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Begin: Dissecting Lord Foul's Bane, Chapters 1 & 2
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danlo
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 28, 2002 2:47 pm    Post subject: Begin: Dissecting Lord Foul's Bane, Chapters 1 & 2 Reply with quote

Psychology can help you, but imagination can kill you...

Two lost fingers...do they represent Joan and Roger amputated from his life? Losing the sense of touch, losing all connection to the human family... If we, truly, are social creatures, how on earth could we possibly endure such a thing? The Dr.s at the Leprosarium believed patient psychology to be the key in treating Thomas Covenant, yet he refused to talk to them. "Kill yourself," rasped the old mangled, melting Leper from West Virginia. "Better than this."

The only thing Thomas Covenant has left is his imagination. We, really, don't know much about his past, aside from his relationship with his wife, but we do know that much of his life and all of his creative process is fueled by his imagination. And now they are telling him that his imagination can kill him? He burns his bestselling manuscript signaling the death of his imagination. But if his imagination is so powerful it cannot die right? Where does it go? Into his subconsious? Is his subconcious playing tricks with him as he stumbles his way thru Townfulosombitches USA to pay his phone bill? What is this nonsensical note? Just who in the Hellfire is that strange greasy old beggar? A figure of his imagination...his death?

It seems everything in his life is absolutely torn away from him and then he starts going crazy. Is he already dead? Should he kill himself? How can he survive? Yet he walks on...How? Why? OMG!


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 28, 2002 2:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh, come on Danlo. His two lost fingers, "IMHO" dont really represent anything, except for the hardships he had to go through...SRD wasnt that specific...or that good...or was he??
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 28, 2002 3:07 pm    Post subject: Down boy!!, Down!!!!!!!!!!!! Reply with quote

His lost fingers seem to represent alot, at least to him! I was just making off the cuff proposals to get the discussion rolling! I never said I necessarily believed that! Just fodder for debate--but see: you have been prowling the corner's of the Watch all morning--waiting, like a mad tiger, to devour and spit out the very first thing that comes out of my mouth! Well I had to start somewhere! I should have known better than to have even tired to start debate w/these (ur) vile creatures--they do just fine on their own...thank you very much...Perhaps I should have just written the word "Go" and ran for the bomb shelter!!! Shocked

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 28, 2002 4:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Its true...after works over...Im a sad, sad soul on weekends browsing the net for hours on end... Crying or Very sad Help!
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 28, 2002 7:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What I thought was so interesting was right after he reurns home from the leprosium (spelling), how fast the town has arranged his groceries, and phone bill to be paid so he didn't have to come to town. This was written in the 70's and makes you wonder how people would react today.
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 28, 2002 10:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, he has been away for 6 to 7 months--and (we learn later) there was a newspaper article about TC's leprosy. In anycase we can basically tell that Townfulosobs is a fairly dinky, back-water town somewhere in the middle of the US. Because of the "Bible-belt factor" and that the leprosy rate in the US is tiny, but the highest # of cases in the US r reported in the northern Texas/Lousiana region (Armadillos being the #1 disease carrying suspects) horses, etc... I tend 2 think it's somewhere in Texas. In a small town like that everybody knos every1 else's business, just like that.

But, u kno, it might have been a group effort: Joan, her father, his lawyer, the mayor and our good buddy the Chief of Police...kinda sounds like a really demented episode of the Andy Griffith Show. Perhaps they assumed some semi-legal guardianship of TC and either diverted funds from his royalties, or from Joan's share of those royalties, 2 pay 4 @least 1 year of groceries and utilities. W/out TC's consent they couldn't, legally, place him anywhere and who would want 2 get close eunf 2 him 2 try 2 get him 2 sign papers? Any papers? Well he signed the divorce papers, I guess... Haven Farm was brought and paid for and probably in TC's name--so they had 2 dump him there--they didn't kno what else 2 do...


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 28, 2002 11:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

OK here's my take:

In the first chapter we are introduced to Covenant, his bitterness and his resolve. We are told about his past, his being a writer, his mariage and his son, his sickness, his divorce and beravement, but it is not until the end of the chapter that the explicit truth is revealed: "Don't touch me, I'm a leper". We are also given some hints which will unravel in the sequel: the ocher clothed figure holding a sign 'beware' in which Covenant sees "two eyes like fangs, carious and deadly"

I also found the choice of words, that describe Covenant's experience as a writer, interesting: "wild discharge of energy", "create the landscapes of earth out of nothingness", "white bolt striking into the heavens" doesn't it remind you of wild magic?

