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If it's so easy, why's it so hard?

 
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2016 6:37 am    Post subject: If it's so easy, why's it so hard? Reply with quote

Thomas Covenant proves time and again throughout the Chronicles that no matter how flawed you are, you can surpass Foul's devilish tests and come out victorious. And yet the denizens of the Land (and all their neighbors) are almost always stumped.

Covenant's ethical beliefs are almost simplistic at heart. Sure, they're a bit anti-intuitive, maybe more so to near Ideas figures, but still you'd expect more successes against Foul if that was all it took to defeat him.

What is Thomas Covenant's true secret? Is it that he not only has the right beliefs but also the Power, both literal (his White Gold Ring) and societal (the belief in him so many have)? Or is it the fact that he is an outsider not ruled by the limitations of the inhabitants of Foul's universe?
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2016 3:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's a really great question.

I think that part of the answer must lie in the fact that the Land was in some way created for Thomas Covenant. Which may seem solipsistic. The story comes at it from the other direction, which seems a little more reasonable - Covenant is brought to the Land because that's where he can escape his shackles of futility and become his true effective self.

And that Covenant and Foul were, from the beginning, related. And that relationship grows stronger over time. Foul is Covenant's dark side, therefore Covenant is Foul's light side. Victory is achieved as Covenant, one step at a time, comes to understand their relationship.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2016 6:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In the first Chronicles, which was written with no intention of further Chronicles, and so needs to be considered in that light, the following is provided:

In The Power That Preserves was wrote:
He was unacquainted with power, unadept at combat. But his rage for lepers, for the Land, for the victims of Despite, kept him upright. And his Unbelief enabled him. He knew more completely than any native of the Land could have known that Lord Foul was not unbeatable. In this manifestation, Despite had no absolute reality of existence. The people of the Land would have failed in the face of Despite because they were convinced of it. Covenant was not. He was not overwhelmed; he did not believe that he had to fail. Lord Foul was only an externalized part of himself-not an immortal, not a god. Triumph was possible.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2016 9:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think of Foul as more a reflection of each person's self-despite than specifically Thomas Covenant's. At its core, the Foul Idea is a negative force. It has little substance of its own without someone positive (yet flawed) to face, which make him a strange, amorphous being. Of course Covenant is a central figure in the struggle against Foul and becomes more so as time goes on so Foul likewise become more reflective of Covenant specifically and not other people as the story progresses. A big part of why Foul is so very horrid is that the damnations he visits on everyone are specifically built for them. The Bloodguard are faced with members of their order whose iron will was bent to serve Despite, the Unhomed Giants with their possessed children's hating faces, the Waynhim (in IEW) with one of their race who was so corrupted, no art could restore him and so on and so on. It is also broadly hinted at by all the differing names each group in the Land has for this being. How can they all be true if Foul is a defined being?

That is why the imperfections of those who opposed him were so important. Kevin was undoubtedly more knowledgeable, and thus better equipped to face his enemy than Berek yet in facing Foul he proved much weaker because his character was flawed and he had the family history of destroying the Viles (according to Roger).

That was one of the lessons of the First Chrons: no matter how hard everyone strive for self perfection the task is impossible. The harder you try, the harder you fall when Foul niggles out your flaws.

Covenant instead of denying and trying to fight Despite chooses to embrace and contain him instead. He has precedents if you consider what the Elohim 'appointed' do. They each contain a great evil: Kestenessen the Skurj fires, the One Forest Elohim (Colossus?) the three Ravers and maybe Foul, and Findail the Sunbane and broken Laws. It is not Foul that reflects Covenant so much as Covenant who strive to reflect (more in becoming a perfect opposite than in imitating) Foul. Considering Foul's amorphous many-faced nature this becomes particularly impressive.

To return to my own question, let me try to answer myself:

If Covenant's success is achieved by his ability to reflect Foul, power is a must. No matter how perfect someone's character is, without power he cannot face Foul on equal terms. Though, many people in the Land's history did just that. The Bloodguard felt strongly about serving the Lord and immediately became creatures of Earthpower, Berek cried his despair at the devastation of the Land and became a figure of power equal to his need. But Covenant is not only powerful, his power is also very different than the powers central figures in the Land possessed. Their powers were focused and logical, based on Law while his was wild and indefinable, chaotic, timeless and unfocused: graven in every rock... like Foul's own nature.

