At the end of the movie Life of Pi, Pi tells us two stories. One with the tiger (unrealistic) and one without the tiger (realistic).

I believe that he was metaphorically referring himself as the tiger who enters the forest (world) after being rescued.

Is my thinking correct? can you explain me the ending?

At the end did Irfan Khan (older Pi/narrator) say that "even God chose the first story"? Does it mean that the first story was indeed real?

  • 3
    At the end Pi says: "And so it goes with God.", not "even God chose the first story". So the two stories tell us something about God, instead of something about God's opinion on the stories.
    – Geerten
    Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 9:02
  • @Geerten: So the two stories tell us something about God. Can you elaborate on the statement? Even I do agree with the OP that the character meant that the first story went with God, that is with truth or belief. Any reason you think otherwise?
    – Sayan
    Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 5:59
  • You can read screenrant.com/life-of-pi-movie-ending-spoilers, which explains it pretty nicely (after roughly scanning through).
    – Geerten
    Commented Jan 14, 2014 at 16:18
  • You are actually misquoting him. He doesnt say that God prefers that story, he says "and so it goes with God". Which means that just like everyone chooses the fantastical story over the realistic story, so do people choose to believe in the fantastical story (God), than to believe in the boring atheistic picture. Of course this doesn't prove that there IS a God, only that the human tendency is to believe in something supernatural thus choosing the one that makes us feel better. You can read more here pagebypaiges.com/2016/11/05/…
    – Bach
    Commented Apr 27, 2022 at 16:23

7 Answers 7


At the start of the movie, the main character (as a boy) is intrigued by ideas from multiple religions, but his father says everyone must choose just one religion. So from the beginning, the core dilemma facing the main character involves his personal understanding of God.

This dilemma is resolved by the end of the film: when the main character shares the without-tiger version of what happened at sea, he explains that the with-tiger story is more pleasant than the real story -- just like believing in some kind of God makes life more pleasant, no matter which version of God one accepts.

In his explanation, the narrator also matches each animal to its real-life equivalent:

  • zebra is the Buddhist guy
  • hyena is the cook
  • orangutan is the narrator's mother
  • tiger is the narrator himself, or more specifically, his animal nature, which was drawn out by the ordeal
  • 1
    On the contrary, I can argue meaning of "even God chose the first story" is that the incidents with the animals actually happened and logically Pi must have been dead in that boat; but even God had other things in mind and let him survive and tell others the impossible story!
    – Mistu4u
    Commented Nov 30, 2012 at 16:36
  • 1
    So you see all these opinions are personal opinions...No confirm answer can be given to it, because the story was meant for such ending!
    – Mistu4u
    Commented Nov 30, 2012 at 16:39
  • oh now I get it! I didn't understand after watching the film how he would make the guy believe in God, but this answer explains it perfectly. thanks.
    – Reactgular
    Commented Mar 20, 2013 at 1:37

First let me tell you that the ending of the movie is intentionally kept dim because it is the main attraction part of the movie. There are a lot of successful movies where a question is kept alive intentionally through out the movie and never a perfect answer is given because public like mystery and they likes solving it themselves if no answer is given (like you are trying :) ). It is something that makes the movie healthy. I found some great piece of lines in the web:

Now for the BIG question: Which version do you believe? Do you think Pi, as young boy, comes up with fantastical tale to cope with an ugly truth? Or is it somehow not the point to decide what actually happened? That the beauty of the first story outweighs the believability of the second? On the one hand, Martel spends a good 200 pages developing the first story and about 7 on the second. The sheer volume, the proliferation of details, favors the first. On the other hand, the first story is also totally unlikely. We're not going to tell you which story to believe. Uncomfortable? Good.

This is what made a brilliant contribution for the success of the movie.

Even the author himself wanted to remain the mystery when asked about which is the true one. In this interview he speaks:

Reality isn't just "out there", like some block of cement: reality is an interpretation. In a sense we co-create our reality. And we do that all the time, every day. One day we wake up and we're in a great mood, the city we live in is a beautiful city, the next day it's an ugly city. That's just the way we interpret things. We're not free necessarily to choose the facts of our life, but there is an element of freedom in how we interpret them.

So please dont try to analyze, just enjoy the story as it is.

I agree with @ankit about the saying "and so it goes with God" reveals that this story might be true (again depends on you). Some hints the author gave himself too in the same interview:

What I was trying to do in this book was try and discuss how we interpret reality - most secular readers will read the book and say 'Ah, okay, there's one story told and actually something else happened, and Pi 'invented' this other story to pass the time, or make his reality bearable. That's the secular. The other one, the more religious interpretation, would just be the story you're reading and that's what happened...

But at the end, no confirmed answer is there.

  • 2
    Nice quotes from the author. I have read the book several times, and it reads as a parable. It isn't a story about a tiger or no-tiger as much as it is a story about perception. The point is not to choose the "real" story from these two, but to realize that in your own life you choose your own story.
    – MJ6
    Commented Dec 2, 2012 at 4:09
  • @MaryJoFinch, exactly. We should go by the theme.
    – Mistu4u
    Commented Dec 2, 2012 at 4:37

Disclaimer: If you haven't seen the movie yet, please don't read this answer.

I know there are people who like to believe the animal story. I did too, but when talking about it with someone else, I realized it's just our human side that makes us want to believe it. We don't like the other being true because it's so sad and dramatic. But as much as I loved the story with the animals, it's just a metaphor for what actually happened. Life of Pi is not a fantasy movie, it's drama, it's a dramatic story.

