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Eleven is a major character in the first and second seasons of Stranger Things. Born with many psychokinetic gifts, she was raised and experimented on in Hawkins National Laboratory.

After escaping from the lab, she is found by Mike, Lucas and Dustin. Upon discovering her abilities, Mike believes that she can help find Will, their missing friend. It is eventually revealed that, in a lab experiment, she made contact with a monstrous creature from another dimension, accidentally opening an inter-dimensional gateway. Eleven eventually faced and destroyed this Monster in a showdown at Hawkins Middle School, mysteriously vanishing in the process.

History

Birth and Early Life

In the early 1970s, a young woman named Terry Ives participated in the controversial government program known as MKUltra. [1] As a test subject, Terry would take part in experiments involving psychedelic drugs and sensory deprivation.

Unbeknownst to Terry, she had somehow become pregnant during this period. She gave birth to a girl, naming her Jane. Due to the experimentation on Terry, Jane was born with various extraordinary psychokinetic abilities.[2] Immediately after her birth she was abducted and raised by Dr. Martin Brenner, whom she referred to as “Papa.” Growing up in the lab, she was not referred to by her given name, instead being labeled as “011,” showing her place as a test subject.

While Terry believed her daughter was still alive, Terry's sister believed Jane was not real. Due to her birth being covered up as a miscarriage, there were no birth certificates or medical records of Eleven's existence, allowing her to be the "perfect human test subject."[1]

Psychic Training

Eleven was trained by the government in Hawkins National Laboratory. Through tests, scientists wished to discover and enhance the extent of her psychic abilities. She was the subject of at least four experiments.

In the first known experiment, Eleven was presented with a cola can, which she then crushed using telekinesis. Although her nose began bleeding soon afterwards, Dr. Brenner seemed pleased nonetheless.

The next involved using her powers to manipulate a living creature. Dr. Brenner presented Eleven with a cat, but she refused to do anything to it. As punishment for her refusal, she was dragged to a cell by two guards. She killed the guards in anger before they could lock her in, showing Brenner that she was indeed capable of using biokinesis.[3]

Brenner wanted to test Eleven's ability to eavesdrop over long distances. Eleven was ordered to repeat words stated by an individual elsewhere in the laboratory. She didn't repeat the words through her voice, but instead made the individual's words play over a wall speaker.[4]

The Flea and the Acrobat S01-E05 SS 001

Eavesdropping

Eventually, Brenner wanted Eleven to eavesdrop over an even greater distance. She was placed in a sensory deprivation tank, where she entered a psychic state in which she could reach out to other living creatures in different locations. In this state she was ordered to spy on a Russian agent. Although Eleven successfully followed this instruction, she unwittingly came across a mysterious creature. A terrified Eleven panicked and the experiment was aborted.[5]

Dr. Brenner was intrigued and wanted her to make contact with the creature. The experiment was repeated; Eleven entered the tank once again. Immersed in the psychic state, Eleven made contact with the monster. At that moment, a gate cracked open between Hawkins Laboratory and the monster's dimension — allowing it to enter their dimension. In the ensuing chaos Eleven escaped the lab through a drain pipe and fled into the surrounding woodlands of Hawkins.

Season One

Walking through the woods, Eleven came across Benny Hammond's diner and attempted to steal food, but Benny caught her and prevented her escape. He clothed, fed and attempted to communicate with her. She was reserved and didn't say much, but eventually revealed that her name was Eleven. Thinking she was a victim of child abuse, Benny called social services. Agent Connie Frazier from Hawkins Lab arrived, posing as a social worker, and immediately shot Benny. Eleven fled the diner, killing two other agents in the process.[6]
Stranger Things 1x01 – Eleven in the Rain

Eleven found in the forest by Mike, Dustin and Lucas.

Later that night, Eleven was found drenched in rain in the forest by Mike Wheeler, Lucas Sinclair, and Dustin Henderson as they searched for their missing friend Will Byers.[6] They brought her back to Mike's basement, where they argued about what to do with her. Lucas and Dustin were cautious and wanted to call the police, but Mike decided against it and made a pillow fort for Eleven to sleep in.

