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Fatal Musings: Thomas and Linden (Draft)

 
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PostPosted: Fri May 05, 2017 1:51 pm    Post subject: Fatal Musings: Thomas and Linden (Draft) Reply with quote

Back when I posted Fatal Musings: Epic Vision, which was way back in 2010, I had mentioned that that piece had been an off-shoot of a piece I had begun even earlier. Well, that piece has done nothing but collect dust for a long while now. So I decided to just post what there was of it. It's an unfinished draft, sadly. But there is some good thinking IMHO to be found in it, which (as is always the goal) may provoke some other thinking, whether complimentary or contrary.

This piece was inspired by lucimay, who once asked, "in fact i'd love it if you or wayfriend or any number of chrons experts would explain, in laymans terms, what has happened to linden. " So I set out to do that. Basically because explorations of Linden's character were non-existent, while Covenant had been analyzed many times.

However, I had one precondition: it could not be only about Linden. Donaldson wrote Linden's story to be interwoven with Covenant's story - the two cannot be separated in any just and fair way. Hence: Thomas and Linden. (Part of that shared story is their relationship to futility and power, and there was just so much to say about that that I needed to make that a topic unto itself - so Epic Vision is a prelude to this.)

Let me also say that, like all the serious posts I do, I go into it with some ideas, but then I dig into the text, and I follow where it leads, and as I discover things and connect things my opinions change, and I emerge with new and different knowledge. Which is why I enjoy doing it.

I will post this in sections, just to make it easier for me. I will let everyone know when it is all posted. But give me a little time to get it all out.


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PostPosted: Fri May 05, 2017 2:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Introduction

Several scholarly works have been written about the Chronicles. I have read a couple: Stephen R. Donaldson's Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Variations on the Fantasy Tradition by Stephen R. Donaldson and W. A. Senior, and Stephen R. Donaldson and the Modern Epic Vision: A Critical Study of the "Chronicles of Thomas Covenant" Novels by Christine Barkley. Disappointingly, these analyses focus primarilly on the first Chronicles, and the character of Thomas Covenant. They contain substantially less material about the Second Chronicles, and what they do contain is presented as a footnote to the first Chronicles rather than a topic worthy of it's own analysis. Even Donaldson himself, in his essay "Epic Fantasy in the Modern World: A Few Observations," primarily discusses Covenant's story arc in terms of the first Chronicles only.

It seems to me that the first Chronicles is contructed in a way that readily lends itself to analyis and deconstruction, while the Second Chronicles is a much more difficult subject matter to address. It is as if the first is an artifact built with Erector Set pieces, and by looking closely you can see how it is put together, while the second is a more advanced creation, such that close examination reveals an organic mass of strange organs and connective tissue that balks mechanical explanation. The first can be explained with an instruction guide containing diagrams and arrows, while the second requires something approaching a Grey's Anatomy just to begin.

It seems to me that the character of Linden Avery has never been as thoroughly analyzed as the character of Thomas Covenant. The author has created an enigmatic character, and that enigma has been rarely pierced.

In the years since The Wounded Land was released, we've all grown accustomed to the extent of Linden's role in the Chronicles. Since she has entered the story, fully two-thirds of the Chronicles narrative is written from her point of view - twice as much as that from the titular character! (If we include the First Chronicles, then she still claims about half!)

Her character is so significant that we are sorely tempted to believe that she was intended to usurp Covenant's lead in the Chronicles, that they are more The Chronicles of Linden Avery. However, we shall see that her role is much more complex than merely that of a replacement protagonist.

Long before Linden ever appeared, Donaldson had established precidents. In the original Chronicles, fully half of the second and third books - one third of the entire trilogy - are devoted to another protagonist than Thomas Covenant. If we examine the functions of these other protagonists, it will shed some light on Linden's role in the Chronicles.

Donaldson had used alternate protagonists in the first Chronicles, to illuminate our view of Thomas Covenant. They serve at least two functions in the Chronicles that serve Covenant's character, in addition to their roles in the general plot of the stories.

Hile Troy is the first alternate protagonist we encounter. He is from Covenant's real world, which makes him comparatively similar to Covenant. But his origins also make him familiar to the reader, and this contributes to the first function he performs.

Through Troy's eyes, we get to meet Covenant all over again, and come to grips with his intransigence. Troy acts as a sort of proxy for the reader, putting the reader more directly into the story. He reacts to Covenants ascerbic moods, confronts Covenant about his unbelief, and expresses directly to Covenant contempt for his actions exactly as we might wish to.


In The Illearth War was wrote:
"Listen, Covenant. I'm trying to understand. Since the last time we talked, I've spent half my time trying. Somebody has got to have some idea what to expect from you. But I just don't see it. Back there, you're a leper. Isn't this better?"

Dully, answering as briefly as possible, Covenant said, "It isn't real. I don't believe it." Half to himself, he added, "Lepers who pay too much attention to their own dreams or whatever don't live very long."

"Jesus," Troy muttered. "You make it sound as if leprosy is all there is."

Troy's confrontations with Covenant allow Covenant to re-explain his positions anew. So, in an organic way, Covenant gets to make his case again, directly to our proxy. And, as we identify ourselves with Troy, Troy's responses to Covenant inform and validate our own responses to Covenant.

