Wednesday, December 9

Too Much Information 11: The Letter of Truce

Thanks to the extremely generous gesture of a fellow fan, the "Letter of Truce" between Richard Alpert and Horace Goodspeed (included in the special edition Season 5 Dharma box set) has come into my possession.

It's good stuff, and I'd like to talk about it here. If you shelled out to buy the set you should get something for your money - so I won't reproduce the letter in its entirety here. What I will do is discuss what I think are the most important/interesting portions.

Dated as of August 15, 1973, the Letter of Truce outlines the terms of the truce between the Dharma Initiative and the "indigenous island inhabitants." Much of the letter is devoted to agreeing that both Dharma and the Others will respect one another and cease and desist from violent action against one another. It implies that Dharma's initial arrival sparked hostilities, and that these hostilities were problematic for both parties. The letter is type-written, contains hand-written comments from Richard Alpert, and is to be signed by both Alpert and Horace Goodspeed, leader of Dharma.

Some of the most interesting portions of the letter include:

1) Richard's insistence that the Dharma Initiative's presence on the Island be limited to a fifteen-year period, at which point they are expected to remove all personnel and "facilities" (presumably including the still-present Hatches). There is no explanation for this limitation, but I presume that in part it's to ensure a permanent society isn't established.

2) It's implied that Goodspeed is the one who drafted the letter. The letter makes a point of emphasizing the "right" of both parties to "live freely" and not "fear attack." Richard's comment ("REDUNDANT - WE GET IT") seems to emphasize his impatience with this.

3) Richard declares that he will act as "mediator" for the Others, and that Goodspeed will act as "mediator" for Dharma, a dynamic we see dramatized in Season 5.

4) Richard comments on the Others' "willingness to allow your presence" which is intensely tantalizing to me, as I'm fairly positive that all of the words in this document were chosen very carefully. Why would the Others be "willing" to allow Dharma on the Island? I've theorized that the Initiative may have been brought by/funded by Widmore, in an attempt to exploit the Island. But I'd like to suggest in the alternate that this may have been Jacob's doing. Dharma may have been the 70's equivalent of the Oceanic castaways or the Black Rock crew.

All of the above is pretty intriguing stuff for a fan. But most interesting is the following:

5) A mutual insistence that both parties "take every possible precaution for the protection of the island, including all shrines and sanctuaries used for whatever purpose by those who have an established right to visit them." The letter itself is chock full of legalese like this - to the point where Richard has hand-written a note in the margins asking "Goodspeed, is the 'Legal' language necessary?"

It's interesting that the 'ruins' on the island have been declared 'protected.' It's even more interesting that Richard opts to revise this section, writing "If the Dharma Initiative enters or violates any preexisting ruins on the island, the truce is violated." The word "preexisting" is then crossed out, as though Richard had reconsidered the use of that word. That's fascinating, and potentially meaningful on a time-hopping island. Does this imply that some of the Island's "ruins" have yet to be built? That the Others may be constructing them? That the ruins we see are actually from a future time? That they're not nearly as old as they seem? Does it imply that, on a time-hopping island, ruins might suddenly "appear"? It's not clear. But it is seemingly-significant.

6) Richard mandates that if Dharma digs or drills "more than ten meters into the ground, even in their designated territory," the truce will be broken.

This brings up a whole passel of questions. We know that the Island has underground passages, but we don't know the extent of them - whether they run all over the Island or are concentrated around the Temple area. Is Richard attempting to protect the Temple by trying to prevent the discovery of passages that would lead underneath it? We also know that the 'unique electromagnetism' of the Island is contained under the earth, and that Dharma specifically and willfully violates the truce when it digs the Swan Station. Is Richard attempting to protect the energy from discovery/release? Is he protecting Dharma from that energy? We suspect that the Island is not simply what it appears to be, and that over-zealous digging might reveal something telling about its underlying nature. Is he protecting the nature of the Island? Finally, we know that ol' Smokey dwells under the earth. Is Richard attempting to protect Dharma from Smokey/the MiB? I'll have some brief thoughts on the Island's "underworld" in the Rewatch Column for "The Beginning of the End."

7) Richard similarly mandates that the Dharma population cannot exceed 216 people "at any one time on the Island."

This also brings up some interesting questions. Why must the population stay below that number? On an obvious level, it could simply be concern about overpopulation on the Island - an attempt to maintain balance between people and nature. On another level, it could be a hint toward the meaning of/origin of the fertility problems on the Island. We know that Horace's wife gives birth to Ethan without the pregnancy complications that have plagued the Island in the 'present day.' We also know that Dharma established a school and that, presumably, the school was partially filled with children born on the Island. Was Dharma's violation of Richard's mandate the reason for the seeming 'fertility ban' on the Island?

No answers here - only more questions. Such is the way of Lost. My sincere thanks to Jacob (yes, really) for providing this tasty nugget of mythology to me for eager digestion.


Catch up on Too Much Information!

Too Much Information 10: Bad Dads

Too Much Information 9: How To Be Good

Too Much Information 8: The Question Jar

Too Much Information 7: Sartre-Speak

Too Much Information 6: Gnarly Gnosticism & Mondo Manichaeism

Too Much Information 5: Mirrors & Delays

Too Much Information 4: Gods and Musicians - How The Mythologizing of The Beatles Helps Us Understand the Reality of the Dharma Initiative

Too Much Information 3: Loopholes and Prison-feet

Too Much Information 2: Who is the MiB?

Too Much Information: Stimulus/Response and Control Theory, or How I Learned To Start Behaving And Love Course Correction


  1. This thing is fascinating, thanks for the write up. I'm excited for your season four columns to start, as it's probably my favorite season.

    The fifteen year timeline would take the DI's allowed island time up to a few years before the Purge, which is kind of interesting.

    And 216 = 108 (sum of the numbers) x 2. Fun!

  2. Hey, Katie!

    Judging from your observation about the timeline, it looks as though Dharma managed to violate nearly all of the truce requirements. They were on longer than agreed, they dug deeper than agreed, they grew their population beyond what was agreed, and they messed with at least one of the 'ruins' on the Island (see: Ben's house with the hieroglyphic door).

  3. Quick thought about Ben's house....
    Maybe he inherited the house that Richard and Jack blasted through in the Season 5 Finale?

  4. The ten meters thing is interesting - naturally the Swan was a violation of this, but wouldn't the Orchid be as well? And the Orchid seemed to have been started much earlier; were the Others really not keeping any tabs on Dharma? Also, Richard/Dharma appear to be using the metric system, which is curious but probably nothing more.

  5. You know who else uses the metric system?


  6. "You know who else...Canadians."

    I jus' got a chill.

  7. There's nothing spookier than Canadians. Except for Canada. That's the spookiest of all.

    Fizzgig, yeah - the Orchid would be a violation of this also.

    Interesting thought about Ben's house, edward.

  8. I'm with Edward--I had always assumed that Ben "inherited" the house from Horace and built the door (and the Ben Cave wherein he kept his changes of costume and all his globe-trotting gear) after he had moved everyone into New Otherton.