Literature: The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant
aka: Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant
A dark fantasy epic, in lime, pineapple and strawberry. The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant
is a fantasy series written by Stephen R. Donaldson that tends to lean far toward the cynical side of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism
Thomas Covenant, a bitter, divorced leper shunned by his community due to his illness, finds himself transported into a fantasy world called rather unintuitively "The Land" where the (good, nice, hospitable) people treat him as The Chosen One
, tell him that the wedding ring he still hangs onto is a magical artifact of unparalleled power, and expect him to save the world. Covenant, however, refuses to play along, insisting that the fantasy world is All Just a Dream
. It does not help that the highly competent main villain, Lord Foul, is usually several steps ahead of the good guys.
At first, Covenant is convinced that it is All Just a Dream
. This does not really change, but he eventually decides that it is a dream he cares about. In the first three books, the author makes certain that the reader cannot decide whether or not it really IS a dream. The corruption of The Land could be a subconscious metaphor for Covenant's corruption by leprosy. It also seems suspicious that The Land is rather simplistically detailed for such a dark series — perhaps because it is All Just a Dream
and the dreamer is not a fantasy writer. Oh, and it starts when Covenant is hit by a car and falls unconscious. On the other hand, it is far more vivid, lengthy, and elaborate than any dream should/could be.
The second trilogy
more or less confirms that no, it is not All Just a Dream
, by adding another main character who joins Covenant. What the Land actually
is, however, is left up to the reader.
The series tends to have much more character-driven writing than other High Fantasy
stories, and delves pretty deep into the psychology of its characters. Now has a Character Sheet
in need of Wiki Magic
Following the clear and unambiguous information on the All Just a Dream
question, the Chronicles have two own wikis, one serious
, one not so much and a bit detached from reality
The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever:
The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant:
- Lord Foul's Bane
- The Illearth War
- The Power that Preserves
- Gilden-Fire (a novella consisting of material cut from The Illearth War)
The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant:
- The Wounded Land
- The One Tree
- White Gold Wielder
- The Runes of the Earth
- Fatal Revenant
- Against All Things Ending
- The Last Dark
The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant provides examples of the following tropes:
- Arc Words: In the second trilogy: "Did I not say she was well Chosen?"
- Aerith and Bob: Mostly strange-sounding names, with a few ordinary ones mixed in. The ancient and revered High Lord Damelon Giantfriend is succeeded by High Lord Loric Vilesilencer, and he in turn by High Lord... Kevin.
- After the End: The second trilogy. And the third. Sort of.
- Agent Mulder: Hile Troy
- Agent Scully: Linden Avery
- All Just a Dream: In the first trilogy, Thomas Covenant is convinced "The Land" isn't real. At the end of it, Covenant decides that whether or not it's "real" doesn't matter; if it is a dream, then his dreaming it makes it real and something that's worth protecting. The Land's reality, or lack thereof, is no longer important in the second and third series.
- Donaldson removed an entire chapter from The Illearth War because it did not have Covenant present, thus proving the Land had a continuity of its own without him. It was released as part of an anthology of Donaldson short stories.
- All-Powerful Bystander: The Creator.
- All Up To You: In the first chronicles lots and lots of people tell TC this; he reacts poorly.
- Always Chaotic Evil: Several races at first, but the Last Chronicles subverts this by having them some of them turn good, and revealing that none of them were originally evil. Lord Foul on the other hand, definitely evil. With a capital E. Heck, with a capital V, I and L too. And the Ravers may actually be worse.
- In the Second Trilogy, Vain proves that ur-Viles were actually True Neutral, not evil.
- And I Must Scream
- Findail and Vain are fused to make the new Staff of Law.
- Played straight when possessed by Ravers. Linden is not only forced to watch the Raver control her, but the Raver loves to taunt her while possessing her.
- Another Dimension
- Anthropomorphic Personification: Lord Foul and the Creator are either this for the Cosmos, or for aspects of Thomas Covenant's soul. The Last Chronicles reveals that one more also exists, She Who Must Not Be Named (formerly Love, before Foul betrayed her). The existence of a fourth being who opposes the Lover in the same way that the Despiser opposes the Creator is posited by Covenant — who terms said deity "Indifference" — but this is never confirmed, presumably because if Indifference does exist, her reaction to the events in the Land would be a resounding "meh".
- Anti-Hero: Thomas Covenant, starting out as a Type I in our world becoming a Type V after his rape of Lena then settling down in the second trilogy as a Type III. Linden also starts as a Type I and ends as a Type III.
- Artifact of Doom: The Illearth Stone
- Ascended Extra: Diassomer Mininderain and Kastenessen appear only as characters in (possibly inaccurate) legends in the Second Chronicles. They're both key figures in the Last Chronicles.
- The Atoner: Vain, for the entire ur-vile race.
Somewhere above them, the few surviving ur-viles watched Kiril Threndor in a reflective pool of acid and barked vindication at Vain's success.
- Awesome McCoolname: The High Lords, given title surnames based on their greatest deeds, combined with Aerith and Bob tendencies. By the way, the "Kevin" mentioned above is more formally known as Kevin Landwaster.
- Back from the Dead: The cave-wights in the second chronicles are trying to do this to Drool Rockworm. He would've come back wrong if they had succeeded.
- Badass Army: The Bloodguard.
- Bad Moon Rising: Drool Rockworm's corruption of the moon from the first trilogy.
