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Everyone I have cared for has either died or left me. Everyone… f-cking except for you. So don’t tell me that I would be safer with someone else because the truth is I would just be more scared.
—Ellie, to Joel.

Joel x Ellie is the family ship between Joel and Ellie from the The Last of Us fandom.


The Last of Us (1)[]

Joel and Ellie meet each other for the first time after Marlene assigns Joel the mission of taking care of her and taking her on a quest across the country. Joel has transformed into a hardened smuggler who's done plenty of horrendous things in the name of survival. Ellie is no polar opposite of Joel, as she too has suffered great loss and pain from the apocalypse. But throughout their journey, the two are constantly challenging each other's morals, simultaneously becoming closer and further apart with each moment of tension. Their relationship, despite having plenty of ups and downs, strengthens progressively as the story goes on.

Things start to change on the way to the Firefly lab. Joel was originally assigned the mission of escorting Ellie there so they can use her to research a cure for the infection, because she is immune to the cordycep fungi. However, things don't exactly end well. Joel ends up murdering the Firefly medical team and escaping the makeshift hospital with an unconscious Ellie who was moments away from surgery. As the two flee, Ellie begins to question what really happened in that hospital. Joel tells her a lie and avoids the fact that he broke Ellie out to save her life. It's from here where the seeds of doubt are placed in Ellie, wondering if Joel was telling the truth about the Firefly lab.

Later on, Ellie and Joel arrive in Jackson, Wyoming, where his brother Tommy has established a settlement of survivors, a community united in solidarity and self-sustained. In the years between, Joel and Ellie's bond strengthens again to a much greater degree. Now that the two aren't consistently on the road together and aren't forced to be together, the two truly enjoy each other's company without any caveats. Much of this is fleshed out with flashbacks, where Joel and Ellie are exploring the areas near Jackson, prior to the beginning of The Last of Us. The two truly form a father-daughter bond, until the most recent flashback before the events of The Last of Us Part 2 begin.

The Last of Us Part 2[]

Around four years after the two arrived in the settlement, their relationship is still strong, but during a recent flashback, Ellie has learned about the truth of the night Joel broke Ellie out of the Firefly hospital. Ellie understands, but there's still a loss of trust between them that's inferred prior to Joel's last patrol, particularly with a fight that broke out between Ellie and a member of the community (Seth) where Joel had intervened. Maria asks about Joel and Ellie very quickly dismisses her, not only because of the awkwardness of the situation but also because of what she most recently learned.

Ellie discovers that Joel lied and stops speaking to him. They are only just starting to patch things up when Abby kills Joel, leaving Ellie with even more survivor's guilt than she started with. And because Joel was like a father to Ellie, their bond fuels Ellie's quest for revenge. However, Ellie does have some relief, knowing that in their final conversation, she told Joel she might be able to forgive him. She then knows Joel died knowing that she still loves him . And Joel even showed his full support of Ellie's love with Dina, fully happy for her.


Joel and Ellie use music as a way to connect with and understand each other. At the beginning of The Last of Us Part II game, Joel sings Pearl Jam’s “Future Days” to Ellie, and it becomes a song that she uses to remember him later on.


Ellie and Joel's father-daughter bond is very beloved within The Last of Us fandom. Fans have made countless analysis and essay-like dissertations about their bond, even describing their relationship as "one of the most emotionally evocative elements of The Last of Us."[1] Fans often highlight the way in which they both saved their lives in significant ways, by being each other's driving forces and each other's found family. And along with all the thoughtful and deep analyses fans have made about their relationship, fans also adore their funny moments and bickering, which gets reflected in the many "funny moments" compilations made for the pair on YouTube.



Ellie & Joel tag on AO3


  • The guitar and music play a huge symbolic role in Joel and Ellie's bond in the series.
Ellie & Joel guitar symbol

In The Last of Us: Part 2, Joel’s guitar makes various appearances even after his death. In an early scene in The Last of Us: Part 2, Joel plays the guitar for Ellie before gifting it to her and telling her they’ll begin guitar lessons the following day. So, when Joel is killed shortly after, it makes sense why she continues to practice the instrument throughout the game. One of the last things Joel wanted was to see her learn guitar, and since it may have been her last gift from him, it’s one of the final things she could cling on to following his unexpected death.

Ellie plays Joel's guitar

At the end of the game, Ellie leaves the guitar behind in the farmhouse she lived in and shared with Dina. Ellie is unable to play the guitar anymore at the end of The Last of Us: Part 2, not because she doesn’t want to, but because she’s being forced to move on. During her final encounter with Abby, the person who killed Joel, Abby bites off two of Ellie’s fingers. So, when Ellie goes to pick up the guitar again upon her return to the farmhouse, she’s not able to play it like she used to. Rather, she’s forced to move on in the same way that walking away from Abby and Lev forces her to move on from losing Joel.

Ellie leaves Joel's guitar on the farmhouse

Ellie leaves Joel's guitar on the farmhouse

When Ellie puts down the guitar at the end of The Last of Us 2 and walks away without it, she’s not only accepting that she can no longer play the instrument. Rather, she’s also accepting that it’s time to move on from being so consumed over Joel’s death, and put an end to this dark chapter in her life. The Last of Us: Part 2's guitar is Ellie’s last connection to Joel, and even though she’ll always have their memories together, leaving the instrument behind is her way of finally saying goodbye.



The Last of Us logo
The Last of Us ShipsThe Last of Us Characters
SHIPS het Joel x Tess
slash Bill x Frank
femslash EllabsEllieDinaEllieRiley
poly JesseEllieDina
family Joel & Ellie
CHARACTERS female Ellie Williams