Mr. Eko and His Beard

If I had been writing this blog back when I watched season two of Lost, I think one of my big questions would have been about Mr. Eko and Henry Gale. If you remember the episode “Maternity Leave” then you know what I mean, but for those of you that do not remember, here is the quick version. Mr. Eko goes to Locke and says he wants to speak with Henry Gale (that was Ben’s alias when the group imprisons him in the Hatch). Mr. Eko tells Henry about killing two of the Others. He then pulls out a large knife and slices off his beard and gives them to Henry.

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I never really understood what that meant. I read somewhere that it was his way of asking for forgiveness. And I guess I can understand that, but is there some tradition about cutting off a piece of beard for the dead? It was such a random thing to do.