General Theories

Theory 1: Future Memories

  • So far, 6 year-old Locke has been shown to have recurring memories of events that Present Day Locke has experienced. This is thanks to Locke's various time travels. This can be seen by the smoke monster picture that Child Locke drew, something that he had not been exposed to but still had a memory of. Alpert's test was a specific use of this concept.
  • Richard Alpert wanted Child Locke to pick the items which belonged to him. Child Locke proceeds to pick three items, each of which are in fact objects that belonged to Adult Locke. The compass which has been passed back and forth between Alpert and Locke. The vial of sand as a piece of the island. And finally the knife, which is Locke's trademark. However, all this did was prove that Child Locke was having memories of Adult Locke, which Alpert already speculated. The truth of the matter was that Alpert wanted Locke to pick one specific item, the Book of Law.
    • The theory is that the Book of Law is an important belonging to The Others. Locke told Alpert that he would eventually become their leader. However, he wasn't born on the island, so Locke had to come to the Island in some form. If Locke had picked the book, then that would have proved that Locke had grown up on the island. Alpert would have taken Locke at that point to live his destiny. However, since this was not Locke's choice, that proves that it wasn't time yet for Locke to come to the island. This can be proved by Alpert's statement of Locke not being ready.
      • Further evidence at this would be seen by Teenager Locke's chance to go to a science camp, offered by Alpert as well. The year being 1972 directly connects with the Dharma Initiative, a science organization, starting their visits to the island. In theory, this could have been Alpert's offer in order to see if this was the time that Locke came to the island and became their leader. Maybe Abaddon was suggesting that Locke go on the walkabout because through some sort of foretelling (more time travels?), they knew of the plane and were hoping that THIS was the moment that Locke would finally come to the Island.


  • It is NOT a fact that the knife belonged to Locke. The knife he chose was much older than the knives Locke uses.
    • The knife seems to be similar to that used by Jacob to gut & eat the fish on the beach. Jacob is joined by MIB as they discuss the “loophole,” and the Black Rock ship on the horizon. It also appears to be a cruder fish knife, about the same size and shape.
  • There is no known relationship between the Others and the book.
  • Locke is the man of faith not science. Richard's offer for Locke to go to the Science Camp may have been yet another test. If Locke had gone he would have made the wrong choice and proven to Richard he is not the future leader. It makes sense that Locke chooses not to go, showing he is indeed the leader. DI clearly follows science, while like Locke and the Others are followers of faith (for example, Jacob dislikes technology).
    • The offer was for a place at science camp because the Others were in their guise as Mittelos Bioscience when they contacted Locke's school. It would raise questions if a scientific research organization was to hold a 'faith camp'.

Theory 2: Reincarnation

  • Richard's test of Locke as a child appears to be similar to how the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama is selected. Richard uses this test to find out if Locke is a reincarnation of someone formerly on the island


  • As stated in a Season 4 DVD by Damon Lindelof reincarnation is a subject the show touches with reincarnation and this is a perfect example.
  • Richard was asking Locke for guidance. He wanted to know what the "Hostiles" should do to solve their current situation. Locke chose the knife, which represented the violent solution.


  • Then why does Richard ask his to chose the items that belong to him? This theory is not supported by evidence.
  • Locke is the present day reincarnation of Jacob, which is why the compass and sand/ash in the bottle looked really old. They belonged to Jacob once upon a time.
    • How can Locke be a reincarnation of Jacob if Jacob still exists on the island?
  • Unlike the test of the Dalai Lama, the items Richard shows Locke are not from the past (which might imply reincarnation), but from his future on the island. Like his drawing of the monster on the wall, these items indicate that young Locke has glimpsed the future.


  • Locke uses a compass on the island.
  • The comic refers to a "Mystery Island".
  • Locke chose the knife, which according to Richard's reaction was the wrong choice. However, on the island we see that Locke is actually a knife collector/enthusiast and that in fact these items did become a part of his future on the island.
  • The items, though many of them looked old, may be key elements Locke recognized from his dreams or however he was accessing future information from his life. This would imply that "special" people are able to glimpse the future and are not reincarnations. This could also explain why Daniel is mysteriously crying when he sees the crash of Flight 815, though he isn't yet involved in the mission.
  • The bottle of sand symbolizes the island, maybe even from the island. When Richard asks Locke which of the items belong to him, he should have chosen the bottle as the island belongs to Locke.
  • The bottle belongs to Richard and it contained medicine to cure his sick wife Isabella.