- Batman Gambit: Covenant's plan at the end of White Gold Wielder only works because he knew that the first thing Foul would do with the white gold ring is attack him with it.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: What happens to Lord Foul at the end of the second trilogy is deliciously ironic. Lord Foul's goal throughout the first two trilogies was to obtain Covenant's White Gold wedding ring, so he could use its power to destroy The Land and escape. At the end of the second trilogy, Covenant seeks out Lord Foul for a final confrontation, but, to the amazement of everyone watching, Covenant simply hands the ring over to Lord Foul — who immediately destroys himself trying to use it.
- Because Destiny Says So: Almost everyone TC meets expects great things from him due to ancient prophecies and such-like.
- Bee Bee Gun: In the second trilogy, on of the Raver-possessed Sunbane victims chucks a spider at Covenant; earlier a Raver had possessed a swarm of wasps and stung him half to death.
- Beneath the Earth: Most evil stuff comes from here; The Illearth Stone, the cavewights and ur-viles, the Lurker of the Sarangrave, but that changes as the series goes on. Eventually good things come from here too.
- Beware the Nice Ones: The Unhomed, Giants who were stranded from their homeland. They're exceedingly gentle, but look out if they get mad.
- Big Bad: Lord Foul is the villain for the entire series; each book has lesser Arc Villains.
- Big Bad Duumvirate: In the Third Chronicles, Foul has teamed up with the renegade Elohim Kastenessen, the closest thing he can be said to have to an equal on the evil side of things. From his prior behavior, though, it's clear that the Despiser doesn't play well with others and indeed, he has Moksha Raver playing Treacherous Advisor to Kastenessen, keeping his rage focused on accomplishing things the Despiser wants to see happen.
- Big Bad Wannabe: Drool Rockworm.
- Black Eyes of Evil: The Harrow.
- Black Magic: The Illearth stone and the vitriol that Ur-viles use
- The Blank: The Sandgorgons have no facial features.
- Blessed with Suck: Esmer, son of a Haruchai and one of the merwives, daughters of an Elohim and a mortal, can wield enormous power but he's always got to betray somebody.
- Blood Magic: The Sunbane.
- Body Horror: Illearth soldiers, Sun Bane touched, Fertile Sun.
- Butterfly of Doom: Time travelers must be careful in order not to cause an end of the world by changing the past.
- The Call Knows Where You Live
- And it does not forget. Even when Covenant Answers the Call, it continues to abuse his loved ones just for the hell of it. The Call lets Covenant off the hook exactly once, for a short time, because he was trying to help a girl in the "real" world who was bitten by a rattlesnake.
- Except for that one time, though, the Call is a real bastard, even to Linden Avery, who, unlike Covenant, never refused the Call in the first place. In the second book, it's revealed that the Call knows your telephone number. In the Final Chronicles, the call shoots Jeremiah and Linden with bullets. The call is more of an asshole than Lord Foul!
- Came Back Wrong
- Covenant in Against All Things Ending is revealed to have come back... slightly damaged. His rebuilt mortal body has leprosy again, and his mind is prone to crippling flashbacks due to his tenure within the Arch of Time. Naturally, this causes Linden no shortage of angst.
- Kevin Landwaster, hoo boy.
- Catch Phrase: Covenant has many, including (in no particular order): "Hellfire!", "Don't touch me!", and "Nerves don't regenerate." During the first book, he often silently castigated himself with the phrase "Leper! Outcast! Unclean!"
- Chekhov's Armoury: Covenant's Batman Gambit at the end of White Gold Wielder was founded on the breaking of the Law of Death four books earlier — itself caused by his crossing of the Moral Event Horizon in the book prior to that — and You Can't Fight Fate established five books earlier, with a dash of the You Are Not Ready that pervades the entire series. Not even Lord Foul, eternal Chessmaster, saw it coming.
- The Chessmaster: Lord Foul, the Creator, the Elohim- pretty much every major power has some sort of long-term plan going.
- The Chosen One:
- Covenant has all the outward signs that the people of The Land expect to see from a legendary hero - he looks exactly like their ancient hero Berek Halfhand and wears a white gold wedding ring - but he acts nothing like anyone would expect a hero to act. Nevertheless, in spite of being the crappiest Chosen One ever, he was indeed chosen by The Creator of The Land and gets the job done in the end. In The Power that Preserves, after it's all over, The Creator tells Covenant that he was picked as the Chosen One specifically because he was nothing at all like the kind of person that would be normally be suited for the role; if the Creator had sent someone "heroic" to The Land, it would have broken the Arch of Time and destroyed The Land (see God's Hands Are Tied, below) but he still needed someone who could endure the worst Lord Foul could dish out without falling into the Despair Event Horizon. The best he could do was someone like Covenant, who had come to know despair and self-hatred in the real world and had learned to carry on in spite of them.
- Linden in the Second Trilogy is literally called "The Chosen".
- In the Second Chronicles, Findail is chosen by the other Elohim to accompany Linden and Covenant and eventually fulfill Vain's hidden purpose. Findail and the other Elohim know exactly what Vain's purpose is ( to fuse with an Elohim to form a new Staff of Law), and he is utterly depressed at the fate he has been "chosen" for.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Esmer, quite literally. His ancestry left him with a conflicted nature; he literally can't help anyone without also having to do something to betray them at the same time (and vice versa).
- Collapsing Lair: Foul's Creche is destroyed in Covenant's first confrontation with the Despiser.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Evil is red, black, or unnatural green; Good is blue, gold, brown, or natural green; The morally unaligned, inherently chaotic wild magic is described as white, silver or "argent" (Heraldic term for "silver".)
