So what the heck was Lord Foul anyway?

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Post by shadowbinding shoe »

High Lord Tolkien wrote:The fact that the Worm wasn't actually the core of the Earth was a huge disappointment to me.
I can't even express how awesome that concept was to me!
And then....nope.
Just really big.
it's not the physical core of the Earth. It's the metaphorical heart of it. The Worm ate the Stars (are they eternal Ideas like the Creator, Despite, She but of lesser status? The Idea of Sunlight, the Idea of a cool drink of spring water, the Idea of tsetse fly's buzzing. That actually sounds like the hierarchy of godlike beings in Tolkien's verse) and the world and Elohim grew from him.

The Worm represent the Creator guiding hand in creating this word, what ideas he chose to populate his world with and how. He is his Word.
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Post by wayfriend »

I'm with HLT.
In [i]The One Tree[/i] was wrote:"Therefore it curled its tail about itself and sank into quiescence. And while the Worm rested, the power of the stars wrought within it. From its skin grew excrescences of stone and soil, water and air, and these growths multiplied upon themselves and multiplied until the very Earth beneath our feet took form."
Not only should the Worm have been the core of the Earth, supposedly the rousing itself would be the Earth's demise.
In [i]The One Tree[/i] was wrote:"And the time must come when it is roused, or rouses itself. Then it will slough off this skin of rock and water to pursue its hunger across the cosmos until eon's end and slumber. For that reason, it is named the Worm of the World's End."
As I said, the Last Chronicles was was a bit of a retcon in the Worm area. --- Not that I mind: the cosmos serves the story, the story doesn't serve the cosmos. And we all felt like the Worm itself was a bit of a retcon when we read The One Tree the first time, didn't we?

Clearly, Donaldson needed a lengthy post-Worm-arousal period to fulfill the sense of doom he required for his story. And so some tweaking.

Certainly the Worm represents Creation, as well as Destruction. But this "representation" was in large part permissible because it was a myth. The actuality of the Worm does more to suggest that there is no Creator than it does to affirm his existence.

Way back in the day, I had proposed a reconciliation of all the myths, by proposing that the Worm was itself the Arch of Time, or at least some part of the Arch which could be touched and triggered and generally cause an Arch-quake.
The Arch is alive. It can be roused. So we need more than one Myth. If you wish to speak about havens against chaos and barriers between the Earth and the Creator, then we speak of an Arch, with the Earth protected within. But if you want to talk about rousing the foundations of the Earth and triggering it's internal urge for self-destruction, then it is not an Arch, it is a giant Worm, and the Earth trembles at its whim. A different fable to tell the same truth in a different way.
I still kind of semi-believe this, even after the Last Chronicles. I think that the power which Jeremiah could see crossing the Land was an avatar of the Arch rather than an actual Worm.
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Post by Fist and Faith »

In [i]The One Tree[/i] was wrote:"Therefore it curled its tail about itself and sank into quiescence. And while the Worm rested, the power of the stars wrought within it. From its skin grew excrescences of stone and soil, water and air, and these growths multiplied upon themselves and multiplied until the very Earth beneath our feet took form."
That's so cool.
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Post by shadowbinding shoe »

It's not a contradiction necessarily. You assume A worm in the physical heart of the world is huge but the myth says nothing about the relative sizes of the Worm compared to the earth. A worm that burrows out from the core of an apple doesn't break it to pieces. The world began from magic and wonder. The mundane dirt, water, air, distance, etc. are the least and last of the excrescences. Naturally when the Worm woke up it cancelled things in the order of their creation or importance.
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Post by wayfriend »

shadowbinding shoe wrote:A worm that burrows out from the core of an apple doesn't break it to pieces.
Yeah, but we were promised a worm that would "slough off" "the very Earth beneath our feet".

Just sayin'.

I think it would have served the plot equally well if the Worm required some time to "slough off" the Land. It would require some time wriggling down in the core for the Earth to start cracking. It would start with Earthquakes. Then fissures and volcanoes and islands sinking into the sea. Eventually pieces of the mantle would start flying off into the sky. "Potent" places like Mount Thunder and Melenkurion Skyweir would be the last to be shrugged off. This could take the same number of days as the current story requires.
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Post by Wosbald »

+JMJ+
wayfriend wrote:[…]

I think it would have served the plot equally well if the Worm required some time to "slough off" the Land. …
Wouldn't that just further strengthen the Elohim myth?

As it stands, their account is apparently consonant with the facts in one or two of the most basic details, but the rest might well be little more than fanciful embellishment.


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Post by High Lord Tolkien »

The other thing that I think doesn't get enough attentions is that the Creator was walking and talking to Covenant and Linden in the "real" world.
I feel like that's a huge deal on a cosmic level.

I know Donaldson only creates enough to tell the part of the story he wants to tell and we'll never know for sure but what do you all think about that?
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Post by wayfriend »

In the Gradual Interview, Stephen R Donaldson wrote:Actually, I intended the old beggar to be an avatar or manifestation of the Creator (I mean the Creator of the Land, not necessarily of Covenant's "real world"--and certainly not of *our* "real world").