Is it true though? Covenant is the Wild Magic, as we were told quite bluntly, but he doesn't use his power much. Other than his boss fight with the Ill-Earth Stone in tPtP and maybe with the possessed Staff of Law (in the same book) and possessed Nom in tOT, has he ever used his magic power effectively? OK he needed to get a good shave when he dated Linden Wink , but still! His ring is mostly an insignia to allow him on stage where he accomplishes his goals without it.

Covenant's strange charisma is another facet in this equation. Just as Foul taints all with his miasma, Covenant brings to focus the positive aspects of all around him. He pushes them to new elevations, elevations inconceivable without his prodding. He doesn't call them to follow in his footsteps. He more prods them from behind. Hellfire!

Humility was of course essential to this mix. While Mhoram possessed it in spades, the Haruchai sadly failed it (among other things).

After I said all this I should dismiss it as pretentious castles in the clouds for the most part. Covenant is not that unique. He is not the only White Gold Wielder (Elena, Linden, Joan, Foul). He is not the only Outsider (Hile Troy, Linden, Joan, Roger, Jeremiah). He's certainly not the only charismatic humble figure in this story (Ramen, Mhoram, some Giants). But then again that doesn't matter. Like one of Jeremiah's constructs, his mere existence as seeming perfect mirror attracted Foul irresistibly into his trap and that was all that Covenant needed to win and win again and with each win the feat became even more inevitable and simple and complete.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 20, 2016 3:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You seem to be coming at this in a different way than I had been. I assumed Covenant was the only person who could have defeated Foul - which of course is also the author's intention - and from there I try to work out how the author justifies this to the reader. You, on the other hand, start with no assumptions, except the assumption that everything is fair game, and try to work out why everyone else was insufficient against Foul. And conclude that perhaps they should not have been.

The real reason Covenant was the only one who could defeat Foul was that that was what the story was. Covenant defeats Foul as an outward manifestation of Covenant coming to terms with his life - that's the author's design. Everything else is built around that. This therefore mandates that no one defeats Foul before Covenant does, as a simple matter of course.

From that point, the author is obligated to construct a story where this is explicable and inevitable. But it need not be unassailable.

To your points. The fact that people generally operate on similar principles means that Covenant's inner despiser, made manifest, looks a lot like anyone else's inner despiser would. (Which is of central importance to us readers!) Similarly, the cruel actions of the Despiser that are designed to break Covenant would break anyone else just as well. Donaldson only grants Lord Foul enough intelligence to see that every one of his enemies is broken in their own unique way - the details differ, but the approach is generally similar otherwise. So I do not find the applicability of Foul's unique form of evil to other characters a compelling point. The bad guy, after all, has to have some successes under his belt to be a true threat, and these successes have to illustrate his modus operandi.

Furthermore, of course everyone has the capacity for power. The author makes it pretty clear that Covenant's capacity for power is not unique, it was only the journey to finding it that was. Other characters illustrate this by foiling Covenant, either by failing to find power, or by succeeding, and thereby teaching us wrong turns and correct ones.

In the end, what matters is Covenant was chosen - by the Creator, by Foul, and by the author - to be "the one". He was given a talisman by which to achieve this, something which no one else had, and something which made things possible. This is why he was the one who would defeat Foul.

Note that Covenant had everything he needed to defeat Foul the minute he entered the Land in chapter three of LFB. It was the figuring-it-out part about which the story is spun. So, in a way, he was the one who defeated Foul because his defeating Foul was the best story the author had to tell.

If you want to explore this in a more open-ended way, as I think you do, consider this: the Creator would not have sent Covenant to the Land if the Land already contained what it needed to defeat Foul. It's fair to say that that is a fixed point about which any argument must rotate. Even if it's not true.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 21, 2016 12:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with Wayfriend. However let's also remind ourselves of something.

Quote:
In the end, what matters is Covenant was chosen - by the Creator, by Foul, and by the author - to be "the one". He was given a talisman by which to achieve this, something which no one else had, and something which made things possible. This is why he was the one who would defeat Foul.


