Lessons from the Book of Eli

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By John J. Woods •  9 min read

After the nuclear ash snowfall ended, there was very little left.  Their known world suddenly and inexplicably became unknown.  That was the reality for the mystical-fictional character named Eli found as the theater lights went down.

It’s a movie (Book of Eli) all Survival Cache followers or interested parties ought to watch, if not to learn, then just for its entertainment value.

Survival Nuts

Sometimes we have to explore other points of reference regardless of how farfetched they might seem at the time.  After all these Doomsday Preppersdays reality is pretty much farfetched anyway is it not?  A great deal can be gleaned from the so-called post-apocalyptic type movies.  Certainly there are those in the audience jaded by their own escapes from reality to feel safer presuming no such scenario could ever happen on our sophisticated, metropolitan, one-world Earth.  Then on the tail end of the coin are those we oft term with tongue-n-cheek as the “survival nuts” rallying to decipher the worst case play out of the sum of the events all the while shoving more rounds into their AR magazines.

Somewhere in between is what might really happen.  We Cache folks know the event or SHTF could come from a number of possible actions and reactions.  It could be an election gone sour, an executive order, the crack in the foundation of our economic stability (or lack of it) that leads to a total crumble, a dirty bomb finally released by a fringe group of crazies hoping to send the infidels to their heavenly after world sans virgins.

There are endless possibilities to the scenarios that could develop.  The threat is enough that tens of thousands of good, honest, God-fearing, hard working (or none of that) people are prepping and stocking supplies and gear just in case.  They are planning and fine tuning.  They practice.  They hone old skills and acquire new ones.  They stock up everything from the essentials to weaponry, games, and books, batteries, tote boxes full of needs and some wants.  Maybe none of it will ever be used, but it could be.

So, why not watch a movie like The Book of Eli?  I mean there might be some bits and pieces, hints, tactics, deployment skills or Doomsday Preppersother pieces of information to roll into our own planning.  The philosophical sketch behind the movie could offer some value to our mental preparations for what could come or what we might encounter ourselves.

We can surely pick out the outlandish parts, but then, come to think of it, how do we know what will be too far out there, and what won’t be?  Isn’t that part and partial to prepping after all?

Essentials to Life come First

Likely everybody will see this movie differently.  It would be quite fun to discuss the film around the Bug Out fire ring as to its merits to our mission and perhaps its fallacies.  As to the later, I just factor in the fact that it came from Hollywood after all, though I thoroughly enjoyed Denzel Washington’s portrayal.

Perhaps the obvious struck me time and time again, but it seemed the most single important pivotal aspect of Eli’s “survival” boiled down to water.  Take it as a pun if you wish.  Water was the No.1 premium item throughout the episode.  It was even used as an attractant or ploy to deceive the weak or easy to prey upon.  Eli was not subverted.

Eli was of course constantly on the move to deliver “The Book” to a predetermined destination and to the appropriate Doomsday Preppersauthorities.   I took note he only carried one canteen.  That seemed woefully inadequate even though he was on foot.  During the whole movie it looked like the climate was pretty hot, dry, and harsh, thus the ever constant need for water replenishment.  Take note of that.

The movie ploy of course had the main character on the move all the time.  But that fact illustrates just how difficult it is to sustain one’s self on the road as it were.  Ideally a Bug In or Out prep would secure a decent water source.  At a remote site plan for a water supply even if you have to boil and filter it.  A stream, lake, or pond is wonderful or perhaps a well you can revive.

At home the municipal water might still work or it might not.  As the SHTF unfolds, fill up everything you have, ration it, and pray things are stabilized before you run out.  As with Eli, water will gravitate to the top of the list.  Obtain it, and then protect it.

What Do You Value Most?

Eli’s mission was clear cut.  The book he carried was the most important thing he saved.  It was his first and foremost mission to get it safely to its home.  He had to physically defend not only the book but himself.  The “bad guy” character in the movie named Carnegie (classic) played by Gary Oldman was a book collector of sorts who pursued Eli until the bitter end.  Oldman’s end.