(07/27/2005)
What I see here is "avatar of the Creator, or manifestation of the Creator".

Not "the" Creator.

My take is this: the Creator exists on a higher plane outside of Time. He could no more exist in Covenant's real world than he could in the Land's Earth.

But the Creator didn't create Covenant's real world. So he has no restrictions about reaching in and interfering with things like he does with the Land's Earth. So he does, through his avatar/manifestation which looks like an old beggar.

It can't be the Creator himself - he would not "fit" into that plane. Think on Covenant after being resurrected - his Dead self, his Time Warden self, was much too large to fit back into the mortal plane. Also, the Creator would become "trapped" in Time as Foul was.

So he "reaches in". But he can't "go in". Seems sound.
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Post by High Lord Tolkien »

Yeah, I guess. lol

That quote does seem to answer my question.
Worlds within worlds within worlds...I wish he would explore that a little more.

Maybe like:
The Creator has insane. A mirror opens up in the Land. Out come three people from Mordant's Need, The Gap Cycle and the God's War.
They're on a mission to free Lord Foul.
They need him to stop the Creator from destroying reality..... :biggrin:
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Post by lucimay »

Fist and Faith wrote:
In [i]The One Tree[/i] was wrote:"Therefore it curled its tail about itself and sank into quiescence. And while the Worm rested, the power of the stars wrought within it. From its skin grew excrescences of stone and soil, water and air, and these growths multiplied upon themselves and multiplied until the very Earth beneath our feet took form."
That's so cool.


sound a teensy bit familiar Fist? you know what popped right into my pea brain as soon as i read it?

that reminds me of [spoiler]Burn[/spoiler]!! :D just a passing shiny thought.
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Post by Fist and Faith »

lucimay wrote:
Fist and Faith wrote:
In [i]The One Tree[/i] was wrote:"Therefore it curled its tail about itself and sank into quiescence. And while the Worm rested, the power of the stars wrought within it. From its skin grew excrescences of stone and soil, water and air, and these growths multiplied upon themselves and multiplied until the very Earth beneath our feet took form."
That's so cool.


sound a teensy bit familiar Fist? you know what popped right into my pea brain as soon as i read it?

that reminds me of [spoiler]Burn[/spoiler]!! :D just a passing shiny thought.
:D :D :D It's a disco inferno!
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Post by wayfriend »

A lot of people get hung up on how exactly Covenant and Foul are related. Here's my take on this.

Donaldson himself tells us that in his stories (if not in all fantasies) "the characters meet themselves - or parts of themselves, their own needs/problems/exigencies - as actors on the stage of the story." Internal struggles are "externalized", and become external struggles.

And so it is that we all recognize that Lord Foul is Covenant's inner Despiser.

But what precisely does that mean here? Well, it doesn't mean that Foul sprung from Covenant's brain somehow. No, it means that the author designed the character of Foul to be similar to Covenant's inner dark urges.

But how can an evil overlord be similar to inner dark urges? The author's design is such that fighting one provides sufficient insight to fight the other. The conflict in some way overlaps and shares common answers. (And this goes in both directions, BTW. The inner conflict illuminates the outer; the external struggle gives insights to the internal.)

I think this would all be easy enough to understand if Covenant wasn't himself saying that Lord Foul is his inner Despiser.

It's tempting to think that Donaldson is going meta here, that his characters somehow know that they are characters, or at least act like characters in a story.

But we don't have to go that far. All it really means is that Covenant has a capacity for metaphors. And that he sees how fighting one provides sufficient insight to fight the other. He sees the similarity. And it also means that Donaldson is telling us that Covenant sees it.

In summary: Covenant realizes that fighting Lord Foul is so similar to fighting his own capacity for evil that he chooses to deal with Lord Foul in similar ways (or at least in parallel ways) to dealing with is capacity for evil. And he believes that this will work.

But there is no magic here. There is magic in the story, but not in this part. This is just rational thinking and a capacity to see parallels in disparate places. It is (and I think that this is important) something that any of us could do.

Sadly, no one has "designed" our world so that this is set up as conveniently as it is set up for Covenant. (Although I dare say many people believe that.) The best we can accomplish is to recognize it should it ever happen. I really have no idea how likely that is - humans have a distinct capacity to give too much significance to random correlations, and so they may be seeing such alignments far more often than they actually happen.

Our internal struggles will never be externalized, neither by design nor by random chance. This is a mechanism for characters in a story, but not a mechanism for us real people.

Which means the value we find in Donaldson's Chronicles lies in having Covenant "discover" valuable ideas through his convenient arrangement, and then we learn from his example more or less directly. The ideas are, in the end, the author's ideas. But his story sells them in a way nothing else could.
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Post by High Lord Tolkien »

Another awesome post Wayfriend.
I'm going to have to read it a few more times and take it all in before responding. :D
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Post by Fist and Faith »

wayfriend wrote:And so it is that we all recognize that Lord Foul is Covenant's inner Despiser.