Yes, but/and this is also why Covenant was the only one who could have given Foul the victory he desired. In the absence of Covenant and the White Gold, Foul would have had to content himself with a purely military conquest of the Land and torment of its peoples that would not have achieved his deeper purpose. Covenant was the tossed coin that the Creator and Foul were betting on opposite sides of, except that unlike a coin Covenant could ultimately choose whether he came up heads or tails.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 21, 2016 2:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wasn't the Worm a viable alternative?
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 21, 2016 2:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

DrPaul wrote:
Yes, but/and this is also why Covenant was the only one who could have given Foul the victory he desired.

Agreed. What enabled ultimate victory would also enable ultimate defeat. But that's just another way of saying, "life and death are too intimately intergrown to be severed from each other", right?

The Creator took a big risk with Covenant. This certainly points to the notion that the Creator chose Covenant for a reason.

Still, I still have this niggling notion. At the end of TPTP, the Creator says, "If he cannot bear the world he has made, he can make another." I think that this leaves open a very important question - did the Creator choose Covenant because he wanted to save the Land, or did he choose Covenant because he wanted to save Covenant? Either way, it points up the notion that Covenant was the right man for the job. "Your knowledge of your illness made you wise." This doesn't mean that someone else could not have done it, in the Land or without. All we can do is trust in the wisdom of the Creator. My personal belief is that the Creator did it for both reasons - he believed that Covenant could save the Land because he could save himself given the right opportunity.

shadowbinding shoe wrote:
Wasn't the Worm a viable alternative?

An arguable point. The book says yes in some places, no in others. "If the Worm is roused, the Earth will end, freeing Despite to wreak its vengeance upon the cosmos." "Should be rouse the Worm himself, without the wild magic in his hand, would he not also be consumed in the destruction of the world?" Perhaps the real answer is that Foul might be destroyed if the Worm is roused - and beings of infinite patience can afford to wait for better odds.

Personally, I think Foul doesn't have enough power to rouse the Worm on his own. He needs to get someone to do it with wild magic. Which ties in with what DrPaul said.

You could also argue that he need merely provide SWMNBN with her name. But I think he has good reason to be scared of her.
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2016 5:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As others have noted, you have to look at the story as TC's, and move on from there. It was literally necessary. The people of the Land couldn't defeat Foul because it wasn't their Chronicles. That's an answer "from the outside," from the perspective of readers and authors, so it might disappoint, but has the virtue of being the truth. So SS's question is actually, "Is it a plausible plot mechanic?" Let's postpone that for a moment, because there are really interesting things to discuss by pretending we don't know what SS means.

The people couldn't defeat Foul precisely because they were needed as thematic examples of failed strategies to defeat Foul! The catastrophic example was Kevin, giving in to despair and destroying what you love because you can't save if from what you hate. Everyone thought they learned Kevin's lesson by the time Covenant comes to the Land, with the Oath of Peace: lock away your negative emotions, your inner Despiser, and deny that part of yourself any expression in the world. This mirrored Covenant's own Law of Leprosy rituals (VSEs, etc), his mechanistic avoidance of injury and suicide by becoming something that doesn't feel.

So the people of the Land couldn't defeat Foul because (in terms of writing a narrative) Covenant couldn't either. Donaldson needed to provide Covenant a dramatic way to confront and eventually solve his own dilemma. This means that Covenant needed the people of the Land to teach him that he was "killing" the human part of himself (love, hope, etc.) with his rigid adherence to the Law of Leprosy, just as much as they needed him to show them that they were doing something similar by the rigid adherence to the Oath of Peace. Without the people of the Land--and Covenant himself--having these obstacles to overcome, there would be no story. And without these mutual examples of failure, they couldn't provide to each other insight into the solutions.

Now, we can get back to the perspective of "from the inside" and ask whether this was a plausible plot mechanic.

First of all, who said victory against Foul was easy?? Just because TC eventually defeated Foul three times doesn't mean it was easy! And it's also the wrong question to ask framed in terms of, "no matter how flawed you are," because Foul wasn't defeated in spite of TC's flaws, but because of them. TC's imperfections--and his ability to accept them as such--was part of his solutions, every time. Donaldson hints at this necessity of imperfection by having white gold be imperfect, an alloy. And he shows the catastrophic failures of those who don't live up to their own self-imposed standards of perfection. It all comes back to the imperfection of being human. We can't avoid it, because doing so would mean avoiding our humanity. Our attempts to do so are absurd and self-defeating, eventually bringing about the very thing we're trying to avoid. Our destructive side can make itself known through both repression and aggression. We have to find a balance between those extremes.

