Is Thomas Covenant the most frustrating "hero" ever?

ElJayDee

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I read all 6 Covenant novels quite a few years ago and found him to be the most frustrating character I have ever followed. the first three I found readable but frustrating and the second three seemed almost to be masochism.
I do understand that his failure to do the decent thing relates to his failure to come to terms with his recovered health, but you would think he could have at least got something right, even by accident.
I would truly like to understand what people like about the series that they can re-read it many times. I still have the full first and second chronicles and maybe someone can convince me to re-read them with a different mindset.
 

Karsa Orlong

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The thing with Thomas Covenant you've got to keep in mind is that he can go both ways. Potentially, he can be the land's saviour, but he has just as much potential for damning it. The fact that he's teetering in between the two and you're never sure which way he will fall is what makes him so fascinating, and part of what gives the story a great deal of tension.

Personally I found it possible to empathise and sympathise with his mindset, which I found to be realistic taking into account his circumstances - I think he's a wonderfully written character even if at times he can do quite repugnant things. I can't agree that he never does anything right, he at times acts out of consideration for others and other such positive reasons, and considering the sort of mentality he needs to survive and keep sane he's sacrificing a whole lot more than most in order to be at all selfless at any point, so in that respect one might feel he's more heroic than most.

So yes, he's frustrating, but I think in the grand scheme of the story, he works a treat.
 

nixie

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Thomas Covenant, I started of disliking him, then I felt sorry for him, then a grudging respect started to creep in by the time I'd finished the second chronicles I thought Covenant was great.
 

Urien

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I read it a long time ago and loved it. Of course every now and then I wanted to kick Covenant around the room for his convoluted obstinacy.
 

elvet

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In the first trilogy, I kept waiting for him to embrace his power, and was frustrated when he didn't. As his character developed, I got a better appreciation for the reasons of his restraint. Then I did see him for the 'live wire' he actually was, and his decisions, or attempts thereof, made more sense.
 

Dave

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It's a very long time since I read these (clue: they will still being written.) I did find the character frustrating, but like Karsa said I did find it possible to empathise and sympathise with his mindset. I think he was more much fleshed out and believable than say, Moorcock's anti-hero Elric, the albino, but I did expect something more in the second trilogy; for him to progress somehow.

I didn't enjoy the second series half as much as the first, but I felt I needed to complete the story. It is probably for that reason that I never went on to read 'The Gap' series or anything else by him.
 

Karsa Orlong

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Hmm, I noticed no lapse in quality between the two series, I thought they were both terrific. Different strokes...

The Gap series is totally different to TC though, I wouldn't base any preconceptions about the Gap on anything found in TC. It's definitely worth reading if you're at all into dark and gritty space operas (past The Real Story, I might add, which is essentially just an introductory novella and easily the least accessible part of the series).

Alternatively, Mordant's Need is a much easier and shorter read, shamelessly packed with entertainment, and Reave the Just is a consistently strong set of short stories.
 

Urien

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I found the first book of the Gap series very difficult, a little sick and disturbing going. It took me a long time to pick up the next book, I only did because of my memories of the Chronicles.
 

Blueskinnedghost

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I read the Covenant series in my school library about a decade ago, so my memories of the series are a tad dim.

But I can't really remember him doing anything particularly reprehensible after the rape scene...which was fair enough, reprehensible enough to last several novels but I don't recall anything consistently evil about his actions apart from his bitter outlook on life.

How exactly did his wife end up getting all caught up and
sacrificed by cultists?
 

epicfantasy7

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I found TC to be frustrating. In fantasy novels there are always two conflicts: internal and external and the main character/s have to overcome both. With most works the internal conflict is usually relatively easy to overcome. But the two biggest exceptions to this are Frodo Baggins and Thomas Covenant. With them the internal struggle is very difficult to overcome.

Yet for me the two characters are very different. I never felt a sense of frustration with Frodo. I empathized well with him.
 

Ash59

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The thing i felt to be the most maddening thing about Tom was his refusal to treat The Land and his situation as being 'real'
No dream or hallucination is ever that logical or detailed, and he being something of an intellectual would know that. He would have accepted the reality of his situation by the time he first reached Mithil Stonedown.
 

Karsa Orlong

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The thing i felt to be the most maddening thing about Tom was his refusal to treat The Land and his situation as being 'real'
No dream or hallucination is ever that logical or detailed, and he being something of an intellectual would know that. He would have accepted the reality of his situation by the time he first reached Mithil Stonedown.
lol, to be fair, the idea of being transported to some crazy new world is even more ridiculous than an unusually detailed, lucid dream, particularly when he's just been hit by a car and could've suffered some sort of brain damage
 

bowerbird

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I have to agree with everyone who said they found Covenant to be frustrating. Sorry but the whole "recovering health" thing put my teeth on edge.
 

Ash59

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I have always felt that neither Covenant nor Donaldson ever lived up to expectations.
When i first read 'Lord Fouls Bane' back in the late 'seventies, i had never heard of Stephen Donaldson, so i had no prior expectations.
From the first page to the last i was completely mesmerised. There had never been a 'hero' like Thomas Covenant - or if there had, then i had never encountered him.
I had to wait for each book to come out and it was bloody terrible ( I think they were released pretty much yearly-but each year seemed very, very long).
I remember one murky thursday morning in 1983 or thereabouts, mooching past my local bookshop (gone now,alas) and there, in the window the legend 'THE WAIT IS OVER' and it was announcing the arrival of 'White Gold Wielder'. It is my good fortune that the trousers i was wearing were - as a consequence of the somewhat chilly morning - unusually stout, and i made it home without too much disgrace becoming attached to the family name...
In Short, The Ace, I humbly beg to disagree.
 

Foxbat

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Covenant (particularly in the first trilogy) feels crushed by the weight of expectation put upon him by others when all he wants to do is protect himself. The nature of his suffering drives him into a selfishness that threatens to overwhelm him.

Yes he can be frustrating at times but, for me, and because of his infuriating and selfish refusal to become a part of that world, he is one of the most human characters in Fantasy.
 

Saltheart

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He is the most brilliant hero in fantasy, in my opinion. He is constantly struggling for his own needs and the needs of others, and he is characterized well - more realistic than many other fantasy books. He is the encompassment of both yin and yang.
 
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