|Year of birth||May 26|
|Place of origin||The Island|
|Current location||Charleston, SC|
|"The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater."|
|Lost, Fringe, Cowboy Bebop, Avatar (The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra), King of the Hill, Dexter, Luke Cage, Stranger Things, Criminal Minds|
|Languages I Speak|
The Creation of Un-Locke
As it has been frequently used throughout the Internet, in official videos, in magazines, and even on television, I thought I'd provide definitive documentation for how the nickname Un-Locke came about. I was the first to use it, and while most people have appreciated it for the pun, the pun itself did not even occur to me until long after I had created it. The nickname was originally intended to be a literary reference.
As I posted in the talk section to the John Locke article, and originally in the Jacob's enemy article (later changed to Jacob's nemesis, then finally merged with Smoke monster to become The Man in Black), the reference is to a character from a novel by C.S. Lewis.
- The actions of this individual closely resemble those of the "Un-Man", the demonic spirit controlling Professor Edward Weston in C.S. Lewis' planetary romance Perelandra. In the novel, the Un-Man entered an island planet by taking possession of a dead man, and did not take direct action, but rather worked through trying to persuade another to commit an evil act. This persuasion involved questioning the motivations of a being who had until then been considered an undisputed spiritual authority.
This explanation, and first usage of the term, was posted in mid-May of 2009, just after the airing of "The Incident". In the trivia section to the article for Jacob's enemy, this paragraph was drastically shortened, as it was felt that I was stretching the reference. As one user posted, "In this case, the light similarity to the CS Lewis book might be an interesting parallel (and it's a light similarity at best --- seriously an "island planet"?...the poster is stretching to make it sound more similar to Lost than it really is), but it's not, in any sense of the word "trivia" about Lost. It's just some individual's personal feelings/theory." In light of this, the paragraph quoted above was moved to a Nicknames section (later to become merely Names), as the following:
- "Un-Locke", a name coined in reference to the character's similarities to a figure in the novel Perelandra, used subsequently in TV Guide.
But despite the above-mentioned user's thoughts, it seems unlikely that I had merely stretched the plot of Perelandra to make it sound more similar to Lost. First of all, the writers and creators of the show are clearly familiar with Lewis' work, as several concepts dealing with Time on the Island have their origins in Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia septology. To indicate this, they even named a character C.S. Lewis. Further, this would not even be the first time that a major element of the show heavily resembled a device from Lewis' planetary romances. As I posted in the Trivia section to the article on the Dharma Initiative,
- The DHARMA Initiative closely resembles the NICE (National Institute for Co-ordinated Experiments) from That Hideous Strength, the final volume of C.S. Lewis's Ransom Trilogy. Both were scientific societies whose members lived and worked together, whose lower recruits believed their aims were purely noble and scientific and whose upper echelons seemed to have knowledge of secret matters (In Lost, the energy beneath the Orchid and Swan, in Lewis's book, the Macrobes) which they intended to exploit. Both groups did experiments on bears, which escaped captivity when the groups' activities collapsed, when purged by a group of people hostile to their aims, who defended nature and objected to scientific exploitation. The names of both societies are acronyms, which hint toward applied science.
Nor is it all stretching the plot of the book to refer to Venus as an "island planet". In Lewis' book, all the lands of that sphere are either small, fixed traditional islands, or else floating islands. To quote Perelandra itself:
- But the eyes of Perelandra opened, as it were, inward, as if they were the curtained gateway to a world of waves and murmurings and wandering airs, of life that rocked in winds and splashed on mossy stones and descended as the dew and arose sunward in a thin-spun delicacy of mist. On Mars the very forests are of stone; in Venus the lands swim. For now he thought of them no more as Malacandra and Perelandra. He called them by their Tellurian names. With deep wonder he thought to himself, "My eyes have seen Mars and Venus. I have seen Ares and Aphrodite."
A third of the way into season 6, the reference to the Un-Man in Perelandra still seems appropriate. Un-Locke seems to be unable to achieve any of his goals without manipulating others into taking actions which Jacob, the Island's spiritual authority, considers evil, or at least severely misguided and ill-advised. This continues to mirror Lewis' planetary romance, in which the Un-Man's goals consist of persuading, through a series of silver-tongued speeches, Venus' inhabitants to disobey the commandments of Maleldil, the Old Solar name for God himself. Season 6's Un-Locke begins to look more and more like "evil incarnate", as one character called him. It only remains to be seen if our survivors will resist the temptations of the evil one, or not...