His animal story is what his mind likes/chooses to believe over such a dramatic event that is losing his mother in a violent way and a shipwreck.

The story he tells in the end is the real one, and even if it's not said clearly, we know that's what actually happened. He just elaborated that and invented the animal one to get over it. It's psychology, after all.

Think about it: when in the end he asks the writer "what story do you prefer?", the writer chooses the animal one. Perhaps because it's more interesting or less dramatic/strong, but certainly not because the writer believes the story is real. Pi knows the story is not true, and he knows his mother died in that lifeboat. He took revenge and did desperate things in a desperate situation.

There are actually some proofs to this: when seeing the movie, didn't you wonder how come the tiger didn't come out of the covered bit earlier? Why didn't the tiger fight the hyena under that tarpaulin? She came from there, so they must have... co-existed there, if it was true. The answer is simple: there was no tiger, there was no hyena, orangutan or zebra

The tiger comes out suddenly because... Pi's evil side comes out suddenly. It "didn't exist before". And we all know a tiger can't come out from nothing.

Another proof is the human-shaped island, where trees are edible, but that at night, being it so welcoming, "turns into" acid lakes and killing trees.


Why does the writer prefer the tiger story? For a 'flat' hearted person - the story is interesting, dramatic and worth remembering... For a 'deep' hearted person - the story is all the above, because it is wonderful and pleasant, it makes the incident a not regretful one and a memory to cherish beyond all those cruel things that has happened... it has made the incident a beauty of his life... (thinking introspectively)

Which story is the true one?

Speaking for the tiger story - the tiger not coming out during the hyena's time might be because it was drugged like all the animal + it was very tired from swimming, so that is not a 'proof' of anything. at the end Pi narrates the people-story, and his body language suggests that he is lying until he starts to narrate the tragic portions. This may be because in the tragic portions he was recollecting the incidents of hyena killing the orangutan and the zebra while he said about people. 'so it goes with God' may mean that the same choice that the writer and the Japanese took is the one that God took... implying that the tiger story is true. The older Pi looks convincingly genuine with emotions when narrating the tiger-story than the younger Pi when narrating the people-story. None of the above a solid proof, so the other could also be the real one even if it looks unlikely

Speaking for the people story - The story looks totally unbelievable as it is easier to believe that such an inexperienced boy survived all alone than in the company of a tiger and there is no solid proof to support tiger story. The logical version of accepting a theory is to accept the simplest version of it that reasons with the available facts. Hence people story is the choice. As said the event could have evoked the 'survival' instincts of Pi which is metaphor to the tiger and it left him the moment he was safe. Tiger-story could be because the events were traumatic to him. 'so it goes with God' means that the same reason that made the writer believe in the tiger-story is valid for him to believe in God. Because believing in God is a choice that if taken makes the life more pleasant. So the tiger-story is only as true as existence of God (so to an atheist, tiger story is a lie). This make more sense than the above explanation for the same dialogue. This answers the question what made the writer believe in God. Neither of the theories have a solid proof. Anyone of the two could be true.

So what is actually true, which should I believe? It does not matter what the truth is as anyone of the both could be true. At times like these what matters is what you believe in. And believing in the God (tiger-story) make the journey through life (or the ocean) a pleasant one.


From my perspective there were no animals involved.

The cook (hyena) killed and partially ate the buddhist with the broken leg (zebra) and then turned on Pi's mother (orangutan), killing her. This brought out Pi's rage (Richard Parker) and he killed the cook. To survive at sea he partially ate the cook, and then I believe he ate his mother. That is what the island (human-shaped) represents, with its lotus flower motif and feeding him until he was engorged.

He created the animal story to deal with his traumatic memories, and the film offers the audience the same option - believe the true (humanist) story, or a more fantastic, 'happier' tale with no concrete evidence which, ultimately, is what religious belief boils down to.


All of you may seem to have missed the following two scenes that suggest that first story was true:

  1. When Pi throws the swim ring in the water to save 'someone' only to find that someone to be 'Richard Parker' instead. And then he keeps saying No while NOT allowing Richard Parker in the boat. So 'Richard Parker' doesn't come out of the shed 'all of a sudden' (as thought by many that all of a sudden he emerged out of nowhere, because of Pi's anger)

  2. Just before the movie ends, it is shown that 'Richard Parker' i.e The Tiger stops and looks at 'imaginary' Pi for a moment, before he continues walking in the jungle.

Quite possible that upon being asked for a 'true' story, he could replace animals with humans because when he saw hyena being cruel, it reminded Pi of the cruel cook. And when he saw Zebra, it reminded him of peaceful Japanese man and when he saw the (female) monkey (who seemed to have lost its baby), he saw his mom in that mother monkey??

What do you think, people?

  • Throughout the movie pi is afraid of getting on the boat because of the tiger. The fact that he got back on the boat on the night the ship sunk, means that he thought the tiger was gone. If you're keen, just before pi gets back on the boat, as the sharks started to appear you can see a figure on the left of the screen being attacked by (or attacking) the sharks, it's possible that pi thought that that was the tiger. When people say it was sudden what they mean was that pi thought the tiger wasn't even there. If he did he wouldn't have touched that boat.
    – vikki
    Commented Jan 27, 2013 at 20:38

The Tiger not coming out until the hyena began to attack Pi must be the sign of the tiger being represented as the cruel/animal side of Pi which was brought on by the atrocities of the cook. So the second story was true but Pi makes up another story and ties all the human characters to their animal counterparts which is what I like to believe.

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