The result is that the author, through Troy, conveys to the reader quite successfully who Covenant is, and what we should think about him. When Covenant responds to Troy, he is responding to us. This is a result that serves to highlight Covenant's character, arrived at in a seemingly natural, almost invisible fashion.

Before long Covenant and Troy part ways in the story. But this only serves Troy's second function in the story, that of a foil character. (A foil is a character whose similarities to a more primary character serve to userscore the specific traits that are different.) Troy's similarities to Covenant are calculated, and in the remaining differences we come to understand more about Covenant.

Like Covenant, Troy comes to the Land from the real world. Like Covenant, he experiences impossible healing. Like Covenant, he finds himself in an unfamiliar position of power. But Troy takes the path that Covenant hasn't taken, the path of ready belief and eager devotion to the defense of the Land. It's a path we may wish Covenant to take, and when Troy takes it, we learn where it leads.

To failure. Troy fails in ways that demonstrate that Covenant's responses are more appropriate and more effective than we might have thought.


In the Gradual Interview, Stephen R Donaldson wrote:
[Troy is] "innocent" in a way that Covenant is not: he's never done anything even remotely comparable to the rape of Lena. As a result, he's bloody dangerous. He literally doesn't know what he's doing: he hasn't learned the kind of humility that comes from meeting his own inner Despiser face-to-face. Therefore, in spite of all his good intentions, he makes decisions which bear an ineluctable resemblence to Kevin's. (07/13/2004)

Troy's eager devotion makes him susceptible to despair in the face of Foul. This drives him from extremity to extremity until he comes to the inevitable Foul-serving failure. Only Mhoram's fortitude spares him before the end. Until then, the entire Warward pays the cost of his unrestrained use of power.

Therefore, we learn by contrast that Covenant's unbelief, and his reticence with power, are commendable traits in his battle with Foul. This is another result that serves to illuminate the depths of Covenant's character.

Following Troy is High Lord Mhoram, who becomes a protagonist in The Power That Preserves. Unlike Troy, this alternate protagonist is a native of the Land. But he is no stranger to the reader, as he has been a consistent hero throughout two previous books.

Through Mhoram's eyes, we witness Covenant's third summoning to the Land. Mhoram is also a proxy for the reader, but one which helps to lead us to a new perspective of Covenant. Through Mhoram, we behold Covenant's now desperate condition. Mhoram reacts to Covenant's plight with concern and pity, and he respects the Unbeliever's choices despite the evident peril. In doing so, Mhoram steers the reader into a new, more refined characterization of Covenant; he is no longer the object of our scorn, but a man who is capable of earning our admiration and affection, because he has earned Mhoram's. Again, we identify with Mhoram, and Mhoram's responses to Covenant inform and validate our own.

But, of course, Mhoram doesn't complete the summoning, and he never sees Covenant again. (At least, while he is alive.) And, like Troy, Mhoram also undertakes a new function in the story. He becomes Covenant's anti-foil (if you will) - a character whose differences to a more primary character serve to userscore the specific traits that are similar. The similarities of Mhoram's and Covenant's dilemmas, despite arriving at them in completely different ways, allows Mhoram's resolution to help us understand Covenant's.

Unlike Covenant, Mhoram believes utterly in the reality of the Land. Unlike Covenant, Mhoram is devoted to serving and protecting the Land. Unlike Covenant, Mhoram is knowledgeable and effective in his service. But Mhoram faces the same crisis that Covenant does, that of finding a balance of power, passion, and principle that will serve salvation and not Despite.

For Mhoram, despite his great talents, is still insufficient in the face of the Land's need. The problem, he comes to realize, is within himself.


In the Gradual Interview, Stephen R Donaldson wrote:
Mhoram [understood] that the Oath of Peace has been, well, misapplied. It is literally a prescription for behavior; but it has been taken as a proscription against passion. Yet passion is power, as Covenant so often demonstrates. (And power is dangerous: therefore the Bloodguard knowingly, and the people of the Land unwittingly, have suppressed their access to it.) Mhoram learned to find his own version of "the eye of the paradox": the point where both passion and control can be affirmed. (11/24/2004)

When Mhoram learns to release his passion, without letting himself be ruled by passion, he achieves a balance of power, passion, and principle that makes him stronger and more effective than ever before. This knowledge bears a heavy price, as it casts doubt on the Oath of Peace and scuttles the use of Kevin's Ward-protected Lore. And it is dangerous, for it enables anyone mastered by despite to enact a Ritual of Desecration. His reticence in sharing his dangerous knowledge with the other Lords speaks of this cost and this danger.

In this way, we learn by comparison that Covenant must undertake a similar struggle, learn similar lessons. Unlike Mhoram, Covenant has never learned to trust in his own strength. Covenant's fear of passion comes from the very real disasters which he has unwittingly unleashed with his unwanted power. But the answer is not to give up and avoid one's power: like Mhoram, Covenant must learn to trust in himself, to unleash his passion purely, without fear of the danger it represents. He must find the "eye of the paradox", and dare his passions in order to defeat Foul.

So, both Hile Troy and Lord Mhoram have many purposes in the Chronicles. They each advance significant elements of the plot, and provide a point of view for scenes where Covenant is not present. They are compelling characters, and their story arcs involve grand achievements and hard-won lessons.