Can everyone find such a balance (and thus defeat their own Despiser)? Yes, in theory they can, or there wouldn't' be a point in writing about something that only one fictional character can do. The story would have no universal applicability to our own lives, no truth. But on the other hand, people don't often know they can do something until a leader blazes the trail, not only showing the way, but that a way is possible in the first place. And this fact would explain why something that is possible for every single person was only actual in one person. Someone has to be first! Or archetypal, if you prefer.

So yes, it's a plausible plot mechanic, aside from being a necessary starting point to tell this particular tale.
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 24, 2016 12:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Zarathustra's last point touches on something I've promised to post on at length (but haven't got around to). Lord Foul (as we learn in TPTP) understands perfection and despises life because life is imperfect and mortal. This has led me to the conjecture that in his origins Foul represented the cosmic principle of Perfection, and thus stood in a dialectical relationship with the Creator and Creation. The essence of Foul's original nature was to inspire what is to become better and aspire asymptotically to Perfection. Foul's role in the Chronicles - as the Despiser of what is and what lives - is thus a perversion of his original nature.

One analogy I can imagine is that of a professor who starts out wanting to inspire her students who are achieving 80 per cent or 90 per cent in their papers to achieve 100 per cent, but who at some point takes this in the direction of being bitterly and oppressively hypercritical of their work, thereby demoralising the students to the point where they give up trying and fail.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 24, 2016 5:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

DrPaul wrote:
Zarathustra's last point touches on something I've promised to post on at length (but haven't got around to). Lord Foul (as we learn in TPTP understands perfection and despises life because life is imperfect and mortal. This has led me to the conjecture that in his origins Foul represented the cosmic principle of Perfection, and thus stood in a dialectical relationship with the Creator and Creation. The essence of Foul's original nature was to inspire what is to become better and aspire asymptotically to Perfection. Foul's role in the Chronicles - as the Despiser of what is and what lives - is thus a perversion of his original nature.


This is a good notion of Foul's origins. It can answer another Origins Mystery as well: Why She fell in love with him. In his present state he's very hard to love. Also why the Creator allowed him to take part in creating the Land. It may even be that a sin of hubris by the Creator (and She?) turned him into what we know him as. The Land is an idealistic land. Its basic concept presumes to contain perfection in a mortal realm. Just as the denizens of the Land in the 1st chrons erred when they tried to be perfect, the Creator might have aimed too high when he made it and angered the principle of 'true perfection'.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 10, 2018 4:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with many of the points in this post why Covenant had to be the one and why others could not achieve similar victories.

Just another thought though - Lord Foul never allowed anyone close enough in proximity (besides Kevin - more on that in a minute) to be allowed a chance to defeat him. Lord Foul had massive armies some nasty Ravers and some nasty banes in his favor. He "allowed" Covenant to be close enough so that he could figure a way to get the wild magic.

So why did Lord Foul war with the Land? As others have mentioned - he was filled with Despite and who knows - maybe through it he could figure out a way to break the Arch. Or, as someone else posted tempt the Creator to get so pissed the Creator would reach down and try to take out Lord Foul and therefore Lord Foul would have chance to get released. It could be he was just semi-bored and wanted to ravage as much as he could why he could drum up another idea to escape.

Now back to Kevin - Lord Foul allowed him close enough in proximity - why? It seems Lord Foul knew Kevin was desperate and could use Kevin's desperation to his advantage. Sure it set up Lord Foul back numerous years. However, besides desecrating the Land it may have allowed Foul the chance to set up his next plan - the Sunbane. Although I don't think the text supports this - but my gut is telling me it was probably easier to set up a Sunbane type environment on a desecrated Land than on a fully healthy non-desecrated Land.

Anyways...What if Kevin had been more thoughtful about a plan to defeat Lord Foul - he knew where Earthblood was - he had access to Amok and the krill - what if he threw all caution to the wind and try to tempt Foul near the Earthblood - take a sip, have Amok try to hold Foul - or distract him - after sipping the Earthblood run at Foul with the krill and try to stab him. Yeah gigantic risk and could have caused way more chaos then the Desecration but it seems to me something along those lines also had a better chance to defeat someone like Foul.