The next day, Mike skipped school to accommodate Eleven, giving her the nickname "El." Mike wanted them to get help from his mother, but Eleven refused and told him that "bad" people were looking for her. During a tour of the house, she recognized Will in a photograph. Dustin and Lucas came to Mike's house after school, and Mike told them Eleven could help them find Will. Lucas was still insistent on telling their parents, but Eleven stopped him by shutting the door using her powers.

Stranger Things 1x02 – Eleven explaining the Upside Down

Eleven explains Will's hiding place.

Later that evening, the boys explained the concept of a friend and a promise to Eleven. To demonstrate where Will was hiding, she flipped their Dungeons & Dragons board over to demonstrate that he was in an "upside down" dimension. She placed Will's player piece on top and the Demogorgon piece next to it, which symbolized the monster.[7]

The next day, Eleven was alone at Mike's house and watched a Coca-Cola advertisement on television, reminding her of the experiment involving the cola can. When the boys came home from school, they commenced "Operation Mirkwood," where Eleven led them through the woods to find evidence relating to Will. She led them to the Byers house, but was unable to explain that Will was there, but in the other dimension. Police cars raced by and the group followed them to the quarry, where they saw what appeared to be Will's corpse being dragged out of the water. Feeling hurt and betrayed, believing Eleven to be a liar, Mike lashed out at her and raced home on his bike.[3]

Returning to Mike's basement, Eleven proved that she was not lying about Will, projecting his voice through Mike's radio, and he was heard faintly singing one of his favourite songs. The following day, Mike showed El doing this to Dustin and Lucas, who wondered if Will had become a ghost. After further discussion the boys theorized that Will was stuck in the Vale of Shadows, a "dark echo" dimension of death and decay, which Eleven labeled The Upside Down.

The Body S01-E04 SS 001

Eleven connects with Will

They dressed Eleven up in a wig and dress and brought her to Hawkins Middle so she could use Mr. Clarke's more powerful Heathkit radio to communicate with Will. They were stopped by Mr. Clarke, who made them attend an assembly for Will. After the assembly, Mike confronted the bully Troy regarding the jokes he made about Will during assembly. Troy attempted to hit Mike, but Eleven froze him in place using her powers and made him urinate down his pants in front of several other students. Later they used the heathkit radio and heard Will talking to his mother from The Upside Down. The radio eventually caught fire.[4]

The Flea and the Acrobat S01-E05 SS 003

Lucas is knocked down

After talking to Mr. Clarke at Will's funeral, the boys decided to follow their compasses, believing they would be led them to a hypothetical gate to the other dimension, assuming that the gate would affect the local magnetic field. However, Eleven manipulated their compasses to keep them away from Hawkins Lab. When the boys realized, Mike and Lucas argued about whether she was trustworthy. A fight erupted between the two, and Eleven, in an outbreak of emotion, flung Lucas into the air using her powers, knocking him out. Mike screamed "What is wrong with you?" at Eleven, and she fled the scene, overwhelmed with emotion.[5]

In the woods, Eleven took off her wig and despaired as she looked into her reflection in a pool of water. Lost on the streets, Eleven entered a supermarket to steal boxes of Eggos which she had developed a great fondness for. An employee attempted to stop her thievery, but she walked out and broke two glass doors using her powers.

Stranger Things 1x06 – Eleven to the Rescue

Eleven comes to Mike and Dustin's rescue.

As Eleven sat alone in the forest, tucking into the Eggo boxes, she faintly heard Mike and Dustin shouting her name as they searched for her. The two boys were suddenly ambushed by Troy and his friend James, who were seeking revenge following his humiliation at the gym. They threatened Dustin with a knife and blackmailed Mike into jumping from a cliff. Eleven appeared just in time, levitating Mike back to safety and breaking Troy's arm. She reconciled with Mike and Dustin before returning to Mike's home.[1]

Mike and Eleven shared an intimate moment in his basement before Dustin interrupted to alert them that Lucas was communicating via radio, warning them that the "bad men are coming." The three escaped on bike while agents from Hawkins Lab pursued them. Eleven used her powers to flip one of their vans over and they made a narrow escape. The kids went to a junkyard, where Lucas and Eleven apologized to one another. After realizing that agents were still searching for them, they shoved their bikes under an old bus wreck and hid inside.