- Orientation* ...And Found
- The Other 48 Days
- The 23rd Psalm
- The Hunting Party
- The Long Con
- One of Them
- Maternity Leave
- Three Minutes
- Further Instructions* The Cost of Living
- Not in Portland
- The Man from Tallahassee
- One of Us
- The Brig
- The Man Behind the Curtain
- The Beginning of the End* Confirmed Dead
- The Economist
- Meet Kevin Johnson
- The Shape of Things to Come
- Cabin Fever
- There's No Place Like Home
- LA X* The Substitute
- Dr. Linus
- Ab Æterno (for Richard's story, not for the cork metaphor)
- Happily Ever After
- The Last Recruit
- The Candidate
- What They Died For
- The End
"Current" Theories (As of 2010)
Decisive Moments and the Centrality of Paradoxical Truths
With last night's "LA X, Parts 1 & 2", one of the most thought-provoking, emotionally engaging, and brilliantly plotted television shows has reached the beginning of the end. The main question of which the cliffhanger of last season's finale consisted, whether the detonation of Jughead would reset history or fulfill it, has been answered in a thoroughly unexpected, and thoroughly ingenious, way. The answer is Both. The bomb did and did not reset history. Oceanic Flight 815 did and did not crash on the Island. Our characters exist now in two alternate worlds — a move which, though technically involving the much more sci-fi device of alternate realities, nevertheless feels decidedly less science fiction than time travel — thus setting the stage for what could be the highest expression of a decisive choice: the choice, quite literally, between two ways of life: between two ways of seeing the world.
"LAX" showed us two alternate timelines. In one, Daniel Faraday's plan to reset history, as seen in last year's finale, "The Incident", has succeeded, and the characters we have come to know and love never crashed on the Island in the first place. In the second, the plan failed, and the resulting electromagnetic energy release triggered a final time flash, sending the survivors stuck in 1977 back to the present time, just after the death of Jacob. What happens in both worlds is extremely interesting — yet for the moment, I will only consider the device of separate worlds.
It is obvious that the two worlds cannot long stand. As series creator Damon Lindelof said during season four, "The problem with alternative realities is that you never know when the rug is going to be pulled out from under you. We want the audience to believe that the jeopardy is real. Postulating alternative realities would be an escape valve that would be damaging that as a narrative value." He is right. The presence of two worlds takes away not only the sense of jeopardy but the sense of the characters' actions having any meaning. If in one world the characters make all the wrong choices, it won't matter as long as the make the right ones in the other. Or if one character dies, it won't really matter because they will still be alive in the other. What Lost is doing with season six's alternate worlds is immensely clever: showing us what would have happened had Flight 815 never crashed: letting us have our cake, and eat it, too. But this cannot last if the show's story is to be ultimately meaningful in any real way.
If either of the two worlds will become the cornerstone of Lost, I think it will be the one which Jack refused. Already there are fissures in this new world: Charlie, though alive, thinks his life not worth living. Others who have been healed — Locke and Rose, to name a couple — are broken once more; not to mention the countless others who were healed in a non-physical way on the Island. While interesting, this new world is a very tragic development. Yet it is one that affords a very deep, and a very religious theme. Very often what people think will be best for them is actually the worst; and what they feel are the worst things that could happen to them are in reality some of the best. It is a very Chestertonian paradox. One could just as well, and a bit more accurately, say it is a very Christian paradox.
For this is the nature of all of the deepest truths and virtues: that they are paradoxical. The greatness of a thing is measured in its ability to be small. Mercy is only merciful if it forgives the unforgivable. Hope is only really hopeful if it continues to hope when all is hopeless. Faith is only really faith if it believes in the unprovable. Nothing fails like success (Chesterton's version of "the meek shall inherit the earth". He who would lose his life, shall gain it.
If this is true — if one of the parallel worlds must ultimately end — then it will be a choice not only between two realities or even two lives, but between two ideals of what makes life meaningful. It will be a choice, not between two worlds, but between two worldviews. In this choice lies all the dichotomies with which humanity is now concerned. Safety, comfort and security...or risk, danger, and hardship? Complacency within the self's boundaries, or a painful, ever-vigilant self-sacrifice? Modernity, or tradition? Science, or religion? Reason, or mysticism? Rationalism, or romance? This choice, if it comes, will be a sublimated allegory of the deepest choices one makes.
