SPOILER ALERT for both LOST and “S.”
In the sixth and final season of LOST, as millions of us watched in the hopes that the mystery of the island would be revealed, a very simple explanation arose from the island’s leader, Jacob. The island is a cork. It is a cork on a particular wine bottle, and this particular wine represents evil. The island’s purpose is to prevent evil from spreading by blocking its escape route.
It seems J.J. Abrams is not done with the cork as a symbol for overcoming evil.
Fast forward to the book of “S.” One of its most mysterious hidden characters is Arquimedes de Sobreiro. Sobreiro means cork tree – the quercus suber to be precise. This tree is the indisputable source for most of the world’s wine cork population. Here are some interesting facts about the Sobreiro (cork tree) as it relates to “S.“
- Signe Rabe was born in Perpignan, France (see p361 marginalia). The economy of Perpignan is dependent on the cork tree.
- S.’s ship, in the Book of “S” on the Obsidian Island, has the word Sobreiro visible in the hull (see p292). Corks are buoyant, like the ship – they float on water.
- Archimedes, the Greek inventor, was first to explain the principle of buoyancy in Archimedes’ Principle. Is this a reference to Arquimedes de Sobreiro?
- As S. and Corbeau leap from the mouth of the cave of the K– and plummet to the water below, S. has a memory of “corks flying on a New Year’s Eve. A room full of people, of faces and bodies and spirits. A fire in a hearth. A sense of himself as—well, as someone.” S. himself is a cork popping out of the cave’s exit.
- The climax of “S.” involves barrels and barrels of wine. This wine is in the cellar of Vevoda, the arch-villain – the epitome of evil. S. has come to stop the evil from escaping. The monkey goes to every barrel and pulls out the bungs (corks) and lets the wine return to the earth from which it came. In this climax, S. changes his original plan and chooses not to kill Vevoda and his guests. Instead, S. gives them a healthy dose of avis veritatis (p434) – a poison which in a small enough dose induces truth-telling. Edvar VI drinks a glass of wine with avis veritatis (latin for bird of truth), shares the truth with the crowd, and gets a bullet for it. Vevoda has no heir to carry on his evil ways because the “truth is out.”
Sobreiro, and S., are corks – they are men who have come to prevent evil from escaping into the world. Different stories, same tradition (p404). Initially, though, S. fights evil with evil – a no-win proposition. It is only in the climax, as S. follows the monkey’s example, he simply removes the cork of Vevoda’s stored-up evil and returns it to the ground from which it came.
The cork material of a Sobreiro (cork tree) is harvested from the bark without harming the tree itself. Every 9 years the cork bark replenishes itself completely and it is reharvested. The tree continues to live. The cork bark is the substance from which all corks are made – whether Arquimedes de Sobreiro or S.
They all come from the same tree of life.
In Portugal, not far from Lisbon, is the largest and most famous Sobreiro of all. It is called The Whistler Tree. From this one tree, over 1,000,000 corks have come to life in its lifetime of over 200 years. It’s name comes from the innumerable birds that land and sing within the tree’s canopy. Our book “S.” is replete with birds and sailors who whistle. Our book climaxes with S. and Sola blowing whistles with “avian warbles and trills that allow them to communicate behind enemy lines” as they approach Vevoda in the wine cellar (p416).
Sobreiro is the cork oak tree – the tree of life that contains and offers the substance from which all corks are made. The cork, whether in LOST or “S.”, represents those dedicated to containing evil without becoming evil itself.