Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
I do not know whether a man or a woman
—But who is that on the other side of you?
360. The following lines were stimulated by the account of one of the Antarctic expeditions (I forget which, but I think one of Shackleton's): it was related that the party of explorers, at the extremity of their strength, had the constant delusion that there was one more member than could actually be counted.
This passage also parallels the story of Christ's resurrection in Luke 24:13-35. In this story, two of Christ's disciples meet a stranger on the road as they are travelling to Emmaus. The stranger is the resurrected Christ, but the disciples do not recognize him as they continue together to Emmaus. Christ chastises them for their lack of faith.
The third figure in The Waste Land's rendition of this story is hooded, as are the chaotic hordes in the next passage. See the note to line 366 for more about this recurring image.