In the second chapter we are introduced to leprosy, the disease, its cultural implications, and the loneliness and dispair that it carries. We learn of Covenant's decision to survive and the diligent way in which he undertook the practice of survival. Yet we learn that Covenant feels rage, and self disgust - self hate. He is not at peace with his situation, but his former self is lost to him, as the act of burning his books symbolizes.

The story continues and Covenant reads the beggar's note, "the fundemental question of ethics". Then Covenant encounters the beggar, and gives him his ring which is "It was an icon of himself. It reminded him of where he had been and where he was - of promises made and broken, companionship lost, helplessness - and of his vestigial humanity." The beggar gives Covenant his 'mission': "take back the ring. Be true. You need not fail."

The crux of the dillema of Covenant's existance is laid bare in this chapter. In order to survive, Covenant has barred himself in a cage of discipline, bitterness and rage. Yet his spirit is recalcitrant to this cage he has imposed on himself. If he frees himself from his cage, he will let go of the 'law of leprosy' which is the only thing that keeps him alive, but if he stays in his cage, he is bound to dispair.

- pitch
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 29, 2002 12:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If I remember correctly, SRD's father worked at a leprosaurium so much of what is written is factually correct. Without delving into pure medical detail, I enjoyed how SRD manages to tell us about the disease and wrap the story around it at the same time.

It provides clear demarcation points insofar as explaining his state of mind is concerned.

I think the note handed to TC is pivotal - and to recap:

Quote:
....There he is informed by a disembodied voice that he has been brought to that place as a champion for his world. He must fight to the death in single combat against a champion from another world. If he is defeated, he will die, and his world - the real world - will be destroyed because it lacks the inner strength to survive.

The man refuses to believe that what he is told is true. He asserts that he is either dreaming or hallucinating, and declines to be put in the false position of fighting to the death where no 'real' danger exists. He is implacable in his determination to disbelieve his apparent situation, and does not defend himself when he is attacked by the champion of the other world.

Question: Is the man's behaviour courageous or cowardly? This is the fundamental question of ethics.


To me, much of what happens in the rest of the chronicles is driven by the content of this note.
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 29, 2002 12:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very Happy Finally! A great piece of discourse Pitch! I, too, noted the analogy of his writting and wild magic. What do u think SRD means by night-ridden people? The Law of Leprosy, indeed! (it seems TC is still in that cage in the Land) We talk about the Staff of Law and the Law of Death in our discussions, but we seldom note how that Law works in the Land. Oh we hint around it alot--but we sometimes 4get 2 call it what it really is...

I agree w/o a doubt Vain! (didn't c that u had posted while I was...er...posting Confused Very Happy)
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 29, 2002 1:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Right on Vain - that note is the basis of the whole chronicals IMO. The other part I found interesting was the beggar telling him 'You are in perdition, my son'.

So, he's told he's in hell and then asked: what would be an ethical way to act there?

I might be a tad freaked out myself.

The 'white bolt striking into the heavens' line struck me for the first time too...a good set up for things to come..... Cool
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 29, 2002 1:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I always thought that it would be interesting to know what TC's book was about. It seems that, because of TC's imagination, it would be a work of fiction since it would follow to reason that a work of fiction would require the most imagination. However, SRD never gives us that info. Too bad!

I think that the first two chapters simply establish TC's stubborness and resolve to live. Sorry folks - I have a tendency to look at things in a very simple and face-value manner! I put myself in TC's shoes. Truly - think of it. If the doctors told you that you had leprosy and, unlike cancer or AIDS, you will most likely live a long life BUT if you don't take care of yourself and religiously follow certain guidelines, you will turn into a horribly deformed and reeking lump of semi-humanity. I would be like TC also! As a matter of fact, I don't think I would do as well as he did. I would certainly despair! What struck me about the first chapters was that the severity of the disease and the ugliness it could produce both physically, emotionally, and environmentally (as it pertains to society surrounding the victim) is certainly more than most of us could bear.
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 29, 2002 2:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I had also wondered what the book was - and imagined that it was actually The Chronicles at one point. I see SRD putting some of his own life experiences into the book so imagined he was referring to the Chrons.