The Bathtub S01-E07 SS 001

Eleven in the bathtub.

Chief Hopper, who now knew of Eleven's existence, communicated with the group through Will's radio and came to escort them to the Byers house, where they met with Joyce, Jonathan and Nancy. Eleven tried communicating with Will through one of the boys' radios to no avail, but she suggested they could use a "bath" instead. The group broke into Hawkins Middle School and set up a bathtub filled with saltwater to serve as a makeshift sensory deprivation tank. Joyce commended Eleven for her bravery, ensuring she would be there for her as she floated in the tub. Eleven got into the bathtub and began to float, entering her mental void. Immersed in this psychic state, she scoured through the Upside Down in an attempt to discover the status of Will and Barbara Holland. Eleven first found Barbara's corpse, and in response Eleven hysterically and repeatedly shouted "Gone!" Joyce comforted her, calming her down. She eventually found Will alive, but weakened, hiding in Castle Byers. Eleven told him to stay strong and ensured him his mother was coming for him. Will responded, telling Eleven to hurry, before she suddenly lost contact.[8]

The kids were left alone in the school while Joyce and Hopper went to the lab, and Nancy and Jonathan went to the Byers house. Mike invited Eleven to be his date at the Snow Ball school dance and the two shared a kiss.

As part of an "agreement" he made with the laboratory to save Will, Hopper revealed Eleven's location. Agents arrived at the school to capture her, but Eleven killed most of them by crushing their brains, an exhaustive process which drained her of energy and caused her to briefly collapse.

Dr. Brenner and his team of agents found Eleven and the boys. As the boys were restrained and held back by agents, Brenner talked to Eleven, telling her that she would be returned to the lab - however Eleven resisted, calling and reaching out for Mike.
The Upside Down S01-E08 SS 001

Eleven's sacrifice

The Monster was attracted by pools of spilt blood, breaking through the wall. The Monster began a spree of violence, attacking Dr. Brenner as surviving agents let go of the boys and opened gunfire.This allowed the kids to escape, with Dustin carrying Eleven.

For a while, the four kids outran and evaded the creature, hiding in their science teacher's classroom. Eventually the Monster found them, breaking into the room and attacking them. The boys attempted to fight it with their wrist rocket, but the weapon had little to no effect against it. Though she was drained, Eleven decided to confront the creature, pinning it against the blackboard with her mind, while also immobilising Mike to prevent his intervention. After wishing farewell to her friends, she proceeded to disintegrate the beast's body into a thick mist - a mist in which she too vanished.

A month later, Hopper left the police station with Christmas party leftovers, including Eggo Waffles, and placed them in a concealed box in the woods.[9]

Personality and traits

Raised in Hawkins National Laboratory, completely deprived from socialization, Eleven was timid, socially withdrawn and very cautious of other people. However, she became fiercely protective and showed unyielding loyalty towards those who cared for her, to the point that she sacrificed herself to get rid of the monster threatening to harm her friends.

She had severe claustrophobia stemming from being locked in a cramped room when she did not follow Dr. Brenner's demands. Due to a very limited vocabulary, she could not properly communicate her thoughts and feelings, and had no understanding of simple concepts like friendship or a promise. Her difficulties communicating often lead to her being misunderstood. Despite this, she was a quick learner and came up with creative ways of explaining concepts, as shown when she used the Dungeons & Dragons game board to explain The Upside Down.

The use of her powers was usually triggered by episodes of intense stress and fear, thus they were sometimes released in unpredictable ways, like when she flung Lucas away because he attacked Mike. Eleven showed a strong reluctance towards harming innocent life and had no malicious intent, but was sometimes forced to severely injure or kill people due to her extreme circumstances. She did not take this lightly, as these instances were always followed by strong emotions of guilt and self-loathing.

