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Headscratchers: The Book of Eli
  • Wouldn't a braille edition of the Bible take up a couple of shelves whole bookshelf? The thick paper required and the fact that only 27 characters (five or six words) can fit on a standard 8-1/2 inch row is a bit of an issue.
    • No.
    • Yes! Maybe some can willingly suspend their disbelief on this point, but my dad is blind and he used to have an entire braille Bible. It DID take up a whole bookshelf. The book of Genesis alone was its own volume, and each volume was enormous...the size of a coffee-table book, and about four inches thick.
    • Well that and there was a person on the main page that had a good point. Considering that Eli has the whole Bible memorized, he might just be carrying around a single volume of the Bible because that's what he uses to remind himself of his mission.
      • Or God's doing another one of His famous suspensions of the laws of physics and probability. Divine inspiration and such.
    • Do we even know for sure whether Eli's Bible was complete? If all other copies were destroyed and the post-war generations don't even know what praying is, let alone what the Bible's contents are, who'd even be in a position to call him out on it if he only gave them part? The passage he quotes in the bar is from Genesis, as are the lines we hear him recite for the librarians, so maybe that's all he was carrying.
    • It's possible he was carrying it as a lure. Anybody who doesn't know Braille, or doesn't know it's in Braille would think it was large enough to hold the entire Bible. In fact, he was carrying it to trick people into hunting for it, rather than for him.
  • There already is a New King James Version.
    • It still counts. The curator, even if he entirely trusted Eli's memorization, still would have had to note this change. (Or, Eli's version could have been a NKJV all along, and the curator recognized it.) Also, no one cares.
    • So Eli's edition was a KJV, not an NKJV. It could have been a NRSV or a NIV or one of many versions, but it was a King James version. Perfectly possible.
    • I thought they were only pointing out that the version he had was the New James King Version. Why would they call his version new anyway?
      • I don't quite follow this one. The original complaint is that at the end, the Bible is titled as the "New King James Version" on the spine.
      • Oh, sorry. I've only seen the movie once; I didn't remember that. Well... spin some WMG about this being the distant past and history got some things wrong?...
      • I'm not quite sure how that would work, but I just wanted to note that I didn't see the movie more than once, either.
      • The New King James Version is a real translation of the Bible; you can get it in any bookstore. Furthermore, when Eli began dictating it, the text he was dictating really was from the NKJV, the same NJKV you can find anywhere. He was not dictating the KJV, which is a bit different. Eli's edition was ALWAYS an NKJV and that's why it was labelled as such by the curator.
      • To put it simply, Eli meant the New King James Bible; he probably either made a mistake, or just omitted the "New" bit for quickness.
  • Are there no Korans, Torahs, Books of Mormon, LOTR books, or Odysseys in the town? It seemed like a fairly big town, and the library should contain other religious/cultural books.
    • If by "town," you mean Carnegie's, apparently not, as he burns all books that aren't The Bible. If by "town," you mean the colony where Eli and Solara end up, a Qu'ran and Torah can be seen on the shelf at the end.
    • I always figured it was because the bible is the most free and loving of the religious books. If you lived in a post-apocalyptic world would you rather have to get on your knees five times a day to get to heaven, or just say a single sentence some point in your life before you die?
      • You must not know much about the Bible OR the Koran.
      • ^This. SECONDED. As a Christian who has an interest in understanding other religions, BOTH of those stereotypes are insulting.
      • I'm... pretty sure that's not the basis of the Bible. At any rate, I can't see Carnegie taking that route if he wants to use it to take over people's lives. I think the main reason is the first response — The Bible was the big book before the Flash, Carnegie knew it, and so he didn't see any value whatsoever in anything else, even the Quran, the Torah, or anything else that wasn't the Bible. (Actually, that kind of makes sense — not only did he plan to turn the Bible itself into a tool of raw power, but he didn't want his people getting exposed to anything else. Or maybe I'm overthinking it.)
  • Okay, may be I am a total idiot but - is it necessary to be blind to read braille? Cause even after I watched the movie I didn't realize that the hero was blind. I thought that he just developed a very good skill of reading braille. So now I am a little... surprised by this revelation.
    • Nope. Hell, Eli can see, but really, really, really, really, really poorly.