- Comes Great Responsibility: Covenant hates responsibility. Especially responsibility that doesn't exist.
- Conservation of Ninjutsu: Inverted. The ur-viles (and waynhim) know how to combine the powers of individuals together, so that their individual threat level usually scales up the more of them there are, so long as a loremaster who knows the technique is present.
- Cool Horse: The Ranyhyn; these are horses that can hear someone whistling for them in the future.
- Corrupt Hick: Sheriff Lytton in the "real" world.
- The Corrupter: Lord Foul. It's one of his many names, even. He doesn't just like ruining things forever, he also loves doing it to people. High Lord Kevin and his Ritual of Desecration are his crowning achievements.
- Cosmic Keystone
- The Staff of Law, by its very existence, supports and upholds the Law — the natural order, the rules governing the Universe as a whole. When the Staff was destroyed, the Law was severely weakened, which enabled Lord Foul to remake the Law as he saw fit.
- White gold is specifically called "the keystone of the Arch of Time". Guess what Covenant's wedding ring is made of?
- Cruel Mercy: In The Illearth War, people are paying all of Thomas' bills so he has no reason to enter town. His lawyer calls it "black charity" and is thoroughly pissed.
- Cryptic Conversation: Numerous throughout the series.
- For example, Esmer often has to have these with Linden due to the conflicting nature of his obligations and lineages.
- Amok from the second chronicles is another great example.
- Cult: A group of cavewights at the end of the first trilogy form one to try and bring Drool Rockworm back to life. There is also one in our world in the second trilogy that worships Foul which Joan joins
- Curse Escape Clause: Kasreyn has to insert a "flaw" into every spell of his. Because of the nature of things, nothing truly perfect can exist. Any perfect spell would just fail. The implication is most spell casters are not good enough to manage perfection, so to them this does not matter. But Kasreyn has to insert flaws deliberately because he is just that good. This is why Kasreyn is after Covenant's ring. Kasreyn uses pure gold to cast his spells. Because white gold is an alloy and thus "impure", it satisfies the "flaw" requirement and Kasreyn could use it to create (effectively) perfect spells.
- Dark Is Not Evil
- When Linden cures The Land with the new Staff of Law, she notes that even Pestilence has its own place in the natural order.
- Vain also qualifies.
- The waynhim in general — creepy-looking creations of the demondim, wielders of the same Black Magic as the ur-viles, and more-or-less a race of good Samaritans. By the Last Chronicles, the ur-viles have decided that their cousins maybe had the right idea.
- Demonic Possession
- The modus operandi of Ravers. Turned right back on one Raver when the free Sandgorgon Nom takes advantage of a Seareach Giant's Heroic Sacrifice to "rend" the immortal possessing spirit, literally shredding its spirit and learning the mind-speech of the Haruchai in the process. (Justifiable as said Raver has possessed a Haruchai on at least one occasion.)
- In the Second Chronicles, it turns out that Linden can do this as well.
- In the Last Chronicles, various powers can possess Anele depending on what he is standing on. As one of these powers is Lord Foul, "demonic" does not quite cover it.
- Demoted to Dragon: In their backstory, the Ravers were originally the Land's reigning Big Bad Triumvirate, until Lord Foul arrived and made them his lieutenants. Of course, since Foul was pretty much everything the Ravers had ever aspired to being, they were more than happy to oblige him.
- Designated Hero: Done deliberately. The people of The Land are in desperate need of a hero, and they tend to treat Covenant like one in spite of the way he actually acts. Indeed, one of the main thrusts of especially the first trilogy is exploring the idea of what happens when the Messianic Archetype is really a self-hating jerk.
- Despair Event Horizon: High Lord Kevin steps over it in the Back Story. The same later happens to the Giants of Seareach and Trell. Linden yanking Covenant out of the Arc of Time counts as well. Lord Foul likes pushing people beyond this in general.
- Deus Angst Machina: Even when Covenant tries to play along/do the right thing/just not hurt anyone something bad still happens. Sometimes it's his fault, sometimes it's not.
- Did You Just Have Tea With Cthulhu: The Creator appears in "our" world as a homeless old man. Conversations with him end up as this.
- Did You Just Scam Cthulhu?: Covenant in White Gold Wielder.
- Doom Magnet: Covenant may as well trail black cats, swarms of locusts, and hordes of plague rats everywhere he goes for all the good his presence does a town.
- Doomed Hometown: Mithil Stonedown, Soaring Woodhelvenen to a lesser extent; still doomed but not a 'hometown' for the characters. It was more a place of refuge and respite on the road. But still doomed.
- The Dragon
- Gibbon na-Mhoram.
- Ravers in general.
- Either/Or Prophecy: The prophecy of the white gold wielder is one of these; "With one word of truth or treachery he will save or damn the Land." In the first Chronicles, he manages to do both at the same time.
- Eldritch Abomination: The Worm of World's end, a mindless creature that lives at the heart of the planet and could destroy it by the act of waking up. Trying to get it to wake up is often part of Lord Foul's scheming, particularly in The One Tree. Linden Avery the Chosen may have awoken it at the end of Fatal Revenant. Against All Things Ending reveals that the true source of Kevin's Dirt is She Who Must Not Be Named, a bane possibly equal in power to Foul or the Creator, who was once the cosmic embodiment of Love.
- Elemental Powers Stone and wood powers are prominent, but there are more.
- Emotions vs. Stoicism: A major theme.
