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Bloodstone11
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 03, 2012 3:16 pm    Post subject: An Unknown Author Reply with quote

Recently, I decided to go back and read the Chronicles from L. F.'s Bane, to the most recent, Against All Thing's Ending...and was struck by a few things that will probably never be addressed; (given that we have only one book remaining until the end of the story...)

Given the established fact that time passes differently in the Land, and the oft repeated assertion that on some level, there is a connection between the Land, and the inner lives of those who are called to it, I have to wonder about one facet of the character of Covenant that has never been addressed. Just bear with me while I put this forward...

Thomas Covenant is one of those characters that is so vividly rendered in the first 3 books that it obscures the fact, that unlike say Linden, we know nothing about him before he married Joan. He has no family, no friends, no history, before the events described in Lord Foul's Bane. Going back to the repeated motif that shows time passing differently in the Land, I have to wonder, what things were going on in Covenant's life before he met Joan, and how they may have been reflected in the ancient history of the Land.

One of the recurrent motifs of the stories is the idea of a flaw in the origin of things, events, and people. Linden Avery has the trauma of her childhood; Elena is a child of rape, and in the legends of the Creation of the world that Covenant is translated to, it speaks of Lord Foul, placing banes in the Earth, at its creation; ( I could provide more examples, like the trauma of the boy Pietten at Soaring Woodhelvin, but I think you get the idea..)

Going back to the first book, and the events of Covenant's life before being summoned...It is related, that when he was diagnosed, and after he returned from the lepresarium he re-read his first novel, and then burned it, along with what he had written on his new novel; an act of purgation in outrage against the inherent blindness of his fantasy world; was this, perhaps, a "real" world echo of Kevin Landwaster, and the Ritual of Desecration?

And, when Covenant is first confronted by the beggar, who turns out to be an avatar of the Creator of the Land, Covenant makes the observation, "We didn't make the world, old man, we just have to live in it." To which the Creator replies, "Did we not?"

It seems to me that there is a link here, a kind of trinity of forces and their symbols; in some fashion, the Creator, Covenant, and the Despiser are all facets of one being; a being that is plagued by the idea of a flaw inherent in the act of creation. So, I have to wonder, if the Land was existent when Covenant was a child, what kind of flaw exists in his origin, and how was it reflected in what was happening in the world that he was later summoned to?

Lastly, I would really like to know a lot more about Kevin, and the events leading up to the Desecration. I sense that there is a back story here that also is obscured by legend. Foul describes Kevin, in Lord Foul's Bane as "fey, anile, and gutless.." Granted this comment is typical of the kind of dismissive rhetoric that Foul indulges in; but we have found out that in many cases, even though Foul is twisting the facts, there is some grain of truth in is distortions. The use of the term "fey" could imply that Kevin was convinced from the outset, even before Foul's appearance, that he himself was doomed or tainted; (suicidal impulses in the younger Thomas Covenant?)

As a further example of this kind of thing I refer back to Second Chronicles, where we learn the Clave version of Creation, in which they speak of Lord Foul as a-Jeroth, and tell the tale of the seduction of the Creator's wife. At the time, this seemed to be merely a distortion of the legend that Covenant learned about Creation, but in the most recent book, we learn that there is more truth to it than we thought.

I guess what I am getting at here, is that though Lord Foul's version of events is not "the one word of truth" the recent books seem to be showing us that far from merely being a distortion, his version of events speak of secrets that Foul possesses; secrets that in some way connect him, and Covenant, and the Creator.

Someone once observed that the central theme of sequels that form the end of a story, is returning to the beginning, and discovering that things were never quite what you thought. For instance, in Against All Things ending, when Covenant confronts Joan, he discovers that far from being merely an unwitting pawn of Lord Foul, she participated eagerly in her own twisting; that, for instance, when she came to Haven Farm, she believed herself capable of manipulating Covenant, the way she manipulated the horses she used to train.

So, again, what is it about Covenant's past that we don't know? Is there another shadow in his early life that precedes his diagnosis with leprosy?


Last edited by Bloodstone11 on Sat Mar 03, 2012 3:36 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 03, 2012 3:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Really good ideas! I hadn't thought about the book burning and the ritual of desecration being related. It fits, though. I think you are right in that we will never know if there is more from earlier experiences, though. And yes, it is strange he has no life or friends other than Joan to mention in his past. I think maybe the author just focused a lot on the leprosy thing initially and didn't really expand it till later and never went back to giving him more of a background.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 03, 2012 3:45 pm    Post subject: An Unknown Author Reply with quote

To Ananda,
Yes, of course, I had thought the same thing; the focus of the original novel was on the events immediately preceding, and after Covenant's diagnosis. So it was natural that we wouldn't know anything else about Covenant. But, as a writer myself, (albeit an unpublished one), I have often gone back and looked at the gaps in the story/characters that I write, and began to take a look at filling in the gaps...So, what I am doing here is kind of like "back seat driving..." Donaldson created the character of Covenant, and I just have this compulsion about trying to fill in the gaps of his history. It makes for interesting speculations, even if they will never be a part of the established story...
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 03, 2012 4:03 pm    Post subject: a-Jeroth and the Secrets of Despite Reply with quote

For me this process of speculation started when I first finished The Power That Preserves. What struck me, in the scene after the battle between Covenant and Foul, was how different Foul was, in what might be described as his "true" form, from all the other "Dark Lords" in epic fantasy. To give an example of what I mean, using two other popular series..