Just before dying, Juliet wanted to tell Sawyer one thing: "It worked." This is very curious, as in that world, "it" (the reset) obviously did not work. But perhaps these two words hint toward the future of season six. If Juliet's knowledge of the other timeline was due to her proximity to death, then perhaps this is how the characters will come to know about the decision they must make. Perhaps those who die in the one world will find themselves in the other. If so, this is fitting. It is fitting that the choice should be made by the characters in the alternate timeline rather than in the original. For it is he who has left home who must decide to return. I, for one, am hoping that they will choose to give up their newfound lives — that they may save them.
The Lost SupperThe new promotional image for season six features the main characters seated at a long table, which strongly suggests an allusion to da Vinci's "The Last Supper". Locke is seated at the center of the table, in the place of Christ. Whether this is because of some sort of messianic role he is to play in season six, or merely hinting toward the role he has always played in Lost as the focus for spiritual themes, is unknown. Also unknown is which Locke we are viewing: John, or the Un-Man type figure that arose when Flight 316 crashed on the Island.
The other characters' positions seem to be arbitrary, but a couple of clues suggest that they are not. Firstly, Jack is seated directly to the right of Locke, in the place of Thomas, a figure to whom he was overtly compared by Ben in season 5. Secondly, Sayid stands three places to the left of Locke, taking the place of Judas Iscariot. While this is more likely a hint of the role he may play in season 6, it also fits the rogue and deviant role he played in splitting away from and refusing to cooperate with his fellow survivors in season 5.
Now the only problem is that fa there are fourteen characters here, whereas there are thirteen in da Vinci's painting: the Twelve Apostles, plus Christ. If there is any remaining symbolism here, one of the characters must be eliminated. A clue as to how this might be done can be found in da Vinci's original painting. There are four groups of three Apostles, whereas in our promo image there are three groups of three and one group of four. If a figure is to subtracted, it should logically be from the group of four. This group includes Jack, Ben, Jin and Hurley. Now Jack, as already mentioned, neatly fills the role of Thomas, so his place at the table should not be disputed. Jin and Hurley are seated, while Ben stands, making him a possible candidate; but on this count, Sayid also stands; and Ben is not the only non-815 survivor seated at the table.
The characters whose places at the table can be identified are as follows: Ilana as Bartholomew, Richard as James, son of Alphaeus, Claire as Andrew, Kate as Peter, Sawyer as John the Apostle, Sun as Matthew, and Miles as Jude Thaddeus, and Frank as Simon the Zealot. The places of James the Greater, and Phillip are taken by the group of four including (with Jack as Thomas) Jin, Ben and Hurley.
With a show like Lost, it seems that very little is done by accident. The modeling of a promotional image after one of the most famous pieces of religious art was surely chosen for the time and energy fans would spend trying to interpret it. The only questions remaining are, who is the extra figure? And what does the extra figure mean?
But possibly still relevant.
The Third Man
We have seen since season 4 of Lost that there is a rivalry of epic proportions between one Charles Widmore, former leader of the Others and current wealthy British industrialist, and one Benjamin Linus, former child of a Dharma Initiative janitor and Widmore’s successor, until just recently when he was forced by the will of Jacob to abdicate his position to John Locke. Ben has been seen to be on the side of the Island, despite his often extreme measures, while Widmore has been seen to be a self-centered and exploitative villain. But recent events in season 5 have suggested that this picture may be overly simplistic. Both Widmore and Ben desired the return of the Oceanic Six to the Island, and both seemed to bow to the new leadership of Locke (one albeit a bit less willingly than the other). There seems to be a third party involved, however, a group which seems to be aware of the activities of both, as well as some intriguing Island secrets (“what lies in the shadow of the statue?”). Perhaps this third party is the key to understanding the show. What if neither Widmore nor Ben are villains, but unwilling pawns in the agenda of a much more sinister individual, whose motives until now have remained unquestioned.
