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The Spirit of the Island Theories: What is the Monster?

By roomforhuman,

  Filed under: Lost Theories
  Comments: 36

210px-Monster_sonic_barrier.jpgAre you a man/woman of science or a man/woman of faith?  This is one of the pervasive questions asked to the fans of Lost.  Personally, I am both and it is my belief that the show requires all of us to become both in order to fully appreciate its depth.  So, that being said, I have committed to become the resident man of faith.  Weekly, I will bring a theory based on the spirit of the island.  And it is my hope that, when Lost reaches its epic end, we will find the perfect marriage of science and faith.  


Now, let’s get to my first theory: What is the monster?


4 minutes remaining in “Confirmed Dead” and John Locke asks the question we’ve wanted the answer to since the pilot episode: “What is the monster.” Even though we knew we weren’t going to get the answer, our mouths salivated as we hoped to hear a hint, a teaser.  Alas, nothing.  But wait, was the question that seemed out of nowhere actually more carefully placed than we thought.  I have a theory about that.


The great smoke-like guardian: In Genesis 3, after Adam and Eve are removed from the Garden of Eden, God places a rather intimidating angel on the east side of the Garden to guard the tree of life.  This angel is fierce and has one objective, guard this tree no matter what.  I look at the monster as something much like this angel.  I believe with all my heart that the monster is the guardian of the island.  It will do whatever it takes to ensure the island’s safety and to keep its purity.  And if anyone or anything shows even the slightest threat to either of these…the monster takes action.  I believe this is the reason for the unprovoked attack on Seth Norris (the pilot of 815).  As far as the Smokey was concerned, some loud roaring monster (the plane) had landed on the island and a bunch of people poured out of it.  If your mission was to protect the island, you would have made your presence known immediately as well.  The killing of the pilot was a way for the monster to instill fear in these new arrivals and to let them know that they were being watched.  Now that the monster has made known its ferocity, it can study the new inhabitants, and seek out who is truly a threat by studying their pasts and figuring out who they are.  Smokey may report its findings to Jacob, who then makes the final decision on who lives or dies, or it may make a decision on its own, either way the threats are eliminated while those remaining are watched carefully.  In fact, it may even help some of the promising ones get their lives back on track by manifesting itself as loved ones or someone who can help them.  But, ultimately, its prime directive is to protect the island. 


What makes me so sure this theory is valid?  The writers wouldn’t have Locke ask a question like “What is the monster” for no reason.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this question was asked in “Confirmed Dead,” an episode wholly centered on the people who are a supposed threat to the island.  Smokey: Confirmed Guardian.      

From TVFrenzy:

  • Node32774

    Why does this theory sound like an allegory for the U.S.’s current foreign policy? Show how big and powerful you are by initially destroying and then sorting out the actual threat later on down the road?

  • roomforhuman

    Node32774, This theory was in no way meant to be an allegory for the U.S.’s foreign policy. #1 Smokey isn’t invading our world like some big bad, it is defending its territory. #2 I’m talking spiritual not political.

    I guess you drawing that our of my theory could simply mean that’s where your mind currently is. But, I’m talking about the black smoke monster defending the purity and integrity of the Lost island.

  • UKlostit

    I think the writers would allow for a teaser concerning the monster to please the fans. Cos it certainly pleased me and i don’t care if nobody knows what it is, that would be the beauty of it. or Something to do with a particle physics experiment gone wrong maybe! a person(soul) trapped inside?

  • gusteaux

    If Smokey’s purpose was to keep the integrity of THE ISLAND intact as it was before the 815ers arrived, that would mean that it (Smokey) was okay with the Swan hatch and it’s occupants (Radzinski and Inman, and later Inman and Desmond). When Locke temporarily lost his Faith in S2, it was Eko who filled the faith void and insisted that the button keep being pushed. Locke then invaded the hatch and smashed the computer which led to Desmond’s turning the failsafe key, the Swan implosion and the “sky turning purple” event. Shortly thereafter, Smokey hunted down and murdered Eko. Please explain how your theory justifies that action.

  • Node 32774

    I’d almost rather have smokey go unexplained as well, simply because I’d like a scientific explanation for it and it’s clear that isn’t going to happen. The only scientific explanation that makes any sense, nanites, has already been debunked by the creators so what is the point in explaining smokey with some kind of pseudo-spiritual mumbo jumbo. So let it go unexplained. I’m sure viewers wouldn’t mind. 😉

  • roomforhuman

    I like the thought that science and faith don’t just coexist, but that they thrive when together. I suppose my theory more or less answers the question “what is the function of the monster.” I suppose it would interesting to investigate the genetic make-up of it. A physics experiment gone wrong, maybe. I like the idea of Jacob’s soul being trapped inside, although I don’t know if I can buy that. Either way, I believe Smokey to be bent on protecting the island.