But what precisely does that mean here? Well, it doesn't mean that Foul sprung from Covenant's brain somehow.
It does mean that if the Land is his dream. In which case, he dreamed his inner Despiser as an external force that he could see and fight in ways we can't when it is within us.
wayfriend wrote:No, it means that the author designed the character of Foul to be similar to Covenant's inner dark urges.
Whether literally his inner Despiser made manifest, or only similar to Covenant's inner dark urges, this makes Covenant a person with some very nasty qualities.

But, ultimately, the way he was throughout most of the 1st Chrons is really not a true depiction of him. Circumstances drove him to an anger that is entirely understandable, even expected, and truly drove him temporarily insane. He committed that despicable act, that Desecration, when he was out of his mind. Such a thing was not among his inner dark urges. Nor was wiping out the Unhomed, maiming three Bloodguard, etc., etc. Not everybody has a dark side like Mengele. As I said fairly recently, I would not have been his friend or hung out with him if I had met him throughout most of the 1st Chrons. He was an obnoxious s.o.b., but he wasn't evil. I know it's not what SRD would day, but I think, if we want to say Foul was him in any sense, it was a demon created by his horrible circumstances.
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Post by wayfriend »

Fist and Faith wrote:In which case, he dreamed his inner Despiser as an external force that he could see and fight in ways we can't when it is within us.
I see what you're saying here. But I have my reservations about that. First and foremost, because Covenant isn't supposed to ever be sure it's a dream - nor are we. So the not-dream aspect always has to be in play as a possibility.

But here's the question - if you dream about something bad and scary, does this automatically mean it is an aspect of your inner self made external? Maybe it's just something bad and scary? If I dream about a ghost outside my window, must it be that the ghost is me?

In other words, the fact that Covenant is dreaming means that the raw materials of his dream are things he is aware of. But it doesn't mean in and of itself that you are externalizing an inner part of yourself.
Fist and Faith wrote:He committed that despicable act, that Desecration, when he was out of his mind. Such a thing was not among his inner dark urges.
I think it's clear from the text that Covenant thinks so. And that Donaldson thinks so.
Fist and Faith wrote:I know it's not what SRD would day, but I think, if we want to say Foul was him in any sense, it was a demon created by his horrible circumstances.
Ah, I have to disagree there. I would say, rather, that his horrible circumstances brought out a demon that would have remained buried otherwise. We all have a capacity for evil. But few of us let it rule us for any length of time.
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Post by Fist and Faith »

Dream or real, Covenant thinks Foul is himself, and we are supposed to think it, also. This is SRD's intent. So, if we are viewing it from the dream angle, we don't have a choice but to believe Foul is the evil in Covenant made external. (If we view it from the angle that the Land is real, I can't really say how Foul is covenant.)

But, as I said, I don't buy it. I do not believe most people have a capacity for that level of evil. And I don't believe Covenant is one of the few who does. Outside of the one moment when he was out of his mind, nothing he ever said, thought, or did hinted at the atrocities Foul committed. I literally ignore the whole "Foul is Covenant" aspect of the story.
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Post by wayfriend »

In [i]The Power That Preserves[/i] was wrote:How could he have done so much harm? He had only wanted to survive-had only wanted to extract survival from the raw stuff of suicide and madness. The Giants!-lost like Elena. And now the Ranyhyn were being driven down the same bloody road. Foamfollower? Did I do this to you? He knew that he was defenseless, that he could have done nothing to ward off a spear thrust. But he was staring into the abyss of his own actions and could not look away.

"We're the same,'' he breathed without knowing what he was saying. "Foul and I are the same."
When Covenant thinks that Foul is himself, he doesn't mean it literally. At least, not in the first Chronicles. He means that effectively they are both enemies of the Land, they both cause harm and destruction when trying to achieve their ends.

In the second Chronicles, it's a bit different.
In [i]White Gold Weilder[/i] was wrote:He's just one side of us. That's his paradox. He's one side of us. We're one side of him. When he killed me, he was really trying to kill the other half of himself. He just made me stronger.
There's a Balrog wings thing going on here. How much do we take this literally, and how much do we assume that Covenant is speaking metaphorically?

Still, "He's one side of us" isn't the same as "He is me." Even in the most literal, least metaphorical sense, we have two beings. Covenant never claimed to "be" Foul.

The final Chronicles culminates with Covenant "accepting" Lord Foul, physically and morally and emotionally. Now they are one. But it has no significance if they were already "one".

IMHO, What we have (and I have said this before) is a progression, from recognizing a similarity to recognizing a spiritual connection to recognizing a moral obligation.
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Post by Fist and Faith »

Fair enough. Perhaps I was thinking SRD meant it in ways he didn't.
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