Netflix’s ‘1899’ is a complicated mystery that creates a very fractured nature of reality for its characters. The show plays with several genres, jumping from sci-fi to mystery to psychological thriller, but at its heart, it explores some deep philosophical questions. Over the episodes, it gives the audience a lot of puzzles to solve and many mysteries to ponder upon. From every character to every object in their possession to every line they utter in the show becomes the key to solving this enigma. One such thing to appear in ‘1899’ is the phrase “what is lost will be found”. If you’re wondering what it means, then allow us to shed some light on the matter. SPOILERS AHEAD
The Meaning of What is Lost Will be Found
“What is lost will be found” first appears on the back of the envelope that Maura received from her brother. Inside it, he sent her a postcard, asking her to meet in New York, with a newspaper with the headline about Prometheus’ four-month-long absence. Later, we discover that Captain Eyk received a similar letter in the same envelope, with the same phrase written on it. The phrase itself is mind-boggling because we don’t know what has been lost yet. By the end of the season, however, we have some inkling of what it might be referring to.
There are two instances where this phrase appears in some form in the real world, and their context helps us understand what it might mean for Maura and the passengers. The first is the poem, ‘The Faerie Queene’ by Edmund Spenser. One of the longest poems in English literature, it follows the stories of several knights while also talking about the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. While one can take it at its face value, the poem is known for being full of allegories, with different layers to its verses.
One of the lines in the poem’s ‘The Ways of God Unsearchable‘ part reads: “For whatsoever from one place doth fall/ Is with the tide unto an other brought/ For there is nothing lost, that may be found if sought.” The last line bears some resemblance to the phrase Maura finds on the envelope. These lines talk about the place of things and how they always surface no matter how deep they are buried. If something has disappeared from its place, then it will show up somewhere else one way or another in some form. And no matter how elusive it might be, if you look for it long enough, you will eventually find it.
This explanation fits perfectly in context to Maura’s situation, where her memories are the ones that are deeply buried because she has been made to forget them. However, they start to surface in the form of the glitches and flashbacks that she has, which means that while her father might make her forget about them, they aren’t completely wiped off her brain. The phrase by her brother could be a way for him to tell her that eventually, she will find all the memories that she has lost.
Another place where the phrase can be found is in ‘The Selenodromion of David and Solomon’. It is a lunary that takes the course of thirty days and ascribes meaning to each of those days. Not only that, but it also predicts the things that are to happen on that day depending on the event that is ascribed to it in accordance with the Bible. The first day begins with the creation of Adam, followed by the arrival of Eve, and then their sons, Cain and Abel. It ends on the thirtieth day with the birth of Samuel the prophet. But the one that we find the most interesting is the twenty-third day when Jacob and Rachel’s son Benjamin is born.
In the translation by Pablo A. Torijano, the day is described as follows: “This day is good for any practical procedure, and for taking care of the house. The fugitive will reach supplication. The sick heals. The children born will be short-lived. What is lost will be found, and the dream will turn out true.” While it could be a long shot to believe that this text could have some connection to ‘1899’, one can’t help but wonder at the things that the text predicts about the plot. “The children born will be short-lived” bears striking similarity to Elliot’s arc on the show. And the second half of the last line gives more weight to all that’s been happening with Maura.
In the end, it is revealed that she has been living in a simulation and all of this is happening inside her head. In a way, one could say that her dreams are turning out to be true. At least inside her head. Considering this, and the other explanation, it becomes pretty clear that the phrase “what is lost, will be found” is a signal to Maura, as well as the other passengers that there are things buried inside their heads, and sooner or later, they will surface, no matter if they were buried intentionally or if it was forced upon them. Eventually, they will have to confront reality and come out of the dream state they’ve tried to escape into.