  • roomforhuman

    gusteaux, Perhaps Smokey wanted the hatch to implode and thus went after Eko because he had tried to stop the event. Destroying the Swan would be one step in returning the island to its original state. Perhaps the monster also uses people for its own endgame of returning the island to original paradise. It may not have liked what they were doing in the Swan all along, but was unable to stop it due to some sort of Dharma made device that kept Smokey out (not unlike the sonic fence around the barracks). But it manipulated the situation to force the hatch to implode. Just a thought.

  • Dhulme

    a polar bear killed the pilot

  • gusteaux

    And a very plausable thought at that.

  • Stilts

    I think he is the island’s defender, but I can’t understand,if the freighter people are such a threat, why it didn’t just kill the them straight away,

  • roomforhuman

    Perhaps we’re looking at the wrong people as the threat to the island. Or, Smokey is smart and wants to find out what their intentions are. But who am I to question a black smoke monster.

  • Smokey is Jacob. Jacob has a unique connection to the island that allows him to manipulate the highly magnetized volcanic ash that we saw surrounding his cabin in season 3 to travel around and act out.

    The whispers tie into the smoke as well. But now that we’ve learned that it isn’t JUST Jacob in that cabin (Christian was there, Hurley was supposed to be there, and then there’s the mysterious eye guy!), maybe it is safe to say that it isn’t ONLY Jacob in that cabin, or trapped on the island, or who travels around (and kills people) by means of the Smoke.

    So: The Smoke Monster is Jacob, and Jacob is legion. All the lost souls who didn’t quite make the leap through the temporal/dimensional barrier to get to the island are trapped in a ghostlike state on the island. When Ben visits Jacob he thinks he is listening to one spirit, but really he’s been taking directions from a collective of pissy ghosts trapped in limbo.

    Of course, Ben is probably unstuck in time like Desmond, so he’s probably not being duped by any spirits or smoke or anything.

  • VictorC

    Good theory roomforhuman, I also saw Smokey as protecting the island somehow, though I can’t really explain its actions. It kinda seems to me that Smokey stares into your eyes and if you fear it, it’ll kill you. Didn’t Locke survive it once, staring right at it and then Smokey just left? I don’t really remember so I could be wrong.

    BTW, I believe the Seth Norris was killed by a polar bear not Smokey.

  • roomforhuman

    Vex Machine, I didn’t think about the fact that the “ash” surrounding the cabin could actually be Smokey at rest. This makes me think that Jacob more or less has control of Smokey more than that he is Smokey. Perhaps Smokey is the collective of pissy ghosts and Jacob has the ability to channel them into one entity. Perhaps the island is in fact a resting place for souls and thus Jacob wants to keep it that way. Perhaps that’s why Dharma calls Smokey, Cerberus…the one who keeps the ghosts in and the living out. Maybe that’s why the dead still have voice on the island.

  • citizenb

    Obviously in terms of science and religion, we are talking about Judeo-Christian values and stories and so in that vein we should consider the significance of redemption. After all, one can not enter paradise without a clean conscience, a clean soul.
    Therefore I don’t see the smoke monster as something “protecting” the island. I see it more as existing in service to the island, determining if someone is worth saving and being able to stay on the island.
    Consider the backstories of the flight 815 passengers themselves. Each one of them had their lives on the wrong track prior to the crash. Guilt, drugs, crimes, poor health…all of them. I think the smoke monster determines who can stay because they have the potential to be redeemed and therefore deserve to stay and it kills those who do not.
    What happened right before it killed Eko can support this. Eko refused to confess he had committed sins and apologize for them. He saw the crimes of his past as necessary to his own survival and therefore he should not regret them. The smoke monster disagreed because it is not enough to merely confess but to repent.
    As for if it is Jacob manifesting himself as the smoke monster or whether Jacob pulls its strings or there is any direct connection between it and Jacob, I do not think there is enough evidence at this point to make an argument.

  • 8675309

    Why did Smokey not kill Ecko the first time then?

    And like someone else stated, why did it not take out the freighter four instantly?