    • You're not alone in not realizing he was supposed to be blind. This troper felt like the Butt Monkey after going online and learning he was pretty much the only person out there who failed to notice this surprise. I thought the "twist" was that the last remaining Bible on Earth happened to be a braille version, thus rendering it useless to Gary Oldman, but didn't matter to Denzel because he had memorized it in its entirety. It never occurred to me that Denzel could be blind after witnessing all the spectacular feats he performs during the movie, but I guess it's possible that he was guided, as the movie implies, and there are subtle clues that he is in fact blind throughout the length of the movie. This is the kind of film that plays with your expectations and demands a second viewing, so don't feel bad if you don't understand everything the first time through.
    • Watching it a second time. Maybe Denzel didn't know the twist for some of the scenes, but in other scenes it's subtle. But what is the root of his, what appears to be, degenerative blindness? 'The Flash' or
    • Quite frankly, if you didn't already know how to read, or know a really specialized skill, you probably didn't have a lot of time to learn after the world was destroyed. Especially since books at all were apparently rare.
    • Have we considered the possibility that Eli wasn't blind until he got to Alcatraz? Maybe the "protection" that helped him survive all those gunshot wounds also cured his blindness during his mission. When he reached his goal, the protection faded, his blindness returned, and he eventually succumbed to his wounds.
    • No, no, no. This twist gets a whole new level if you have even smallest experience with blind people. I'm kind of therapist, I have trained blind peaople. Thing that Denzel pulled in this film are fantastic. I could say it's a instance of Viewers are Geniuses trope. By the time Eli & Sollara arrived at the old couple house I realized that Eli is blind. Why? Because he made that clicky echolocation sound with tounge and because he kicked a step. Kicking step in such manner is one of the first thing you tech to blind people, to indicate if there is a step. It's those little thing: head position, tongue clicking, little moves and things like retreating under the bridge to get a advance of lack of light, and sound reflection. Truly superb acting. Yet it took me 5 years of training to notice it halfway through the film.
  • Is this troper the only one who sees how freakin' valuable Eli's iPod is? I mean, the movie makes it pretty clear that most of the population was wiped out, most books and art are gone, and any remnants of culture from before the war is quickly dying. That iPod contains one of the most powerful expressions of culture and zeitgeist that has ever existed: music.
    • Or, alternatively, it could be full of the complete Ke$ha discography, a selected medley of Jethro Tull B-Sides and a copy of the Numa Numa song. Some zeitgeist.
      • Has at least Johnny Cash on it, that's worth keeping. Still we can assume that the people at Alcatraz copied the contents somehow.
  • Didn't the writers realize there's more than one translation of the Bible? Or the fact that the KJV doesn't have all the books that are canon? There's quite a few books in Catholic bibles that aren't in many Protestant versions of the Bible, including the KJV.
    • What about them? Eli's may be one of the few Bibles left, and beggars can't be choosers.
    • Depending on your sect, exactly what parts of the Bible are and aren't Canon vary. Saying that the King James version is missing canon portions is like saying that a person's life is non-canon because he was born in Australia instead of Great Britain.
    • The fact that they go out of their way to name it the King James Version (or New King James, if you want to get technical) pretty much demonstrates that yes, the writers knew.
    • From what the librarian at Alcatraz had to say, it sounds like they didn't have any copies of the Bible until Eli showed up. Even getting a copy of one that's only complete by some denominations' standards is a big improvement over having none at all.
      • Which is manifestly false, because when the Librarian puts the printed copy of the NKJV of the Bible on the shelf, a copy of the Artscroll Tanakh, i.e., the entire Hebrew Bible in both the original and in English, was sitting two books to the left of it on the shelf.
      • The Hebrew Bible wouldn't have the New Testament, so, even if they have the Tanakh (ie Christian Old Testament and additional Jewish texts), they still have no documentaton of the New Testament.
  • Why did they travel during the day? I just wondered at one point - great big burning sun during the day and a loooong walking mission why didn't he travel at night while it was cool/cold/freezing and walking warms you up?
    • It looked like a great big burning sun but I don't recall anyone talking about how hot it was. It could have been winter, if all the multiple layers of clothing everyone is wearing is anything to go by.
    • A) Cinematic reasons. B) Eli's got no choice, not to mention he probably "sees" better during day. He could have been walking day and night when we first see him decide to take a break at a house.
