t handle not really knowing what happens when we die… much like the story of the animals in “The Life of Pi”… Pi experiences something so disturbing that he has to put a different face on his story so people can get it.
    Interesting discussion.

  29. So how about I throw in a wrench… Pi tells two stories… One is a beautiful story of the tiger… the other is what I would call the ugly truth… he then asks the man.. which do you prefer? The man says “the one with the tiger”.. and Pi says.. ‘so it goes with God’.. I was thinking maybe, he means this.. we can believe that god is beautiful… and glorious and full of wonder… or we can believe the ugly truth that god is harsh and cruel and tests us beyond our limits to test our faith… at any given hour on any given day… both stories are true and how we perceive our faith in god is in our perception…