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Around halfway through the film, the ship encounters a 'spear', a long cylindrical object moving on a parallel trajectory to the Aniara, at a marginally higher speed. The captain and senior crew seem convinced that it's a probe sent from Earth and likely containing fuel rods.

However,

the probe proves to be made of an impenetrable element not on the current periodic table. We see attempts to cut it with drills, blowtorches and lasers and scanned it with with geiger counters, x-rays and electron microscopy to try to find out what's in it. At the very end of the film we see that they've even tried explosives to get into it, all to no avail

enter image description here

So what is the 'Spear', who sent it and why?

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    sly wink to Rama perhaps? also - <insert "point" / "tip of the spear" pun here>
    – NKCampbell
    Commented Oct 5, 2019 at 23:55
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    @NKCampbell - Personally, I assumed it was extraterrestrial in origin. Only a few years have passed on Earth and pretty much anything that's made by people is going to have writing (or at least marks) all over on it.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 5, 2019 at 23:56
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    @NKCampbell - And yes, I was going for a pun. Because why not
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 5, 2019 at 23:59
  • Cool shuttle picture! Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 18:27

5 Answers 5

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If you go to the original poem, the spear appears in poem 53.

As in the movie, it is travelling in the same direction, but in the poem it is moving faster and the encounter is brief. There is no answer as to what it is or where it came from - the text is explicit that there is no answer to the question:

But no one knew, and nobody could know.

Some tried to guess, but nobody believed.

It has an impact on the way people think:

But nonetheless this vision had

the power to alter many people’s brains:

Three went mad, one was a suicide.

And still another started up a sect

Assuming the movie follows the poem in intent, the spear has no meaning in and of itself; it's narrative purpose is to change how people (those on the ship, and the reader/viewer) think.

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I really thought about the spear a lot. It bothered me at first but I've come to believe it was an important focal point for the message of the movie. I feel like Aniara was a study on how we believe everything is for us and within reach if we will only try to grab it - we have a hard time coming to peace with the fact that this isn't true.

If you consider my statement above and consider history "grabbing the spear" and using it has literally been what we've attempted to do since our ancestors first adopted the use of tools. To "take the spear" is to commit a tool to action in our own interests.

Here are my two theories about "what the spear was":

  1. The spear was sent from earth to destroy the Aniara in an act of mercy to save whatever remained of the crew from the truly horrifying end they eventually suffered: slowly being whittled away physically and spiritually until they were gone. This is not my favored theory however because if resources were so limited on a dying Earth this kind of mission would be a difficult/strange endeavor to pour resources into. All of humanity was being physically and spiritually whittled away - why should the people on the Aniara escape this fate at the expense of those suffering in a similar way in our solar system? But if they did send it as an act of mercy they made the weapon as cheaply as possible - delivering nuclear warheads or other explosives would've meant even more resources - it was a simple weapon that still would've been effective in space.

  2. The spear was sent from earth in a last ditch effort to save our species or life as we understand it. It was on an almost mirror trajectory as the Aniara and we learn that almost 6 million years after the Aniara began its fateful voyage it passed within a hair's width of a habital planet in the Lyra Constellation - that planet might've even snagged the Aniara in her gravity. Could the spear have contained organic matter that would propagate life in some way or even had some more complicated/crazy embryonic human 'Adam/Eve'mechanism? It probably wouldn't have worked - the people who targeted this planet didn't know for sure if it was Earth like and making life happen out of the spear would be so ridiculously implausible. BUT that is exactly the kind of absurd hope and inward looking blindness that the people on the Aniara clung to. The crew of the Aniara thought it was fuel sent from Earth to save them and intercepted our final attempt at saving the thing that is most important to us: ourselves or our understanding of life. I like this theory more than #1.