  • The compass is different in appearance to the one Locke uses, and later gives to Sayid.
  • Locke did not choose the comic book. He never has a comic book in his life as far as we know.
  • While certain books of the Old Testament portion of the Bible are considered books of law, and the Old testament is sometimes referred to as "The Law," the book Mr. Eko finds and later hands to Locke is "The Holy Bible." The book that Richard Alpert presents has a very different appearance and is titled "Book of Laws."
  • It would seem more logical to conclude that only one of the items is actually from his future on the Island. If they were all from the future, then there would be no correct item to pick.
  • Each of the six objects represents one of the Oceanic Six.
    • This isn’t evidence, but a theory


  • Sayid is the compass based on his use of the compass in the series and his ability to make a compass.
    • Kate is the Book of Law based on her legal troubles.
    • Sun is the knife because she is severed from her husband.
    • Aaron is the sand from the Island, where he was born.
    • Hurley is the comic book, possessing a comic book in the Season 1.
    • Jack is the baseball glove based on his love of the Red Sox.


  • None of these objects belong to Sun, Aaron, Jack or Kate, or Sayid, though he used the compass.
  • Alpert specifically asks Locke to choose items that belong to him, not items that simply hold any kind of impersonal significance.
  • This theory does not explain WHY Locke is being asked to chose.
  • Locke (and Ben, and others like Walt) have always been "special," but the item they pick indicates the time or situation for when they are needed.


  • Again, then why does Richard ask his to chose the items that belong to him? This theory is not supported by evidence.
  • Locke choosing the items is similar to Daniel and Charlotte conducting a memory experiment with DHARMA playing cards. Daniel only gets 2 of the 3 cards correct. Locke also chooses only 2 of the 3 items correctly.
  • Richard is traveling back to Locke, knowing what he will pick in the future. Locke's inability to get it right means he lacks the prescience or that he cannot remember that he has already done this.


  • If Locke picks these items in the future, then how can Locke pick wrong?
  • Also, what is the point of Richard time traveling to give this test? What is the point of the test? This theory does not make sense.
  • The selected items would appeal to someone dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge (the compass, sand, and possibly comic), deep spirituality (the Book of Laws), and both worldly and metaphysical justice (again, the Book of Laws). The knife and/or baseball glove, for purposes of this "test," would appeal to someone less interested in intellectual/spiritual pursuits and more concerned with physicality, competition, etc. Locke chose the knife intentionally because he was trying to develop a "macho" self image.
    • Though, Locke was hardly ten years old when Richard came to him, there is no reason why he would be forced by peer-pressure


  • The "personality test" theory does not explain why Richard is traveling the world giving personality tests to children. Why Locke? Why ask him to identify the items that belong to him?
    • The "personality test" theory is the most consonant with the themes of the episode and with the philosophy of the historical John Locke, as the character Locke is seen repeatedly bucking authority, choosing to go his own way rather than conform to the standards set before him by a higher power (be it a school principal or a representative from the Island). Richard's reasons for testing Locke is a separate issue, and many of the theories presented above offer an attempt at explaining this.