So when you Bug Out, or stay home, decide what things are most important outside of the essentials required to live and sustain Doomsday Prepperssurvival.  It is perhaps unwise to give up everything including water and food for a book, or a bag of gold coins.  As they say, you can’t take it all with you, so that coveted collection of wax 45 music records might have to be burned in the fireplace to cook or keep warm.  The album jackets at least.

If you have family, then they are the most precious possession you have.  Prep with their welfare totally in mind in both offensive and defensive modes.  Once those bases are covered, then you can consider hiding back that shoebox of baseball cards or that red velvet wall hanging of Elvis.

Offense and Defense

Eli was pretty resourceful in defending himself only carrying a long bladed machete type tool in a back scabbard and a single handgun.  As I recall and I could be wrong as it has been some time since I first watched the movie, it appeared to be a Beretta 92, likely in 9mm.  I sure can’t argue with that choice at all.  It is one of my favorites.

There is no mention in the movie of any training that Eli might have had in wielding his weapons so effectively.  He seems a naturalDoomsday Preppers born when it comes to swinging the blade with impunity.  Same on the use of the pistol, how he procured it or supplied it with ammo.  Again, Hollywood managed to leave that out.

All that part of the movie stands on its own merit in terms of his own self defense against factions trying to steal the book.  It does illustrate that the zombies out there or any other sort of collective bad guy gangs will try to take anything and everything you have, whether they value it or not.  It’s just the mindset.

As to offense, Eli appears to be traveling the back roads as much as possible, but he is always exposed by walking out in the open.  He does hide out from time to time in various places, some fairly decent choices, others not, such as the lone farm house out in the middle of the field.

This permits the Survival Cache audience to evaluate the smartest modes of travel and hide out strategies.  In particular any proposed Bug Out site ought to be highly remote with difficult points of access.  In other words don’t pick an otherwise abandoned building at an intersection with multiple points of access.

If any of you have been watching the Mountain Man series on the History Channel, the guy in the somewhat remote wilds of the North Carolina woods still has a road coming into his quasi-primitive compound.  Otherwise access has to be through the woods.  There is plenty of fodder for a debate in that series as well.  Keeping vigilant on both the defensive and offensive fronts is paramount to successful survival.

Miscellaneous Lessons from Eli

Watching this movie poses a number of questions.  Do voices in your head tell you where to go or not?  They did for Eli.  For me, Doomsday Prepperssuch “voices” are thoughts of random remembrances of things I need to do to prep or tasks in that regard I need to take care of eventually.  At my age I translate these unsolicited synapses into detailed work lists so I can keep track.  Every prepper should keep a journal or a sort of “to do” or “have done” list.  This should include a comprehensive list of gear, supplies acquired or needs.

What voices do you follow?  Remember to follow your survival planning process and continually update it.  Practice the training you have already completed and seek out additional opportunities.  Always sharpen and hone.  Practice, then execute.  Work out the kinks then go at it again.

As Eli demonstrated, he walked by faith.  What faiths do we follow?

Faith in our skills, our abilities to work hard and secure the prep goods we need, faith in family or teams we coordinate prep activities with or perhaps a higher power to see us through the tough times.  These are questions worth pondering.

Eli taught us other things as well.  One such ideal was “Do for others more than you do for yourself.”  Some preppers are isolationists.  Others believe in sharing what they have with extended family or even neighbors.  You’ll have to wade through that quagmire sooner or later.  Sooner is better.

There are plenty of other lessons to be learned from The Book of Eli. I recommend you watch it.  Reflect on what happens to Eli and those around him then ask yourself what you would do better or differently.

Lessons from The Book of Eli

Just in case you have not yet rented this movie I will not give up the catch plot of the whole movie revealed at the end.  Perhaps you will view it with an open mind and pass judgment on your own.   For entertainment value alone it is worth the investment of a couple hours of time, but perhaps not if the flat screen is running off a generator after all the power grids have gone down across America.  In that case, the Eli prophecy comes too late.  Save the gasoline.Photos by:
Dr. John J. Woods
The Book of Eli


John J. Woods

John J. Woods, PhD, has been outdoor writing for over 35 years with over 3000 articles, and columns published on firearms, gun history, collecting, appraising, product reviews and hunting. Dr. Woods is currently the Vice President of Economic Development at a College in the Southern United States. Read his full interview here.