The cloaked/robed character is also a bit confusing. At one point sympathetic and at the other telling TC to kill himself. Is he Lord Foul? Kevin Landwaster?
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 29, 2002 3:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I hate having 2 keep agreeing w/u Vain but I have always believed the books r the Chronicles. But who r the night-ridden people? That makes my head spin-if Lord Foul's Bane is the 1st book and he burns it in the fireplace...**Double Visons of Hell swarm in, and no I haven't been drinking! Very Happy **

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 29, 2002 4:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The cloaked figure is the Creator, of course. I am wondering whether he has already chosen Covenant before he talks with him, or talking to him is kind of a test. Then again, maybe Covenant was already chosen, but the Creator wanted to reassure himself. Here's a transcript of their discussion:
Quote:

Beggar: "Give ... I have warned you"
Covenant: takes off the ring and drops it in the bowl. "That's worth more than a few coins"
Beggar: "Wait"
Covenant: "Don't touch me. I'm a leper"
Beggar: "You are in perdition, my son"
Covenant: "No, old man. This is normal - human beings are like this, Futile. That's what life is like. I just have less bric-a-brac cluttering up the facts than most people.
Beggar: "So young - and already so bitter."
Covenant: "Come on old man, we didn't make the world. All we have to do is live in it. We're all in the same boat - one way or another."
Beggar: "Did we not? ... Why not destroy yourself?"
Covenant: "That's too easy." ... "Look, is there anything I can do for you? Food? a place too stay? You can have what I've got."
Beggar: "You have done too much. Gifts like this I return to the giver. Take back the ring. Be true. You need not fail."
Covenant: "Everybody fails. But I am going to survive - as long as I can."
Beggar: "That is as it may be."


The big question is: why was Covenant chosen? Was it because of his determination to fight off dispair with all his power? Covenant is constantly living on the edge of dispair, the only thing that is holding him is his will, and his disciplined leper routine. With his will he turns off the thoughts that make him dispair, like the memory of Joan in her night gown... Now that I think of it, the clinging on to survival is a recurring theme in SRD's writing, it reminds me of Angus.

I agree with Vain, the beggar's note is pivotal. do you guys think it deserves some disecting?

-pitch
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 29, 2002 2:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

first .. let me applaud danlo for that ingenius analogy .. it totally blew me away .. perceptive brilliance!! I loved it!!

.. the loss of his 2 fingers being representative of the loss of his wife and child ..

Quote:
Two lost fingers...do they represent Joan and Roger amputated from his life? Losing the sense of touch, losing all connection to the human family.


Losing these fingers that still have more 'feeling' than the rest that are intact!! .. representative of the longing and loss he so keenly feels

.. losing sense of touch - his social disconnection .. Now SRD may not have intended this interpretation .. but what brilliantly crafted imagery!!

I think the pyschology of Thomas Covenant is very interesting .. I mused on this too as I read these chapters again .. He had to abandon his imagination .. no easy task for a creative thinker and author.

Now if I bought into the arguement that The Land was all a product of TC's subconscious .. a means of his escaping his awful and shocking reality .. I would say these chapters would support that kind of rationale.

Pitch - I believe that the Creator was giving TC a test .. to see if he was still after all his loss - capable of giving

.. Once TC offered him a meal .. a place to stay .. whatever he had .. the Creator's attitude softened considerably toward him .. in my opinion .. this was a test.

The note I have never been able to appreciate .. for one I have questioned whether such a scenario is indeed 'the' fundamental question of ethics' .. so if any one can explain that to me I would be truly grateful ..

The beggars note is only pivotal because it so obviously lays out the blueprint of TC's quandary .. his coming experience .. It tells us exactly what TC will face and it doesn't really seem to serve TC beyond that .. he seems to take no real heed of it .. and I guess I will know for sure as we re-read .. but I dont recall any future reflection by TC on this note.

Is it a warning from the old beggar guy/Creator to TC .. is it something to help him prepare?

I thought the poem that TC thought of was really interesting.

Quote:
These are the pale deaths
which men miscall their lives:
for all the scents of green things growing,
each breath is but an exhalation of the grave.
Bodies jerk like puppet corpses,
and hell walks laughing -


wow .. very apt. Clearly TC felt this ..
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 30, 2002 1:12 am    Post subject: the ethical question Reply with quote

The "ethical question" is somewhat confusing, and I'm not sure I'll ever completely understand it. Within the context of the book, it obviously comes from "The Creator" and just as obviously prophesies the ordeal Covenant is about to go through.