But they were not added to the Chronicles solely to provide a couple of more interesting characters. They also exist to serve Thomas Covenant. Through reinforcement, contrast, comparison, and detail, Covenant's character, his physical dilemma, and his moral one, are made more concrete and more convincing.

The addition of alternate protagonists doesn't detract from the main character; it enhances it. The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant remain about Thomas Covenant.

In many ways, Linden Avery is a character in the mold of Troy and Mhoram. Her point of view, and her conflicts, serve to illustrate Thomas Covanant in unique ways. At times she is a reader proxy, whose view of Covenant informs our view of him. At times she is a foil character, and at times she is an anti-foil character. But she is also something new and unique in the Cronicles, allowing Donaldson to explore new literary options.

Linden and Thomas have a complex literary relationship that is unparalleled. The stories of Thomas and Linden wrap around each other, build off each other, resonate with each other, and ultimately fulfill each other. The two characters are too intimately intergrown to be severed from each other. And therefore, there can be no discussion of either when it does not include the other.

In order to peel away and examine the layers of this relationship, with all it's fascinating pieces and quartz-timed movements, I will approach things according to the story chronology -- approximately. Hopefully, reviewing the details in the order that they are presented by Donaldson will allow us to organize an analysis in an accessible way. However, rather than paragraph by paragraph or chapter by chapter, I will break the story into distinct "movements", or phases. Each movement will encompass a relatively discrete and tractable stage in the development of the characters Linden and Thomas.

[In the analysis below, there are many references to ideas that I introduced in Fatal Musings: Epic Vision. That analysis was a spin-off of this one, although it was finished first. Readers might have more insight into the ideas presented here if they read the earlier work first.]


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PostPosted: Fri May 05, 2017 2:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Movement I: The Quest for Effective Passion

In the Prologue to the Second Chronicles, Donaldson exhibits genius when he chooses to re-introduce us to Thomas Covenant through Linden's eyes ... and to not introduce us fully to Linden Avery.

When the story begins, Covenant is already embroiled in Foul's mechanations. Joan is possessed, and Covenant is being led towards a confrontation which is, in his world, only a few days away. But as curious as we are about what new plot is hatching, we also want to know: What is Thomas Covenant like ... now? Because, after the first Chronicles, we expect Covenant to be different: stronger, more capable, and less tested by the viscitudes of his illness. We anticipate a heroic Covenant.

Donaldson delivers a heroic Covenant through Linden. We meet Covenant through her point of view, and we share her initial judgements. And her initial judgements is ... that he is crazy. But then: that he is strong.


In The Wounded Land was wrote:
He was such a potent individual, seemed to have so many strengths which she lacked.

Linden is impressed by Covenant's intensity, his passion, his fortitude in the face of adversity. We know where Covenant came by this strength. But Linden's admiration confirms and enforces our knowledge of it. Linden makes it tangible; through her, it descends from an abstraction into the practical real. This is critical, because Covenant's strength is subtle. He hasn't become a superhero, or cured himself of leprosy, or even become accepted in his town. His life has not overtly changed at all. But he lives that life differently. Julius Berenford remarks on Covenant's "stability" in the past ten years, but it is something so small that he can describe it all in a few sentences. And so Donaldson relies on Linden to illustrate the manifestation of Covenant's strength through her observations.

Covenant's become an "effective passion", as Donaldson describes in his essay, "Epic Fantasy in the Modern World". Covenant has walked into the dark and found answers. And now he "defies the notion of futility". In Northrop Frye's language: he's escaped the Ironic Mode. Covenant is no longer a victim of his own life.

But Donaldson didn't reveal Covenant through just any proxy. Linden is well designed. She is the best person through which to view Covenant because she is so susceptible to persons of strength. She doesn't just admire Covenant's strength, she covets it! Covenant practically glows in her eyes, because she desires what he has. And her persuit of that desire highlights everything about Covenant's strength in her eyes, and therefore ours. Through Linden, Donaldson shines a bright light on what Covenant has become, a light brighter, perhaps, than any other approach could have brought to bear.


In The Wounded Land was wrote:
She wanted to know where Covenant had learned his stability. What had changed him? Where had he found an answer potent enough to preserve him against the poverty of his life?

Why does Linden so covet the passion and potency she finds in Covenant? Why has she hungered her whole life for the answer she believes she has found in Covenant?

Linden is a leper.

Of course, not literally; Linden does not have Hansen's Disease. This is leprosy in terms of the metaphor represented by leprosy in the Chronicles. This is leprosy as Covenant meant when he thought of the people living under the Sunbane: They were like lepers; all the people of the Land were like lepers. This is leprosy as the quintessential representation of the Ironic Mode. This is leprosy as the antithesis of "effective passion".

Donaldson's metaphorical leper is a person who exhibits the attributes of the Ironic Mode protagonist.


Wikipedia wrote:
The ironic mode often shows the death or suffering of a protagonist who is both weak and pitiful compared to the rest of humanity and the protagonist's environment [...] At other times, the protagonist is not necessarily weaker than the average person yet suffers severe persecution at the hands of a deranged society.

In the Ironic Mode, the protagonist is weak and suffering, inferior to their environment. They are ineffective with regard to the dilemmas that they face. Being ineffective, their lives are futile, despite their efforts - until until they become a hero, and overcome their futility. Donaldson found his ironic mode protagonist when he found his leper, and he built his hero's story around the story of a leper's rise from futility to effectiveness.