- The Empath: A common power, but Linden in particular counts. In the first chronicles everyone is pretty much one of these, being able to sense the emotions of other as well as the general health and rightness of the world around them.
- "End of the World" Special: At the end of the Second Chronicles, Linden gets one of these due to both her role as The Empath and the fact that she's between the Land and our world.
- Energy Beings: The Elohim and the Viles.
- Establishing Character Moment: Lots of these.
- Evil Gloating: Lord Foul is very much into it, among others.
- Evil Minions: Cavewights for sure, ur-viles kinda.
- Evil Overlord
- Lord Foul plays it straight.
- Another evil overlord that appears in The One Tree; he's an evil overlord, yes, but he's basically a frail and sex-crazed senior whose real power comes from his alliance with an Evil Sorcerer.
- Evil Sorcerer
- Kasreyn is the Evil Sorcerer mentioned above, who is played straight.
- Drool Rockworm is a Cavewight from the first book, who thinks he can use the Staff of Law and the Illearth Stone to become one of these. In truth, they're both far more powerful than he is and almost literally eat him up. And he was just Foul's Unwitting Pawn anyway. Depending on how far you're willing to stretch the term, all ur-vile loremasters and members of the Clave, as well as some Insequent, could count as well.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin
- You have three guesses as to what kind of guy Lord Foul the Despiser is. The first two don't count.
- Also, the vortex of trepidation. "What will it do?" "It will make us afraid!"
- Ravers. Their Glamour Failure issues mentioned below are a direct result of their gleefully psychotic nature.
- Exact Words: How Covenant frees Nom the Sandgorgon.
- Expansion Pack World: The second trilogy expanded the map from the first one quite significantly.
- Fantastic Fragility: Wild magic can destroy the Arch of Time; Earthpower is not inherently bound by the Law, so unwise use of Earthpower can actually destroy natural laws.
- The Fair Folk: The Elohim, in addition to being mind-numbingly incomprehensible and powerful, believe that everything happening in The Land is a reflection of their own inner problems, and adjust their arrogance accordingly.
- Flat Earth Atheist: Keeping an iron grip on his survival disciplines is the number one priority for Tom. He feels he simply can't make any admissions to the "magic" that he keeps seeing, or it'd undermine his sense of reality and necessity.
- For the Evulz: Lord Foul wants to destroy the world so he can escape from the Arch of Time, but it is pretty heavily implied that even if he did not have to escape, he would destroy the world anyway out of sheer sadism. The Last Chronicles hint that Foul himself might, so deep down that even he doesn't realize it, be driven by the despair of simply being what he is. The Ravers as well.
- Functional Magic: Earthpower is a combination of the theurgy, rule magic, and force magic. The facets of earth aren't quite sentient as we know it, but they do respond and cooperate when properly asked/manipulated.
- Gambit Index: By the sixth book, every tactical trope had appeared, and there are yet more and more plans being started up in each subsequent book. If it's in that index, it is in these books.
- Gambit Pileup: Things get pretty convoluted in the Last Chronicles.
- Gentle Giant: Foamfollower is introduced as this.
- Ghibli Hills: Andelain, oh Andelain.
- Glamour Failure: More than a couple supernatural beings are susceptible to this, but the most obvious is a person posessed by a Raver, who has a veritable laundry list of dead giveaways.
- Glowing Eyes of Doom
- Lord Foul's have a penchant for appearing by themselves, in classic "formless evil" fashion.
- Stonewights are just crazy and evil.
- God of Evil: Foul, again.
- God's Hands Are Tied: The Creator exists and is good, but he cannot get into the Land himself without letting Foul out. As a result, he works through agents like Covenant and Linden, and usually appears to them as an old man before they are transported to the Land except in the Last Chronicles.
- Good Samaritan: The Healer of Morinmoss.
- The Grotesque: Pitchwife is a painfully deformed giant who still manages to be irrepressible and charming.
- Grumpy Bear: In the first trilogy, Thomas Covenant is determined to be miserable no matter how wonderful a place he finds himself in, acting as though he expects things to go to hell any minute now. He's right in that the Sugar Apocalypse really is just around the corner, but, unlike the people around him, Covenant is unable to enjoy the good times while they last.
- Half-Human Hybrid: Esmer is half-Haruchai half-merwife. The merwives themselves are half-human half-Elohim.
- Harbinger of Impending Doom: If a certain old man comes to you in "The Real World", look out. You're about to be teleported away to another world that is in deep, deep trouble.
- Heroic Sacrifice: There are a lot of these throughout the series; as an example, in the first chronicles on the Hirebrand of Revelstone throws himself into a magic trap to prevent High Lord Prothal from dying.
- Hollywood Tactics: Hile Troy's battle plan in the Illearth War.
- Honor Before Reason
- Linden points out to The Masters that they have neither the numbers nor the strength (not without Earthpower, which they can't use) to defeat Foul and staying their current course is basically suicide by degrees. Their response to Linden is basically, "...Shut up."
- The Haruchai in general embody this to the point of sadomasochism.
- How Do I Shot Web?: Covenant does not learn to control wild magic until the final book of the Second Chronicles.
- Idiosyncratic Cover Art: See the picture at the top of the page.
- I Have Many Names: Lord Foul. Parodied in the first book, where Covenant asks Lord Foul what his name is: Lord Foul the Despiser, The Grey Slayer, Fangthane the Render, Satansheart Soulcrusher, Corruption, and A-Jeroth of the Seven Hells. After that list of names he then proceeds to hit Covenant with 'We are not so different, you and I...'