Theory 3: Island Test

  • Richard’s test is one to look for a subconscious reflection, preference, suitability for different roles (see below) related to the Island. It’s an indication of a candidate’s moral compass, which can change over time but generally follows a core belief. The object chosen reflects that core belief.
    • Richard doesn’t work for Dharma, or for Widmore - he was hired by Jacob to help him find possible replacements as Protector of the Island (PI), as Jacob was always preparing for the inevitability that MIB would find the “loophole” to kill him (Ab Aeterno). Richard then watches over Locke and others at key points in their lives to see if they have some sort of “it” factor to be able to handle the PI job.
    • Jacob explains to the finalists why he chose them as shown in the lighthouse, as he’s explaining to Kate why her name was crossed off (motherhood). Some of the criteria were that each of them had no real connections off-island, had redeemed themselves of their own accord, and were “good” people. Presumably there were other criteria since Jacob had been testing many people on the island for at least a hundred or two years (e.g. Black Rock)
      • The PI would have to be able to resist the temptation of power, stay in the role for life, and be willing to do whatever it took to protect the island from MIB and his successors.
      • Ben failed this test initially, as we see in the finale and prologue, but is working as Number 2 to redeem himself someday.
      • Jack and Hurley clearly passed this test and others.
  • Each object in the test represents a subconscious suitability for different Island roles:
    • Bottle of Ash/Stone/Sand: The mixture surrounding Jacob’s cabin that keeps the MIB out. Choosing this bottle would indicate the role of Jacob Protector (JP), rather than protecting the island. Jacob is willing to sacrifice himself for the sake of the island, and is not seeking a protector. It could be argued that Richard and Ben fill this role already.
    • Compass: Seeker/searcher/explorer of the island, focusing on the island’s incredible properties rather than on its importance in preventing evil from destroying the world. A seeker could eventually become a PI, but could also tip over toward science like the Dharma Initiative.
    • Comic Book: Exploiter, intrigued by the campy sci fi side of the island’s properties, possibly for commercial gain (Widmore) or other purposes (Dharma). A chooser of the book would not be interested at all in protecting the island from MIB, or in its larger role with good and evil.
      • As others have noted, could be a red herring, particularly for a child.
    • Baseball Glove: Temple Protector, currently filled by Dogen. Dogen never fully understands the full complexity of protecting the island and the difficulties of being the PI, nor does he need to, as that’s Jacob’s role and not his. His job is to test finalists (LA X) like Sayid and to save the Temple from the MIB.
      • Dogen spends his time protecting the temple by tossing a baseball. Dogen took the role as redemption for having killed his son after picking him up from a baseball game, and kept his son’s glove as a reminder.
      • As above, could also be a red herring though given the strong parallelism with Dogen and his son, that’s doubtful.
    • Book of Laws: Protector of the Island.
      • Eko in season 2 explains the relationship of the king, the Temple, and the Book of Laws, and his own flashbacks and redemption are an extreme case of good and evil. The Book of Laws represents the most basic code of morality, that protecting others from evil must come before all else. It precedes the Temple
      • Richard was hoping when he tested Locke that Locke could be a future PI, but the fact that he bypasses the Book (and Richard is disappointed), makes it clear that he’s unlikely to pass all of the tests necessary. Throughout Locke’s life, we see that he has a difficult time prioritizing the needs of others (e.g. choosing retribution and his father over his lover).
    • The Knife: The anti-PI, or MIB. The knife represents violence, which is not Jacob’s way. How can one protect goodness by killing or harming others? Jacob as PI purposely chooses not to even defend himself, although he is willing/able to give limited protection to the candidates.
      • One could write a diatribe about how Locke was destined to be a vessel for MIB, but that’s irrelevant here. The point is that Locke has chosen violence at multiple points in his life, even when unnecessary.

Other Miscellaneous Theories:

Richard simply trying to find out why Locke is so special:

  • In 1977, Richard tells Jack that he visited Locke several times as he was growing up but can't understand why he's supposed to be special.
  • Richard himself is long lived, but he's not omniscient. He his knowledge is limited to his continuous experience of the passage of time. To him Locke appears to him first in 1954, then in 1974, 2004 after the first crash and 2007 after the second crash.
  • Richard seems to have no certain knowledge of the future. This is why he is initially surprised or incredulous about time traveling.
  • He is convinced by Locke that time travel is possible and that Locke is engaged in it when they meet in 1954. Richard received the compass at this time and was invited by Locke to visit him off the island over the course of his life to verify his claims about time travel.
  • For Richard Locke's claim that he is from the future seemed to be confirmed when he witnesses Locke's birth two years later in 1956.
  • What makes Richard think Locke is special in 1954/1956 is this apparent ability to time-jump. So, Richard is looking for indications of little Locke's knowledge of his "future" meetings with him when he comes to "test" him.
  • The claim that he is giving kids personality tests is just a cover story for the foster mother so Richard can gain access to little Locke.
  • When Richard sees little Locke's picture of the smoke monster he is optimistic that little Locke will "pass" the test because he assumes that little Locke's memories of his future on the island have inspired the picture. In this he is probably correct.
  • Richard sets the objects out and poses the question emphasizing the time factor (which item belongs to Locke "already");
  • He's expecting little Locke to pick the compass since at this point in time (sometime in 1961), Richard thinks that it belongs to Locke because Locke gave it to him in 1954.
  • But little Locke is emotionally distracted by his need to prove his worthiness after being rejected by him mother and cast into a foster home where he is mocked and picked on all the time. So, he picks the knife because:
    • He has a future memory of being a hunter/warrior on the island; at least this is how is saw himself (or wanted to see himself).
    • He has a future memory that he's supposed to be a leader and thinks being a hunter/warrior is what this entails.
    • He actually has a future memory of having knives; he had a case full of them when the plane crashed.
    • he thinks by picking the knife this will get him into the special school Richard is talking about.
  • When Locke picks the knife instead of the compass, Richard gets frustrated because to him Locke does not seem to "remember" their future meeting. And this may or may not be true.
  • Little Locke may have a future memory of the compass, if so then he probably does not pick it because he thinks of it as really belonging to Richard. From his perspective, the time jumps he experienced after Ben turned the donkey wheel are part of his continuous experience of the passage of time. So, to him Richard gave him the compass first in 2004 (2008) telling him to give it back the next time he sees him (i.e. 1954). Moreover, little Locke's future memories were probably random flashes, like Claire's, so he probably couldn't make sense of them.
  • The knife is the wrong choice as far as Richard is concerned, even if it belongs to Locke on the island. All it indicates is that little Locke experiences his future memories as premonitions of his future on the island, and that he does not seem to know that these are caused by time travel.
  • Meanwhile picking the compass would have indicated to Richard that little Locke understood the temporal paradox it represented and was therefore a prodigy knowing about time travel.