Donaldson doesn't fully introduce us to Linden in the prologue. It isn't until more than one thick book later that we learn who Linden is, and what she has arisen from. It's only in hindsight that we can point out here, in the prologue, the signs Donaldson leaves us. Loneliness, to the point of being cut off from society. A liability for black moods. Parents who "were simply too ineffectual to go on living". A compulsion to be effective. And, almost too fast to notice it: she wanted to die.

Dr. Berenford sees the similarity between Covenant and Linden. That's another clue.


In The Wounded Land was wrote:
"Why me?"

"Well, I suppose-" Now his tone conveyed a wry smile. "I could say it's because you're well trained. But the fact is, I thought of you because you seem to fit. You and Covenant could talk to each other - if you gave yourselves a chance."

"I see." In the silence, she was groaning, Is it that obvious? After everything I've done to hide it, make up for it, does it still show?

Donaldson reveals clues, laying the groundwork for later revelations, but not wanting to diffuse our glorious reintroduction to Covenant with a throrough introduction to Linden as well. The focus remains on Covenant. I am defying Donaldson's intentions by saying, now, Linden is a leper. But there is an important point that can be made while doing so.

When we meet Covenant, it is through the eyes of a leper.

This is what crowns Donaldson's achievement here in this Prologue. Why is Linden so attracted to Covenant? Why does she covet his secrets? Because: she's a leper. Intuitively, instinctually, she recognizes that he has what she needs. He has been through the dark, and emerged with answers, answers Linden needs and has been unable to find. So of course she follows him, unknowing of where it will lead. Linden sets Covenant as her exemplar. She wants to learn what he has learned, like a acolyte gleening knowledge from an intractible guru.

Donaldson created Linden as another leper next to Thomas Covenant, but not out of any lack of imagination. This is not a re-tread; this is a way to say more. Donaldson has more to say about the escape from leprosy, and Linden is his vehicle.

Firstly, one leper is never enough. Leprosy can take many forms, and can be overcome in many ways. Linden is a second perspective on the leper. She demonstrates that you don't need to be stricken by an exotic disease to have leprosy, but rather leprosy can arise out of relatively ordinary circumstances. She is the leper that we may see in ourselves.

Secondly, Linden's story illustrates Covenant's story in greater detail. As a foil and an anti-foil, Donaldson can use Linden to clarify Covenant. With their differences, Donaldson can hone away the extraneous; with their similarities, Donaldson can reinforce the essential. Covenant, through either means, becomes more articulated.

And thirdly: If, as Donaldson claims, fantasy authors strive to demonstrate that "man is an effective passion", then it follows that we as readers feel a futility that they are trying to ameliorate. We, as readers, are attracted to the Covenant character, and covet the secrets he may reveal. In this way, a leper is the perfect character to reveal Covenant to us as we find him ten years later. She informs our re-introduction to the titular hero with her own passion to discover who he is.

In other ways, the first Chronicles requires that Linden be a leper. The Land exists to cure lepers. If the Land finds another hero, who would save the Land as the Land saves her, then she would be a leper.

The first movement presents a great example of how Linden's character enhances Covenant.

The old man in the ochre robe tests Linden, as he had Covenant, before she goes to the Land. Donaldson creates an obvious parallel story line, and this invites us to consider it. There are two lepers now, both chosen by the old man, and Donaldson would have us compare and contrast Linden and Thomas.

Linden's test involved her dedication to healing in the face of that which is repulsive to her. The old man's mouth was "foul, cankerous, and vile", a precursor of the Sunbane that she would face in the Land. And she was required to put her mouth to his, breathe his breath - she needed to take that repulsiveness inside herself in an intimate way, as she would the Sunbane. She proved she could, and passed the test. And Donaldson establishes that Linden's ability to open herself to that which is repulsive is of paramount importance.

Was Covenant tested by the old man as well? Then, he merely had a bowl, and a sign that said, "Give." If we wonder about how this relates to something about Covenant's struggles in the Land, it seems that we can find something. Covenant's test was whether or not he had left any compassion for others, in spite of having become a pariah and being frought with loneliness and rejection and despair. (This was why the old man returned Covenant's ring: he wasn't seeking a gift, he was seeking the capacity to give.) Donaldson establishes that Covenant's ability to rise above his despair and act out of a concern for others is of paramount importance.

And so we can find that the old man's tests are consistently predictive of each lepers' emotional journey in the Land. Each probes a questionable aspect of their character. Each discovers that this aspect is indeed strong. And each in some way encapsulates the tests that they will undergo in the Land.

By viewing these tests as parallel and corresponding, we can see deeper into the author's intention.
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PostPosted: Fri May 05, 2017 2:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Movement II: Past Master

From when they arrive in the Land, until Sunbane-warped Marid, Linden and Thomas enjoy a relationship based on circumstance. They are essentially strangers to each other, thrown in together with danger and adventure.

Covenant has been here before, and so he is Linden's guide. He must introduce Linden to the concepts and the players. But his description reveals as much of himself as it does about the Land.