- Implacable Man: Two of them: One as an inscrutable, passive follower, and one as a raw, violent force of nature.
- Inherently Funny Words: C'mon, nowadays, you can't hear Nom's name and not think of "Nom, nom, nom!"
- Innocent Bystander: Soaring Woodhelvenen, the whole town.
- Inverse Law of Utility and Lethality: Linden's healthsense starts like this but she learns to use it for good and evil.
- Jerkass: Plenty of them, especially Roger Covenant in Fatal Revenant. Thomas also qualifies in the first trilogy.
- Kill It with Fire: Comes in many different flavors and alignments.
- One unique example is the Giants, who use fire to "kill" guilt, grief and anguish. Giants are immune to damage from fire, but still feel pain equivalent to burning when exposed; they use this pain to "burn" away extremes of harmful emotion, and are psychologically dependent on this ritual, called caamora, to the point where they will suffer mentally if they are unable to purge their pain in this fashion. Even the spirits of the Giants of Seareach were unable to fully rest in peace for centuries until Covenant used his ring to provide a caamora of mystic flame to ease the horror of their slaughter.
- Foreshadowing: "When he hit me with my own fire, he did me one thing I couldn't do for myself. He burned the venom away. After that, I was free."
- Kill It with Water: In-universe, this represents a profound violation of natural law, requiring some sort of eldritch catalyst to be possible in the first place. So it follows that the villains would be eager to make use of this trope with Illearth Stone in hand.
- Knight Templar: The Masters made all of the right deductions and came to all of the wrong answers.
- Last of His Kind: Foamfollower becomes that in the First Chronicles, on the Land's continent, at least.
- The Last Title: The Last Dark.
- Left-Justified Fantasy Map: Averted with the Land.
- Living Lie Detector: Throughout the books, when people have a direct connection to Earthpower they can see health, feel Law, and hear falsehood. Kinda trippy, but in a good way.
- Loose Canon: Gilden-Fire, a novella consisting of material cut from The Illearth war.
- Luke Nounverber: Figures of note in The Land's past tend to have this kind of name assigned to them, aka Kevin Landwaster. All Giant names, as well as the Giants names for Lord Foul and the Ravers, also work like this.
- Made of Evil: The Illearth Stone is, more or less, a solidified chunk of raw malevolence. Lord Foul in a sense inverts it; Foul isn't made of evil so much as evil is made of him (what with him being the cosmic representation of Despite and all).
- Mad God: She Who Must Not Be Named and Kastenessen are a mad Big-G God and little-g god, respectively. Both of the Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds variety.
- The Magnificent
- Covenant is the Unbeliever and White-Gold Wielder. Covenant is, in fact, "Ringthane and White Gold Wielder, Ur-Lord Illender, Unbeliever and Prover of Life".
- Linden Avery is the Chosen and Sun Sage. In the Last Chronicles, she also gets to be Ringthane, since the Ramen call anyone who wields a white gold ring that.
- The Magocracy: The Land in several eras, Brathairealm too although Kasreyn is an eminence grise rather than an outright ruler.
- The Maker: The Creator.
- Mama Bear: Linden Avery, in the third series.
- Meaningful Name
- Thomas Covenant comes from the Biblical "Doubting Thomas" and the Old/New Covenant.
- Lord Foul the Despiser; doesn't get more meaningful than that.
- This is the Giants' naming convention, i.e. Saltheart Foamfollower. They do state their true names are unutterable in normal tongue.
- The Ravers have an interesting version of this, having two names each, their "origin" names, and their common names: turiya Herem, samādhi Sheol, and moksha Jehannum. The origin names are terms in Hinduism that refer to states of consciousness which are either a negation or release from normal existence; and the common names are Hebrew and Arabic words referring to shunning/excommunication, the land of the dead, and hell respectively. Donaldson has confirmed that the Ravers chose their "origin" names themselves, and they all chose names that suggest "enlightened" states of consciousness because they believed they had achieved a higher level of consciousness by becoming Lord Foul's servants.
- Medieval Stasis: And how! In the Second Chronicles, Covenant returns to the Land after four thousand years, and technology levels are essentially the same. It may be that the existence of magic and Lord Foul's machinations are responsible for the stasis. For example, in the backstory to the First Chronicles, Lord Kevin was the wisest and most powerful Lord in history. He sealed his vast accumulated knowledge in seven Wards of Lore before committing the Ritual of Desecration with Foul, setting advancement back thousands of years. In the time between the First and Second Chronicles, most of Kevin's Lore was recovered, then lost again, and the land was once again devastated by the Sunbane.
- Mind Rape: This plus Demonic Possession is the main shtick of the Ravers although Lord Foul does it occasionally. His brand of Mind Rape is usually more metaphorical; he likes to manipulate you into mind-raping yourself.
- Mordor: The Spoiled Plains and Shattered Hills around Lord Foul's home.
- Mutants: The magically created sort. Foul can use the Illearth Stone to twist living things into monstrous shapes, and uses this ability to create expendable mooks for his armies. In the Second Chronicles, being exposed to the Sunbane at the exact moment the sun rises will (unless you're touching stone at the time or are not native to the Land) will trigger random mutations and drive you insane.
- My Death Is Just the Beginning: After Covenant gives Lord Foul his ring during the climax of White Gold Wielder, Lord Foul kills Covenant by incinerating him with wild magic. However, because the Law of Life has been broken, Covenant's spirit remains in The Land as a ghost, standing between Lord Foul and the Arch of Time. As a ghost, Covenant proves to be completely immune to the ring's wild magic; Lord Foul uses up so much of his own energy trying to use it to blast through Covenant's ghost that he ends up destroying himself.