The Knife

Chosen / Wrong

  • As evidenced by Locke's drawing, and his choice of the sand and the compass, Locke clearly has somehow seen his future on the island Per Theory 1. This is why Richard was so disappointed, but obviously did not give up on Locke and continued trying to recruit him. Given the scary picture of the island's monster he had drawn of his future, Locke chose "wrong" because he was afraid the island and his premonitions.
  • In "The Brig," after Locke is forced to take a knife from Ben and urged to kill his father with it in front of The Others, Locke refuses. Afterward, Richard Alpert seeks Locke out and behaves as if Locke made the correct decision not to slaughter his father with the blade. In this instance, it appears that in both scenes in which Locke makes a choice about picking or using a knife under the watchful eye of Richard Alpert, Richard does not want him to use either the knife or the way of the knife. Only now that Locke is an older and wiser man can Richard see that Locke is finally ready to know when to "pick the knife" (and more importantly, when not to pick the knife), both literally and metaphorically. ("The Brig")

Chosen / Right?

John chooses the knife because he is a reincarnation of man in black. The knife is the one MIB used to kill his mother. Alpert was upset because it proved Locke was no ordinary candidate but the one who will kill Jacob.

  • John chooses the knife because he has "future memories" of owning many professional hunting knives as an adult. The first time we see Locke with knives was in the first season episode "Walkabout" when he opens his metal suitcase filled with hunting knives. It wasn't the wrong choice, just not the one Richard had in mind.
    • They symbolize the choices Locke would make in life and how they pertain to his destiny. John considers the compass and vial, and then chooses the knife, similar to how he chooses sports and cars after interest in science. His abilities already belonged to him and come naturally to him. His father teaches him later to use the knives, but his talent for this comes naturally to him.
  • The knife was the right choice. Richard was only angry because he somehow knew that the disasters of the survivors and the others and the Kahana were at hand.
    • I agree with this to some degree. I think whether Locke had chosen the knife or the book of laws would have told Richard whether Lockes reign was to be one of peace and law among the others or on in which they were forced to bring war to their enemies. Richard isn't upset because the knife was the wrong choice, but because he knows war is coming to his people and doesn't want to accept it.
  • Richard only appeared angry, but like the oracle to Neo in "The Matrix" he said only what he needed to in order for Locke to complete the events leading up to the present.
  • The Knife really belonged to Locke while on the island, just as the compass and the island itself (sand in vile) belong to him. Richard at the time had no knowledge that Locke and knives go hand in hand.
    • Per "Jughead" we now know that Alpert visits Locke due to Locke telling him to. He would have then known that the knife was Locke's. The reaction of Alpert leaving quickly would just signify that he did not want to leave a lasting impression on Locke so that he would purposefully not remember him.
  • When Locke had chosen the knife, Richard may have not wanted to bring him back to the island as a boy, because of the current leader of the other. Because Ricahrd has to follow the leader, he might not have wanted to displease the current one by bringing an "outsider" into their society. This caused Richard to leave him, and force Jacob later on to rejuvinate Locke when he fell out of the building, inspiring him to get on Oceanic 815 and participate in a "walkabout", and happen to crash on the island on his way back to LA.
  • Locke was destined to become Jacob's replacement, as his brother (before becoming the MIB) was destined to be the Island's protector. However, like Jacob's brother before him, Locke's fate also became the same as the Jacob's brother. Before their destiny could have been completed, they fell short and became one with the MIB.

Richard is angry when Locke chooses the knife because knives are instruments of death. This illustrates Locke's inherent allegiance is to the MIB and the dark side of humanity, not Jacob's more optimistic view of humanity.

The Bottle

Chosen / Correct

  • The bottle contains the material from the ring that surrounds Jacob's Cabin.
  • If Locke has had a premonition of the island (as implied by his drawing and choice of the compass), he should recognize the material as related to the island in his vision.
  • The bottle belongs to Richard. It contains medicine for his sick wife Isabella.