    If it was supposed to take out all the bad people, it would have taken out half of the “Others” and made numerous trips to the beach by now. Each time it kills someone, it’s in the middle of the jungle. Maybe they were getting too close to the cabin?

  • Well…it’s not like this theory is such an epiphany when Danielle already stated in season one that Smokey is a “security system”.

    I think a major thing that people tend to forget is that Locke saw something “bright & beautiful” in season one, and it wasn’t Smokey–at least not in the form that we have seen it. So a question is, what exactly DID Locke see, and how is it connected (if at all) to Smokey?

  • roomforhuman

    I know I didn’t have an epiphany, because I have not been visited by an angel or Smokey recently (stormko, this was said in fun). I know what you meant…it’s not a new theory.

    I wasn’t necessarily pointing out that this was a new theory as much as it was a confirmation of a forgotten one. I think as fans we have made Smokey to be things like nanobots and so on and have thus forgotten what people on the island have called it. However, we need not forget that Danielle is a little nuts and may be theorizing herself as to what the monster really is. Either way, I’m merely pointing out that the theory of Smokey as the island protector is a very solid one.

  • KingTalo

    stormko- in the episode “Left Behind” We see the Monster flash Juliet, while her and Kate are hiding in the banyan tree (before they pass the perimeter). This may have been what Locke was referring to, but the way he described it was interesting nonetheless.

    The real question is why was it trying to pull Locke into the hole in “Exodus”, and where does that lead? How’s that fit with the spirit of the island theory?

  • roomforhuman

    Honestly, I don’t know what the monster was trying to do to Locke in Exodus. I’ve thought about that as well. I think the question: “where was it dragging Locke to” is more important. Locke told Jack to let him go, that he knew it wouldn’t hurt him. I believed Locke in that instant. I don’t think Smokey was going to kill Locke, I think it was going to take him somewhere. I hope one day we will find out where.

  • LiLi

    hmm. Some of you said you’d rather the smoke monster NOT be explain and everyone would probably be alright with it…well, i WANT to know. i think it would HAUNT me if i never got the answers. pun intended. LOL

  • Henry Holland

    Personally, I am both and it is my belief that the show requires all of us to become both in order to fully appreciate its depth

    Nonsense! I’m 48, have been an atheist since I was 12 and I still get the “depth” of the show for one simple reason: LostPedia. 😀 I’m familiar with most of the religious/symbolic stuff on the show –it’s unavoidable learning that stuff when one has a devoutly Christian mom– but whatever I don’t get, the good folks at LostPedia fill me in. See also: all the sci-fi/horror references since I mostly don’t read/watch either of those genres 🙂

    However, we need not forget that Danielle is a little nuts and may be theorizing herself as to what the monster really is.

    It’s also on the blast door map, the references to Cerberus and “catastrophic malfunction of the Cerberus system”.

    I think a major thing that people tend to forget is that Locke saw something “bright & beautiful” in season one, and it wasn’t Smokey–at least not in the form that we have seen it. So a question is, what exactly DID Locke see, and how is it connected (if at all) to Smokey?

    That “bright & beautiful” part is actually kinda common.

    In The Cost of Living, when Eko is stumbling through the jungle, his head is surrounded by bright light just before he’s the thugs with their faces gashed open and arms cut off appear –> the young boy “Sssshh” him ala Walt –at first I thought it was some really shitty camera work allowing that much light to flood the shot and saturate it but…

    * In The Man Behind the Curtain, after Young Ben uses his bunny to check that the sonar fence is off, he goes in to the jungle and has the same sort of white light around his head; the Whispers start up immediately. As he runs through the jungle screaming “Mom!”, you see the white light at least twice more and then voila! Grunge Richard is there.

    * As soon as he sits down on the bed, Miles in Confirmed Dead has the white light by his head. We see the same kind of jump cuts that we see when Blockehead John turned on the flashlight in Jacob’s cabin. When Miles says “you’re not doing your grandmother any good staying here, man, you’re causing her a lot of pain”, his head is surrounded by the same kind of white light.

  • Henry Holland

    Damn not having a preview/edit function.

    I think he is the island’s defender, but I can’t understand,if the freighter people are such a threat, why it didn’t just kill the them straight away

    Ah, Ben, my beloved Benjamin. We’ve only had Ben’s word for it that the people on the freighter are a threat–at the end of Confirmed Dead, we find out that they want “me, James, they want me”, i.e. Ben only, they don’t really care about the Lostaways, in fact, they’re an inconvenience. Another great Ben scam, I’d say!