I've given a lot of thought to the religious aspects of this work; it has great religious depth and inspiration for me. Covenant is asked to believe in, to have faith in, something that he states he does not believe in; the reality of the Land and his destiny as the Land's savior (of sorts).

It is then interesting to consider SRD's religious position when he wrote the Chronicles. (Although I do not know of him discussing this at great length, he has implied he is not a Christian in the traditional sense or a church goer). He was the son of missionaries, people of faith who were obviously doing good in caring for lepers no matter whether their religious beliefs were valid. Covenant is asked to do the same; to at least fulfill his mission to help the people of the land, no matter what his internal beliefs are. Ultimately, all people of faith are in a similar position; we do our best to fulfill what we see as our mission without definite assurance that our religious beliefs are true.

The beginning chapters of this book are so authentic; sparse, obviously not written merely to attract the average reader, with little hint of the richness and color that is to come. When giving these books to friends, I often find they can't get beyond these first few chapters. (It might have helped to give them a dictionary to explain what color ochre is!)
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 30, 2002 2:16 am    Post subject: covenant's life before disease Reply with quote

Sad Am I alone in finding his life to be somewhat unconnected to others even before he gets sick? It's as if there is no other person in his life with any importance other than Joan, and his relationship with her seems to be sort of odd. Joan seems to run everything in their lives and makes all of the decisions without his input. Does she resent this? Does he? Is she just a control freak? Is he a panty waist? It seems as though the only real connection he has even with his wife is in the bedroom, he always thinks of her physical beauty, as opposed to thinking of her as being nice, or intelligent, or sweet, or creative, or a good mother, etc. Doesn't seem to be a particularly good marriage or relationship to me...There's not even any mention of his parents or siblings, it's as if he's popped out of the earth fully formed...I started thinking about the movie "A Beautiful Mind" about this isolated genious who goes crazy. When I watched the movie I got this strong feeling that Nash goes crazy and makes up all of these people who seem so real to him because he's so bloody lonely... Crying or Very sad
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 30, 2002 4:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

mmm .. 'Guest' .. that is interesting .. there is no mention of parents or siblings or close friends .. and their reactions/relationship to TC before or indeed after he is diagnosed with leperosy!

Is this because he is consumed with the bereavement of his wife and child's abandonment?? It could be that simple .. or indeed as you say .. he really is a peculiar individual .. and loner.

We often blame his leperosy for his estrangement .. but if he has no prior connections to a family or friends outside of Joan and Roger .. he was always a loner.

Though as he relives some of his experiences with Joan .. he seems quite the contented male. He even laughs!!! .. and that struck me as very interesting .. how he describes laughter in his life ... and how Joan didnt always understand how he could laugh in some circumstances .. It made me think naturally of the Foamfollower character .. and his defining characteristic - laughter!

I like the parallel to 'A Beautiful Mind' .. Nash like TC was an outcast .. so to speak .. and his imagination created the escape he craved from his friendless reality. His imaginary friend .. and all the detail of his imagined life in intelligence .. or whatever it was.

TC does take the pychology conditioning of the Medical Profession to heart .. abandoning as best he can .. everything he felt passion for .. and some he had no choice but to abandon .. [his disease imposed impotence]

I think this ties in nicely with danlo's opening post .. examining the psychology of TC ..

Speaking of religous themes .. in his Reflections on Story Telling in the beginning pages introducing the Gap series .. Donaldson describes his upbringing thus;

Quote:
Because I have a conceptual mind and an academic's education - not to mention a religious fanatic's upbringing - I frequently talk about my work in terms of its ideas.


Throughout the Chrons I have always had the impression that Donaldson writes from the stand-point of most definitely anti-organised religion .. anti-institutionalised faith.

He draws the religious fanatic townsfolk as reprehensible in their religious observance missing the very essence of humanity in their worship and actions.

TC may be a Saviour of the Land .. but he is quite different from what christians understand about their Saviour .. he is an unwilling Saviour .. who ultimately gives himself as a willing sacrifice for the salvation of the Creator's earth and its inhabitants.

A loose construct in the similitude of the christian ideology .. but nevertheless possessing some similar themes.