This person, of course, may well be Richard Alpert. He has been present on the Island since before the memory of any living character we have yet seen, and has always been shown to have some sort of leadership position over the Island and those who serve as the Island’s protectors. He has been seen, in 1954, to have been grooming Widmore -- as well as Widmore’s lover and confidante Eloise Hawking -- to become the leader of the Others, as well as having selected and nurtured Ben into that same role, in direct defiance to what he understands Widmore’s wishes to be. He claims to not answer to any leader we have yet seen, except Jacob. But we have never seen Richard communicate with Jacob. There have been hints (the grayish-white ash outside his cabin, his call for help to Locke in season 3) that Jacob is being controlled, or else manipulated, by some force. What if this force is Richard himself?
This would explain why he has been seen supporting both Widmore and Ben, and why the rivalry between these two, portrayed as so epic until this latest season, actually has quite petty, personal, and relatively unimportant origins. If Richard is the real villain, it makes sense that he would play both sides against the middle, so that whoever wins, he is the undisputed advisor without whose wisdom the day would not have been won. Leading the Others alone, the absence and unhealth of Jacob which we have seen might be attributed by his people to his own influence. With two bitter enemies to point the finger at alternately, the focus shifts away from him and to the activities of others. We can even see a bit of this happening now. Starting in mid-season 3, Richard has seemed to be skeptical of Ben’s leadership and desirous of Locke, the upstart newcomer; whereas now, as Locke is taking leadership competently (at last!) into his hands, Richard begins to express his doubts to Ben.
But the difference now is that Locke has died and been raised again. If Locke is not in fact evil (a distinct possibility, if this theory is wrong), then his resurrection, like the similar (but probably not exactly the same) resurrection of Christian Shephard, has put him more directly in touch with the wishes and purposes of the Island, and of Jacob himself. If Richard has some sort of power over Jacob, if he has placed some sort of curse or restrictive “magic” (for lack of a better word) on the invisible spirit of the Island, then it may make sense that the only way to free Jacob would be to “kill” this cursed form which Jacob presently occupies. Think of the Irish folktales in which a hero must kill his enchanted, magical horse in order to free it from its animal form and restore its proper one, that of a handsome prince; think Star Wars, a noted influence on this season, in which Obi Wan Kenobi tells Darth Vader that if he strikes him down, he will “become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” Dead is dead, according to Ben. But what if it’s not? It wasn’t for Locke (if that is still Locke), and so it might not be for Jacob. If Jacob is something like the god or spirit of the Island, then there is a kind of appropriate logic in the idea of his having to die in order to return to full power.
Season 5: Can Time be Changed?
I've been thinking a lot about "The Variable". Probably too much. I can't sleep. So I thought I'd gather my thoughts into a coherent form here.
One of the biggest themes this season, since the arrival in Dharma times, is free will vs. fate. The idea which, until now, seemed most likely, was that history was set in stone, and it didn't matter what the survivors did while stuck in the past, because it had already happened, and anything they did wasn't an act of will because it had to have happened in order to fulfill history. This idea has been challenged a few times, and every time so far it has seemed to have prevailed. But seeming and being aren't the same thing. What if this seeming was never actually true to begin with?
It's important that I deal with this question before moving on to the most interesting aspect of "The Variable", because in order for this idea to work, there has to be a possibility that free will can happen. So let's look at the facts.
We've seen in season 3 that the universe has a way of course correcting itself. Now, this itself is interesting, if for no other reason than the fact that, if true, this course-correcting force is itself entirely mystical and can have no explanation in natural science. The idea of course correction implies a given course that is preferable, no, essential. And however it in actuality accomplishes the course correction, there must be some guiding principle behind it that prefers this essential course above all others. And freedom of choice must be anterior to preference. Otherwise Desmond's actions would have changed things, and without this preference (implying some kind of will that performs the act of preferring), it wouldn't matter if things turned out one specific way, or an entirely different way. Or, if "whatever happened, happened" is actually true, Eloise need not have worried about exhorting and pressuring Desmond (or Daniel, in "The Variable") into doing the things they (and the universe) want done.