    • How would you travel west if you were Eli? If you can't see the sun, you would still be able to feel it on your back in the morning and on your face in the evening.
  • The death, this troper knows we were supposed to see it as a peaceful rest, now that his mission was done. But, there was no reason for it. It wasn't even Redemption Equals Death. It was more like success equals Death. I know he was an old man for his world but the way it was filmed it was less "I've fulfilled my mission, now I can die happy" and more "You're reward for carrying God across the desert is getting your divine protection withdrawn five minutes after you stop serving."
    • Pretty much, actually. Remember, he got gutshot. Plus, he's got someone else to carry on his mission.
    • Indeed, he was already dying from the moment Carnegie shot him. God kept him going long enough to complete his mission. And he was able to die peacefully, which in the Book Of Eli Universe, is rare. And he's in Heaven, which is pretty good too.
    • For a Christian, which it's heavily implied Eli was, this is actually a pretty good deal: fulfill your purpose on Earth, then die and leave the filthy hellhole behind.
  • How is Eli able to fight so well while blind? The melee battles are somewhat justified (he's had thirty years to practice, after all) but the gunfights are harder to excuse. Still, very few people complain because it's awesome. And you don't know about it the first time through.
    • He could be legally blind, not able to perceive depth or even see everything really blurry. It explains why he doesn't see Alcatraz until they're practically in front of it.
    • The way I interpreted it, he is only completely blind in his right eye, the one with the scar over it. His left eye just has poor vision, which makes more sense with the gunfights and such.
      • He also never fires first, and can smell people thirty feet away.
      • It's probably easier to hear gunshots and a guy staggering across the dirt than to pinpoint their smell.
      • This troper took it to mean he really is divinely guided. Not in all actions, as he does for himself what he can, but when necessary, IE: blowing away people shooting at him with a pistol some 20 yards away with a single shot after they shoot at him. With the light handed way in which the movie delivers its biblical messages, such as, "God helps those who help themselves". Could count as more fridge brilliance.
      • Just a little bug-a-boo of mine: The "God helps those who help themselves" is one of those misappropriated quotes. That one's actually an old saying and is not in any version of the Bible.
      • Remember, he was using three to four shots per head in that gun fight in the town. It could be that with guns, most people just don't have the markmanship skills, Eli included. He's just really quick on the draw.
      • It was more obvious in a movie theater with high quality surround sound but if you watch (and listen) closely you can tell that Eli is shooting at the sound of his attackers.
      • He used sound of their gunshots coupled with echolocation. Notice how every time he is confronted you hear him making "clucking" or "clicking" sound with his tongue? Other Wiki
      • More evidence that he was, in fact blind: When he goes to the house with the cannibals, he walks right past a "No Trespassing" sign, then says he didn't see it. Also, for the first machete fight, he takes a step backward so that the fight takes place under a darkened bridge, taking aways some of the advantage sighted people would have over a blind person.
  • How in the shit is there only ONE copy of the best selling book of all time, ever? I mean, even if the world's largest religious faction suddenly lost faith, I'm certain that SOMEONE is going to have a copy.
    • That's the same as asking how 6 million people can suddenly start being shipped into furnaces and ghettoes. Systematic elimination is possible with persistence and time, and religion is a touchy subject. Isn't there at least one Real Life example of a highly populated secular nation that at one time pretty much eradicated religion from its borders?
      • No, no there is not. such a thing would be utterly impossible. A few have tried, and failed with varying degrees of magnitude.
      • Not only that, but China's a really poor example off the bat because the difference between theist religion (like Christianity) and Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism, all of which separately were vastly more prolific than Christianity in China (that particular religion probably hit its height around the time of the Ming, centuries before). Taoism in particular was targeted after the end of the civil war, but not much more successfully than in prior centuries and it didn't come close to wiping out its architectural legacy, much less the religion. Buddhism and Confucianism were even more resilient, in part because of their prior orthodoxy. Revolutions in Vietnam and Laos both co-opted Buddhism, and Laotian communists weren't even successful in stopping Buddhist monks from begging. A better example would be Cambodia, where the Khmer Rouge actually came close to wiping out Buddhism's legacy.
