The Hermit is a legend. Thought to be a murderer and the only person known to have successfully made it into Hell, he's a great campfire story… but was he also real? And if he did once live, was he really a murderer? As is often the case with legends, there's a bit of truth and a bit of lie swirling around in the stories people tell about the Hermit.
When Ellie stumbles upon the Hermit's hut and discovers some hidden papers of his, it appears that perhaps he didn't murder his family after all, and that hiding away in Hell was a way for him to escape the gossip that outcast him from society. Just like Ellie and her pals are hiding away to keep safe from unfriendly factions in town, so, too, was the Hermit.
Illusion is a theme that comes up throughout this story, and as Ellie uncovers the truth about the Hermit, readers are reminded once again that things are not always as they seem. Just as Hell is the safest place the kids can find, the Hermit is someone to feel sympathy for instead of fear.