So far, the biggest piece of what is supposedly evidence for the position of fatalism over free will is the fact that Sayid, in trying to prevent Ben from becoming the killer he ultimately became, ultimately ended up performing an act without which Ben never would have become the killer we know him now to be. But is this interpretation really true? On closer inspection, I don't think it is. All we have for evidence is that Richard claims being healed in the Temple will "change" him, and "steal his innocence". But when we next see young Ben, he behaves exactly as he had behaved before. Before being healed, his allegiance and sympathies were already on the side of the Others, and he had already felt disconnected and disloyal to the Dharma Initiative. Nothing at all, in his personality or his motivations, seems to have actually changed. His act of killing his father, much later, is associated with his act of joining the Others and participating (to whatever degree) in the Purge. This action comes from motivations and emotions Ben had felt long before being healed in the Temple.
So much for Sayid contributing to fate despite his own will. All we can say for sure is that his action did not end up changing the future. But it does not logically follow from this fact alone that it never could have. How could it have, though, when the logic of paradoxes and the "rules of time travel" seem to preclude this possibility altogether? There are actually a couple of ways of looking at this.
We've already noted the existence of some sort of "force" which course-corrects the universe. Had Sayid in actuality killed Ben then and there, it is conceivable that this "force" could have arranged for another individual -- possibly Widmore, possibly someone else -- who would not only be qualified but also have the right motivations (and this is selective, not determinative) to fill Ben's shoes, and make sure all of the things Ben was later to accomplish could still happen. Whether a similar course correction is possible or not in regards to the question of preventing the Swan Incident, as Faraday plans to do, does not affect the logic of this idea: though I believe that it would not be. Such a drastic difference between what was preferred to happen (the Incident), and the course of history that would have happened had the Incident been avoided, would probably be irreconcilable by whatever "force" is at work, unless this force is God or God-like. But that's the most interesting part about this episode, "The Variable". That very fact, the fact that here, finally, is something that can be changed -- this is what makes the possibilities so interesting, and, possibly, so meaningful.
The real genius of what could come to pass after "The Variable" is that the choice the survivors now seem to have before them is not whether they should act to change the future, but rather whether they should not act to preserve the future. What I hope will happen is that they will choose not to act, that they will choose to try to prevent Jack (who now seems the plan's biggest proponent) from carrying out his plan, as Charlie and Eko did with Locke and Desmond in season 2. If this happens, then whatever series of acts they choose in order to safeguard the future will accomplish two things: to fulfill the preferred course (or "destiny"), and to preserve the free will of the characters, and exhibit it in an honorable and meaningful way. I do not think that the Swan Incident will be prevented; otherwise, what's the point of this show, except to show us a meaningless tragedy? I very much hope that it will happen. But if it does, then the actions leading up to it will both preserve the history (future and past) of the show Lost, and allow our time-sojourners to make meaningful choices in the past without creating a paradox.
The final thing to address will be this possibility of a paradox itself. It is conceivable, though not preferable, and I sincerely hope this does not happen, that Jack will succeed in his plan and end up causing the whole history of Lost to have never happened. This will be seen by many to be a poor move, as it will be felt to be illogical and paradoxical, a poorly-crafted science fiction story. But is it? What proof do we have that the paradox is, in fact, impossible, other than sheer logic? I am not denying the logic itself. I am merely saying this: suppose you are sent back in time. Suppose you want to kill Hitler before he can commit genocide. Suppose you make your way to Germany, and get a gun, and find him alone in a room, ready to pull the trigger. What then? If things do happen that way, will you find that you suddenly don't want to do it anymore? Or will the universe course-correct?
Let's say it doesn't. You are standing there. All you have to do is pull the trigger, regardless of the paradox it will cause. You want to do it. Will you? As a creature of free will, you will say, either yes, I will, or no, I won't. You have that choice, regardless of the rules of logic. Free will is just as real a fact as the logic behind the paradox (the two are like an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object; probably the reason, to say nothing of physics, why time travel is really impossible).
If you don't believe this, then there is no choice, no meaning, and there is no point in discussing anything at all. So imagine you pull the trigger. What then? What will happen? Our experience tells us nothing about this. We have no way of knowing what will happen, or what is even possible in such a situation. But to deny such a situation is possible, given that you are standing there with the gun pointed at his head already (which is, more or less, the position our survivors are now in), is to deny a fact as real as the logic which impels you to argue against a paradox.