      • In 1978, some bans were lifted and the present day equilibrium 32 years later is less than 20% in a time of peace. The banning of Chick Tracts and other materials as acts of sedition in the past, exclusion of the Koran from the Olympic grounds in more modern times, and the continuing policy of outlawing and quashing any would-be religion that isn't "well-established" seems like a pretty long-lasting success that has seen even better(?) days in time gone by.
    • Remember that our scope is seriously limited. We're looking at a world with no major inter-regional communication, except for Eli's traveling. We basically have to take Eli at his word that his is the only copy, but he's a blind man with no news from Europe, Africa, or South America. Even if he is divinely guided, we see that he doesn't need a physical copy of the book to finish his mission, so he might not have been pointed toward other copies.
      • Taking a prior example, it's entirely possible that to find a smallish region of America where every Confucian text could be lost pretty easily. A vastly more popular book, on a local scale, would be proportionally harder. Impossible though?
    • Also remember that even aside from the book burnings, there may still be bibles around but are not useable because they are heavily damaged, missing pages, got used for a cooking fire, got stained, crumbled into dust, and so forth. Books can be pretty fragile if not preserved properly.
    • No. This is the single most unbelievable part of the film - I can accept the blind man with Improbable Aiming Skills verging on Disability Superpower, I can accept the braille Bible the size of the Concise OED, I can accept a man turning down sex with Mila Kunis. But the idea that, in America of all places, there was a successful purge of every Bible in existence is a step too far. The way I saw it, there probably are lots of surviving copies, but (a) the owners are the people who guarded and hid them most carefully, of whom Eli is the first to decide that it's time to spread the word again; (b) we only see a few characters in a small area of the country, and they haven't been able to find one within the distance they can feasibly travel with limited fuel, and (c) people have generally forgotten about religion and literacy, so aren't aware of all the other texts that would do the trick. However, when it's revealed that the library project hasn't turned up a single copy, that really strains credulity.
      • Bingo, man. You cannot tell me that every single Motel 6 with a pair of Gideon's freebie New Testaments in the nightstands was wiped clean, especially not in the Bible Belt.
      • The library did have a copy of the Bible: watch the scene where Malcolm McDowell places the printed copy of the NKJV Bible which Eli dictated to him on the shelf. Two books to the left of that is a copy of the Artscroll Tanakh, which contains the entire Hebrew Bible with an English translation. It is possible that Eli's copy is the last Christian Bible, but it is just as likely that Eli and the library just happen not to have any other copies.
    • Firstly, nuclear armageddon probably went a long way towards destroying a lot of copies of the Bible, and most books (which are pretty rare). Second, it could just be that its not to be taken literally, and others do exist that just haven't been found yet. How organized the purge of bibles was might be a factor too, and the lack of modern communications might have made it harder for believers to get the Word out that their books needed saving, or more likely the believers might just have hid them better. And those not got by the purge might have decomposed; all books are rare, after all, not just this one.
    • Eli is blind. For all we know, he's come across a hundred Bibles while scavenging his way across the continent, he just couldn't recognize them as such because they weren't in Braille!
      • We're not talking about Eli. We're talking about Gary Oldman and his army of men who are searching endlessly for this book. Who aren't blind.
  • Umm..isn't Tanakh (which is shown on the same shelf that Eli's book is placed upon)also 77% of what Eli's dictated? And if it survived, why didn't the Bible?
    • You mean the Torah? Yes. For the most part, it's the Old Testament with, I believe, added texts that were written after Christianity branched off. Still good to have the New Testament around.
      • The Torah contains the five books of Moses which encompass the laws and customs of Judiasm given to Moses by G-d on Mount Sinai. The Haf Tarah, a complete and separate scroll, contains the material comprising what is commonly referred to as the Old Testament. Portions of both of these texts are read during a typical Jewish Service.
    • The Torah is not the entire Old Testament. It's just the first five books: Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Numbers, and Leviticus. Further, Alcatraz's version of the Torah is likely a different translation from the NKJV of the Bible that Eli dictates.
    • No, he meant the Tanakh, (It's two books to the left of the Kings James Bible in that last scene) which stands for Torah, N'viim, K'tuvim. It contains the Torah (the first five books of Moses), the eleven books of the Prophets and the five megillot. These are also considered the Old Testament of the Bible, although they were adapted with some alterations.