Powers and abilities

Eleven was born with a vast array of natural psychical powers, most of which lay dormant until they were trained and developed at the Hawkins National Laboratory. Using these powers, she would suffer nosebleeds and become physically exhausted. In extreme cases, her eyes and face became bloodshot and she bled from her ears as well.

StrangerThingsBus

Eleven flinging a large van in the air.

Her most recurrent power was telekinesis – the ability to move and influence physical objects without touching them. She demonstrated this through moving objects at will, and could even suspend people in mid air. The largest object she has been known to manipulate was a heavy van which she flung in the air and flipped on its head. The telekinesis could also be used specifically to manipulate living creatures. She first demonstrated this when she killed a guard in Hawkins Lab by breaking his neck using her mind. She later made Troy urinate on himself and broke his arm. During the battle at Hawkins Middle School, she killed several agents by applying some form of pressure to their heads, causing them to bleed from their eyes. She eventually disintegrated the monster using this ability, which exhausted her powers to the point that her eyes and face became bloodshot, and she disappeared along with the monster.

Eleven also had the ability to gain information through the mind rather than the physical senses, commonly referred to as extrasensory perception. She could recognize people taken into The Upside Down from photos, though she had presumably never met them before, and could sense Will's corresponding location in the other dimension. To some extent and with varying results, she could transmit the voice of people in other locations over electronic speakers.

Stranger Things 1x06-Eleven's mental void

Eleven in the void of her mind, using sensory deprivation.

Her extrasensory perception was at its strongest when it was aided by sensory deprivation and she floated in a completely darkened pool of water. Then, she could enter a mental void where she was able to observe people and creatures in different physical locations, even other dimensions. She could also make contact with them, or remain unseen while eavesdropping on them if she chose to. While in this mental void, she was still able to communicate with her physical surroundings to some extent.

Appearances

Season One appearances
The Vanishing of Will Byers The Weirdo on Maple Street Holly, Jolly The Body
The Flea and the Acrobat The Monster The Bathtub The Upside Down

Memorable Quotes

  • "Papa?"
  • "Friends don't lie."
  • "Mouthbreather."
  • "Goodbye, Mike."
  • "Promise?"
  • "No more."
  • "Pretty."
  • "Bad."
  • "Still pretty?"
  • "Night, Mike."
  • '"I understand."

Relationships

Behind the Scenes

Eleven was heavily influenced by E.T. However, the Duffers also wanted to keep an underlying sense of danger and instability, saying "Eleven isn’t a normal girl, and she’s no gentle plant-collecting alien either. She has unpredictable supernatural powers that will most definitely put our boys in jeopardy." As a result, they also incorporated elements from the anime Elfen Lied, as well as the 1988 anime film Akira,into her character, though with “less bloodshed.”[10] It's also possible Eleven was based on characters from the works of Stephen King, such as Carrie White and Charlie McGee from Firestarter, although the Duffers have not cited these as specific influences.

In an interview, the Duffers revealed that the show was originally going to be more “R-rated”, especially concerning Eleven's powers. Ross said, "The Eleven character, the kind of powers she has and to have a young protagonist that’s violent — it’s not E.T. It’s not a happy situation. She’s killing people, and brutally murdering them." [11] This could imply that her character originally had a lot more in common with Elfen Lied, while the E.T. elements were added later to tone it down.

Out of all the roles, Eleven was the most difficult to cast due to her having to convey various emotions with little dialogue. The role also required staying in character even while not talking. The Duffers feared they wouldn't be able to find someone who could stay focused throughout an entire scene. However, when they met Millie Bobby Brown those fears vanished, with the Duffers even saying she has a "preternatural talent".[10] To help ease her worries about shaving her head, the Duffers showed Millie pictures of Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road.[12]

Trivia

  • She is extremely fond of Eggos.
  • The clothes Mike gave her to change into the first night she stayed are the same clothes he was wearing the day before.
  • While Eleven's age is never explicitly stated, Joyce mentioned that Terry had been looking for her daughter for twelve years, indicating she is 12 years old during the events of the first season.
  • The pink dress she wears originally belonged to Nancy.
  • The blonde wig she wore has a backstory—it originally belonged to Mike's Grandmother who died of cancer.[13]
  • In Chapter 8: The Upside Down, she is wearing Hopper's blue plaid shirt instead of her usual windbreaker.
  • As evidenced by the drawing on her cell wall, she does know how to write, though the quality of her handwriting appears to be below average.
    Eleven-drawingHQ

    Eleven's drawing on her "bedroom" wall.

