Some thoughts on the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant.

As I’ve finally got around to starting the second book of the Final Chronicles, Fatal Revenant, it has brought a few thoughts concerning the series to mind. (If you’re not familiar with Covenant, the wikipedia entry provides a good starting place. Also, be warned, I will be posting a few spoilers, especially for the first two sets of Chronicles.)

I don’t remember precisely when I first picked up Lord Foul’s Bane but it must have been back when I was in my early teens. I fell in love with The Land almost immediately, and I completely failed to understand Covenant’s Unbelief. It’s perhaps embarrassing to admit, but I had fantasies of striding The Land, wielding the white wild magic gold, and being proclaimed the saviour. In this I suppose I was much like Hile Troy in The Illearth War…

What I failed to realise is that in the First Chronicles the question of The Land’s reality is central to Covenant’s eventual victory; his Unbelief means that he is not too afraid of Foul to combat him, yet his love for The Land motivates that combat. There is no way that Hile Troy could ever have defeated Foul; Covenant’s Unbelief is the only way to win.

In the First Chronicles, Donaldson is careful not to make explicit whether the Land is truly real, notwithstanding the hints that the mysterious beggar from the beginning of Lord Foul’s Bane is actually The Land’s Creator. (It is equally possible that Covenant, in his delirium, has imagined this along with the whole of his experiences in The Land.) The paradox of the white gold seems to rely on the paradox of the reality (or otherwise) of The Land.

And yet, in the Second Chronicles, this perfectly balanced paradox is completely set aside. Lord Foul is able to reach out from The Land to possess Joan Covenant, to influence religious cultists, and of course Linden is taken to The Land as well. (This is even more so in the Final Chronicles, where Jeremiah has built replicas of Revelstone and of Gavin Threndor in Linden’s house from building blocks.) The question of the Land’s reality is seemingly settled. How then can Foul be defeated?

The Ravers

The Ravers’ names interest me; each of their “native” names (turiya, samadhi, moksha) are Sanskrit terms from Hinduism and Buddhism. All three words could be interpreted as meaning “pure consciousness”. Their more commonly used names (Herem, Sheol, Jehannum) are based on Hebrew words and mean approximately “accursed, outcast”, “the grave, the afterlife”, and “hell”.

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