  • is it just me, or was Gary Oldman doing his best Ian McShane impression for this movie? Not much of a complaint as I like both actors, but when I look back on any given scene, I keep picturing McShane in Oldman's place.
    • Interesting. I can see why someone would think that, given the similarities between Oldman's office above the bar in this movie compared to Mc Shane's office above the saloon in Deadwood. However, to me it seemed like Oldman was doing a more toned down less campy version of some of the previous bad guys he has played. Specifically, Zorg and Detective Stansfield, from The Fifth Element and The Professional. Both of which predate Deadwood.
  • Is it me or will Carnegie's town wind up worse than it was now that there's no authority keeping people in line? When he's looking out onto his bar being looted, we see a guard tied up and hanging by his ankles from the ceiling, the bartender dead and all of Carnegie's hookers are trying in vain to fight off some would-be rapists. Inferred Holocaust on a miniature level, perhaps?
    • We're only seeing the very beginning of the looting, in one bar, with only a medium group of people. We can't be sure what the situation is for the rest of the town. But either way, the town is always a living hell and women were constantly pimped/raped anyway; at least now these people have some chance to make something better for themselves.
    • Well, when it's one mortal man's will (and his hired muscle) that keeps the order, why should anyone stay orderly after he loses his power? Alternatively and less cynically, there are usually riots when a power structure collapses, and "payback" issued to the deposed leader's hangers-on; the "party" will eventually get boring and people will settle back down, but the enraged must, well, rage.
  • I'm quite sure why it happened, but I want to be sure: Did the second bullet that Carnegie's dragon shot actually Bounce off the back of Eli's head? Cause Divine Protection is one thing, but that would be awesome.
    • You have to have a keen eye, but you can see the bullet barely (we're talking millimetres) misses him, and instead tears a hold in his hoodie.
  • Why would frequent consumption of human flesh cause your hands to shake? Isn't human meat pretty much the same as any other meat?
    • It's Truth in Television. Other animals can eat our flesh with no problem, but human cannibalism results in degenerative brain disease.
      • Yes, but why? I thought that human meat was nutritionally the same as pork.
      • Yes, but it's the prion in human flesh that causes these problems for humans. Pork doesn't have that prion in it.
      • Here ye are:
      • Actually, there is also a true human prion disease caused by cannibalism (and not just new variant Creutzfelt-Jakob Disease, which is what happens when humans eat cows infected with Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy. It's called Kuru. Cannibalism does cause Mad Cow like symptoms in humans, and it's just as fatal.
      • Whoa, thanks TV Tropes. I seriously just thought they were doing that for Rule of Drama.
      • Also worth mentioning that BSE is caused the same way - cows were fed ground up cow, and it caused brain disease.
      • It may be worth pointing out that it can result in degenerative brain disease - it is quite possible to eat people and not suffer from transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (or from other diseases - other than the whole ethical and ickiness things, the big problem with eating humans is that there is no need for any disease in the food to jump species barriers, it already being in the same species). They almost certainly do not have kuru, anyway (it never got off Papua New Guinea), but they might well have, for example, eaten someone with Creutzfelt-Jakob disease.
    • Alternately, hand tremors might be something that's merely become associated with cannibalism in the popular imagination, without any hard evidence to support the connection. People in post-apocalyptic fiction tend to be paranoid and ignorant, after all.
      • This is much more plausable explaination. Kuru is prion disease from small chunk of Papua New Guinea, virtually extinct now. To carry it from there to any other place than Papua it would require ill person to be transported there and then eaten by local population. This, combined with fact that kuru is more or less historical disease now, makes it virtually impossible spread anywhere. On the other hand, kuru is very famous for it's cause and symptoms, so it's often related with portrays of cannibalism in fiction.
    • There's at least one post-nuclear novel in which cannibals tend to come down with radiation sickness because they're eating something high on the food chain, so are concentrating the isotopes from their food and their food's food in themselves.
  • Can't start a religion without a Bible? What, did the nuclear war zap imaginations as well?
    • I think the idea is that while Carnegie knew how to keep his goons in line, he didn't have the charisma to inspire people and he knew it. With a Bible, however, he'd actually have something substantive to back him up.
