The Bloody Hero

Casey Lieb '07 English 65, Fantasy, Brown University, 2003

"Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever," a "mechanical derelict" (1), the hero of Lord Foul's Bane, has characteristics that do not correspond with other unexpected heroes we've come across. His life includes a physical barrier affecting his ability to live a normal life and interact within society:

Leprosy . . . is perhaps the most inexplicable of all human afflictions. It is a mystery, just as the strange, thin difference between living and inert matter is a mystery. [16]

Covenant's status as "between living and inert matter" presents society's reason to separate from him. When societies' goal became apparent, Thomas "realized that if he did not resist this trend, he would soon have no reason at all to go among his fellow human beings. So today he was walking the two miles into town to pay his phone bill in person-to show his peers that he did not intend to be shriven of his humanity. In rage at his outcasting, he sought to defy it, to assert that rights of his common mortal blood"(4). Through his "common mortal blood" Covenant attempts to reunite himself with society. His "humanity" though, constantly in question, brings him into a fantastic world where his life and fate discussed openly creates an unexpected hero in Covenant. A hero in which "there are no other hopes or helps for a man amid the wrack of [his] fate"(33). Our hero is "the personification of everything people, privately and communally, fear and abhor" (17). Constantly referred to as "the groveler" (33), his mortality is paralleled with a "wild magic which preserves [his] life at this moment" (35). Covenant's complete isolation and apparent disgusting state makes him an unusual hero.


1. What significance does mortality embody in Lord Foul's Bane?

2. How does Thomas' character compare to the traditional hero's like Aragorn and Menolly?

3. What similarities can be found between Covenant and unexpected hero's we've encountered in the other fantastic novels we've read (such as Frodo and Anodos)? What differences separate them?

4. Do his physical ailments parallel any other part of the story? Does the use of Leprosy parallel any aspects used in the other fantasy's we've read?


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