In The Wounded Land was wrote:
"There are two completely different explanations," he said as evenly as he could. "Outside and inside. The outside explanation might be easier to accept. It goes like this." He took a deep breath. "You and I are still lying in that triangle." A grimace strained his bruises. "We're unconscious. And while we're unconscious, we're dreaming. We're sharing a dream."

Covenant is sometimes still the same old Covenant. He may no longer truly believe that the Land is just a dream, but he still considers it the easier explanation to accept. He believes it's more palatable to consider a "shared dream" than a Land with magic. Something in him still rebels against being cured of leprosy, of being thrust into the hero role.

But then Covenant continues, and provides the inside explanation as well. And when Linden asks him how to accept both explanations at once, Covenant provides Linden with the essential purpose of the Land.


In The Wounded Land was wrote:
"Face it," he said without hesitation. "Go forward. Find out what happens - what's at stake. What matters to you. Give yourself a chance to find out who you are."

But Covenant already knows who he is. Because he has been here before.

In The Wounded Land was wrote:
"I believe"- he made no effort to muffle his hardness -"that we've got to find some way to stop Foul. That's more important than anything. He's trying to destroy the Land. I'm not going to let him get away with that. That's who I am."

Covenant is sometimes the new and improved Covenant. He no longer fears the consequences of actions. He has found things he values more than his life. But also, this more important thing: Covenant chooses how he responds to the Land.

In the Gradual Interview, Stephen R Donaldson wrote:
One could argue legitimately, of course, that no prisoner is free. By definition. But one could also argue with equal legitimacy that even a prisoner is free to choose his/her attitude toward imprisonment. Indeed, one could argue that self-mastery (the ability to choose one's own thoughts and emotions) is the only truly human form of power.

In the first Chronicles, Covenant was initially ruled by fear for himself and fear of consequences. The choices he made in response to that were controlled by this fear, and he did poorly. Only when he accepted the Land, and his role in it, did he truly control how he chose to feel. Then he could choose to care for the people of the Land, and fight Foul, and win.

This lesson is behind Covenant now. He recognizes the requirement and the power of choosing one's attitude to a situation, even when no other choices are possible. A person can never be completely futile, because they always have at least this one power. The power to choose how they respond to what confronts them. The power to be true to themselves.

Covenant chooses to "stop Foul". It took him a long time to recognize that this was how to be true to himself. And, back in the Land again, he hasn't forgotten it.

And he wants Linden to learn the same lesson. Give yourself a chance to find out who you are. There's something Linden needs to find out about herself. But, equally important, she won't find it until she allows herself to. She must come to recognize that she has the power to choose how she feels. Only then can she discover how she does feel.

When Linden begins to encounter the Land, we start to see how she responds. These are not chosen responses, not yet. These are responses that tell us who she is at this time, who she has been her whole life.

When she encounters the knife that was used to slay Nassic, she is horrified. Horrified, not because of the death, but because of the dark intent behind it.


In The Wounded Land was wrote:
"Nobody kills like this. For pleasure." Dull anguish blunted her tone, blinded her face. "People don't do that."

"People kill because they're hungry. Afraid." She struggled for certitude against the indefeasible iron. "Driven. Because someone, something, forces them." Her tone sharpened as if she were gathering screams. "Nobody likes it."

Even if one were reading this passage the first time, it's an easy guess to guess that Linden is speaking about herself. She has done something, and her image of herself depends precariously on the view that she was driven to do it, and that she didn't want to do it. We know, later, that she is thinking about her mother.

Linden doesn't believe in evil. More importantly, she won't let herself believe in evil. For her, to admit that evil exists is to admit that she is evil herself. She has become a doctor to atone for this evil that she denies. A doctor: the power to save life, to counter the power that brings death. Being a doctor is a safe power, a power with no dark consequences, and so Linden thinks she has found an escape to her futility. But she is wrong, because this is a choice that arose out of fear, and one cannot be true to oneself if they deny who they are. This is not to say that Linden isn't really a doctor - no, she has become a doctor in every way that Covenant has become a leper, such that it is now a fundamental aspect of her being, something that cannot be taken away leaving her whole. But, as we know, it hasn't made the black moods disappear, it hasn't assuaged the feelings of futility, and it hasn't let her know her true self. Being a doctor is insufficient.

This same denial of evil appears again, when Covenant admits to Linden that he once raped someone in Mithil Stonedown.


In The Wounded Land was wrote:
She said thickly, "You shouldn't have told me."

"I had to." What else could he say? "It's who I am."

"No." She protested as if an accusation of evil had been raised between them. "It isn't who you are. You didn't do it intentionally, did you? You saved the Land, didn't you?"

You didn't do it intentionally, did you?" You can't have wanted it. You must have been driven, something must have forced you.

Again, she sees in Covenant's rape something like her act of murder. And so she defends it as if she is defending herself. Not only does she want Covenant to think he didn't choose to commit evil, she suggests that he should disregard it. It isn't who you are. Don't tell me about it. Bury it down inside and don't think of it. It's not supposed to matter. This is, of course, how Linden handles her own dark side. She denies it exists.

We can compare and contrast Linden with Hile Troy. Troy had not met his inner despiser face to face. Linden has, but denies it. In the end, both paths bring these characters to the same place - a place where they are dangerous because they haven't incorporated this experience into the choices that they make. They don't take their inner despiser into account. So they will make decisions that look like Kevin's decision. They will be susceptible to despair; they will serve Foul.