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  • I'm unsure how the spear was supposed to destroy the Aniara. It passed close by, but not sufficiently so that it represented any particular threat to the ship, nor did it explode or do anything destructive
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 16, 2020 at 17:39
  • The spear was on a trajectory to pass very close by - a near miss this close considering the distance/scale involved would be an amazing accomplishment - a hit would've been astounding. I added the last run on sentence as an edit so I don't think you saw it - I reason that if humanity really used some of their dwindling resources on a 'mercy killing' mission they might've been able to justify chucking a literal spear at the Aniara but using precious nuclear mats or advanced guidance might've been cost prohibitive. #2 is def my favored theory.
    – James
    Commented Jul 16, 2020 at 18:08
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My impression was that it must be of alien origin since our ravaged solar system could not have produced such advanced technology in the few years since Aniara went off course. My assumption was that this probe made it safely to the new system, unperturbed by the humans’ attempts to penetrate it, and was able to complete its mission on behalf of a less self-destructive species.

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    I've downvoted for the same reason I downvoted @Jayrod1318's answer. The flight path was directly from Earth to their destination (to within .001 degree of arc) which means that it couldn't have come from elsewhere. This feels like a guess.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 17:18
  • @Valorum---How do you figure? The poem says "We both had come out of the same direction." The film makes up a number to explain why the commanders hoped it came from Earth, since that theory would be nonsense if it had been off by a hair. Earth (a) could not have developed its material in <6 years (not even < the 11 of the poem) (b) would not have sent it flying at the Aniara for no reason whatsoever, and (c) would not have assumed the Aniara could open a probe that cannot be opened. The clear purpose of the Spear's material design is to survive potentially billions of years of space travel.
    – Alveric
    Commented Nov 11, 2020 at 16:18
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Clearly the probe that was intercepted was not of earthly origin and was on the same flight path towards the earth like planet. The probe’s intent was calculated panspermia but was intercepted by the crumbling Aniara. Not only did aniara defeat themselves but also another civilizations attempts to recolonize. I suppose maybe the probe could break free of the aniara but it is unlikely. Two civilizations met their fate searching for a new home.

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    Hi, welcome to SF&F. This seems like a guess; do you have any evidence that it was an alien seed ship? Answers should be supported by evidence; please read How to Answer.
    – DavidW
    Commented Nov 19, 2019 at 1:11
  • The flight path was directly from Earth to their destination (to within .001 degree of arc). It couldn't have come from elsewhere. And as DavidW notes, this feels like a guess.
    – Valorum
    Commented Nov 19, 2019 at 7:05
  • The Spear was designed to survive billions of years of space travel. Since it is clearly unmanned, its travel is one-way only. Its objective is unknowable, but if it is on the same course as Aniara (but coming from ~1B years beyond Earth) it would have reached Lyra before Aniara did. That's all we know. It could have been a seedship or a bomb, a mystery that accords well with the film's themes of hope vs despair as well as the ironic ending. Without accounting for stellar motion, it would have reached the same star system and planet around 3M years out, as it was travelling twice as fast.
    – Alveric
    Commented Nov 11, 2020 at 16:52
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My first thought was that it was indeed sent from humans as a way out for the ship, a merciful ending. And end that know one aside from some crew would have known about. But then the spear is not made of any recognizable metal and seems to be as completely useless as the rest of their efforts to find hope. It was a crushing blow to all those on board. But one still wondered if there was a simpler solution or answer to the spear for them. Using it as a guide, lassoing it as it were and letting it guide them to some kind of end? That spear was baffling and more than anything sapped any remaining hope from many people before their decent into humans more base wants and needs. Control of other, sex, to be worshipped in some way as a superior being. Also being a follower of the one true leader, proven somehow or another like a card trick. Makes us question our own concept of a higher power. How easy it may actually be to get others to believe you are a higher being. Just as Jesus told us all your sins are forgiven because I gave my life for your imperfections, all you now need to do for forgiveness is ask for it, repent, recognize with all your heart your wrong doings and you will live forever. Is there any question why Christianity took hold like a plague across the world. I say that as a devout Lutheran and follower of the teaching of Jesus.

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