  • While living in the lab, she owned a plush lion identical to the one Will had in Castle Byers. Both are similar to a stuffed animal that was owned by Sarah Hopper, though hers was a tiger.
  • While she was watching the Wheelers' TV, the 1983 cartoon He-Man and the Masters of the Universe appeared briefly on the screen.
  • During a panel at Phoenix Fanfest, Millie revealed there was originally a scene of Eleven reading Nancy's diary. This scene was cut due to unknown reasons.[14]
  • She only says 246 words during the entirety of season one.[15]
  • Her nickname could be a reference to Elle Holloway from the Silent Hill series, which was one of the inspirations for Stranger Things.
    • She also has a lot in common with another character from the same series, Alessa Gillespie. Both have supernatural powers and have lived abusive childhoods. It is also interesting to note that Alessa was most likely inspired by Stephen King's Carrie.
    • El is also a Northwest Semitic word meaning god, as well as the name of a Canaanite god.[16] This could be alluding to Eleven's role in defeating the Monster, as in mythology, Demogorgon is a god or demon associated with the underworld, and was even adopted by Christian writers as a demon of Hell.
  • Before having a flashback, she reacts strongly to things that remind her of the lab's experiments. She appears to have one of these reactions while listening to Nancy's music box, however no flashback is shown.
    • The melody that the music box plays is Brahm's Lullaby. In the room that Terry kept for Jane, there is a baby mobile that plays the same lullaby. This has led fans to speculate that Eleven reacted the way she did because she “recognized” the melody.
    • It is also possible that a flashback was originally intended to be shown, but was removed, similar to the diary scene.
  • The Void, the mental space she travels to while submerged in an isolation tank, was inspired by the 2013 film Under the Skin.[17]
  • There is a visual mistake in the scene where she splashes her reflection. When she looks at herself in the water, her reflection isn't flipped like it should be.
  • Her reference to the scientist who raised her as 'Papa' is directly reminiscent of Elfen Lied's secondary powered character, the Diclonius Nana, whose name in Japanese also means 'Seven'. Unlike Eleven, Nana's relationship with her 'Papa', Doctor Kurama , is much more tender.

Gallery

View-Gallery

Click the above image to view the gallery for Eleven.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Stranger Things Season 1: "Chapter Six: The Monster"
  2. "‘Stranger Things’ Finale: Duffer Brothers Talk Cliffhangers, Death and Season 2" Variety. July 18, 2016.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Stranger Things Season 1: "Chapter Three: Holly, Jolly
  4. 4.0 4.1 Stranger Things Season 1: "Chapter Four: The Body"
  5. 5.0 5.1 Stranger Things Season 1: "Chapter Five: The Flea and the Acrobat
  6. 6.0 6.1 Stranger Things Season 1: "Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers
  7. Stranger Things Season 1: "Chapter Two: The Weirdo on Maple Street"
  8. Stranger Things Season 1: "Chapter Seven: The Bathtub"
  9. Stranger Things Season 1: "Chapter Eight: The Upside Down"
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Stranger Things episode 2: The Duffer Brothers on finding their Eleven" Entertainment Weekly. July 16, 2016.
  11. "Stranger Things Was Originally Going to Be More R-rated" Vulture. January 9, 2017.
  12. Watch Stranger Things’ actress Millie Bobby Brown shave her head to become ElevenGeek. August 22, 2016.
  13. Confessions From The Set Of Stranger Things Season 2Refinery29. December 14, 2016.
  14. Stranger Things Millie Bobby Brown & David Harbour Panel Phoenix Comicon Fanfest
  15. "How many words does Eleven say in Stranger Things? One fan broke it down" RadioTimes. September 24, 2016.
  16. "El (diety) article on Wikipedia"
  17. "How 'Stranger Things' Created The Void" Inverse. August 2, 2016.

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