Covenant is Linden's guide in the Land. He's the one who has been here before, and who can explain it in the terms Linden understands. He knows the geography, and he knows the people and the culture, and the history. Linden has to rely on him for all the answers. Unfortunately for Covenant: it's all changed. Three and a half centuries have passed, and the Sunbane has made everything different than it once was. In many ways, he's as lost as Linden.

But other answers, he has. He's a past master when it comes to learning what the Land teaches you about yourself. To accept one's own dark side, and to learn to choose, and to use power guided by that choice so that one's dark side doesn't determine an outcome you don't desire. To not succomb to despair, to not serve Foul, and to not damn the Land.

Linden desires to learn from Covenant. This is what she needs to learn. Covenant is the guide who will help Linden understand power, and finally free her from the Ironic mode. He is her guide out of leprosy.
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PostPosted: Fri May 05, 2017 2:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Movement III: The Reluctant Doctor

From the encounter with Marid, to the shores of Andelain, Linden finds herself thrust into the role of Covenant's doctor. This is a role she accepts. It is condign: she is a doctor by choice. In a way, the Land has thrown her a meatball.

But even she recognizes that there's something insufficient about this role for her. She never found any answers by being a doctor before, and she doesn't now.

During this same period, she begins to explore the range of her percipience. Linden can see. See health, see inside. She can discern things that others cannot, things that are important to know.

This is power. Because she is a leper, Linden's relationship with this power is going to be very complex. And because of this complexity, there are no straightforward, obvious reactions to the things that this power brings.

On the one hand, this power is useful as a doctor. Using her percipience, she keeps Covenant alive through his bouts with Foul's venom. This is the path that lets this power past her fear, so that she will grasp it and not reject it.

But once she accepts her percipience, she is confronted by the things her percipience brings. Knowledge.

She is confronted by what she sees in Covenant's venom. It is a "moral poison". And she is confronted by the Sunbane. When she first sees the fertile sun, it bludgeons her soul. It is beyond sickness; it is evil. Because of her percipience, she can no longer escape the bare knowledge that evil is real.

Furthermore, her percipience is something she cannot escape. She sees, and she sees and she sees and she sees, and she cannot shut out what she sees.


In The Wounded Land was wrote:
The sight of her wrung his heart. "Please," he breathed. "Tell me why this hurts you so much."

"I can't shut it out." Hands, arms, shoulders - every part of her was clenched into a rictus of damned and demanding passion. "It's all happening to me. I can see - feel - the trees. In me. It's too - personal. I can't take it. It's killing me."

Her percipience excoriates her. Because it's personal. The very same percipience that allows her to see into Covenant's heart with such intimacy that she actually shares his very heartbeats, also brings into her the torture of the trees under the fertile sun, with the very same intimacy. And so she shares their pain, the pain of a whole land of trees and shrubs and grasses forced to grow frenetically, hysterically, writhing from the ground. It is pain beyond bearing, pain delivered straight into her soul by her percipience, pain which she cannot hold at arms length, but which she must partake in. It is intimate.

Her percipience leaves Linden's soul naked. Accessible, it might be soothed, but under the Sunbane it is flayed. Is it any wonder, then, that Linden comes to fear her percipience, fear using it? To use it is to open yourself, to tear down the walls between you and the world. Then you can see, but it's a two way street, and the cost is lowering your defenses, dropping the walls that keep out the world. Then anything can get in, anything at all.

So Linden wants her percipience, and needs it, but also fears it, fears what can happen when she uses it.

Covenant, in his first Chronicles, never wanted power, although he well recognized that his life was shaped by a lack of it. Covenant feared the consequences of power. He feared what it would do to him, and he came to fear for those others who inevitably would pay the price of his power. The Land challenged Covenant by thrusting power, and the need for power, upon him. And he dealt with those consequences, again and again. Most if all, he feared it would undermine his life-sustaining self-control. It would seduce him. Which is another way of saying, he feared what self-desctruction his inner despiser would be capable of.

This is the fear that Hile Troy lacked, the "kind of humility" he had never learned, which led him down Kevin's path. Linden is like and unlike Hile Troy in this respect. She has not learned that kind of humility, either. With a subtle difference: unlike Troy, her problem is not that she never has never given her dark self reign and learned about the consequences; she has, but she denies the consequences of having done so. The result is the same, in that she doesn't have the appropriate fear of power that comes from having dealt with consequences.

But unlike Covenant, Linden desires power. She desires it for the secrets that will rescue her from her black moods and ineffectuality. Here in the Land, she is learning that effectiveness comes from having power: specifically, the kind of overt power she sees Covenant, Sunder, and Hollian weild, the power of the Sunbane and of white gold, the power to influence events and change the world. Her yearning for the dark might of death. This is not precisely the right answer, or the answer that she needs, but it is an honest mistake. As Linden comes to equate effectiveness with this kind of power, she will become more and concerned about acquiring her own power.