The Comic Book

  • The comic book is a coded reference to the island, a "hidden land" - this is something young Locke would recognize if he had already had a vision of his future on the island (see Theory 1 under General theories about the items above).
  • The cover depicts an island floating in the air above the water, and the writers chose this comic book because of this.
  • It could also be a reference to the comics that belonged to Hurley and Walt.
  • The comic book is one of the "red herring" wrong items. It represents a trite and superficial fascination with the island, which is much like how Locke is so interested in and distracted by the ultimately unimportant and misleading Dharma Initiative videos and stations. The comic book representation is something a scientist from the Dharma Initiative would choose, hence is wrong.
  • The comic book was the wrong choice. If Richard didn't know if that child was the real John Locke, then a comic book would be chosen by many little children. Unfortunatly this is also a problem with the knife.--Dan the Other 20:40, 8 November 2008 (PST)

The Book of Laws

Book Of Laws

  • Eko gives Locke The Book of Laws in "The 23rd Psalm" after finding it on the island and tells him the story of how a king used the book to rebuild a society.
    • It wasn't the Book of Laws Eko gave him it was the Bible. The Book of Laws may be something inherent to the Others or it may be the Book of Laws of the Bahai faith but it is most definitely not the Bible.
      • Why can nobody give up on the Baha'i faith thing? There is no book in the Baha'i faith called the "Book of Laws" what is considered our book of law, the Kitab-i-Aqdas, is the "Most Holy Book" in english. Also, it wasn't fully translated into or published in english until 1992, whereas this scene takes place, presumably, in 1961 (in fact, the only Baha'i book fully translated into english prior to Locke's birth was the Kitab-i-Iqan, or Book of Certitude, in 1904)
        • Just prior to giving Locke the book, Eko tells him a story wherein the Book of Laws is found and the Temple is built around it. Eko specifically tells him that the Book of Laws was the Old Testament. It's not a huge jump to say that that's the same thing he then gave to Locke.


  • This is why Richard asks young Locke which of the items belong to him. The book of laws may be considered to belong to Locke since Eko gives it to him, though arguably it belongs to and relates to Eko's past and involvement as a fake priest (the book is hollow and contained missing film from a DHARMA initiative orientation film video, which was about not using the computers to contact the outside world.).
  • The Book of Laws was the "correct" item.
  • The book could also be just a symbol Alpert is using that stands for a concept - though that is inconsistent with Richard's instructions to Locke to chose the items that belong to him.

The Baseball Glove was a red herring

The baseball glove is a red herring--the item that would appeal most to a young boy; if John chose it, it would be a clear indication that he is certainly not the 'right' boy. The baseball glove as red herring also reflects Locke's stubborn statements that he is interested in "sports" as opposed to the Mittelos Laboratories Science Camp.

The meaning of the Items and Richard's Visits

We know from Desmond's experiences through time-flickering (moving to the past then present, back to the past, etc) that one can not change time. Ms. Hawking made this perfectly clear, as did Faraday. What this means is that, there is a deterministic factor at play within Lost: Had Locke not lived his life, and landed on the island, he would have never learned the name Charles Widmore, would have never met Richard, and would never have come to want to protect the island. If he hadn't, Ben would have never used the wheel in the Orchid, unsticking the Survivors in time. The whole point of Richard giving Locke the compass, and subsequently, Richard giving Locke a test, was to see if child Locke remembered anything that Adult Locke had done, years before he was able to. The Island unsticking was meant to be. Richard's appearances to Locke, throughout time, were to watch and see his leader grow up. The test was simple: "Which item belonged to Locke?"; the answer was and always has been the compass. Richard gave Locke the compass to give to Richard in the past. Richard's actions before "Jughead" can easily be explained through Locke's comment to him, telling him his date of birth, and asking Richard to visit him. Whatever symbolism can be pulled out of each item, it's not needed to understand the significance of that scene. There is certainly an idea of determinism at play; Who better than John Locke to fill the role of he whose path has already been determined?

Of course, there is no science against time travel, but it does not imply that Richard has to utilize time travel to leave the island. After all, the island seems to revolve around an intense series of predestination paradoxes that likely explain the reasons whay John Locke can draw the smoke creature. He does not remember, per se, but technically his memories of the future have already made their way to the past,(ie, John's shifting through time.) If John as an adult had already been on the island before he was born, his memories might somehow filter into his unconscious as a child, even off the island. This does not imply that John remembers the future... but portions of his memories do grace his subconscious. As for the items in question, technically, according to the types of predestination paradoxes developed by traveling through time, one of those items already belongs to him.

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