In The Lord of the Rings, and the Sword of Shannara, the Dark Lords are characterized as the absence of presence; Sauron, in the first three books is really just a very powerful ghost, and Brona, the Warlock Lord, is actually a dead mage, that simply refuses to believe that he is dead.

But, with Foul, even though he is sometimes portrayed in a similar fashion; (i.e. in the end of P.T.P. he first appears as a giant shadow in the form of a man), after that guise is stripped away by Covenant, we find an actual personality. And, what really unnerved me about this form, was his absolute certainty that he was still correct in his view of things. Far from being reduced in defeat there was something almost noble about his bearing. He asserts that whatever Covenant's insights, he himself had already confronted those "truths" and remained unshaken in his Despite.

At that time, I asked myself, "What is it that he knows, that makes him so certain of himself?"

And, again, I am not saying that Foul is right in any absolute sense, but it does make you wonder what kind of truths he uncovered to make him so unshakable in his convictions..
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 03, 2012 5:11 pm    Post subject: An Unknown Author Reply with quote

Possible further parallels between Covenant's life (pre-summoning) and the legends of the Land...

The legend of Diassomer Mininderain and her seduction by a-Jeroth; an infidelity somewhere in Covenant's past..?

Pietten of Soaring Woodhelvin...an abusive childhood in Covenant's past..?

The time of Berek, all the way the Ritual of Desecration...do these men somehow represent stages in Covenant's life? An evolution of his idea of love, fidelity, and beauty? Berek choosing the Queen over his King...did Covenant have a relationship where he followed the idea of "true Love" of beauty, of life, over and against another man who represented the sheer use/abuse of power..?

Again, I know that none of these things are likely to be addressed, but it is intriguing to speculate.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 03, 2012 5:44 pm    Post subject: Re: An Unknown Author Reply with quote

Bloodstone11 wrote:
Possible further parallels between Covenant's life (pre-summoning) and the legends of the Land...

The legend of Diassomer Mininderain and her seduction by a-Jeroth; an infidelity somewhere in Covenant's past..?

Pietten of Soaring Woodhelvin...an abusive childhood in Covenant's past..?

The time of Berek, all the way the Ritual of Desecration...do these men somehow represent stages in Covenant's life? An evolution of his idea of love, fidelity, and beauty? Berek choosing the Queen over his King...did Covenant have a relationship where he followed the idea of "true Love" of beauty, of life, over and against another man who represented the sheer use/abuse of power..?

Again, I know that none of these things are likely to be addressed, but it is intriguing to speculate.

Those are some interesting things...there are probably a billion little tidbits that could be speculated/played with, and some work "by the numbers." For instance the time of the RofD matches roughly the time when TC's leprosy becomes symptomatic and his reaction IIRC: [@3years=@1000].
OTOH, I think there's a thematic reason we don't know that much about TC's past: in many ways TC isn't a real person until illness strikes. He's naive/innocent/ineffectual...basically boring and meaningless to himself and everyone else. He's decorative. He's "scenery." ALL who are naive/innocent are this way...it's one of the underpinnings of the series.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 05, 2012 4:43 pm    Post subject: Re: An Unknown Author Reply with quote

Bloodstone11 wrote:
The legend of Diassomer Mininderain and her seduction by a-Jeroth; an infidelity somewhere in Covenant's past..?


We have no evidence of any adultery in their marriage but Joan definitely felt betrayed by Covenant's leprosy. She reacted as if the disease were something he had chosen or done on purpose.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2012 11:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good thread..

It is quite true that we know comparatively little of Covenant's past.. And TBH that isn't something I'd really thought much about until reading this post.

If I were to guess, I would say that this was a deliberate ploy by Donaldson.
Not knowing such details about TC opens more opportunities for us readers to identify with him.
The leprosy aside, he is a average person.. His forced isolation and friendlessness is something a lot of people could relate to to some extent..
He's just found out that the world is a cruel, uncaring place which is a reality we all experience and can identify with..

But then in the Land, the reason for the Leprosy becomes aparrent. He was no longer numb - he's had an experience where what he did was actually significant and made a difference on the world around him. He again becomes vital to re-shaping the world, and that, I guess, is a latent power in all of us, whether we realise this or not.

I think I have gone a fair way off topic here, but I guess in some cases it is better off for some information to be left out..
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