In The One Tree was wrote:
"There's a part of me that wants to do it. Take over him. Take his power. I don't have any of my own, and I want it." Want it. All her life, she had striven for power, for effectiveness against death. For the means to transcend her heritage - and to make restitution. If she had possessed Covenant's power, she would have gladly torn Gibbon soul from body in the name of her own crime. "That's what paralyzes me. I've spent my life trying to deny evil. When it shows up, I can't escape it." She did not know how to escape the contradiction between her commitment to life and her yearning for the dark might of death. Her father's suicide had taught her a hunger she had satisfied once and dreaded to face again. The conflict of her desires had no answer.

What Linden fears is not the consequences of power, but what she must lose of herself in order to obtain it. Her percipience comes with a price. It leaves her open, open to the pain and suffering of others, and of the Land itself. It leaves her open to evil, and forces her to relinquish her denial of evil. I've spent my life trying to deny evil. And thus it forces her to confront her own dark motives, her inner despiser. Linden doesn't want to pay this cost. She would, if she could have it, have her power for free.

The Sunbane attacks Linden at the heart of this fear. The Sunbane assures her that evil exists. For Linden, this is tantamount to assuring her that she is to blame for her parents' deaths. This is how the Sunbane flays Linden's soul. For her, it is an existential crisis, one she is not prepared to handle. And, as it is her percipience that delivers this crisis, she hates it even as she covets it's power. Unlike Covenant, she fears the consequences of her power, not for what it does to others, but for what it does to herself.

It is no wonder then that Covenant, Linden, and Sunder speak of exactly this dilemma during this movement.


In The Wounded Land was wrote:
In a tone that seemed deliberately inflectionless, she asked, "Why does it bother you to use your ring?"

His thoughts were echoes of anger. "It's hard."

"In what way?" In spite of its severity, her expression said that she wanted to understand. Perhaps she needed to understand. He read in her a long history of self-punishment. She was a physician who tormented herself in order to heal others, as if the connection between the two were essential and compulsory.

To the complexity of her question, he gave the simplest answer he knew. "Morally."

For a moment, they regarded each other, tried to define each other. Then, unexpectedly, the Graveler spoke. "There at last, ur-Lord," he murmured, "you have uttered a word which lies within my comprehension." His voice seemed to arise from the wet wood and the flames. "You fear both strength and weakness, both power and lack of power. You fear to be in need - and to have your need answered. As do I.

"I am a Graveler-well acquainted with such fear.

Indeed, Sunder understands this fear. But also remember, Covenant has perceived that Sunder is a leper too.





Linden has the love/hate relationship with power that is central to every leper's story. She is caught in a leper's cage, living behind bars of futility, bars which she keeps strong of her own accord, because she fears the power she needs. This is the problem that the leper cannot solve. For to solve it would be to cease being a leper.





However, there are critical differences between Covenant's need/fear of power, and Linden's need/fear of power.





It is at this very time that the first hints of Linden's power emerge. First, in the river, as she uses her percipience to strengthen Covenant against the dire effects of venom and cold. And also, in Crystal Stonedown. Here, she coerces a delirious Covenant into weilding his might on her behalf. This is not yet possesson, but it is a shadow of possession: using her intimate knowledge of Covenant's internal state to control him. Later, they discuss the oddity of Covenant raising his power without a trigger - the first signs of Linden's aptness for the white gold.

Tellingly, what worries Linden afterward is not her manipulation of Covenant. It is her fear of power itself. She even gives it a name.


In The One Tree was wrote:
She did not want to be so exposed to him. She was in danger of losing herself.


Her fear is the danger of losing herself. To the Sunbane, or to Covenant's quest, or to her inner blackness. Linden is protecting her sense of identity.
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PostPosted: Fri May 05, 2017 2:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Movement IV: Dependencies Broken

On the edge of Andelain, Linden and Covenant, her guide, become seperated. They meet again in Revelstone, but are not truly together again until they reach the Sea, and Coercri.

This is a time of severe trial for Linden. She is captured by the Clave, possessed, and throw into a dungeon in Revelstone. But her greatest trial comes from Gibbon, who is the Raver samadhi Sheol.

"You have committed murder. Are you not evil?"

Like Covenant, Linden is challenged by the Land, here in the form of the Raver's torment, in ways that cut directly to the heart of her fear of power. Merely by standing before her percipient senses, the Raver forces her to confront the stark, simple fact of evil. Evil which Linden has denied her whole life. Now she must acknowledge it's reality, which in turn means she must acknowledge her own evil. Her self protections are assaulted. It is an attack on her very identity - the identity that she fears to lose.
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PostPosted: Fri May 05, 2017 3:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

(What follows are some collected notes which I had not yet woven into the main text. It is the nature of these notes that later they may be discarded, or found to be "wrong", and never make the final cut. Clearly, I haven't decided about what follows.)

Of course, the process of meeting Thomas begins a whole chapter before this, starting with Dr. Berenford's visit to discuss Thomas. And it continues more or less through the first third of the book, as bit by bit we become reaquainted with Thomas, his relationship to the Land, his adversary in Lord Foul.

Through Linden's position as an "outsider" to the phenomenon of the Land, we see Thomas in an interesting and provocative way. Linden assumes Thomas is deranged somehow, but of course we have the inside information and know better, and this creates an exciting tension for the reader, as we hope for Thomas's vindication in Linden's eyes. We become engaged in Linden discovering the mendacity of Foul and the existence of the Land, as bit by bit she uncovers more of Thomas's fantastic life. And Linden's reactions in turn cause Thomas to try to explain what's going on, and the process reveals much about how Thomas thinks, what he wants to share, and what he wants to hide. We could not have been given the line, There's only one way to hurt a man who's lost everything,, if it were not for Linden declaring "I'm a doctor" and barging into Thomas's house, hell bent on saving Joan from Thomas's apparent mistreatment.