The Flaming Sword: The Island as Eden
Edit: After posting this theory, I inadvertently discovered that this theory has already been posted on Lostpedia, indeed in its own article. However, I am not taking this subsection down from my own userspace, since I came up with this theory with a friend of mine over the course of a phone conversation, without the aid of Lostpedia and its pre-existing theory pages, and did hours of my own research while putting together the following arguments.
In the Bible, we are told that after expelling Adam and Eve from their paradisaical home, "...the Lord God stationed mighty cherubim to the east of the Garden of Eden. And he placed a flaming sword that flashed back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life." (Genesis 3:24) This was done because God feared man would live forever by eating of the fruit of the tree of life (Gen 3:22). We have already seen heavy suggestions that something about the Island has the ability to slow down or perhaps even stop the process of aging, in the person of Richard Alpert. Alpert appears from all currently available information to have been the earliest inhabitant of the Island, and his skin tone and hair color are very much like what one would expect of someone from the region around where Eden is supposed to have been (somewhere near the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, as seen in Gen 2:10-14). In Lost, the Island itself has a protector of its own, in the form of a "pillar of smoke" (a phrase used by Keamy in "Cabin Fever"). This could very well be the angel(s) described in Genesis as being the protectors of Eden (see below for further commentary on the monster and its specific form).
The theory that the tree of life, whether a literal tree or (more likely) a metaphor for the Island's healing and longevity properties, is what lies behind the hiding of the Island makes perfect sense when we examine both the Others' desire to keep it hidden from the world at large and Charles Widmore's desire to find it. Ben's explanation to Locke in "The Other Woman" as to why he wants to keep Widmore and the crew of the Kahana from finding the Island is almost exactly the same as God's reason in the Bible for wanting to hide and protect the garden of Eden; the fear that it will be exploited by humanity, which has always had a desire to live forever and conquer death. This is pretty much exactly what the Dharma Initiative was doing, and why it was ultimately purged: its attempt to harness the Island as a physical force to further its own Utopian social engineering. The problems women who conceive on the Island face are likely a reference to God's condemnation of womankind to painful childbirth after the choice of Eve to eat the fruit (Gen 3:16). This theory also explains the Island's mystical properties. The garden of Eden would undeniably be a holy place, given its intimate history with God.
The character of Jacob easily fits into this scenario. The Biblical Jacob is perhaps better known by the name Israel, which means "he who wrestles with God" or "he who struggles with God". But it wasn't actually God whom Jacob wrestled with in Genesis 32:22-31; it is widely held to have been an angel. The Jacob of Lost is probably not the same figure in the Bible, but was given this name because of the parallels with his namesake. Perhaps Lost's Jacob was the first human being since the Biblical Adam and Eve (which are possibly the same individuals whose skeletons Jack, Kate, Locke and Charlie found in the caves in season 1) to have found Eden. If so, he would have had to defeat the angel(s) set about Eden/the Island in order to protect it. Jacob's victory over this angel would explain both why he (and Ben, who is acting on his orders in order to protect the Island) can control it, as well as why it takes the form of black smoke -- a dampened, defeated form of the angel's flaming sword. Also note the Biblical Jacob's claim to have seen the very face of God (Gen 32:20).
The statue seen by Sun, Jin and Sayid also contributes toward the theory of the Island as Eden, and gives a hinting toward the reasons behind certain aspects of the Island: in a recent teleconference with Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, it was revealed that in the original draft of the script for "Live Together, Die Alone", it had six toes instead of four, and that the change to four toes was a compromise made to make the statue seem less bizarre. In the same teleconference, it was stated that the Bible is suggested reading for future episodes. In Genesis 6:1-4, the Nephilim were giants, the results of interbreeding between humans and angels. Goliath, the giant that fought David, was one of them. The Nephilim were said to have six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot. Perhaps the statue was built by or in tribute to the Nephilim, who might have been the island's original inhabitants, or even the reason why the Island/Eden was moved from its original Biblical location; for God wanted them gone from the earth because of their sins.
This idea of Eden being hidden away not just from a humanity that would exploit it but also from God Himself, who wanted its Nephilim inhabitants dead, is supported by a curious line uttered by Ben in season 2: in the episode "Dave", he tells Locke that "God doesn't know how long we've been here. He can't see this island any better than the rest of the world can."