  • Normandy

    I started to write a series of theories entry yesterday and first theory was on the smoke monster.. Instead of publishing it on the main page, here is what I think/know about the smoke monster;

    * Smoke Monster, Smokey, Cerberus, Black Smoke.. This thingie really confuses me and I think that is exactly what the producers were going for; “JJ and I have always known what it was and we’re VERY discriminating about who we tell, because that’s one of the biggest secrets of the show.” – Damon Lindelof on 8/18/04

    Here are some theories that have been put forth about our smokey by the community;

    1. It’s a polar bear – “the one thing i can tell you with absolute certainty is there are more than one polar bears on the island, and they are not the monster.* but they are monstrous”. – Javi on 2/9/05 (bummed)
    2. It’s a dinosaur – “The record speaketh true. NO dinosaurs.” – Damon Lindelof on 8/18/04 (bummed)
    3. It’s made up of nanobots – “No nanobots, despite the tongue in cheek comments at Comic-Con” – Javier Grillo-Marxuach (bummed)

    It is more than likely that there are two smokeys running around in the island.. One is good and one is evil.. If you go back to season 1 episode “Walkabout”, when Locke first sees the monster, he says he “looked into the island’s eye and it was beatiful.” The sounds smokey makes there are more serene, like the heavy breathing after an exhausting run.. Later on, when Locke is being pulled down a hole by a tentacle, (a tentacle we presume belonging to the smokey) we hear mechanical sounds, a horn blowing, and the sound of a chain being pulled.. This might be the evil smokey..
    Every attempt I make in trying to explain the concept of smokey dies down in the light of producers’ statement that “everything has a scientific explanation.” Thus, smokey is not a guardian to another plane (cerberus? guardian angel?), it is not a manifestation of an entity (jacob) and takes different forms when it chooses (christian, locke’s dad, etc.).. It is directly rebuked by the producers that it is not made up of nanobots.. While extremely farfetched that a micro electro-mechanical system (MEMS) of such proportions can operate solely on electromagnetic energy and has a highly developed artificial intelligence, it would at least be a scientific explanation..
    In the way of explaining, Lost creators said that; “The monster is a reflection of yourself. The pilot saw it with fear, so he was eaten, while Locke saw it with awe, so he was spared.” This highly ambiguous answer leads me to err on the side of “not a machine” theorists. What I ultimately think is, smokey is not a supernatural being or a machine created as a security system. It is a biological entity, has the coolest name ever (Cerberus) and been developed by the Dharma scientists as a side project by itself to what they were doing in the Hydra Station. Polar bears, sharks and rabbits were always Dharma’s means of manipulating creatures of nature. Cerberus on the other hand, seems like the flagship project of Dharma geneologists; a whole new creature designed and bred to do their bidding, their own Frankenstein if you may..

  • jimyy

    Anyone notice that the smoke monster has THREE heads? Don’t believe me? watch in slowmo as it comes after kate and juliet (just before smokey smacks into the electronic fence) when it comes out of the jungle its in three seperate forms… then comes together and you’ll notice the three heads. check it out, prettt cool stuff… no wonder its call Cerberus.

  • Jimyy

    and we have yet to see the white smoke monster… it’s only a matter of timeeeeee

  • BucK

    In episode 2/17 “Lockdown” when Lock is trapped under the blast door, he see’s the blast door map. One of the phrases written is “Primary Source of Cerberus Related Activity”. In Greek mythology the Cerberus is the guardian of the underworld, a 3 headed beast that keeps the living out and the dead in. This mirror’s the way the island keeps outsiders out and those who are trapped on the island in.

    In episode 3/5 “The Cost Of Living”, Echo encounters what appears to be his brother, just after encountering in the jungle those he killed in his flash back. Yemmi, who is actually Smokey in disguise appears to Echo, and allows Echo to express his true feelings about what he has done in life. This is the only way the Smoke (Cerberus) can accurately judge a persons true self. When Echo, who’s struggle between Dark and Light (a sure theme of the show itself) chooses the dark path, judgement is unleashed.

    In episode 3/15 “Left Behind” Kate and Juliet encounter Smokey in the jungle. If you play in slow motion the scene when Kate and Juliet take shelter behind the sonic fence and Smokey comes out of the jungle, you will clearly see that Smokey has 3 heads to him that form together. If you continue to let the scene play out in slow motion not only will you see the heads split off at the fence, but they also split off as the Smoke scatters off into the jungle.