Instead of a boring rehash of what we already know, Donaldson turns the opening of the Second Chronicles into something intriguing and delightful and even profound. And he does this with Linden.

Unlike Mhoram and Troy, Linden stays with Thomas throughout the Second Chronicles. This allows her role as a reader proxy to continue, in a different form. She is no longer reintroducing Thomas to us. Instead, she is on the spot with view and a reaction to what happens to Thomas, and what Thomas does.

Quote:
Her hands squeezed the swelling, multiplying fire. Her lips hurt him like teeth as she drew blood and venom into her mouth.

The taste shattered her composure; she spat his blood fiercely at the ground. "God!" she gasped. "What kind - ?"


- - - - - - - - -

One way to consider the foil/anti-foil relationship between Linden and Thomas is to examine their individual relationships to the Land.

In the first Chronicles, Covenant begins as a man who is as far from a hero as possible. He is a leper, outcast and unclean: impotent, oppressed, incapable of more than personal survival. Then he goes to a Land which Donaldson describes as "the opposite of leprosy": where health is visible, where he is hale and potent, and where heroism is demanded of him. Thrust into a world which is in every way the antithesis of his existence, he is forced to confront everything about himself and within himself, his "inner Despiser". His personal, internal journey leads him from a belief that he can do nothing heroic, to a certainty that he must try to save the Land.

Linden, in contrast, begins the story as an apparently heroic person, a doctor who serves the sick and injured daily, who saves lives routinely. When she goes to the Land, she too is confronted with a world that is the antithesis of her existence. The Land under the Sunbane is wounded, "immedicable": demanding healing, but impervious to anything a doctor could attempt. And it assaults her through health-sense: Linden cannot evade her impotence, her powerlessness, for she literally cannot escape what she sees and feels. Linden upon arriving in the Land is like Covenant before the Land: as far from a hero as possible: impotent, oppressed, incapable of more than personal survival.

Just like Covenant, the inversion of her situation in the Land forces Linden to confront everything about herself and within herself. For she never was a true hero in the real world. She didn't become a doctor because she had come to grips with the darkest parts of herself, her "inner Despiser"; she had become one because she had suppressed and fled from this aspect of herself. So her personal, internal journey leads her from an untenable belief that she had successfully coped with her past, to ... successfully coping with her past. At the end of the Second Chronicles, she has come to recognize the darkest parts of herself, and has become a true healer, and a true hero, by saving the Land.

But Covenant is not stagnant while Linden is evolving. While Linden deals with the consequences of her first foray into the Land, Covenant is dealing with his second. Like Linden, Covenant arrives in the Land a hero, only to find himself somehow impotent and oppressed, incapable of more than personal survival. However, unlike Linden, Covenant has already gone through the alchemical process of facing his inner Despiser, overcoming it, and thereby finding a capacity for heroism. He faces a new dilemma, a second generation crisis if you will: heroic deeds are not enough. For Foul has undermined and eliminated his power, rendering him irrevocably effectless.


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PostPosted: Fri May 05, 2017 3:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ok: done.
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PostPosted: Fri May 05, 2017 8:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Now to read and digest this.

Thank you, WF; always appreciate these scholarly works!
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PostPosted: Sat May 06, 2017 1:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes! Now I just need some time to enjoy the read.
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PostPosted: Sat May 06, 2017 12:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hot damn, this is great!

I've always considered Linden as broken, or, as SRD said of her in the WHGB of TROTE, "damaged." To now think of her as a metaphorical leper forces me to reconsider her in a new light.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 11, 2018 5:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wayfriend, this is amazing work. I never fully appreciated Linden and her absolute necessity to this degree before. I pretty much got it by end of Second Chronicles but all you have written makes me understand and respect her on even deeper level.

I am getting myself ready for a second read of the Last Chronicles and I am grateful I stumbled across this to give me even more perspective.

I don't have the Second Chronicles in front of me - but reading through your works makes me also reflect that Linden also chose being a type of doctor where she would not have too much power. For example, she could have chose being a neurosurgeon or a doctor that was more "invasive" (for a lack of better word).

Another thing I think some readers miss when reading the prose through Linden's perspective - Linden provides another perspective into the Land. We already know Covenant's perspective of the Land and its beauty.

Now we have a character that develops her own intimate relationship with the Land and describes the Land with intimacy and depth that Covenant could not provide as deeply - for sure not as deeply in Second Chronicles. So as readers we allowed to view the Land in more intimate and different perspective. To me with Linden the Land becomes more of character type figure then an abstract or isn't this beautiful area type place.

Or in other words, the Land becomes more pronounced and more in the forefront as of importance in itself. I almost thinking in line of the Greek (and other ancient philosophies) of Gaia (Gaea) as Earth as some sort of living being. I feel more profoundly about the Land because of Linden. If you are ever bored try to find some readings about Gaia - some of it pretty interesting stuff IMHO
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 11, 2018 9:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, samrw3. I wish that someone someday could do Linden more justice than I have.
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