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Lord Foul the Despiser. He's got a bunch of others, too. So, for that matter, do the Ravers.
- Nature Spirit: The Forestals and the Wraiths; the Ranhyhn to a lesser degree.
- Near Villain Victory: The First Chronicles has it close. The Second Chronicles has it even closer.
- Never Got to Say Goodbye: Linden sobs at the end of White Gold Wielder that she never got to say goodbye to Tom (or her father) after Tom's Heroic Sacrifice. Tom returns briefly as a ghost.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Many of these, both in the story timeline, and in the history of the Land.
- Lord Foul's ability to alter the Law — the natural order, or the rules that control the way the universe works — is ultimately a result of Covenant destroying the Staff of Law.
- Similarly, Lord Foul and others are able to further taint the land and its people due to High Lord Elena breaking the Law of Death in the first trilogy, and Forestal Caer-Caveral breaking the Law of Life in the second.
- Linden's resurrection of Covenant in Fatal Revenant has an unintended side effect — it rouses the Worm of the World's End, which proceeds to start eating reality. Oops!
- The most profound example in the history of The Land is High Lord Kevin Landwaster's Ritual of Desecration; which almost completely destroyed the land in his attempt to destroy Lord Foul.
- Not the Fall That Kills You: Averted when Stave nearly falls to his death. Both Stave and two giants - who don't really catch him as much as absorb part of the shock - are severely injured.
- Not So Different: Thomas defeats Lord Foul in White Gold Wielder when he realizes that Foul is the embodiment of his own self-disgust, in a sadomasochistic ying-yang relationship: Thomas is self-hate while Foul is hate.
- Obstructive Zealot: The Masters. All of them.
- Oh My Gods!: "Stone and sea!" is what the Giants use. "By the Seven" and "Melenkurion Abatha" from the Lords and peoples of the Land.
- Omnicidal Maniac: Lord Foul wants to destroy the Arch of Time in order to escape it, which would mean The End of the World as We Know It. Kastenessen is a more straightforward example — he just wants to set everything he can on fire.
- Omniscient Morality License: The Elohim think they have one and behave accordingly.
- The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: The Masters' attitude towards Foul. To the point where they bar the use of Earthpower, which they are incapable of using.
- Only The Chosen May Ride: The Ranyhyn are horses with enhanced intelligence, speed and endurance. A person can go to the Plains of Ra where they live and offer himself to them. If a Ranyhyn considers that person to be worthy it will allow him to ride it.
- Played with with Tom. They all come when it's his turn, but it's quite obvious that the Ranyhyn hate and fear him so much they're literally foaming at the mouth. Tom sees this, and instead bargains with them that they'll come when he needs them.
- Our Mermaids Are Different: The merewives are very different.
- Our Souls Are Different: They are stars, apparently. Although that might just be part of the creation myth. At the end of Against All Things Ending and on into The Last Dark the stars start going out, each one apparently in response to the Worm eating one of the Elohim.
- Our Time Travel Is Different: To travel through time, one has to unceremoniously jab holes in the last "Law" still holding reality together.
- Parental Incest: Elena and Covenant. Elena seduces Covenant almost as soon as he appears in the Land again. It's almost as though she's had a crush on her mysterious white-gold-wielding other-worldly father for awhile. Thomas eventually accepts her advances, though nothing is implied beyond that...
- Path of Inspiration: The Clave and its Rede although it didn't start out that way.
- Phlebotinum Overload: In AATE, the croyel blows up after consuming Earthpower from Jeremiah.
- Physical God: Lord Foul, the Elohim, and possibly the Forestals.
- Pillar of Light: At the end of the first trilogy.
- Planet of Hats: All the main races are rather hatty — the Land's humans are all all loving, the Giants are jovial but Badass, the Ramen all love the Ranyhyn, the Insequent are wizards who Walk the Earth, the Elohim are incredibly arrogant and think they have an Omniscient Morality License, the Waynhim are The Atoner, the Cavewights are Axe Crazy Mooks, the ur-viles are enigmatic sorcerers, and the Haruchai are stoic proud warriors. Of course, there are exceptions to all of these. Word of God notes that all the races, like the characters, were envisioned as archetypes; not all Giants (for example) are identical, but they do all draw on the same themes.
- Power Glows: Check, most of the time it's also Color-Coded for Your Convenience as well.
- Power Nullifier: Esmer by his mere presence to Linden's use of wild magic.
- Power of Trust: The entire theme of the second trilogy. Linden has the power to use The Ring without disrupting the Arch of Time, while Thomas can't because of the venom in his body. Everyone, and we mean everyone, wants Linden to take the Ring from Thomas and just destroy Foul. Linden finally seizes the Ring from Thomas at the Grand Finale — but gives it back to Thomas to give to Foul, after he wordlessly asks with a look, "Do you trust me?" Turns out it was Thomas' Batman Gambit.
- Prophecy Twist: Lord Foul makes all kinds of ominous prophecies that always come true, but never with the result that he expects.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: One of the defining traits of the Haruchai.
- Pure Magic Being
- The Elohim in the second trilogy are Earthpower incarnate.
- Vain as well. He is described as absolutely perfect in every way. Even the one time he speaks, it is described as being perfectly modulated.