The Eden theory, I believe, accounts for most if not all of the Island's mysteries, fills many gaps in its history, and has very few holes. Of course, this is 'Lost, and even the most well-thought theories often turn out to be completely wrong. But as theories go, I believe this one is pretty watertight and comprehensive. There's only one way to find out if I'm right, and that is just to wait and see...
Please post any comments, questions, or disagreements about this theory on my Talk Page.
The Perilous Land: The Island as Faëry/Fairyland/Elfland/Alfheim
Though Lost has of recent been dominated by the sci-fi element, viewers would do well to remember that science vs. faith, or, more accurately phrased, skepticism vs. faith, is the show's central them. A theory along these lines, which I do not believe has been raised before, is that the Island is what Tolkien referred to as "the Perilous Land": Faëry itself. As Locke has said, as if summing up Tolkien's essay "On Fairy-stories", the Island is "a place where miracles happen."
The Others: These mysterious inhabitants of the Island were the first element of the show to suggest this theory to me. They fit the model of Faëry's denizens quite well, and in many ways. Most apparent is the name by which this group is known: the fairies were often called "The Good People" (out of fear of insulting them; this name mirrors a central concern of the Others on Lost), "The Fair Folk," and, most interesting, "The Other Crowd". Secondly, they are a mixture of natives, and those who were brought there, either by their own will or by the will of Jacob, just as Faëry includes the fairies themselves as well as human captives, brides, bridegrooms, and paramours. They vanish quite effortlessly into the surrounding landscape, coming and going with little more than whispers. Then there is their morality. As with the Good People of folklore, the Others seem to have separate standards for how they can treat outsiders, and for how outsiders can treat them. Like the Good Folk, they are known for taking people. The reasons for these kidnappings are the same in folklore as they are in Lost: their vitality and fertility is waning, and they need others to replenish their stock and aid in giving birth (fairies were known for absconding with brides and midwives). Just like Ethan and Goodwin, fairies infiltrate outside groups: they leave changelings in place of those they take, to observe and live as one of their new family. Finally, the Others seem to quite easily shift between two lifestyles, the modern, "J. Crew" wearing, Barracks-dwelling people and the primitive, dirty and savage-appearing "Hostiles": just as the Good People of folklore can be misshapen, ugly folk one moment, and, through the use of glamour, astonishingly beautiful the next.
The Island: "This is not your island. This is our island. The only reason you're living on it is because we let you live on it." As is explored in Tolkien's short story, "Smith of Wootton Major," humans are sometimes allowed to explore Faëry, but they are forbidden to enter certain parts of it. Taboos and prohibitions are common, and the violation of them results in swift and definitive punishment. Faëry is a place of startling beauty, of magic, and of forbidden things. This quite eerily mirrors the way in which the survivors are treated by the Others. They were forbidden to cross the Line. Jack was forbidden to call the ship. The breaking of both prohibitions caused undue tragedy in the story of Lost.
Time: Even the recent time flashes, Desmond's sickness, and the discrepancies between Island time and outside time (as explored in season 4) can be seen as fitting into fairy folklore. British folklorist Katharine Briggs explored, in her book The Vanishing People, how the supernatural passage of time is an all-but universal aspect of fairy folklore worldwide. Five minutes, or three months, or one year, spent in Fairyland, will correspond to one year, three hundred years, or a thousand years in the outside world. There is also the theme of longevity: within Faëry, humans will not age at all, or else their aging process is slowed to a minute rate, just as seems to be the case with Richard Alpert on the Island.
Ghosts/Apparitions: Though there are many different origins and blendings of themes in fairy folklore, one of the most apparent and most compelling is that they are the Dead. Often a living human will witness a troupe of fairies in revelry, sport, or festivity, and recognize someone they knew from life. Christian Shephard, Emily Linus, Yemi Tunde, and Charlie (in season 4) can all be seen as apparitions of people who have lingered in the world through their contact with Faëry.
Though this theory is not very likely, certainly not nearly as much as is my earlier one on the Garden of Eden, there is much that lends credibility to it, though it is less comprehensive than "The Flaming Sword". Still, it is an interesting theme, and no one who has studied traditional folklore can deny the eerily familiar feeling experienced in "...And Found" when Eko and Jin witness the footsteps, dirtied and primitive and barefoot, of the Others from their hiding place in the undergrowth. There is something primal, magical, and haunting about the Island that resounds as well in the lore of the Other Crowd.
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