    This is our first bit of actual evidence that connects the blast door maps writings to the physical manifestation and nature of our island dwelling monster. It is the judge, jury, executioner, and guardian of the island.

  • sithlord

    The hole that smokey pulled Locke into is part of a system of underground vents on the island built for Cererbus. Dont know where they lead…
    The “eye” in the cabin was Jacob; so said the writers.
    The white light observations are very cool, I’d never consciously observed them. Not sure what they mean, but very interesting…
    I think Cererbus “was” a guardian of the island, that very possibly could read peoples minds, and therefore their intent and if they were a threat or not. But I think its gone isane. Maybe read too many minds? Either that or its been taken over, or linked with someone else whos insane, that would probably be Jacob, who could possibly be Magnus Hanso, whos been stuck on the island for a very long time, enough time to drive anyone crazy.

  • roomforhuman

    I like the thought of one Smokey having various aspects to it more than there being two separate entities. And I think this would make sense if you see Smokey as a reflection of yourself. It’s not that John saw the good Smokey, it’s that he saw it the way he wanted to see it: bright, beautiful and amazing. But I still think this backs my theory that Smokey is the protector of the purity and integrity of the island. Those, like John, who wish to commune with the island are obviously going to be spared. Those who wish to bring harm will be killed. I agree that Smokey is biological, and that it could now be off its leash and a little out of control, but the core of Smokey is all about protecting the island. Do I sound like a broken record yet?

  • cap10tripps

    I believe Smokey is literally cerberus. It’s guarding something. Not sure if it’s a door/vortice to a figurative hell or if it’s placing judgement on our Losties and deciding to put them through the rigamorales again (Mr. Ecko) or judging them to be worthy of what the island (figurative eden/god) a la Locke…

  • cap10tripps

    …what the island has to offer in way of true peace.

  • oh please, LOST, please don’t be based on ancient Biblical fables…..I will be sorely disappointed if that’s the case.
    And though I tend to agree that the writers’ ultimate goal is a balance of science and faith, I am on the side that can only truly be
    relied upon; science. Faith is far too ambiguous, especially since it mostly relies on the retelling of ancient myths that are, quite frankly, unscientific. I’d say for balance I have faith that science will provide answers that myth cannot.
    That said, I believe that Smokey may be both biological and mechanical, judging from the sounds it generates. I have a detailed theory on exactly what I think it is here.

    One thing to note: if Smokey truly CAN discriminate between good and evil in a person, it would have to be a helluva lot smarter than the majority of humanity. Even if we examine one’s past, we still don’t know how really “evil” they are until it’s far too late. I mean, good and evil are subjective anyway. Ecko surely didn’t feel that he had shosen the dark side…..

  • roomforhuman

    Science requires a certain amount of faith as well. We do not have the answers for everything in science. Much of science is theory in the same way that much of faith is theory. Science is knowledge acquired by study and experimentation. Faith, interestingly enough, is heightened by knowledge and experience. In other words, one does not exist without the other. You need theory and faith in order to test and experiment, and you need facts and science to solidify faith. So to say that you can trust alone in science is very closed minded and would, in the case of Lost, limit the depth of the show. Even pseudo science can not explain the human spirit and the desire to love and be loved. You can’t chalk that up to a chemical, there is something more to it. I think the writers understand the need for both and have shown that in the narrative thus far. We’ve seen miracles happen and a spinal surgeon falling from the sky at just the right time. We’ve had “coincidental” meetings and interconnection between characters. We’ve had a universe that course corrects. All of this is very faith based stuff. Then we have Dharma and experiments and prevalent scientific explanations for much of what is going on. And I hope that the majority of the questions are answered scientifically, but to completely rule out faith in a show that has major spiritual themes is ridiculous. Especially when, in the real world, most things can be explained scientifically, but some things must be taken on faith.

  • graelignites

    Regardless of it’s appearance, I think it must have some mechanical basis, if you listen closely to the sound you will hear weird mechanical sounds such as gears/chains/ect.

  • lmz27

    Eko can see flashes of his own life happening inside Smokey. If you pause the DVD you can watch these scenes. It’s eerie. In the commentary the producers and writers say that this episode is the one where they had to decide exactly what the monster is.
    So, is there some sort of psychological component to the experiment of Cerebus? Why can Eko see his life inside it? Is it some sort of breakthrough in neurological science in which memory is projected out from human consciousness? Whatever it is, I think it’s invisible to human eyes, except we can see some sort of smoke-like disruption in the air as it passes through…
    And perhaps the Dharma I. found a way to manipulate

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