Monday, April 28, 2008

Ping33 on LOST as the Faerie Kingdom

[This was a comment Ping33 made on my review of the most recent LOST episode; since it was really interesting, and much bigger than the post to which it appear as a comment, I thought I would bump it up here.]

It's fairly clear to me what the nature of the island is: It's faerie-land. Between the stealing of children, the displaced time and the healing effects it has every single one of the standard faerie tropes. Ben is the human become king ala the children in the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. The fact that he was not "born on the island" as he first claimed is a key point, but like the kids in Narnia he was "born again" on the Island. Under this reading: Jacob Becomes Oberon.

Why can't women become pregnant? The long stated inability for Faeries to have children and necessity for them to steal human ones.

When did Clare's child become safe? When he was baptised! Then he was no longer at risk of being stolen (and replaced with a changeling?)

How to easily explain the Dharma logos elsewhere in the globe? multiple entry points to the faerie realm. Why, in the flash forwards is everyone (except Kate) Miserable? Because they've 'eaten the food' and left a part of themselves in the faerie land and are now can not feel complete in the mundane world.

Lost ticks all of the boxes religiously, perhaps there hasn't been much written about this because its so damn obvious... Maybe I missed the critical entry on this very blog. But I can't get into any kind of discussion about the mysteries of the show without mentioning it.

[Ping, when you say it like that it all seems really obvious; but for all the individual observations which I discovered on my own, I had not assembled them together in this way. What makes LOST fascinating to me is they way its mythology collides -- everything you have said makes sense, as does the theory that the island is Purgatory, or that it is some kind of singularity, or that the smoke monster is a cloud of nano-bots (a theory the creators have actively rejected); what knocks me out is the way these are are layered on one thing, and I hope the ending reveal, whatever it is, provides a way to not simply dissolve these readings as mostly mistaken.]

[What do you make of Jacob being "bound" in some kind of magic circle of ash? That kind of apparently "magic" mystery has more in common with your faerie-theory than all the sci-fi stuff.]


Gene Phillips said...

And don't forget that the attempt to confine Jacob in that circle has just proven of dubious value, since he can apparently pick his house up and go elsewhere on the island, albeit perhaps only temporarily.

Reminds me a little of the Baba Yaga myth, where the witch's house could get up on its (crow?) feet and just walk around.

Ping33 said...

Thinking about Kate: her happiness post Island is based on her own act of child-theft... maybe she's a Faerie.

Shlomo said...

Its an interesting observation that it fits in with the archetypes of faerie mythology. And i think that the parallel has not been completely ignored: people have called Locke's perception of the Island pagan.

I think the reason why people didnt automatically think of that parallel is because those stories usually involve overt fantastical imagery, and Lost has stayed away from that (in order to allow doubt to remain, or Geoff's layers of mystery to grow).

This makes me wonder also, when the sci-fi ideas were first seeded in the series. definitely with the hatch and the button, were there any sci-fi seeds planted before that point?

neilshyminsky said...

shlomo: I think that the sci-fi bits are there from the start - the polar bear and Rousseau's looped radio message both appear in the second half of the pilot. And though neither detail is explicitly sci-fi, i think that in tandem they lean more toward a science fiction mystery than a fantasy.

neilshyminsky said...

And more generally - there's a brief blurb on Lostpedia about the 'troll theory' that is quite similar to what Ping has written. I'll just copy and paste all of the relevant text, which can be found in the discussion of the four-toed statue:

*The only creature with four human-like toes is the Troll. The Troll as a mythical creature first appeared in Scandinavian folklore, particularly Norway. Alvar Hanso and the Hanso Foundation has ties to Norway, so this is convenient.
*Trolls are devious, human-like beings with 4 fingers and 4 toes. Some are giants. If exposed to sunlight they turn to stone and often burst apart. Therefore the foot might not be a statue of worship, but rather a giant troll exposed to sunlight and burst to pieces, with only the left foot landing/remaining on land.
*May be symbolic of trying to scare the Losties from coming to the Others' private island.
*They live in the mountains and hills and enjoy stealing things and abducting humans to live as slaves or at least prisoners among them. Upon returning to civilization the abducted person has been struck with insanity or apathy caused by the trolls. Anyone could be taken by the trolls, even cattle, but at the greatest risk were women who had given birth but not yet been taken back to the church. Claire was baptized.
*If they abduct an infant, they substitute a changeling. Some people believed that trolls would take unbaptized children. Aaron was baptized.
*Trolls tended to keep themselves invisible, and then they could travel on the winds. Sometimes you could only hear them speak, shout and make noise.

Shlomo said...

I agree with you neil, the pilot bits do lean toward scifi more than fantasy, without actually being that sci-fi.

referring back to what Geoff was saying about colliding mythologies: are there any other famous or just interesting examples of books/shows/stories in which sci-fi and fantasy mythologies collide or mesh? I dont know much about steam-punk, is there elements of both in that genre?

Gene Phillips said...


Though I'm sure there were prose books that blurred the line between fantasy and SF before LOST-- not to mention *comical* books-- good ol' STAR WARS is probably the most famous work that managed to have the best of both worlds (sorta kinda).

Ping33 said...

Sci-fi and Fantasy are essentially the same thing.

neilshyminsky said...

ping: I agree that the differences are mostly superficial, but people still cling to those superficialities pretty violently. There's some sort of emotional investment in a difference, anyway, on the part of their respective audiences. (Though, of course, they overlap significantly.)

Gene Phillips said...

Re: "superficialities"--

Though I've known any number of superficial fans who take seriously pronouncements like, "Fantasy is just a crutch for people who can't handle science fiction" (and the reverse thereof), I think both sf and fantasy have distinct conceptual frameworks behind them, even if it's impossible to tell a magical god working some wonder from a STAR TREK alien who's advanced to near-deity status.

LOST seems to be playing both conceptual frameworks against one another, as in the "faith/science" opposition of Locke and Shepherd. Is it science or magic underlying the narrative of LOST? I think the creators will pay some lip-service to science while keeping an underlying indebtedness to magical concepts-- like, obviously, faerie.

Shlomo said...

gene - Yeah, I didnt think of star wars. how do u think star-wars mash up compares to Lost? It feels very different because LOST is all about mystery, while Star-wars seems to set up its rules very early on, and not deviate from them (though I'm not versed in all the nuances of that mythology.

Ping33 said...

Gene: expand on "distinct conceptual frameworks"
Because I see fantasy and sci fi as the same genera with different accessories.

Gene Phillips said...


I don't have a problem with seeing them in the same genera/supergenre/whatmacallit.

But a basic distinction exists in that SF is, in theory, supposed to be responsive to current knowledge about scientific possibility and/or theory.

Fantasy covers a wider range, including not only worlds where "magical law" applies in a manner roughly like that of scientific law (LORD OF THE RINGS), but also worlds which are seem to have no coherent law whatsover (ALICE IN WONDERLAND).

Ping33 said...

The scientific explanation is a McGuffin though, just because it's 'explained' doesn't make it any less magic. I would argue that the similarity in the need to establish the rules of the world is one of the things that makes the two so similar.

Gene Phillips said...

The explanation in both fantasy and SF may come to the same notion of a "one gimme" (or sometimes a "several interrelated notions gimme"). But the conceptual frameworks in which the characters exist exerts a big influence on what worldview is expressed. This in turn makes a big difference in theme.