Headscratchers / The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant

Why doesn't Foul just get a white gold object from his minons?
We know Foul has followers in our world. Why doesn't he just have one of them buy or steal something made of white gold and just give it to him? We know he can pull people into The Land. So they get him white gold, they deliver it to him, he uses it to break shit, PROFIT!
  • While people within the Land can occasionally summon people from our world, it seems like the Creator has some influence over exactly who they get; he was the one who chose Covenant to be sent over, not Lord Foul or Drool Rockworm.
  • Lord Mhoram explicitly tells Covenant that "you are the white gold". The ring itself is powerless, its Covenant himself who is the game changer. That's why Foul doesn't just kill him, he needs Covenant to give him the ring willingly, which is symbolic for handing over the power.
  • Per Word of God, Foul's ability to reach into the "real" world is extremely limited, and he was only able to pull that off after Drool weakened the barriers by summoning Covenant (the spell to summon Covenant was probably just targeted to grab "somebody with white gold on their person" and the Creator intervened to determine exactly who it got). Most of his followers in the "real" world also appear to be deeply damaged people a la Joan who would be very hard to push into anything that doesn't play into their particular insanity (he has this exact problem with Joan in the Last Chronicles; she was so broken that even being possessed by a Raver was only sufficient to prod her in the general direction Foul wanted, and was certainly in no condition to use her ring to its full potential). That's even assuming Foul has more than the one cult. Carrying out that level of a plan in the "real" world may simply be unfeasible for Foul to pull off.
    • It's also worth noting that the "steal" part wouldn't work in the first place, since a white gold object only has its full power in the hands of its rightful owner (which is why Foul is so determined to get Covenant to fork over the ring of his own free will in the First and Second chronicles, instead of just possessing him or some such). To destroy the Arch of Time, Foul needs every bit of wild magic he can get. Stolen white gold would probably work fine for Kasreyn's purposes, though.
      • See above, the ring itself is worthless. The Creator sent in Covenant because he himself was the white gold, the ring is merely a symbol of said power. In order for Foul to possess the power, Covenant has to give it to him willingly, otherwise all he has is a piece of metal.
    • The whole "necessity of freedom" thing prevents Foul to order his followers to bring him white gold, no matter how it's acquired. Foul has already dominated his followers' minds, so any white gold given to him by them would be worthless since they couldn't really make a choice about handing it over.

How did Berek get his white gold ring?

Since White Gold can only be obtained from outside the world of The Land, Where does Berek manage to get his ring? I thought for sure that Linden was going to give him Covenant's Ring at some point, since that would fit the lore and explain how Berek could have one, but that didn't happen either.
  • Berek never had a white gold ring. He wielded Earthpower, not wild magic.
  • Having just reread the First Chronicles, and going through the Second, everybody reacts to white gold and wild magic as something theoretical or prophecied, rather than something they might have actual experience with (or access to the histories of people who'd had firsthand experience). Nobody indicates there having been any actual white gold wielders in the Land prior to Covenant (and if such an object had existed in the Land, the question of what happened to it and why Foul hadn't already gotten a hold of it would have to be answered). Covenant resembles Berek because they're missing the same fingers, not because they used the same talisman of power.

Fridge Brilliance: Why would a former English teacher give characters in his first novel goofy, awkward names like Lord Foul and Drool Rockworm? The opening chapters of LFB imply that, before contracting leprosy, Covenant was a hack fantasy author. (Indeed, he was also famous enough for Hollywood to make a movie out of one of his stories, according to the words of Troy in TIW.) Since Donaldson repeatedly insists on his website that the most reasonable explanation for the Land is that it is simply Covenant and Linden's delusion, it makes utter sense that a writer's imaginary friends (and enemies) would be limited by his own ability to write. Doesn't stop Drool, Foul, and Kevin from being dorky names, though.
  • I believe I've seen a quote from Donaldson where he said that if he was writing the First Chronicles now, he'd have given Foul a Bilingual Bonus name like he did with the Ravers, rather than the flat-out Obviously Evil Meaningful Name he actually ended up with.
    • "As for Lord Foul: as I've said before, I was young and unpublished, had nothing to lose, and saw no reason not to be overt about my archtypal intentions. If I were starting the whole project today, I would probably want to be more subtle. However (he said ruefully), the name I most wish I could change is 'krill'. When I picked that name for Loric's dagger, I had no idea that it was a real word—or that its real meaning isn't even remotely useful for my intentions. <sigh> And the second worst name, from my perspective, is 'Elemesnedene,' for the simple reason that the spelling encourages a grating mispronunciation. Who would guess from that spelling that I meant 'ele-main-DEAN'?"
  • Having just reread the First Chronicles, it actually never specifies what genre Covenant's bestseller was (or indeed anything about it other than that post-leprosy Covenant thought it was garbage). On the one hand, Covenant being a fantasy author actually adds further context and depth to his Unbelief (since he'd have reason to believe from prior experience that his mind was capable of producing a High Fantasy world), but on the other hand Covenant displays no particular knowledge of or insight into fantasy tropes beyond those he personally experiences. Basically, it boils down to the fact that we just don't know enough about what was in Covenant's novels to draw terribly solid conclusions about him or the Land from them, beyond how their changing thematic content and darkness level reflected his own Character Development.

  • What are cavewights supposed to look anyway? All we ever get in the way of description are solid red eyes and a "head like a battering ram", which or some reason leads me to picture them as literally having a rams' head.
    • Lord Foul's Bane has more than that in the description of Drool: "Crouched on a low dais near the centre of the cave was a creature with long, scrawny limbs, hands as huge and heavy as shovels, a thin, hunched torso, and a head like a battering ram. As he crouched, his knees came up almost to the level of his ears.... His grizzled mouth was rigid with laughter, and his red eyes seemed to bubble like magma." At other points their hands are said to be "spatulate" (like shovels) and their great strength is emphasized.

  • Why are the names of some people, places and things italicized while others aren't? Compare Haruchai and Elohim to Ramen, Ranyhyn and Insequent. This kind of stuff is all over the place with little rhyme or reason.
    The rationale for the way certain words are consistently italicized is that they are "foreign" words (foreign, that is, to the "native tongue" of the narrative, the Land's inhabitants, etc.). This is common usage (consult any familiar "style manual" of English grammer, punctuation, and so on)—although it hardly *appears* common because the inherent xenophobia of US culture prevents most writers from drawing on foreign languages. I can get away with it in a fantasy novel because fantasy readers *expect*—and even desire—the existence of other cultures.