Life of Pi is a 2012 American adventure drama film based on Yann Martel’s 2001 novel of the same name. Directed by Ang Lee, the film’s adapted screenplay was written by David Magee, and it stars Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Rafe Spall, Gérard Depardieu, Tabu, and Adil Hussain. The storyline revolves around an Indian man named Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel, living in Canada and telling a novelist about his life story and how at 16 he survives a shipwreck in which his family dies, and is stranded in the Pacific Ocean on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.
Richard Parker is a Bengal tiger that is stranded on the lifeboat with Pi when the ship sinks. Richard Parker lives on the lifeboat with Pi and is kept alive with the food and water Pi delivers. Richard Parker develops a relationship with Pi that allows them to coexist in their struggle. In the novel, a hunter named Richard Parker is hired to kill a panther thought to have killed seven people within two months. Instead he immobilizes a female Bengal tiger with tranquilizer darts while her cub escapes to hide in a bush. Parker names the cub Thirsty after its enthusiasm when drinking from a nearby river. The paperwork that accompanies the shipment of the two tigers to Pi’s family’s zoo in Pondicherry states that the cub’s name is “Richard Parker” and the hunter’s given name is “Thirsty” and his surname is “None Given”. Pi and his father find the story so amusing that they continue to call the tiger “Richard Parker”.
The name of Martel’s tiger, Richard Parker, was inspired by a character in Edgar Allan Poe’s nautical adventure novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838). In this book, Richard Parker is a cabin boy who is stranded and eventually cannibalized on a lifeboat (and there is a dog aboard who is named Tiger). The author also had in mind another occurrence of the name, in the famous legal case R v Dudley and Stephens (1884) where a shipwreck again results in the cannibalism of a cabin boy named Richard Parker. A third Richard Parker drowned in the sinking of theFrancis Spaight in 1846, described by author Jack London, and later the cabin boy (not Richard Parker) was cannibalized. Having read about these events, Yann Martel thought, “So many victimized Richard Parkers had to mean something.”