Anyways my main point is no one besides Kevin was really in close enough proximity to have too much of a legitimate direct threat to Foul.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 10, 2018 8:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have never believed Foul's wars were for the usual reasons. After all, he had no need for land, or for people to subjugate. I feel his wars were prosecuted solely to create despair. Despair for Kevin, then despair for Covenant. The threat that he would destroy everything good and beautiful is what pushed both of them toward action; without that goad, they had no need to do anything about Foul. Foul believed if he created enough despair for the Land's heroes he would eventually get what he desired. He would, as you say, use their desperation to his advantage.

There are threads and threads and threads in here about what Kevin should have done, and about how the Power of Command should have been used.

As far as proximity=threat, I don't remember anyone ever taking that angle before. I presume you mean Foul is only really in danger when someone is literally standing near him. Hmmm... you may have something there. However, it's hard to tell, since he's generally a reclusive fellow anyway. He did masquerade as a Lord for a while.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 10, 2018 9:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with using wars for despair.

Yeah sorry was not trying to create another discussion about what Kevin should have done. I guess my only point in bringing him up was that he is the only Lord we know about close enough to Foul to have an increased likelihood of doing something directly to Foul. Most of the time the Lords were doing something to defeat Fouls armies or build/rebuild beauty into the Land.

I guess I shouldn't have implied that anyone had to be really close to Foul to defeat him. However, none of that we have read suggests they had the lore, skills or tools necessary for a long distance attack. I guess it is possible the Lords could have attempted to concentrate enough might through their staffs for an attempt, but even for that attempt I would imagine they would have had to be reasonably close. So all Foul has to do, and did, was place enough armies, ravers, illearth stones and all matters of other problems in between himself and parties of power so that no one could even have a decent chance of defeating him.

Or said a different way do we think Foul would have allowed Lords, or anyone else for that matter, close enough for a possible victory against himself? He knew Kevin would not totally defeat him so he let him close by. He did not think Covenant could/would defeat him. Even if he had a possibility of defeating him he had take that risk for the possibility of getting the ring.

When he was masqueraded as a Lord no one knew he was a really bad guy so he could hang out as long as he wanted close by to whoever he wanted. No one posed him a threat because no one knew who he was. I'm sure Foul started thinking that the other Lords would figure out who he was he would have took off very quickly. One thing I like to think (again not supported by any text) is that was personally one of Fouls research tools into a possible escape - hey maybe these Lords can figure out some lore to get me out of here. Or at minimal Foul could study as an inside man how they worked to make sure Foul created enough problems for the Lords not to overcome.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

samrw3 wrote:
Yeah sorry was not trying to create another discussion about what Kevin should have done.

I wasn't telling you to discourage you. I was telling you to encourage you to find those threads and continue the discussion! Smile Or at least see what other ideas others have had, since you are interested.

But anyways ... in the end, I don't think anyone in the Land had a plan for how to actually get rid of Foul. There were no plots involving sneaking a bomb into his bunker, or anything like that. They were, as they say, on the defensive the entire time, reacting rather than acting.

Kevin was the only guy who had some kind of a plan. His plan was the Ritual, and AFAICT this required only that Foul be somewhere in the ambit of his Ritual. I had always thought Kevin dared Foul to join him because he wanted to add Foul's power to the Ritual, or distract him from preventing it. But maybe he also wanted to ensure Foul was near enough to assure his destruction. Kevin anticipated the entire Land would be destroyed, but maybe he assumed Foul needed to be at the very center of it for him to be destroyed as well. Or at least improve his chances. It's an interesting idea.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lol ok wayfriend - I will try to track those threads down. Thanks for all your input
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 13, 2018 12:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Looking back up the thread to the posts about the Worm as a possible candidate to do Lord Foul's bidding, I think a sticking point here is the kind of being the Worm is. I can't think of any passage of the Chronicles that suggests that the Worm is the kind of being that makes choices or that can experience despair (and thus struggle against it). The Worm is simply doing what it does and being what it is when it devours the world, the stars, the Elohim, etc.
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