An Introspective Hero?

Anna Isaacs '07 English 65, Fantasy, Brown University, 2003

In Stephen Donaldson's Lord Foul's Bane, his protagonist Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever, suffers great mental and physical anguish in both his own world and the Land. In his world his leprosy makes him a pariah, both with society in general and his beloved wife, and affects his interactions with his physical surroundings. However, when he enters the Land, his leprosy fades, and the people of the Land do not ostracize him but rather see him as a reincarnation of their greatest hero, Berek Halfhand. They look to his wedding band of white gold as proof that he has the "wild magic."

Donaldson describes Covenant's inner conflicts down to the minute detail as Covenant crosses the Land to deliver Lord Foul's evil message to the Council of Lords. At the Council Covenant experiences another painful introspective moment as the High Lord demands a token of Covenant's trustworthiness.

For one long instant, Covenant remained suspended in decision. His eyes fell to the graveling pit. Covenant, help them! With a groan, he remembered how much Atiaran had paid to place him where he stood now. Her pain does not approve. In counterpoint he heard Bannor saying, Two thousand years. Life or death. We do not know. But the face he saw in the fire-stones was his wife's. Joan! he cried. Was one sick body more important than everything?[p.257]

Covenant rips his ring off his chest, where he has hidden it from prying eyes, and shoves it on his ring finger. Frustrated and desperate, he screams that he "can't use it" because he "is a leper." The Council recoils in shock, though Covenant meant the ring as a symbol of matrimony instead of a symbol of the wild magic.


1. Why does Donaldson make his protagonist so self-reflective? How does this affect the reader's perception of his heroism?

2. Does Covenant's leprosy define his entire conception of himself? Why does he think his leprosy makes him unworthy even in a world where he is not a leper?

3. How does Donaldson's use of italics to show Covenant's thoughts affect the passage?

4. What hinders his belief in the reality of the Land? Is this the reason he is hesitant to give a token of his trust to the Council?

5. Why is he so horrified by Bannor and the other Bloodguard's way of life? Could this say something about Donaldson's view of immortality?


Donaldson, Stephen R. Lord Foul's Bane. Part I of The Chronicles of Thomas Coveant the Unbeliever. New York: Ballantine Books, 1977.

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Last modified 20 April 2004