- Purple Prose: Author Donaldson loves him some archaic adjectives. Just take this lovely (infamous) piece of English as an example. It doesn't often get worse, but it IS consistently around that level.
And these were only the nearest entrancements. Other sights abounded: grand statues of water; a pool with its surface woven like an arras; shrubs which flowed through a myriad elegant forms; catenulate sequences of marble, draped from nowhere to nowhere; animals that leaped into the air as birds and drifted down again as snow; swept-wing shapes of malachite flying in gracile curves; sunflowers the size of Giants, with imbricated ophite petals. And everywhere rang the music of bells — cymbals in carillon, chimes wefted into tapestries of tinkling, tones scattered on all sides — the metal-and-crystal language of Elemesnedene.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: Normally all you can see of Lord Foul are his glowing yellow eyes, though it's implied he can take any shape he wants.
- Refusal of the Call
- Covenant manages to get away with it exactly once, when he successfully refuses to be summoned to The Land in order to save a little girl in his world. (The summoners, being Good Guys this time, call off the summoning when they see what's happening.) The other times he's summoned, Covenant doesn't have a choice, and once he's there, he's getting involved in the struggles of the people of The Land whether he likes it or not.
- Findail doesn't want to be part of the new Staff of Law.
- Rock Monster: The Sandgorgons.
- Romanticized Abuse: Played for Squick.In the second book, it's revealed that Lena never completely recovered from having been raped, and was no longer entirely sane, imagining herself as having been in a romantic relationship with her rapist, even though he is on another planet and does not reappear for decades. She does seem to recover her senses in the third book, once she discovers that their daughter is dead, and Covenant essentially let her die (and/or helped it happen).
- Samaritan Syndrome: Covenant finds out the hard way that this trope is in force.
- Savage Wolves: Kresh are vicious predators.
- Scars Are Forever: Covenant lost two finger on his left hand, which helps sell the people of The Land that he's the Chosen One, since his disfigurement matches that of their most legendary hero.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: Lord Foul. The entire fantasy world is his can, and he wants out.
- Serpent of Immortality: The Worm of the World's End probably counts. It's apparently a gigantic serpent that forms the foundation of the world itself, and if it ever wakes up it'll be the end (probable reference to Jormungandr). Lucky there's no chance of that ever hap... oh, shit...
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: The narrator. Donaldson will never say "silver" or "strength" when he can say "argent" or "puissance". The people of the Land speak this way as well, to contrast with Covenant and Linden's more familiar speech patterns.
- Sickly Green Glow: The Illearth Stone.
- Speak of the Devil: The case with the Sandgorgons.
- Spell My Name with a "The": All of the Insequent are like this — the Vizard, the Ardent, the Harrow, the Mahdoubt, the Theomach.
- Stable Time Loop: Done rather well in the third chronicles; the characters are even Genre Savvy about it.
- Stock Evil Overlord Tactics: Lord Foul has used most of the list at some time or other. The major exception is the time travel section since time travel works differently in this series.
- The Stoic
- The Haruchai, an entire race of them. Unusual in that their outward unflappability is simply a manifestation of their deeper passions.
- Vain in the Second Trilogy, who only speaks once in the series, as he's about to be merged with Findail to create a new Staff of Law.
Clinging to Vain's shoulder, the Appointed murmured like a child, "I am Elohim. Kastenessen cursed me with death-but I am not made for death. I must not die."
The Demondim-spawn's reply was so unexpected that Linden recoiled a step. "You will not die." His voice was mellifluous and clean, as perfect as his sculpted flesh-and entirely devoid of compassion. He neither dismissed nor acknowledged Findail's fear. "It is not death. It is purpose. We will redeem the Earth from corruption."
Then he addressed Linden. Neither deference nor command flawed his tone. "Sun-Sage, you must embrace us."... He did not respond: his voice seemed to lapse as if he had uttered all the words he had been given and would never speak again.
- Suck Out the Poison: Covenant does it in the First Chronicles to a girl in the "real world". Linden does it in the Second Chronicles after TC gets attacked by Raver-Marid.
- Sugar Apocalypse: When The Legions of Hell attack Ghibli Hills, the result is not pretty.
- Summon Everyman Hero:
- Supporting Leader: Both Hile Troy and Lord Mhoram.
- Time Travel: Done in the third chronicles to great effect.
- Thou Shalt Not Kill: The Oath of the Land plays with the ideal of Thou Shalt Not Kill, and takes it further:
Do not hurt when holding is enough
Do not wound when hurting is enough
Do not maim when wounding is enough
And kill not when maiming is enough
The greatest warrior is he who does not need to kill
- Too Happy to Live: Pondered by Covenant in Lord Foul's Bane. He believes that he had a lifetime's worth of laughter before he was diagnosed with leprosy.
- Trauma-Induced Amnesia: Anele
- True Name: First, the Sandgorgons, who are summoned and proceed to break stuff in a big way whenever their names are uttered, and then more traditionally with the Insequent. If She Who Must Not Be Named ever remembers her own true name, it's stated that the entire continent will be shattered by her release.
- Turn Coat: Esmer, whose very nature prevents him from ever offering any aid without simultaneously backstabbing someone.
- Unreliable Narrator: The first trilogy was mostly from Thomas' point of view, leaving the question open of whether The Land was a dream, a psychosis or real. The middle third of The Illearth War, however, was done from the the viewpoint of Hile Troy, answering the question.
