Chronicles of Thomas Covenant aka: The 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 to 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.The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever:
Lord Foul's Bane
The Illearth War
The Power that Preserves
The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant:
The Wounded Land
The One Tree
White Gold Wielder
The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant:
The Runes of the Earth
Against All Things Ending
The Last Dark (forthcoming)
This series provides examples of:
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.
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.
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.
And I Must Scream: An interesting subversion (?) in which 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.
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).
Egad Holmes! As aspects of TC's soul/life that makes perfect sense! The creator is his nice, author, pre-leprosy life, Lord Foul is his reaction to and life with leprosy, and She Who Must Not Be Named is his wife, Joan
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 an ends as a Type III.
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.
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 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, who is more like the Biggest Bad; each series has lesser BigBads
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...
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!"
The Chessmaster: Lord Foul, the Creator, the Elohim- pretty much every major power has some sort of long-term plan going.
The Chosen One: Though he eventually gets the job done, Mr. Covenant may be the crappiest Chosen One ever. Thomas is a deconstruction of the trope, and the author has confirmed this.
However, the reason the people of the Land immediately think he's a hero is that he looks exactly like Berek Halfhand, and is armed with a white gold ring.
In The Power that Preserves, the in-world Creator tells Covenant that he was picked as the Chosen One specifically because he would be bad at it; if the Creator had sent someone to The Land who was not so unheroic, cynical, selfish, uncaring, and just plain stubborn, that person would have easily been pushed past the Despair Event Horizon by Lord Foul.
Vain and Findail, the latter of which is utterly depressed at his fate.
Collapsing Lair: Foul's Creche is destroyed in Covenant's first confrontation with the Despiser.
Colour 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".)
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.
Also, 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 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.
Demonic Possession: The modus operandi of Ravers. 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.
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.)
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
Evil Overlord: Lord Foul plays it straight. Another evil overlord that appears in "The One Tree" is something of a deconstruction: 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.
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.
Executive Meddling: The title Lord Foul's Bane was created by Lester Del Rey, Donaldson's editor. Donaldson's original title for the book was Foul's Ritual. Also, the second chronicles was intended to be a quartet, but Del Rey insisted on a trilogy.
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 this 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. Played by Covenant, by Mhoram, by Lord Foul, and by The Creator.
Gambit Pileup: Things get pretty convoluted in the Last Chronicles.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Narnia Time: The time difference between the Land and the "real world" seems to be "Whatever is narratively convenient."
It's stated in Runes of the Earth that it's roughly one day in the "real world" to one year in the land. Which works, as in the First and Second Chronicles no character is in the Land for more than a few months, or unconscious in the other world for more than a few hours.
Nature Spirit: The Forestals and the Wraiths; the Ranhyhn to a lesser degree.
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.
Forestal's act, however, was part of a Xanatos Gambit. It allows Tom to intervene in White Gold Wielder even though he's dead.
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 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.
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...
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.
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
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.
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.
Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Done a few times throughout the series, White Gold Wielder takes the cake though since its done in-universe as well. TC won't tell anyone what he plans to do with his ring when he gets to Lord Foul.
Loving Force: Played for Squick, and possibly deconstructed as well. 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). Not that she survives very long after.
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.
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 Jerk Ass 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 it's 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.
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. *
The sole limitation seems to be that by his very nature, Foul doesn't understand some of the very Truths that he forsees. It's absolutely correct that Covenant chose to turn over his ring at the climax of the Second Chronicles. But not for any reason that Foul discerned.
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.
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. Also, each time Covenant enters The Land, Lord Foul tells Covenant a prophecy about his future. Lord Foul hasn't been wrong yet.