While watching the series finale last night, I was struck by the similarities between the last book in the Chronicles of Narnia, The Last Battle and the final part of Lost.
As Christian Shepard tells Jack, they aren’t dead. They’ve just moved on. The Island wasn’t some type of purgatory, nor are they in heaven. They’re just in a special place they created through their relationships with each other.
Isn’t that similar to the new Narnia that is experienced after Puzzle the donkey and Shaft the gorilla cause the unlikely fall of Prince Tirian’s Narnia? Everyone is returned to Narnia for the final chapter: Digory, Polly, Edmund, Peter, Lucy, Eustace and Jane. (Susan stopped believing, so she was left behind.) Think about what Digory says:
“Listen Peter. When Aslan said you would never go back to Narnia, he meant the Narnia you were thinking of. But that was not the real Narnia. That had a beginning and an an end. It was only a shadow or a copy of the real Narnia, which has always been here and always will be here: just as our own world, England and all, is only a shadow or copy of something in Aslan’s real world. You need not mourn over Narnia, Lucy. All of the old Narnia that mattered, all the dear creatures, have been drawn into the real Narnia through the Door. And of course it is different; as different as a real thing is from a shadow or as waking life is from a dream.”
After everyone reaches the golden gates, they find all of their loved ones, and everyone cared about in Narnia from the time when Digory and Polly saw it created until its destruction. The Pevensies’ parents were even brought over.
Sounds a bit like the church in Lost, doesn’t it?
Sure, this is open to interpretation. Given the writers tendency to borrow from other epic stories (I loved it last night when Hurley said, “I have a bad feeling about this.” Great Star Wars reference!), both ancient and modern, why not take a concept from the Chronicles of Narnia?
Earlier today, I had a twitter debate whether or not Lost had a mythology. Jimmie, who admitted to not having ever watched an episode prior to the finale, which I have issues with*, argued that it wasn’t a mythology because the creators didn’t establish a lore until after the first season was written. He called it a soap opera.
I call it a character-driven myth. After all, isn’t the essence of a myth the evolution of a story?
It wasn’t until college, when I took a Greek and Roman mythology course, that I discovered why I enjoyed science fiction and fantasy. I’ve never participated in a role-playing game nor dressed up in costume at a convention, but I enjoy mythic stories. In our modern society, those are most often represented in the fantasy or science fiction genres.
Myth is described as:
a traditional or legendary story, usually concerning some being or hero or event, with or without a determinable basis of fact or a natural explanation, esp. one that is concerned with deities or demigods and explains some practice, rite, or phenomenon of nature.
Myths typically have common threads (these are from memory from my sophomore year of college, so there are many more.)
- Conflict with a supernatural being
- Hero that saves the day
- Baptism by blood
- Resolution through some supernatural act by mortal
Several themes that are familiar in Lost, don’t you agree?
Does a myth have to be tightly written? Absolutely not. The ancients were constantly evolving their myths to suit different cultures or locations. Depending on the time and writer, well-known Greek and Roman mythology differs greatly.
Even modern mythology was written on the fly. Think of Star Wars. George Lucas wrote a film treatment and turned it into a successful movie franchise which evolved into an enormous universe of toys, books, comic books, clubs, games and fans. The Star Wars myth we know today is incredibly different than the original story that Lucas created.
Look at other modern mythical stories. Buffy the Vampire Slayer originated as a movie. Joss Whedon was disappointed with the final product, so he created a television show. The Buffy universe also evolved over time and continues to do so.
C.S. Lewis wrote the Chronicles of Narnia out of order. His books evolved over a decade. The Magician’s Nephew, the “first” book and my favorite one, was actually written second-to-last before The Last Battle.
J.R.R. Tolkien wrote a tight plot and mythology in The Lord of the Rings, but he spent decades doing so.
Alias, my favorite TV show ever, also had an evolving myth. Created by the same people as Lost, its mythology wasn’t as tight, and the show was canceled rather than ended like Lost. This created a sloppy mythology that didn’t answer all of the questions.
Currently, I’m working my way through Battlestar Galactica. This re-telling is based on a cheesy 70s show. The new version is much darker and the elements of faith, religion, humanity and mysticism are at it’s core. Just as Lost does.
The point of a myth isn’t to be a tightly written serial drama, but a story that deals with some aspect of humanity dealing with the supernatural.
Did Lost suffer from bad periods of writing. Absolutely. Were all of the ends tied up? Nope. Arc-type shows are rarely satisfying. But doesn’t that separate a fairy tale from a myth? Myths dealt with the issue of humanity. Humanity is messy and never wraps up neatly. I would be disappointed if Lost had answered every question that I had left over. It’s better to leave audiences hanging.
I watched Lost for six years because it was compelling drama. Sure, I loved the fantasy aspect. A smoke monster? An ancient culture that created protections for an island with strange electro-magnetic energy that seems to have something to do with good and evil? That’s not why I turned in every week. I became hooked because of the character development and suspense. You never knew who was going to be killed (well, eventually everyone!) or crazy things happen. You watched to see the backstory of every character and what had driven them to be on Oceanic Flight 815.
To all the mean people who mocked us for watching a mystical version of Gilligan’s Island, I watched because of the characters. The mythology was an added bonus. It wasn’t a soap opera. It was a battle of humanity against supernatural forces. Lost was essentially a battle between man’s free will and the fates.
We also grew attached to the characters. I cried with Sun and Jin died. I cried when Boone died. I cried when Mr. Eko died. I cried when Charlie died. Given that everyone ultimately died on Lost, I cried a lot. Part myth, part Lord of the Flies, part Gilligan’s Island, I watched to see the relationships evolve and new revelations emerge about the characters.
On some level, every person alive can relate to that. As John Eldredge has masterfully written in his books The Sacred Romance, Journey of Desire, Captivating and Wild at Heart, part of our soul corresponds to mythologies because they reflect the ultimate story of our creation. Since God created man with a soul that naturally seeks Him out, we respond with our human versions.
Even J.R.R. Tolkien described it this way. Lord of the Rings was not written to be an allegory as his friend’s C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia were. In setting to build his own creation, he ultimately reflected the same themes and issues that his Creator imagined. Thus, there are similarities with Aragon serving as a Jesus-like character.
Overall, I was happy with the ending. I know many were disappointed. As soon as Christian gave his speech, I saw the parallels to Narnia and was happy. I do think the season could have been better. I wish they had brought Mr. Eko back. Sawyer was also completely under-used in the latter part of the season and only stuck around to deliver a sarcastic comment. As the last few episodes proved that Jack was central to the story, all of the other characters just faded.
I do think that Lost will go down as one of the greatest television shows ever. It will probably live on in book series and fan fiction. It will become part of pop culture with references in Trivial Pursuit. That, along with the knowledge that I can turn on an DVD at any time, makes me happy. (Insert a mental Lost thud and fade to black.)
*To everyone who skipped watching the show either since season one or through the DVDs. YOU ARE CHEATERS! On Twitter last night, I was disgusted by all the people calling us stupid after they just read the synopsis on Wikipedia. That’s like picking up a mystery novel and reading nothing but the last chapter. You have no connection to the characters. You don’t understand the inside jokes or nuances. You having experienced the suspense. Sure, the plot would seem dumb if you didn’t understand that this was a character-driven show. Commenting via Facebook, Twitter, blogs or even the office water cooler on Lost after never watching it is similar to being an expert on politics because you watched The West Wing. It doesn’t fly, and you look stupid.
Update: I’m sad to see that AllahPundit has joined the ranks of LOST CHEATERS! Disappointed…
I can also add my boss to that list…even more sadness.