    • Also it is strongly implied that Carnegie is a lapsed Christian himself. While he wants the book primarily for power, he probably wants a bible specifically because of the impression it once made on him. Even when he's dying and he can't use it for what he wants, he still wants to hear it, an almost Luciferian lament for the glory of God that he turned his back on.
  • Wouldn't post-war people just burn every religious text, just in case? Right now, many Westerners think that the Qur'an may be the problem thanks to the Muslim extremists. Based on the level of technology and the remains we can see, it doesn't look like the war happened in the far future but around this time.
    • Isn't that exactly what they did, but missed one?
      • Exactly, which made Eli's text so valuable...
      • I just don't think it would happen. Too many people would save them. I'm not a very religious person, but I could never destroy a bible, or the Kuran for that matter.
      • Yeah okay you save one but then you die/your house collapses so nobody knows where it is and it's exposed to the elements; do you really think it'll still be in good condition? Then the people that are activity looking for the books want to destroy them, and people that come after probably can't even read, let alone figure out the importance of such texts, and use it as fuel for a fire.

Did we all forget about technology?
  • The guy has a freaking iPod! He could have recorded the whole bible to it as an audio file.
  • The guy has a freaking iPod! He could have saved a text file on it with the whole Christian, Jewish and Muslim canons(not showing preference, just alphabetical order.) Probably even Buddhist and Shinto and so on if it was 60GB.
  • The guy has a freaking iPod! And he walked across the country...and never found a laptop?
  • He actually can't stand Al Green, he just can't upload any new songs...
  • The guy has a freaking iPod! ... he has to deal with the DRM.
  • The guy has a freaking iPod!—that breaks down and runs out of battery juice, with no certainty that either can be remedied.
  • The guy has a freaking iPod!- that in all probability he only found recently, for the reason above. Plus he doesn't have the tech to upload anything else onto it (even if he found a laptop, the Internet is down and there is no electricity to power either, so unless the computer already has both batteries and happens to have the texts he's looking for, it would be pretty useless; plus he's nearly-blind, so he also won't be able to see what he's doing, and he might have walked by dozens of them without noticing).
  • The guy has a freaking iPod!...that depending on its date of manufacture, may not be usable with between 80 and 90% of the computers that existed prior to the apocalypse (I can't tell if it's a second generation model or not) and accordingly, 80 to 90% of computers that might still exist. Assuming, of course, he could find the necessary cable, computer, and electricity to start with.

  • So, Solara shows Eli where Carnegie gets his water from, hoping that he would let her travel with him. When they get out, he says he forgot his glasses inside, sends her to get them, and locks her in. He insists that he isn't a liar, because he never said he would take her with him. So, telling her that he forgot hi glasses when he actually didn't isn't considered lying.

  • Why wasn't Malcolm McDowell listed in the credits? Granted, his role wasn't huge, but it wasn't miniscule either, and he's a fairly well-known actor.
    • Generally speaking, when actors go uncredited, it's because they request it for whatever reason. James Earl Jones declined being credited for his work as Darth Vader, for instance. Now, why Malcolm specifically went uncredited, or why he would request to go uncredited, I couldn't say.
  • The men searching for Carnegie's book could not read, and could not distinguish between the bible and other books. Did it never occur to Carnegie to describe it in the way that Solar described it to him (I.E. a book with a cross on the front or in the first few pages)?
  • When Eli was attempting to leave town and was confronted by Carnegie, why did he not even try to appease Carnegie with "I have to take it somewhere to be reproduced first, then you can have the first print". It would have saved a lot of lives (of Carnegie's men). Heck, Carnegie might have even offered them the station wagon & enough fuel to get to/from the place, along with his lead henchman to 'keep him honest'.
    • I realize fuel was tight, but the wagon apparently had enough to reach L.A., and the extra might have been siphoned (if necessary) from the tanks of the other fuel guzzler vehicles they drove.
    • Given Carnegie's intent to use the book to coerce and control people, it's unlikely he would've agreed to any plan that involved sharing the book.
  • We are led to believe that the entire world is in drought for most of the movie, yet when they reach the coast it is obviously green. Why the heck were they still hunkered down in the water challenged interior?
    • It's stated at some point in the movie that it is the common belief of the people inland that "Nothing Lies to the West", because they don't have any proof and therefore don't believe that anything is left in the west... so they instead take shelter in inland towns where they can be safer.
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