Dreams and Reality in Lord Foul's Bane

Sarah McIntire '07 English 65, Fantasy, Brown University, 2003

Thomas Covenant, a leper angered by but resigned to a life of rejection and revilement suddenly finds himself in a completely different world where the only unknown illness is the corruption of man's heart. Dirt cleanses instead of causing infection, and softly spoken words mend broken pots without the use of adhesives. Even Thomas begins to heal from his disease -- feeling returns to his fingers and toes, something that doctors had told him would never happen. Therefore, he refuses to believe that such a thing could ever happen, and instead supposes himself to be in the middle of some strange dream.

Yet he was still afraid. He was dreaming healthy nerves; he had not realized that he was so close to collapse. Helpless, lying unconscious somewhere, he was in the grip of a crisis -- a crisis of his ability to survive. [114]

Thomas still clings to the survival instincts trained into him by the doctors at the leprosarium and attempts to use them throughout his "dream," trying to behave as he would normally. Unwilling to accept his new surroundings, he gives himself the name "Unbeliever," and refuses to believe that he could be anywhere but in a dream.


1. What defines reality in Lord Foul's Bane?

2. What is the significance of the title "Unbeliever?" What tone does this set for Thomas' vision of this new world?

3. Why does Thomas Covenant focus so much of his energy on survival if his time in the Land is only a dream?

4. Why does Thomas Covenant cling to the idea that he is in a dream, despite the fact that he slept and awoke in this new world multiple times, or that he can feel pain acutely?

5. How does Thomas Covenant compare to other protagonists in novels like Phantastes, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and C.S. Lewis' Narnia books?


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