- Undead Author: Discussed by Word of God; certain fans noted in the Gradual Interview that the story of Kevin, Foul, and the ritual of desecration somehow got out, despite the fact that the only people present were Kevin (who died) and Foul (who isn't exactly on the Lords' dinner invite list). Donaldson noted that the Ravers probably spread the story on Foul's orders, since he found Kevin's Despair Event Horizon deeply fulfilling (and amusing) and wanted everyone to know about it.
- The Unfettered: The Unfettered.
- Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Done a few times throughout the series, White Gold Wielder takes the cake though, since it's done in-universe as well. TC won't tell anyone what he plans to do with his ring when he gets to Lord Foul. Well, he admits he plans to give the ring to Foul. He just asks Linden to trust him.
- Up the Real Rabbit Hole: TC does this a lot in the first chronicles but he treats the Land with greater respect as the series progresses.
- Utopia: The good guys in the First Chronicles.
- The Villain Makes the Plot: Done rather well; Lord Foul is a Big Bad for the whole series but each chronicle, and sometimes each book, have their own villain. As the series progresses the villains evolved with the heroes.
- Villains Act, Heroes React: Oh yeah, big time. It's one of the strengths of Foul's plans.
- Villain with Good Publicity: The Clave.
- Wacky Wayside Tribe: The Brathairealm section of The One Tree. While the sandgorgons do return later, most of the action feels very disconnected from the rest of the story.
- Walking the Earth: This is like a hat for the Insequent.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Those members of the Clave who think they're moderating the Sunbane, rather than making it worse. Those in the know are straight Evil Sorcerers.
- What the Hell, Hero?
- Linden Avery is just full of this to the point of being an Author Avatar admonishing his own characters. However, due to Covenant being a self-absorbed Jerkass who think The Land is All Just a Dream, he gets it roughly every 20 pages in the first trilogy. Especially and deservedly after his rape of Lena.
- Linden herself gets it at the start of Against All Things Ending when it was revealed that "Resurrect Covenant and let him figure things out" was the extent of her master plan.
- Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Averted — Foul can't just kill Covenant (and later, Linden) and take the ring or even just steal it. It has to be given to Foul of his/her free will in order to use its full power.
- Wild Card
- The ur-viles, from the second trilogy on.
- Also Esmer, whose conflicted nature means that for everything he does, he must perform an equal and opposite act.
- Towards the end of Fatal Revenant, Linden is this in relation to the Elohim, Insequent and other major players in the Land. She's gained a ton of power but no one knows what she's going to do with it.
- Wild Magic: Covenant's white gold wedding band is a source of powerful wild magic. The trick being figuring out how to use it without breaking the Arch of Time.
- Will Not Tell a Lie: Lord Foul, though this is more about arrogance than honesty — he thinks he doesn't need to lie to win. The scary thing is, he's mostly right. note
- Witch Species: The Insequent are all magic-users of great power, though they're not as good as the Elohim. Probably because the Insequent have to learn their powers while the Elohim are power incarnate.
- With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Drool Rockworm, though as a Cavewight he was already pretty crazy by most peoples' standards. Also, carrying around a chunk of the Illearth Stone for an extended period of time is not advisable for your mental health.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Many examples.
- High Lord Kevin was this.
- Elena Foul-wife also qualifies.
- The insane elohim Kastenessen, Foul's partner in the third series, was forcibly converted into a can for some sealed evils and has spent the last ten thousand years or so suffering while containing them. Now he's out, completely Ax-Crazy, and determined to repay his pain on his people, with the rest of the world as collateral damage if necessary.
- There's even speculation in the third series that Foul might be one, driven on some level so deep even he doesn't realize it by sheer loathing and horror at being what he is.
- Topping them all is She Who Must Not Be Named, who is basically the deity of World-destroying Woobies. She was originally the Lover, a deity seduced and betrayed by the Despiser for the express purpose of tainting the concept of love. She got trapped in the Land like Foul, but the combination of his betrayal and being cut off from the universe She loved drove Her insane; while he carefully plans his malice, She simply lashes out at anyone or anything who gets too close.
- Words Can Break My Bones: The Old Lords learned seven words of power, but the New Lords had forgotten some of them.
- The World Is Always Doomed: Just about the only time anyone from our world gets summoned to the Land is when it's in peril.
- The World Tree: The One Tree. One of its branches was used to make the first Staff of Law. It's dead.
- Xanatos Gambit: Lord Foul. You can fight him or you can refuse to fight him, avoid his traps or walk right into them, but no matter what you do, he wins.
- You Are Not Ready: The danger of "unearned power" is a reoccurring plot point. Highlighted by Elena learning the Seventh Ward of Kevin's Lore before anyone had learned the Third Ward and beyond. She uses it to resurrect Kevin Landwaster, and things go about as bad as expected.
- You Can't Fight Fate
- One "law" of traveling between The Land and the "real world" is that you will leave The Land in exactly the same physical condition in which you enter it. If you, say, have a broken leg when you enter The Land and then it heals when you are inside, something will happen to cause that leg to break again. This becomes a big problem for Covenant in the Second Chronicles, because his entrance into The Land (at the beginning of The Wounded Land) occurred shortly after his real-world body had been mortally wounded. Covenant knows what this implies, but Linden, who entered the Land while perfectly healthy, doesn't.
- Each time Covenant enters The Land, Lord Foul tells Covenant a prophecy about his future. Lord Foul hasn't been wrong yet.
- Findail tries fighting the fate the other Elohim have chosen him for. He fails.
- You Know The One: Anele speaks like this in his less-than-lucid moments.
- Your Head Asplode: The horrible death of Liand in Against All Things Ending.