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Giraffes are a recurring motif throughout The Last of Us, peaking with (and foreshadowing) the emotional encounter with the herd in Utah.
They seem to represent the idea of innocence in such devastating times, illustrated by how they are associated with children like Joel's daughter, Sarah, and Ellie. Ellie's particular attraction to giraffes is probably because she has never seen many animals before, such as zoo animals like monkeys.
They also serve to create a structural parallel in the story, as when Joel and Ellie are viewing the giraffe herd, they both subconsciously reiterate their first genuine interaction back in a Boston skyline while viewing the sunset. Joel once again asks Ellie, "This everything you were hoping for?" to which Ellie replies in the exact same manner as she did the first time; "It's got it ups and downs. You can't deny the view, though." This foreshadowed encounter is also the last moment Ellie reflects her child-like traits, not repeating such for the rest of the game.
Linking with the above, the herd of giraffes serves to display that "life goes on". They contrast the beauty of nature with horrors of the Infected and mankind, reminding Ellie there is good in the world and something to look forward to.
Locations where giraffes appearEdit
- Behind the door in Sarah's bedroom.
- One of the movies listed in the theater in Austin while the crowd is panicking is "Giraffic Park".
- One is held by a little girl following the walk through the market on the way to see Robert.
- The house behind the dog door in Bill's Town—a picture in a kid's room.
- Outside the school in Bill's Town.
- On the side of a framed picture of a dog in the room Joel and Ellie meet Sam and Henry in.
- Five in the Pittsburgh toy store—3 display placards, 2 plush toys.
- In the children's classroom in the sewers (plush toy).
- Among a collection of stuffed toy animals in the bedroom in the Ranch.
- Zoo advertisements around Salt Lake City.
- The herd in Salt Lake City from the .
- Movie theater listing for "Giraffic Park" (located in Concept Art).
- Painted on the walls in the pediatrics unit of the hospital when Joel is escaping with Ellie.
- Two in Raja's Arcade; one in the crane game machine, and another in a lucky pick game in the Left Behind DLC.
- One on Ellie's bed at Tommy's Dam (see: The Last of Us: One Night Live).