I thought the following quote by Donaldson also interesting in relation to the Chrons .. [no relationship was intentionally drawn to TCTC .. I just found it intereting to have a glimpse into the mind of the author]

Quote:
Passion, if I may say so, is life.
But ofcourse passion doesnt mean anything - in fact, it can hardly exist - without structure/restriction/control.


TC must resist that which would empassion him to life .. he must contain passion or else it is meaningless .. somehow that seems a contradiction to me .. can passion be channelled? I guess so .. I guess we do it every day .. perhaps it simply serves to motivate action ..

Maybe thats the key for TC .. because to 'embrace life' .. which is an interesting concept for TC .. he must accept 'passion' .. which at this point he doesnt seem able .. but if 'passion is life' then to embrace life he must create a structure within which to channel it ..

Maybe this structure is his creation .. *shrug* Though I never liked this suggestion that would effectively mean the Land is not a reality .. because I want to believe it is.
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 30, 2002 4:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting idea about Covenant's fingers, danlo...I never thought of that, but it makes sense for them to represent Joan and Roger...especially since he mentions that he "feels" them more than he feels his remaining fingers...which could represent the pain he feels at losing his family... (Ack! I'm picking up Sky's habit of using too many ellipses! Shocked)

Skyweir wrote:
Pitch - I believe that the Creator was giving TC a test .. to see if he was still after all his loss - capable of giving .. Once TC offered him a meal .. a place to stay .. whatever he had .. the Creator's attitude softened considerably toward him .. in my opinion .. this was a test.


Yes, ITA...that was my interpretation of that also.

Skyweir wrote:
The note I have never been able to appreciate .. for one I have questioned whether such a scenario is indeed 'the' fundamental question of ethics' .. so if any one can explain that to me I would be truly grateful ..The beggars note is only pivotal because it so obviously lays out the blueprint of TC's quandary .. his coming experience .. It tells us exactly what TC will face and it doesn't really seem to serve TC beyond that .. he seems to take no real heed of it .. and I guess I will know for sure as we re-read .. but I dont recall any future reflection by TC on this note.
Is it a warning from the old beggar guy/Creator to TC .. is it something to help him prepare?


That's what I thought. But I also don't quite buy the assertion that that scenario is "the fundamental question of ethics". Confused

Guest, that really is interesting, and I noticed it as well - Covenant always seems to think of Joan in terms of physical beauty and not personality. I've heard some people accuse Joan of being shallow, because she left Covenant when he needed her the most...but is Covenant shallow also, that he only remembers her beauty and not any of her other qualities? It would seem, in any case, that all was not right with them even before he found out he had leprosy.

And we really don't know much about Roger at all. He never even appears in the books...Where is he in the Second Chronicles, anyway? Does it mention where Joan left him before she went insane? With her parents? I don't remember...

~Foamy~
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 30, 2002 5:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Foamy wrote:
Quote:
and I noticed it as well - Covenant always seems to think of Joan in terms of physical beauty and not personality.

I don't think that's completely true, in the first chapter Covenant describes her skills with horses:
Quote:
It seemed to Covenant that she did not break horses; she seduced them ... Watching her, Covenant had felt daunted by her ability.

Donaldson describes Joan as
Quote:
a quiet woman who expressed more of herself with her eyes and the tone of her skin than she did with words

What kind of relationship did Covenant and Joan have? I always imagined it as a very close and intimate relationship, an understanding that is beyond words. Covenant was the artist type, imaginative, creative, his head was in high spheres, and Joan was the one with her feet on the ground, taking care of the earthly matters. That's why it seems that Joan makes all the decisions in their life, but it doesn't mean that there was something wrong with their relationship.

Was Covenant a loner before he contracted leprosy? It's hard to say, Donaldson does not go into a lot of detail when describing his life, but there are some things he does say:
Quote:
But he saw that the people he passed, the people who knew him, whose names and houses and handclasps were known to him - he saw that they stepped aside...

... women who at one time chosen to discuss his novel in their literary clubs...

Without the support or encouragement of other people, he did not believe he could endure the burden of his struggle against horror and death; ...

I think Donaldson wants to get us into the story as fast as possible, he gives us the minimum information we need to understand what Covenant had gone through. Maybe he didn't have any relatives, maybe his close freinds abandoned him as Joan did, Donaldson just didn't think it was worth mentioning.

-pitch
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